By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
June 26, 2010
We continue our assessment of the other political parties whose influence on Ghana politics is big enough for their leaders/members to recognize and to use as enough motivation for putting their house in order.
The Convention People’s Party (CPP)
Of all the political traditions, the CPP has had the worst buffeting by the forces of Ghana politics. From stern action by its political opponents to kill it to its own internal crisis that split it into numerous pro-Nkrumahist parties, the CPP has come a long way in its rebirth. But all has not been well with it and it continues to totter along, having been dormant and overtaken by events. The problems facing the CPP, as the main political party in the pro-Nkrumahist political family, are numerous but here are a few of them :
Over-reliance on Dr. Nkrumah’s glories is anachronistic because within the context of contemporary Ghanaian politics, there is no magnetic pull from Nkrumah’s name any more. Contemporary Ghanaian politics doesn’t draw any strength from dead people’s ideals but what the electorate’s personal experiences establish for them to embrace. Giving credit to Nkrumah and his accomplishments may be useful for purposes of assuring the public that the CPP has an ideology to fall on; but it will not garner the expected patronage for the party. It is important for the current leaders to provide better messages to the people and use other means to attract membership.
Perennial leadership crisis and in-fighting have broken the CPP into splinter groups, each of which is so entrenched in its specious belief that it can win the hearts of a larger following. Dr. Edward Mahama’s PNC, the late Dan Lartey’s Ghana Consolidated Popular Party, and the mainstream pro-Nkrumahist group going by the name CPP (with Dr. Nduom as its flagbearer in the 2008 elections) cannot go it alone. They must sink their differences and personal ambitions to rejuvenate the CPP as one political front to stand toe-to-toe with the NDC and the NPP.
Rejuvenating the CPP calls for absolute commitment and not lip-service. As the pro-Nkrumahist family remains in disarray and its members seek solace in other political parties, it is likely that the CPP will be pushed further by stronger forces to the fringes of the political landscape from where it cannot bounce back to reassert its influence. The CPP has found it difficult to rebuild itself and is unable to dislodge either the NDC or the NPP from their frontline positions. In effect, the CPP is now the “Third Force” in Ghana politics.
Other Minority Parties
Many minor political parties have risen and fallen without registering any major impact on the political scene. They stood out as weak players who couldn’t sustain their own fervor and collapsed. These parties would have done better had they collapsed into the existing major parties instead of seeking to go it alone. Their leaders who are still alive today have aligned themselves with the major parties and often make their presence felt mostly through lobbying for positions or hanging around at the fringes to comment on national issues. Their voices appear to carry little weight, though.
With the entrenchment of the major political parties, the chances of these mushroom parties will remain dim. They lack the requisite human and material resources to attract a large following, as is evident from election results. Such parties have no future but may register themselves as part of the efforts to use political parties as barometers to gauge the country’s political pressure at one time or the other.
So, what next?
Making our political parties the only instruments for the choice of our leaders is an obligation we must not shirk but take up with all the alacrity it deserves. If we fail to build these parties, we will be digging our political graves. We must not do so. We must instead deepen internal democracy in the parties and ensure that they help us grow our democracy.
I am waiting for the day when the various parties’ Presidential Candidates will be elected at primaries to be conducted at the constituency level for registered members. It suggests that the parties must have a better approach to membership drive and record-keeping to know who their actual members are. Then, they will be able to conduct such elections devoid of malpractices. The current approach is fraught with fraud and unhealthy competition, which doesn’t build confidence in the people. Delegates who vote at the national congresses to elect flagbearers are susceptible to corrupt influences that lead them to sell their conscience to the advantage of the highest bidder.
In any case, their choice shouldn’t necessarily be the choice of the large majority of the parties’ followers in the various constituency branches. The people must have the opportunity to directly elect their leaders at the grassroot level. Then, they will be more invested in how to nurture the party’s internal democracy. We can tell from happenings before and after the choice of the Presidential and Parliamentary Candidates of the various parties that the procedures for such choices create division and bad blood among party members instead of strengthening the bond between them.
Generally, our efforts at strengthening the political parties should take other forms, including the following:
1. The parties must invest more resources in grassroot issues to have strong foundations . Democracy is expensive and we must be prepared to pay the price if we choose it as our mode of governance. Democracy provides for dissension but not the kind that dominates our party politics. Physical assaults on opponents, intimidation of dissenters, and ostracism of those who refuse to toe the line are not tenets of democracy.
2. Avenues for grooming party leaders are virtually non-existent because of the greed of some factions in the parties. This desire to hold on to power destroys internal democracy and must be curbed.
3. There appears to be a morbid desire to exploit aspiring Presidential or Parliamentary candidates. The fees charged are exorbitant and prevent “poor” ones from stepping forward to try their luck. Leadership positions must not be defined and restricted to those who have the ability to pay their way through. Parcelling out opportunities this way favours only the rich or those who can mobilize funds from sources known only to them. This approach breeds corruption. If the parties could redefine their modus operandi for generating funds and providing resources to support their activities, it would remove that albatross of such fees as a major source of funds for sustaining the party. The parties should fund their activities at all levels through other money-making means. Management of the parties should be more business-oriented than what we have had over the years. What prevents the parties from investing in viable ventures from which to generate much-needed funds?
4. Healthy inter-party relationships must be encouraged. When members of the various political parties coexist peacefully, our democracy will profit from it. We should stop seeing each other as political enemies who must work to destroy each other, depending on how the political pendulum swings. Considering the hostility between followers of the NDC and NPP and the wanton reprisal attacks following each political rally or general elections, I am worried that not much is being done to educate party activists on how to conduct themselves. The various party leaders must roll out membership education programmes to enlighten the activists on good citizenship. Raising political consciousness should take care of the waywardness that has so far characterized inter-party relationships.
5. Inter-party relationships can be boosted through the mediation of institutions of state such as the Electoral Commission and the NCCE. The Electoral Commission’s Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) has not functioned effectively in the post-election period to iron out differences among party functionaries. It shouldn’t wait till the electioneering campaign period to hastily convene meetings that end up in a stalemate and further strain relations.
6. Some mechanisms should be devised to encourage some form of state support for the political parties. Indeed, some logistic support from the state could encourage vigorous partisan politicking, which will help gauge the effectiveness of our political parties. Effective monitoring should help determine and keep in check the beneficiaries of state support. The purpose is to allow for a broad participation in national politics and the creation of forums for all manner of opinions to influence decision-making.
At this point in our democratic experiment, we can say that we’ve come a long way without any serious hitch. For almost 18 years now, we’ve successfully moved our democracy forward. Indications are that our political parties have stood the test of time but can do better if they grow. Their growth shouldn’t be measured in only membership terms but also in how the parties’ structures and mechanisms for politicking are managed and used to complement the broad agenda of our democracy. In the final analysis, if our political parties deepen their internal democracy and smooth their rough edges, they will stand firm to ward off undesirable conduct. Anything that is inimical to the political agenda will be noticed and dealt with before it gets out of hand to threaten our democracy.
More importantly, this growth must translate into a productive peaceful coexistence among activists of the various political parties, regardless of how they perceive themselves. Their peculiar characteristics and modus operandi notwithstanding, they should understand that they are in place for one common purpose, which is to give Ghana a stable political order. They need to know that they are not enemies but one entity with different agenda for national development. In all this drive, they have only one common enemy, who is the military adventurist lurking at the fringes to capitalize on their inadequacies to subvert our democracy. Ghana’s democracy needs its political parties to nourish it, not military adventurists to stifle it. Let us all work hard to strengthen our political parties, then.