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Opinions Tue, 23 Oct 2007

Party Democracy@work: NPP FlagBearership Contest

There is strong aroma in town that has divided Ghanaians – some consider it incorrect, to some a continuity of political tradition, some see it as scramble for political power motivated by taste of power and/or sheer power drunkenness. I am referring to the contest to select a flagbearer to lead the New Patriotic Party to contest the 2008 General Elections. There is reason to believe none of the opinions expressed above is completely off the mark. I have a personal belief that none of the 19 contestants is doing anything unconstitutional but, at the same time, have a feeling that some among them should have known better by making the list shorter and less controversial. No matter how anyone feels, the problem’s solution lies in the future and, for now, what some of us consider outrageous, has all genuine reasons on earth to continue. The only thing that can redeem the problem immediately is voluntary decision by any of the contestants to quit.

The widespread explanations for the outrageous number of contestants are various – the major ones being loophole in the Party’s Constitution, unprecedented experience and availability of many well-qualified party hotshots. Looking critically through the list, it becomes obvious that many [if not all] of them have the requisite political pedigree to lead the Party in 2008. However, since no two things can be said to be the same, it can be rightly argued that some are more proned to be better than others, especially by exposure and electoral marketability. If I have the power to decide, there are only two contestants I would have permitted to be on the list. The two are His Excellency Vice-President, Alhaji Aliu Mahama and Honourable Member of Parliament, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. By this, I don’t mean to denigrate the other equally well-qualified contestants; afterall, no matter what, the Party’s 2300 Delegates would have to make a hard decision by dropping everyone but one.

His Excellency, Vice-President Alhaji Aliu Mahama (born March 3, 1946)

Many opinions have been shared as to why the vice-president has to fight and/or is fighting for a position that should have been unquestionably his. Answers have been quick to get. Among them, he is considered to be a latter-day party hotshot who shot to limelight primarily through his nomination and approval to partner the then flagbearer J. A. Kufuor in 2000 and 2004 elections. Another strong opinion against him is his lack of support base; failure to meet the tenets of what I term as crowd theorem. There is ample disbelief that his candidacy will lead to increased votes from the three Northern Regions where he hails from and/or among the non-Akan voters or elsewhere in the country. There is a widespread belief that his re-nomination as VP in 2004 contributed little votes to NPP’s bid to win that year’s elections. It is a widespread expectation by many of the Party’s supporters and well-wishers that the VP should be able to rally the non-Akan electorates in favour of the Party as his contribution. His two-term vice-presidency is not believed to have achieved that. Many observers believe that should he have along with him a strong support base and/or crowd esp. from among the non-Akan voters as wished for, he would have by now been in commanding lead among the contestants. The backdrop of this argument is the crucial search by the NPP to purge itself from the tag as party for the Akans.

Though Alhaji Aliu Mahama is acclaimed to be unknown in Ghanaian politics until he was selected to partner President Kufuor, both in 1996 and 2000, I got this one from Wikipedia: Alhaji Aliu Mahama has exceptional interest in Local Governance and Community Development. Accordingly he was Councillor, Yendi District Council in 1978, Assemblyman, Tamale Municipal Assembly in 1990, and was the Chairman of the Economic Development Committee of the Tamale-Louisville Sister State Committee. He has been board member of several secondary schools in the Northern Region including the Tamale Polytechnic. He is a founding member of the Real Tamale United Football Club. No matter how anyone of us thinks about his participation, his two-term vice-presidency has made him one of the most credible frontrunners to beat in December. There is no gainsaying that he has been quite efficient and has occupied the number two position with great excellence. This achievement has punched irreparable holes in all contentions that seek to downplay his candidacy and chances of winning the race. Many of us have no doubt as to why he has become a strong contender and one of the most likely to win @ the December 22 Special Delegates Congress at the Great Hall of University of Ghana, Legon.

Honourable Member of Parliament, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo [born March 29, 1944] Nana Akufo-Addo is by far the one considered to have all the requisite political pedigree to lead the Party. His name alone epitomizes the Party’s tradition. His Dad, Edward Akufo-Addo, became Ghana’s third Chief Justice, was later the President of the Second Republic during the Progress Party government of Prime Minister, Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia, from 1969 to 1972. His father’s residence, Betty House, in Korle Wokon in downtown Accra, served as the headquarters of the country’s first political party - the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC). Forty years later in 1992, his family’s Ringway Hotel became the venue of the weekly press conferences for the now ruling NPP. That property was later bombed allegedly by an agent of state security under President Rawlings [wikipedia et al]. Besides his father’s tremendous legacy, Nana Akufo-Addo is himself one of the Founders and financiers of the now ruling New Patriotic Party and a well-known political activist [AFC/Kume Preko] during the arduous fight to unseat the PNDC and to realise constitutional rule. He has also excelled in capacities as Attorney General and Minister of Justice and, until recently, as Foreign Minister, all under President Kufuor’s two-term presidency. Quite significant is also the fact that he has been a Member of Parliament for Akim Abuakwa South Constituency since 1997 to present; signifying that he satisfies the much crucial crowd theorem - some believe he has the whole of his native Eastern region behind him. To borrow from Wikipedia: “The one contestant who is seen as the man to beat is Foreign Minister Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, who put up a brave attempt to challenge his senior at the Bar, John Kufuor, to lead the New Patriotic Party in 1998. However, his party is known to be of Liberal Conservatives, who preferred to stick with their already marketed 1996 candidate, John Kufuor. Ironically, for Nana Akufo-Addo, the same tradition of seniority appears to be his trump card today, being the most marketed of the current aspirants.” Nana Akufo-Addo has been accused of being arrogant and unpredictable. This is by far the major hitch he has to deal with. He seems to have it right when he argued ‘…when it was time to pay me for my devotion to the Party, I am arrogant but, was a hero, during the fight against the PNDC to end the culture of silence and to bring back democratic rule in the country, I was reckoned as a hero’. No matter how anyone of us thinks, he is one of the most likely to get the nod among the 18-19 contestants. He can be said to be the real party-boy as believed by most of his supporters.

My choice of the two candidates is motivated by my irritation over the outrageous number of people seeking to lead the party. I may be wrong and you may forgive me for that. However, no matter how wrong, the number of contestants leaves much to be desired. Since I don’t have my way to select who to lead the Party, I wish all of them well. They all have the constitutional prerogative to contest but, I have a strong feeling, that commonsense should have prevailed to make the list shorter and less controversial. On the other hand, I have an understanding for the fact that the position is quite attractive since the winner has a greater probability to become the next president of Ghana – hence the keen contest. It is also a first time experience for the ruling NPP, a party that was in opposition for nearly three decades.

All that Party well-wishers can do is to wait and hope for the better. However, the Elephant Party’s Executives, Council of Elders and the rank-and-file [mostly referred in Ghanaian political parlance as foot-soldiers] need to set into motion efforts to discourage a repeat of such a contest. The situation calls for a major constitutional overhaul especially in line with such succession. It is a non-negotiable political obligation to change this status quo. For now, what many of us are hoping for is that the lessons from the outcome of the December Special Delegates Conference will go a long way to deter non-serious candidates from contesting in the future. There is no doubt that some of them are heading for eminent humiliation that is likely to put them away from ever again contesting this position. It is not too late for smart ones to jettison the hope of nominal chances to win the ticket and withdraw to save themselves from the eminent humiliating defeat-in-waiting.

Peter Ohemeng [A Political Commentator]

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Ohemeng, Peter