Paul Afoko for NPP Chairman?

Thu, 23 May 2013 Source: Haruna, Mahama

It is clear the NPP need a major shake up at leadership level if it wants to win the 2016 election. The NPP needs to turn a new page, adapt to a new paradigm shift and embrace a new brand of leadership. The party needs a dynamic and visionary Chairman with a strong commitment to organizational and party-building skills.

It is soothing to read a story in the Alhajj Newspaper on Tuesday, 21 May, 2013 that Mr Paul Afoko, a businessman and founding member of the NPP is lacing his boots to contest the position of National Chairman of the NPP.

For those who do not know Paul Afoko, here is his brief profile:

He hails from the Upper East Region of Ghana, precisely Builsa North and comes from a staunch Danquah-Dombo-Busia family. He is a member of the National Council of the NPP representing the Upper East region. He was harassed into exile by the PNDC junta as a result of his stiff opposition to JJ Rawlings.

He was a known supporter of candidate Alan Kyerematen for both the 2007 and 2010 NPP Presidential primaries.

Paul Afoko is the man who was manhandled at the 2007 Presidential Primaries of the NPP at the Congress grounds at the Great Hall of the University Of Ghana on suspicion of distributing monies to delegates to induce them to vote for Alan Kyeramanten. Indeed, Paul Afoko was saved by the skin of his teeth by police personnel who were stationed at the venue; forecourt of the Great Hall of the University of Ghana.

It is believed what happened to Paul Afoko was a set up and well executed by the then National Organiser of NPP, Lord Commey, who made a public announcement at the Congress grounds that some people were trying to destroy the Congress by sharing money. Despite protests by Paul Afoko that he was not holding money that day, he was confronted and nearly lynched by known supporters of one of the candidates. He explained that when he needed to buy "Wakye" it was one of his aides, Issahaku Kotomah who had to pay for him.

What makes Paul Afoko a formidable and credible candidate for NPP Chairman?

Factionalism in NPP

Well, I have said before that all around the world, most political parties typically have at least two main factions within them. The pendulum will often swing from one side of the party to the other over the course of time. For instance, the Democratic and Republican parties of the US have their Liberal and Moderate wings. Anytime one side wins control over the party, the other faction will often feel alienated but usually soldier along until its time comes. The NPP undoubtedly has two main factions: The Busia, J.A Kufour/Alan Kyeramanten (PFP) faction and the JB Danquah, Professor Adu Boahen/Nana Akufo-Addo (UNC) faction.

It is noteworthy the Akufo-Addo faction has taken absolute control of the NPP since 2007, but there is no doubt that the faction of former President Kufuor; the most successful Danquah-Busia leader in living memory, having served two full-terms as President is regrouping to take over the NPP again after unsuccessfully doing that for seven years, and this time around it seems nothing stops them considering the dynamics within the NPP. The general impression is that, it is only the J.A. Kufour faction that can win power for the NPP.

Indeed, anyone who underrates this faction may laugh at the wrong side of his mouth. The issues that dogged their past campaigns can no longer be used against them.

Appealing personality

Paul Afoko is admired by many NPP members for his affable nature. He is known to be a good listener.

Indeed, some are already arguing the NPP should select a Chairman with an appealing personality and someone who has an air of charisma around him. That is where Paul Afoko fits in.

I vividly remember his statement during the 2007 NPP presidential primaries that: "The selection of our candidate is the battle for hearts and minds of our party and country. Therefore, there is no room for insults, intimidation, lies and threats. The battleground is the battle of vision and ideas. We must all engage in a clean campaign, devoid of mudslinging and personality attacks."

Having gotten closer to Paul Afoko during the NPP Presidential primaries in 2007, I can attest to his level of intelligence and humorous nature. In fact, he used to call me "Yenim wo firi titi" a slogan that Nana Akufo-Addo used for the 2007 NPP Presidential primaries. I was then a known and staunch supporter of Nana Akufo-Addo and engaged him in a battle of ideas.

Organisational acumen

I have a strong conviction that Paul Afoko has what it takes to be an efficient, effective and a progressive chairman to take over from Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey because several of the people in the party at the grassroots and at the leadership level are comfortable with him.

Paul Afoko is a strategist, a pragmatic situation analyst and a good lobbyist. His experience in party management and campaign organisation was at display during the 2007 Presidential primaries of the NPP. He is a workaholic and was seen at every nook and cranny of the country campaigning for Alan Kyeramanteng. He has the character, leadership skills and experience to become Chairman of the NPP. Political parties undertake aggressive membership drive spiced with occasional poaching from rival parties using a combination of material influence and coercion as recorded in very recent Ghanaian politics.

Funding of NPP

The traditional source of funding for political parties is through membership dues and donations. Compared to the days in government, the NPP more than need an individual with a great acumen in raising money for campaign and other routine activities.

Now that political parties in Ghana are resorting to "plutocratic funding”; that is, funding from wealthy people, this is where Paul Afoko fits in again. With his network of wealthy people that have emerged within the NPP since 2001, the NPP will never be short of cash. Among this group can be found the likes Dr Addo Kufour, Kwadwo Mpianim, Tommy Amematekpor, Stephen A. Ntim, Richard Winfred Anane, Fred Oware, and others.

Geographical/Ethnic considerations

It is a truism that geographical considerations and ethnicity has become an integral part of politicking in Ghana. During elections, these issues always feature prominently in the campaigns and are exploited and fanned to win votes.

On the face of it, it appears Paul Afoko's Northern background will be an advantage to the NPP. I am not suggesting he should be made chairman simply because he is a Northerner. But whether we like it or not, ethnicity has assumed an integral part of politicking in Ghana. We must all condemn the opportunistic manner in which ethnicity is exploited for political purposes. Notwithstanding that the NPP needs to do a lot of strategic planning in terms of ethnic permutations for top positions in the party to effectively deal with the negative tag of the party being primarily Akan-based. Under the current circumstance, Paul Afoko is the best bet for the party.

Indeed, the perception is that, the NPP is an Akan party and that perception has been re-enforced by the fact that in the last two elections, the NPP won only two out of the ten regions in Ghana. It is high time to re-brand the party or else it is not going to win any national election anytime soon. Selecting Paul Afoko as NPP Chairman would have been a great step towards achieving this course, because the party needs to defuse the Akan perception now, more than ever or it remains in opposition forever.

All things being equal, the flag-bearer position will remain with the Akans. Ideally, a Northerner should be given the Chairmanship for the first time. In fact, there has never been a Northern Chairman for NPP in its history.

By Mahama Haruna.

The writer is a trained Journalist and a former NPP Secretary for Bole-Bamboi. He was a Special Assistant to current NPP Chairman, Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey.

Columnist: Haruna, Mahama