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Opinions Thu, 12 Jul 2012

The National Democratic Party (NDP) and Matters Arising

The altercation that has rocked the National Democratic Congress (NDC) II since its birth seems to be reaching its crescendo with the formation of the yet-to-be-certified National Democratic Party (NDP). The NDP’s slogan, timing, strategies, and interim leadership point to the fact that the differences have become irreconcilable.

Some think Ghana’s democracy is just about NPP and NDC or Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo-Addo and John Evans Atta Mills. To these people, any attempt to criticize leadership from within is seen as an attempt to discredit, vilify, and to make the president unpopular for self-centered reasons. I have heard and read thesis that suggest that the Rawlingses are just power drunk and would go any lengths to ensure that Atta Mills, the man they molded from an unknown civil servant to a political burden, becomes a one-term president.

What this group of people fails to appreciate is that, our democracy is not just about the NDC and the NPP. At any point in time, the political situation calls for strategies from any Ghanaian who is interested in exercising his or her citizenship to make such choices and decisions as he deem fit. To this end, we, as a people, must not lose sight of the fact that our infant democracy is yet to test and appreciate some of the possibilities there are in a democracy. In fact, there are myriads of possibilities and what we are witnessing today is just one of such possibilities.

Today the NDP provides Ghanaians with a new beginning. This beginning is for Ghanaians to reevaluate their political capital. Any honest assessment would point to the fact that the two major political parties, the NDC and the NPP, due to their unchallenged majorities in parliament, they have taken the country hostage and have maintained their stranglehold each time they have executive power. Therefore, if for reasons of corruption, incompetence, lack of consensus at the grassroots on national issues and myriad of issues that have bedeviled the NDC some of its members must consider directing their productive energies elsewhere, then the NDP must be welcomed and accepted, especially in areas of the country where both the NDC and the NPP have maintained unbroken and wholesale support.

If for over three years, the NDC could not fix its internal problems and bring the factions within its ranks together, what is the guarantee that if granted another four years the current leadership will be able to do so? I even wish it was just about internal wrangling, but listening to the messages emanating from the frontlines of the yet-to-be-certified NDP, it is obvious that the standard-bearer of the NDC, Saint Mawulivi John Evans Atta Mills is being seen as grossly incompetent and no longer fit for purpose, but the cabal that has hijacked him will not let him exit the scene to take a well-deserved rest. His continuous stay in office guarantees them the free flow of national resources, but at the expenses of national development.

Reading a press statement signed by the propagandist of the NDC, Mr. Richard Quarshigah, I asked myself: why is the gentleman still in denial? Or is it just a mark of propaganda to continue to see a goat as a cow, as his colleague Baba Jamal had counseled employees of Ghana’s Ministry of Information, so they want non-NDC observers to also draw the same conclusions that they are seeing a cow instead of a goat? Did he hear the ex-president say that NDC is in a ditch when he addressed the June 4 rally in Aflao in less than a month ago? What informed the ex-president’s analysis to come to such a harsh conclusion about a party he founded and remains the chairman of its most powerful organ, the Council of Elders? These are questions discerning readers should be asking.

Now let’s look at the substantive issues. I will like to make a case for the seven constituencies in the Anlo Traditional Area using the Anlo and Keta constituencies as cases. Political observers who have paid close attention to these constituencies since the birth of the Ghana’s Fourth Republican Constitution affirm that beyond the intra-party contest for the parliamentary slot of these constituencies, there have not been any keen political competitions at the inter-party level. This situation has made some observers to ridicule the NDC in these constituencies by imputing that “even a goat in the colors of the umbrella would win those seats.” The same assertions hold true for the NPP in its strongholds. The battle between the two former friends – Ambassador Victor Gbeho and the late Squandron Leader (rtd) Clend Sowu - who became foes, clearly illustrate the point. While the corrupt delegates, who are the kingmakers, crowned Sowu as their choice for the Anlo constituency, Gbeho’s independent bid was accepted and actualized by the electorates.

The point of that is that when Gbeho decided, against the counsel of his advisees and party hawks, to break away from the NDC and pitch his independent bid, many considered it suicidal. Nevertheless, he went ahead, annexed the seat, lost it the next round, and finally became a presidential adviser on foreign affairs and ECOWAS president. All these developments were possibilities within the democratic project or dispensation. These possibilities would not have actualized to demonstrate to the people of Anlo that there were such possibilities, if Gbeho had backed down on the counsel of his advisees.

We, however, must be watchful of the dynamics. Gbeho had been Ghana’s ambassador to the United Nations for many years; he had also been in the Foreign Service for many years and also became Ghana’s Foreign Minister, prior to his contest with Sowu. Clearly, he had the wherewithal to ruffle feathers with an establishment candidate like Sowu and win. But if even he could become bankrupt after investing his lifetime savings in contesting Mr. Clement Kofi Humado in 2004, then we must pose a few questions about the current political process and consider the need for a matching force for the NDC in these constituencies.

Could Mr. Richard Qaurshigah have done what he did in the Keta constituency and won if the NDC was in opposition? Could Mr. Samuel Ablakwa Okudzeto have done all the things he did in Tongu and won that election if he had not been appointed a Deputy Ministers with all the resources at his disposal? Could any well qualified individual have contested these individuals and beat them with financial resource limitations? Would it be possible for an independent candidate to step into the fray, where the process is so polluted with financial inducements and win? The New Patriotic Party (NPP), a so-called elitist party, saw the need to open up its electoral college to its grassroots to prevent the widespread abuses of the intra-party electoral process. But in the case of the NDC, those who lineup the corridors of power do not see the need to embark on a similar process because the current structures are exploitable to their advantage and beyond that, there is no interparty contest in the constituencies in the Anlo Traditional Area. To those from these unfortunate constituencies, the failure of the NDC to overhaul its political processes must be a good reason to consider an alternative.

The task of contesting an election as an independent candidate in some of these constituency is no joke. Many good candidates who fail to make it pass the corrupt Electoral College consider the financial demands and shy away with broken hearts. Clearly, if NDP can provide a credible philosophical and ideological bulwark for its praxis, it is more than likely to weaken the NDC in the aforementioned constituencies and serve as a war machine to rally the people for common sense politics which has eluded these constituencies for a long time. If the individual cannot do it alone as an independent candidate, the NDP must be the conduit.

We have seen the Eagle Party, the Reform Party (RP), the Democratic Freedom Party (DFP), and others which were offshoots of the NDC or were in alliance with it. But they all fizzled away miserably, leaving their followers in a ditch, because the intentions behind them were not sincere. The NPP in any case has been able to hold itself together all this while. While organizational analyst might argue that the presence of conflict in an organization might be positive to some extent, it is becoming obvious that the NDC has lost focus and what we are seeing is not organizational conflict that could bring any positive returns to the NDC. The NDC’s returns are diminishing (the law of diminishing returns has just set in).

The issues on which the leadership of the NDC, the grassroots, and some individuals in the NDC spar widely are not issues that can be resolve easily in a matter of four or so months to do away with the fragmentation as the NDC confronts its political adversary, the NPP. Corruption, incompetence, foolhardy political decisions, the use of money to buy votes (plutocracy), and the inability of leadership to weather criticism constructively and turn those criticisms into strengths are some of the issues at stake. Issues the party’s founder captions as: Probity, Accountability, Integrity, and Transparency among others.

Having listened and read some of the reactions of the NDC leadership, two of such reactions must be placed under the microscope. Mr. Alex Segbefia symbolically tried to shore up support for the presidency by charging NDC supporters and sympathizers not to dessert when he says “I know my president.” But the question is: How do the mammoth supporters and sympathizers know their president? AS populist sprinter who breaks into 100 meters in suit under the sweltering sun to repair a sinking public image that all is not well with his health? Is he known as a peacemaker as he always tries to portray? Has he ever built any bridges to bring the fighting elements within his party together? Has he been there for his party supporters and sympathizers? How do NDC sympathizers and supporters know their president? Would he be able to do the grueling campaign criss-cross the nooks and crannies of the country? What message is he sending to the people on education, unemployment, health and sanitation and so on? These questions must be answered by each individual from where he or she stands in the NDC equation, not what Segbefia in his reverie from the former slave castle thinks after sipping his wine and cracking his crab.

In another statement, the Minister of Education, Mr. Lee Ocran, suggested that it is only the blind who cannot see the progress Ghana has made in the three years of the Atta Mills administration. To him, all one can wish is the goodwill of those who can see the progress we have made, so they can retain the underperforming goalie for them to continue to loot the state coffers. If people living on my tax can afford to be paying huge sums of money in rent on an apartment they maintained in New York City for their friends, cronies, and family members, why would they not conclude Ghana has made economic progress? It will, however, be prudent for him to mention one key area where the professor has delivered. Is it in the area of education? Is it in the area of youth employment? Is it in the area of national security? Or it is in the area of health?

Let me remind readers that even on the tarmac to exile, the late Mobutu Sese Seko, the strongman of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, still was threatening the leader of the rebel group that ousted him, Laurent Kabilia, with death should he dare enter Kinshasa. This was because as he ran that country down, he still believed he was the best thing to ever happen to that country. Who expects the leadership of the NDC, a party in disarray to throw in the towel and say they have failed? It is never done in politics. Even NPP in 2008, on its way out, still was confidence it was going to win 75% of the presidential votes, when the writing was clear on the wall that they were heading out.

The question at this point is: will the National Democratic Party (NDP) make any difference in the constituencies where the NPP and the NDC have a stranglehold on the political process, preventing “commonsense politics” to the benefit of the people? Will those leading the NDP make any difference in its fortunes? Do we have others who have the potential, the courage, and the skills to have instituted similar processes and win the hearts of many Ghanaians who are disappointed in both the NPP and the NDC? What were they waiting for until now? Will the Rawlingses oil the war machinery of the NDP upfront or as backbenchers? What are the implications for the Rawlingses? How can we get out of the mess that has engulfed us on the watch of the Mills-led administration?

While I do not have answers for all the above questions, i am of the view that there is the express need to weaken both the NPP and the NDC in parliament, so that none of these two parties has a majority in the next parliament to continue to impose their ferocious politics on the people of Ghana. Once they are weakened in parliament, there will be the need to build coalition with smaller parties in parliament in order to make these parties more and more answerable to the electorates.

Therefore, anyone who is under the illusion that the NDP is about the Rawlingses or their sympathizers must retrace the recent political history of our country and have a clear grasp of what confront us as a people. Those who are also talking about Rawlingses legacy must also go over their notes again. I am sure whatever the outcome of the 2012 is, it is not Rawlingses legacy that is being challenged, but that of Saint Mawulivi John Evans Atta Mills. From 1996 till date, he has left an unpleasant mark on the NDC and that will be the legacy he would go down with.

With all the foregoing considered, I believe that there are still many more aspects of our democratic adventure that are yet to unravel. Anyone who thinks that Ghana’s democracy is about just NDC and the NPP or Atta Mills and Akuffo-Addo, or the Rawlingses versus Atta Mills, in case of intraparty conflicts, must reconsider his or her notes. The bifurcation that characterized our world in the early days of establishing structures for the praxis of science and scientific research, which invariable infected our modes of thinking about politics and just anything, has long given way. The issues are many and the possibilities remain unlimited.

Prosper Yao Tsikata

Columnist: Tsikata, Prosper Yao