The lessons that Amenfi West has taught us (Part 1)

Thu, 17 Dec 2015 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Folks, we are happy to note that the bye-elections in the Amenfi West constituency took place today without any incident to disturb the peace. Voting was generally smooth, free, and fair. In the end, the NDC’s candidate, Eric Afful, won 15,809 votes (52.64%) to defeat the NPP’s Paul Derkyi, who had 13,076 votes (43.54%). Abraham Kwadwo Buadee of the Progressive People’s Party (PPP) and the United Front Party’s Elvis Adjei, polled 1,032 and 113 votes respectively. (See http://www.myjoyonline.com/politics/2015/December-16th/ndc-retains-amenfi-west-constituency.php#sthash.lqDeVh3M.dpuf).

It doesn’t really matter to me at this point whether in the 2012 elections the NDC won by a wider margin or not. After all, the circumstances surrounding general elections are different from those surrounding a bye-election. In the end, all win be win!! We recall that ex-President Mills defeated Akufo-Addo by a slight margin, thanks to the support of the Tain voters. At Election 2012, President Mahama didn’t have to garner millions of votes to brush aside Akufo-Addo. All that our Constitution says is 50%+1 vote!! All win be win, folks!!

I am happy to announce the death of empty political rhetoric, ethnic politics, and negative propaganda for its own sake. Voters won’t be swayed by such fluff. The NDC won because it has substance that the people can relate to. The NPP lost because it is still unable to connect with the people despite its massive propaganda against the incumbent administration. The people can sift the chaff from the grain.

Those in the Amenfi West area know very well the issues at stake, especially the fact that they belong to the deprived segments of the population; that they do not have enough food on their tables; that they cannot pay high school fees to support their wards in schools; that they cannot pay high tariff rates; that they lack basic amenities like potable water; etc., etc. But they also have a strong faith in the government that it can tackle problems to ease the burden on them despite the poisoning of their minds by the anti-government propagandists. At least, they know what they need to know about why their existential problems aren’t being easily fixed with the flick of a finger. No manipulation here by any political trickster will win them over. Take it or leave it.

So, the NDC and NPP approached the bye-elections with specific agenda based on their ability or otherwise to penetrate the fold of the voters. For both parties, the bye-elections took place at a particularly difficult time, each faced with peculiar difficulties that needed to be understood on their own terms.

The NDC had more at stake than the NPP, clearly because of the performance of the Mahama-led administration that its political opponents have mounted rooftops to condemn as responsible for the hardship facing Ghanaians. It needed to retain that Parliamentary seat to prove its critics wrong. True, the going is tough for the people, especially in the light of worsening living standards and the hugely negative impact of the energy crisis on almost all sectors of national life.

In addition, the rising cost of utility services, unemployment, and near desperation among the people might lead one to conclude that the government’s rating would be really low and that voters won’t go for the candidate representing it at the polls. Given the massive propaganda against it by the NPP, one might think that the NDC wouldn’t appeal to the voters; but as the situation turned out, it remained in good reckoning, which explains why its candidate won the bid. What this victory signifies is that the NDC hasn’t lost traction in that part of Ghana. Once its supporters remain loyal to it, they will vote for it no matter what happens.

How about the NPP? The party approached the bye-elections with a heavy burden, apparently because of its internal crisis and the suspension of its elected national officers to create the impression that it is a divided house. Despite claims by Akufo-Addo and others that the NPP is united, it will be difficult for observers not to see the cracks. Obviously, the NPP was seeking to win the bye-elections to have a bragging right and to use it as a stimulus for its electioneering efforts toward Election 2016. That was why it sank everything into it; but the outcome has confirmed that the constituency remains loyal to the NDC.

Had the NPP won the elections, a lot would have been happening by now to “shake” the ground as the party’s “kukrudu” slogan would have it happen. But with this loss, there is no “Eshi wurado wurado”. Instead, there is a sober reflection by the party’s leaders to know what went wrong. After all, they had harped on the failures of this government and instilled so much hope in their followers that they could do better if put in power. They wanted to use this Amenfi West bye-election as a trump-card for their electioneering campaigns. Remember that on December 19, Akufo-Addo would announce his Election 2016 Campaign Team; and hopes had been high that an electoral victory in this bye-election would be the energizer for everything to be done henceforth. Unfortunately, the electorate have poured ice-cold water on that hope.

Now that the dust has settled, what do we see? The picture is clear: that despite the persistent condemnation of the Mahama-led administration as incompetent by the NPP—and despite the hyping of the AMERI power deal as an instance of corruption and incompetence of the government—the NDC could still outdo the NPP, not because it induced the voters with material gifts but because it has given enough evidence of what it could do or not do to win the minds and hearts of the majority of the voters. This particular victory has been achieved because of what the NDC means to the people, not because of how the NPP is leading the smear campaign against it. True, the people are suffering, but they know why and won’t easily be swayed by the NPP’s propaganda.

What lessons, then, does Amenfi West teach us? Many!!

1. Regardless of how the NPP attacks the government, once the citizens know what the challenges are, they will be more prepared to put their trust in the government than in the NPP, which is making so much noise about good intentions for governance but not providing any concrete substance on how it will administer Ghana better than what the Mahama-led administration is doing.

2. Winning elections depends more on reaching out to the electorate with substantial policy initiatives than crying hoarse in condemning the incumbent administration. As was evident in Akufo-Addo’s speech at the NPP’s rally on Sunday, nothing assuring came from him. By boring the people with allegations against President Mahama and constantly characterizing him as “incompetent”, he said nothing to tell the people what he could do better. Telling them that he wasn’t seeking political office to steal Ghana’s money was as hollow as annoying. What he failed to do was that he didn’t connect with the voters; and only NPP buffs would fall for such hogwash. Indeed, Akufo-Addo didn’t help the NPP’s cause at all because he said nothing substantial to prove that the NPP could be a better choice. Why, then, put in Parliament someone who would just add to the number? The voters would rather go for someone on the winning side to bring home to them their share of the national cake. And that was what they did by rejecting the NPP’s candidate.

3. Akufo-Addo and his NPP seem not to know how to read the barometer to know voter sentiments. They remain fixated on their anachronistic approaches to pursuing electioneering campaigns and will continue to lag behind. The truth is that the people already know what the situation in the country is. What they don’t know and are looking for is: What will the NPP do differently to solve problems? An astute politician will know this fact and provide ready answers to woo the electorate. Not so for the NPP under Akufo-Addo. Everything is woven around a campaign of calumny and disdain against President Mahama and the NDC.

4. The NPP people think that using the mass media is better than face-to-face interactions with the electorate, which explains why they have invested so much in talk-shows on air, which they use to insult and not clear doubts about their own abilities or to present their party’s agenda for national development. The persistent recourse to such talk-shows won’t help their cause in any way. But they will not abandon it because that is the main weapon in their arsenal. Poor souls!!

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.