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The post-mortem of Allan’s latest defeat

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Tue, 21 Oct 2014 Source: Ohemeng, Yaw

At KNUST we used to have a saying that: “when there is no ‘there’, you cannot force ‘there’ to be there”. This is what happened to Mr Allan Kyeremanteng on Saturday 18th October. That he was going to lose was not in doubt but the scale of the loss was not anticipated even amongst the most optimistic of Akuffo Addo supporters. What then could have accounted for such a drubbing? I see four inter-related factors: his positioning, his lack of contextual intelligence, his strategy, and finally, his message.

To position oneself to win national political office, one must be making positive waves within the country or at least within the political party to which one belongs. Mr Kyeremanteng has hitherto not done any of these with much acclaimed success. He has been banking on the times he served as ambassador to the USA, Trade Minister, UN Trade Representative and the failed nomination as the Director General of the WTO to propel him to higher heights. These point to his undoubted managerial competence but they do not necessarily point to a competent political actor who the NPP and the nation would want to elect as leader. Allan’s record in winning elections was non-existent with his twice (and now thrice) failed bid to win the NPP flag bearer slot. Besides he has never tested his popularity by running in any other competitive political race in Ghana.

He has also not been substantially active on the national political scene. He has not in the past joined any political cause or national agitation and neither has he given any high-billed policy speeches on anything affecting the country from the economy to fighting corruption, from poverty reduction to education or health. As such no one knew his stance on a range of issues and this formed a very weak basis from which to try to become president. After all we have a still unfolding precedence to hold as the standard.

Within the NPP, Allan has not handled properly the aftermath of his resignation in the lead up to the 2008 elections. Instead of denying it, he should rather have been candid that he did resign, apologised for it and then moved on. Had he done so when he ran again in 2010, the issue would have been dead and buried by the time of this latest bid to lead the party. There is also this strong perception within the NPP that he is not committed to the cause of the party. He is deemed to be one who disappears during campaigns only to re-surface during flag bearer contests. Here too, he did not do enough to dispel this perception. He might even have exacerbated it when he explained his absence by not being given a role in the campaign and not being acknowledged during rallies.

The second major factor that contributed to such a huge loss was Allan’s lack of ‘contextual intelligence’. He failed to see the times we are in and he paid a price for that failure. There were two issues that played against him in this wise. First was the nationwide sympathy that Nana Akuffo Addo enjoyed after the election petition. The party genuinely did retain some profound belief that it could harvest this for the 2016 elections. Allan’s intervention therefore was deemed very unhelpful, to say the least. Substantial evidence was adduced during the petition that all was not well with the 2012 elections. For an NPP person, it is almost sacrilegious not to acknowledge this. Yet Allan spoke about this with some equivocation. On the one hand he appeared to accept that the NPP was cheated out of victory in 2012, yet on the other, maintained that the party cannot win elections with Nana Akuffo Addo at the top of the ticket. The other issue is that in politics you always aim to present a contrast to your main opponent. In this, Nana Addo does present a contrast to the incumbent president; a relatively young but largely ineffective president who is floundering on the job. It was quite obvious that anyone within the NPP claiming similar attributes as the incumbent president was not going to receive an overwhelming endorsement.

The third factor that damaged Allan’s chances was the strategy he and his team adopted. He spoke a lot about being the key to opening the door to power for the NPP. However, when it came to winning the leadership slot within the NPP, he adopted a ‘barge pole’ strategy to rather break down the NPP door. He adopted a three-pronged strategy: discredit the incumbent national executive thought to be Akuffo Addo loyalists; discredit Akuffo Addo himself; and employ legal machinations to slow down the process. He succeeded, to some extent, with the first strategy when the national executives were voted out of power almost en bloc. The other two strategies however played against him and might have rather succeeded in consolidating the Akuffo Addo support and probably attracted him even more support.

Team Allan failed to realise the deep affection all sections of the NPP have for Akuffo Addo. He is the one person who is acknowledged to have been there through thick and thin for the NPP tradition throughout his adult life. Therefore to try to denigrate his person and to characterise his contribution as one of ‘monumental failure’ was really getting into the realms of absurdity. They could have marshalled a different strategy that acknowledged Akuffo Addo’s contribution but yet make a case for replacing him.

The last factor in Allan’s defeat was his unconvincing message. He did set his stall by his claimed ability to attract floating voters without presenting any research findings. There are two issues that he took for granted in this claim, which made it unconvincing. First he assumed that all of the over 5 million electors who voted for the NPP in the 2012 elections were members. Thus all he had to do was to attract extra votes to add to this ‘locked in’ number. This exposed him as not knowing a lot about the party he was seeking to lead. Card-bearing members of the NPP cannot be more than half a million. A look at the number which voted in the just-ended primaries should give an indication. Thus there were over four and a half million electors who supported the NPP in the last elections who are not card-bearing members. This number is fluid and can either decrease or increase during the next elections. It would be surprising for anyone to hold that this number did not include ‘floaters’ and that none of them voted for the NPP based on their attraction to Akuffo Addo.

By Allan’s floating voter claim he was also assuming that this was a monolithic bloc who only votes on the basis of the physical appearance of a candidate. This would be contrary to the ‘classical’ (apologies to Afari-Gyan) view of the floating voter as one who votes on issues rather than superficial considerations.

Does what transpired on Saturday signal the end of Allan’s ambitions? I will say no but only he can ensure that this is not the case. I have read of some of his supporters making noises on the side and they can help him by keeping quiet. Seriously, Allan’s future conduct in the service of the NPP and its sincerity and visibility will determine if he lives to fight another day. He can begin by recanting some of the despicable claims made against Akuffo Addo by members of his team. It is only by embarking on a good repair job that the flame of his ambition will continue to burn.

Columnist: Ohemeng, Yaw