Threat of Splinter Groups Looms Over NPP's Convention
As delegates to the National Patriotic Party's convention in Accra brace for what is shaping up to be the most contentious gathering of the party in years, the specter of splinter groups emerging from the convention and undermining the party's cohesiveness in 2008 becomes increasingly real with each bombastic outburst from the candidates and their cohorts.
For all its outward display of unity, the party is being torn asunder by squabbles and dissension. Each of the 19 or so presidential candidates has a core group of followers who are vociferous and contemptuous of their rivals. The current atmosphere of bitterness and rancor does not augur well for the party. Were it to lose the '08 elections, there will be no one to blame but the party's leadership's woeful failure to rein in these feuding factions.
Against this backdrop, those of us without horses in the party's nomination race can only grit our teeth and hope that the convention mercifully puts an end to the melodrama and bickering that have painfully exposed the party's internal troubles and depicted its members as blunderbusses.
It has been an utterly ugly and despicable spectacle, and by that I mean the campaign for the party's presidential ticket. Marked by empty rhetoric, hyperventilation, distortions and unbridled chutzpah, the camapign left a sour taste in the mouths of party aficionados and outside observers.
While the candidates parroted all the usual cliches about righting the economy and blustered on about the achievements of the NPP, they indicated no hesitation in browbeating each other and mau-mauing each other's position on policy issues. And for most part, they were intermittently solipsistic, shamelessly pandered to their bases, and essentially ignored the larger question of bridging the deepening divide between the rich and the poor, and the north and the south.
In their zeal to outdo each other and ingratiate themselves with party loyalists, they raised questions about each other's loyalty and commitment to the party, and flaunted their wealth amidst a sea of chronic poverty, invariably underscoring the basic notion that politics is a dirty and vicious endgame.
Sadly, their minions did not help to reduce tensions; as if on cue, three weeks ago, the growing fissures within the party were on public display, yet again.
Reacting ferociously to a tart assertion by Dr. Amoako Tuffour, Chief Advisor to the Vice President, Alhaji Aliu Mahama, that the party would lose the 2008 elections were it to elect another Akan candidate after Kufour, the Secretary General of the party, Nana Ohene Ntow, tore into Dr. Tuffour, essentially accusing him of stoking ethnic embers. Ntow then brazenly suggested that the vice president part ways with his top advisor...
Joining the fray, Dr. Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, an associate professor of English and Journalism at Nassau County Community College here in the United States, acerbically brushed off Dr. Tuffour's remarks as sophomoric and heretic.
"Supporters and "Special Advisors" of Vice President Aliu Mahama continue to make a mockery of Ghanaian democracy by insisting, contrary to the established principles of majority rule, that the Akan electoral majority gratuitously sell their conscience in the dubious name of unconstitutional validation of purportedly accomplished political apprenticeship. But we make bold by observing herein that such pathetic arm-twisting attempt would neither materialize in the lead-up to Election 2008 nor thereafter."
Dr. Okoampa-Ahoofe, shockingly asserted that Akans would not be coerced into voting en bloc for Alhaji Mahama, were he to win the party's nomination.
"There is absolutely no guarantee that if Vice-President Aliu Mahama wins the presidential nomination of the ruling New Patriotic Party via such thinly-veiled threats and intimidation a la the likes of Dr. Tuffour, Akans are going to blindly line up en masse, behind Mr. Mahama."
Dr. Okoampa-Ahoofe's apparent anger and visceral reaction to Dr. Tuffour's imprudent remarks, I assume, was triggered by an earlier media report that had the Chief of Jirapa and other northern chiefs urging northern delegates to the party's convention to vote en masse for Alhaji Aliu Mahama.
That Dr. Tuffour's ill-advised and poorly-timed assertion would elicit yowling hatred from members of his own party speaks unfailingly about the level of civility in the upper echelons of the party. Ultimately, the exchange stultifies our politics and corrupts our discourse.
The convention should not only be a time to nominate a winnable candidate; it must also be an occasion for the party to reflect on its failures and to ponder its future. Here is some food for thought for the conventioneers; the economy may be humming, but it isn't all Ghanaians who are sharing in the windfall....the average Ghanaian is still burdened by the fact that he can't adequately feed, clothe or educate his family. Hobbled by a moribund economy, his desire for wealth and prosperity remains a fantasy.
Lest this fact is lost on the conventioneers, the health care delivery system is erratic and very expensive, just as ailments and diseases....diabetes, cancer and Aids...hitherto unheard of begin to surface in our midst.
And what about shedding its undeserved image as an Akan party by crafting an elaborate electoral strategy that will make inroads into the northern regions long considered the NPP's electoral Waterloo? As Dr. Okoampa-Ahoofe rightly observed, these regions have unquestionably been the domain of the NDC. But northern voters aren't by any stretch of the imagination monolithic. There is as much diversity of political views and alliances as there is anywhere in the country. With the right approach, northerners voters can be lured away from the NDC.
I would urge the two gentlemen and others so inclined to hurl brickbats and trade insults, to hold their fire and let the nominating process run its course. Whoever emerges ahead of the pack, will in the words of Dr. Ahoofe, be a "somebody with formidable leadership acumen and an unimpeachable track-record of staunch belief in democratic governance; in sum, a progressive team-player."
But as he savors his bitter-sweet victory before an adoring crowd of well-wishers, the NPP nominee should reach out to his rivals and prod them to coalesce around him and the party for victory next year.....it will be well deserved.