5
Opinions Thu, 4 May 2017

Who leads the NDC in 2020/2024?

The NDC’s defeat at the December 2016 polls was both unexpected and demoralising. Many party workers still find it hard to comprehend the sheer scale of our defeat in both the parliamentary and presidential elections.

They are still struggling to come to terms with the enormity of what happened whilst clinging forlornly onto what might have been, had things taken a different course.

Their reactions range from disbelief in the published results to downright disappointment and disgust at failing to claim a victory, which was theirs for the taking!

Some of the disparaging questions that have sprung up include: How could a party in opposition wipe out the advantages of incumbency and garner such a huge margin of victory, a feat unimaginable just four years ago? Where did we go wrong? Why did we, as a party, not see this coming? These are questions that are worth understanding and therefore, the party’s decision to set up a 13-member committee to investigate the causes of our defeat in the polls, is widely welcome.

But difficult though the outcome may appear to be, there are still more party workers who see it as presenting a unique opportunity to reshape the party for greater things in the near future.

Those inclined to take this view feel fervently that it takes ‘good leadership’ to precipitate such outcomes, and have wasted no time initiating discussions to find the most suitable candidate[s] to lead the NDC into the next elections in 2020.

There may be some merit in their stance, though. Some suggest that the leader of the team that led the party to the historical defeat has not had sufficient reflection and continues to defend some of the perceived causes of gross disaffection from within.

They claim “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” This is a statement often attributed to Albert Einstein, undoubtedly one of the finest minds of all time, and it implicitly endorses the need to welcome defeat as an invitation to do things differently.

Quite an array of names are being trotted about as “suitable” candidates to lead the party in the next elections. Many of these names served in various capacities under the administration of H.E. John Dramani Mahama.

Former Ministers of Communications, Dr Edward Omane Boamah; Employment and Labor Relations, Haruna Iddrisu; Roads and Highways; Inusah Fuseini; Education, Prof Jane Naana Opoku Agyemang; Foreign Affairs, Hannah Serwah Tetteh; Trade and Industry; Dr Ekow Spio Gabrah; Elvis Afriyie Ankrah, former Minister of State and Mahama Ayariga, Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovations, have all been reported to be interested in leading the NDC into future elections.

Others reported to harbour such ambition include former Ministers of Youth and Sports, Edwin Nii Lante Vanderpuije; Gender, Children and Social Protection, Nana Oye Lithur; former Brong Ahafo Minister, Eric Opoku; former Central Regional Minister; Kweku Rickett Hagan; former Minister of State at the presidency, Rashid Pelpuo; former majority leader and now Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament; Alban Kingsford Sumane Bagbin and Goosie Tanoh of Reform Party fame.

The likes of immediate past Senior Policy Adviser and Head of Presidential Delivery Unit, Dr Valerie Sawyer; former MP, Nii Amasah Namoale; former Chief Executives of NHIA, Sylvester Mensah; former Vice Chancellor of UPSA, Prof Jushua Alabi; COCOBOD’s Dr Stephen Opuni; former CEO of BOST/TOR, Kwame Awuah Darko; Eco Medical Village’s, Dzifa Aku Ativor; former KMA boss, Kojo Bonsu; 1st vice Chairman of NDC, Samuel Ofosu Ampofo; MP for Klottey Korle; Dr Zanetor Rawlings; Anlo MP; Clement Kofi Humado, former Speaker of Parliament, Edward Doe Adjaho and former Vice President, Kwesi Amissah Arthur are also reported to be interested in the post. Indeed former President John Dramani Mahama has been giving mixed signals about his intention to contest or not to contest.

Recent reports from the grapevine however, suggests that many on this list of talents have given up on their ambitions, ostensibly cowed by the scale of the party’s defeat. It appears only about seven out of the tall list are currently engaging and consulting in furtherance of their ambition

There appears to be engaging discussions, running in tandem with this speculative exercise among supporters of the NDC, as to what ex-President Mahama’s loss means for the party - whether the party should field the ‘one term’ President for the 2020 elections or put their trust in a new candidate with hopes of securing victory in the nearest future? Many party operatives, mainly appointees of the erstwhile Mahama administration and their supporters, have been persistent in their calls on the former-President to make a comeback in 2020. That is hardly surprising.

Their reason is simple; Mr Mahama has achieved so much during his stewardship that it will be a disservice to the NDC and the country if he decides not to run for the presidency in 2020 because of the outcome of last year’s presidential election. Some have questioned the voices singing the chorus of a comeback as rather self-serving rather than in the interest of the party at-large.

Others are not so sure whether the former President making a comeback is a smart idea and are therefore kicking against it. They argue that considering the magnitude of defeat the NDC suffered in the last elections, with him at the helm of affairs, it would be politically incorrect for the leadership of the party to impose him as the candidate on the rank and file of the party.

Again the discussion has been around vindictiveness, trust and policy stance on the private sector, taxes, nurses and teachers allowances, among others, for a leader who has just one term to exit. Outcome is a consequence of leadership, they insist, and so it would not be in the party’s interest to repeat the same mistakes in the face of a glaring opportunity to do things differently.

Throughout frenetic discussions, some names have remained persistently prominent in the reckoning of NDC operatives and are currently trending on all serious media platforms about future leadership of the party. These include H.E. John Dramani Mahama, Dr Ekwow Spio Gabrah, Hon Sylvester Mensah, Rt Hon Edward Doe Adjaho, Rt Hon Alban Bagbin, Prof Joshua Alabi and former flag bearer of the Reform Party, Mr Goozie Augustus Obuadum Tanoh.

As is often the case in matters of this nature, “suitability” seems to be predicated on a range of factors, not least of which are perceived competence as an individual, experience in matters of governance, appeal to party grassroots, appeal to party elders, one’s perceived strength in regional share of votes, how one fares in the NDC’s unwritten understanding of rotation of regional representation.

When these factors are applied to the trending names, a rather interesting pattern begins to emerge. They may all appear competent and reasonably experienced on the surface, however, a number of them begin to fade off the radar in the light of other considerations that many opinion leaders in the party regard highly as prerequisites for the top job of the party – especially the emergng convention of regional rotation and competence.

This emerging convention of regional rotation is a new NDC curiosity. It is not a written provision in the party’s constitution, neither can it be cited as featuring anywhere in the party’s documented tenets; yet it is quite a pronounced feature in all discussions about leadership among the party rank and file and every self-respecting member of the party seems to consider it a useful prerequisite for leadership in the party.

Such being the case – the tenacity with which members hold on to it, albeit silently – discounting it for any reason will be suicidal for the party. This writer has considered its merits in the scheme of things within the party and reckons that paying heed to this unwritten convention of regional rotation will ensure cohesion in the party, encourage the nurturing of talents across the length and breath of the country, tone down tribal sensibilities within the NDC family, help broaden the party’s appeal within the electorate because it straddles perceived ethnic barriers in ways that are tangible.

In the fullness of time, all these factors working together will give rise to a formidable brand, which could not be matched by any of our party’s competitors!

Doe Adjaho is an interesting case in point. He is a recognisable legal practitioner and legislator. Having successfully served in the last parliament as Speaker, many may justifiably regard him as the ‘face’ of the Volta Region in such matters.

Many respectable voices in the party feel that he comes from the NDC’s first president and party founder, Jerry John Rawlings’ region of Volta, after whom we had Mills from Central and then John Mahama from the North. The logic of this line of thinking appears to have narrowed the ambition of NDC flag bearer hopefuls from Volta, Central and Northern regions.

Volta Region however cannot be sidelined completely in 2020 and would require ingenuity to carry Greater Accra along for victory.

The Central region is often cited for censure on this matter simply because it has featured consistently on all NDC presidential tickets since 1992: Rawlings – Arkaah; Rawlings – Mills; Mills – Amidu; Mills – Mumuni; Mills – Mahama; Mahama – Amissah Arthur (twice). The call for this trend to be broken is becoming increasingly deafening. It is not likely to remain unheeded.

Mr. Tanoh has not officially announced his intention to bid for the top job. However, his appearance at the 35th Anniversary of the 31st December Revolution recently, coupled with his address, which centred on reorganization of the NDC, were interpreted by many observers as a covert attempt to announce his presidential ambition.

It is true that many view his abilities for the job favourably, yet he may not find favour with the rank and file of the NDC if he decides to contest the flag bearer position because of issues of loyalty and betrayal hanging around his neck, from his breaking ranks with the NDC to form the Reform Party, over the selection of presidential candidate for the 2000 elections. Besides he is yet to renounce his membership of the Reform Party or better still re-join the NDC formally as was done by Dr Obed Asamoah and his DFP members.

Mr. Amissah-Arthur himself was also thought to be interested in leading the NDC after his boss, but the abysmal performance of the party, particularly in the Central region where he hails from, may similarly have dented any hopes he may have harboured. That notwithstanding, his former VP position can be leveraged for patronage and support.

Dr Ekwow Spio-Garbrah is held in high esteem for his experience in governance and telecommunications. He has made two unsuccessful attempts at leading the NDC party. But he does not seem to have the support of NDC “kingmakers” and the grassroots. The campaign he ran against Professor Mills and his infamous ‘team B’ outburst was felt by many as being needlessly brash and did not endear him to many in the party who regarded his rhetoric on the hustings as an affront to acceptable standards of decency.

Dr. Edward Omane Boamah, the immediate past Communications Minister is one of the appointees of the NDC government who was seen as the ex-president’s heir-apparent. Unfortunately for him, he is widely perceived, rightly or wrongly as JDM’s key confidant and one of the reasons for the party’s crushing defeat and has therefore been pilloried for it – false as it may be. Making an attempt at the top job is highly unlikely. It is believed he has advised himself to stay clear of any such bid for now.

Yet another name to come up very strongly on the list favoured by internal permutations of the party is Mr. Sylvester Mensah, a former MP and former Chief Executive of the National Health Insurance Authority. He is considered emotionally mature with enormous talent and capacity.

Many party supporters up and down the country feel that his unique blend of grassroots experience with professional skills and diplomacy render him particularly suitable to lead a grassroots party such as the NDC. Sylvester's cadre credentials and deep roots in the founding of the NDC connect him with most elders of the party. He is currently a member of the council of elders of the party in the Greater Accra Region and chairs the regional finance committee of the party. His dual Ga and Ewe heritage gives him an added advantage even though that is not a decisive factor for leadership.

It took the expertise and management talent of Sylvester Mensah and his management team to render Ghana’s NHIA a global model and a destination for global knowledge and experience-sharing despite inadequate funding over the years.

As if to underscore the wealth of talent available to the NDC, current rumours suggest that Prof. Joshua Alabi is another name to have surfaced as a flag-bearer hopeful for the party. As former Vice Chancellor of the University of Professional Studies and a former Member of Parliament for Krowor constituency in Accra, his readiness for the job is not in question.

The fact that he is also a native of Accra, supports his eligibility, according to the party’s convention of regional rotation. However, many insiders describe his contact with the party grassroots as tenuous, a fact not helped by the many years he spent outside the party machinery to develop his credentials in academia. He is said to have resurfaced only just a few months into the December 7, 2016 elections. His greatest asset seems to be his Gadangme roots but his popularity in Accra appears rather feable.

Rt Hon Alban Bagbin inters this contest from a minority region but with a constituency that cuts across regions. No doubt, his support and respect among MPs is huge.

If the NDC must return to power soon – as many think it should – then the devastating defeat meted out to us last December cannot be the calamity it may appear to be, but an opportunity beckoning at us to do things differently. Perhaps the best way to respond to this bright opportunity is to select a leader from the pool of talents we are blessed with; a leader who has what it takes to move the party to that bright realm of political victory staring glaringly at us! Will we be sending a renewed and rebranded old product to the market or a new face and a new vision to ride on the useful legacies of the past.

The table below attempts an analysis of the strengths of the leading names among the presidential hopefuls. Should we gravitate towards Greater Accra? Can we ignore Volta Region under these circumstances? The real deal would be an attempt to carry both regions on board! It is however obvious that a relative consensus among party leaders and elders would bring clear closure to what, otherwise, promises to be a fierce contest. Party elders are said to be too tight lipped for the comfort of any of the presidential hopefuls.

Time would tell!

We shall overcome!!!

Columnist: Prof. Adjetey Dinn