Why Akufo-Addo must raise his game

Sun, 13 Sep 2015 Source: Samuel K. Obour

I have absolute respect for Nana Akufo-Addo, the flagbearer of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) for the 2016 General Election.

As Attorney-General and subsequently Foreign Affairs Minister in the J.A Kufuor administration, Akufo-Addo declined to be part of a gang of morally bankrupt and unpatriotic government officials whose preoccupation was to brazenly and relentlessly appropriate state property, including lands and bungalows.

Demonstrating selfless and exemplary leadership, Akufo-Addo also rejected per diems, housing and fuel allocations that he was entitled to as Minister of State. I understand that he lived in his own house and used his own car.

Needless to say, in a political environment characterised by gluttonous greed and rabid, conscienceless stealing of public resources, Akufo-Addo’s tendency to be selfless and patriotic is a welcome development.

The 71-year-old is the perhaps the only prominent member of the NPP who has so far failed to attract allegations of corruption. Not even the eminent JA Kufuor can lay claim to this accolade.

In Akufo-Addo, the NPP has a politician who, as far as the eye can see, is above reproach where corruption is concerned, and whose inclination, in terms of political philosophy and vision, is not to enrich himself and his family and friends.

And having lost the last two elections – first to the dignified and highly-esteemed late JEA Mills and then to incumbent John Mahama - the consensus among political connoisseurs is that the 2016 Election will be Akufo-Addo’s last opportunity to be President.

And that is why the current happening – the acrimonious infighting - in the NPP is an unfortunate development which poses a threat not only to Akufo-Addo’s dream, but also to Ghana’s democracy.

In order to consolidate Ghana’s democratic gains, a party like the NPP must be in a position to compete in and win an election at any point in time. It appears, however, that even before the race for 2016 begins, Akufo Addo and the NPP have already lost.

In analysing the challenges confronting the NPP, it is General Secretary Kwabena Agyapong and National Chairman Paul Afoko who, invariably, are rigorously and relentlessly demonised by pundits for allegedly working to sabotage Akufo-Addo’s Presidential bid.

The claim that the two are anti-Akufo-Addo is becoming sacrosanct despite a lack of evidence to support it. Nobody, for instance, is paying attention to persistent assertions by Agyapong and Afoko that they are being ostracised by Akufo-Addo.

This distrust between the aforementioned party executives and the flagbearer’s supporters has already led to the death of the NPP’s Upper East chairman, Adams Mahama.

From where I sit as an independent observer, the scenario that Agyapong and Afoko will sabotage Akufo-Addo’s presidential ambition, for whatever weird reason, is not a plausible one.

The impression I get is that both executives are only reacting (in a rather bad way) to what appears to be their exclusion from the Akufo-Addo team which will execute the 2016 campaign.

Be it as it may, it is Akufo-Addo who must take responsibility for the ongoing rift, which calls into question his capacity to satisfy the plurality of interests within the NPP and his willingness to unite the country if he wins in 2016.

As party leader and potential President, he has an inescapable responsibility to negotiate with different factions within the party and get them to support his candidature.

With the political dexterity and acumen garnered over the decades, Akufo-Addo ought to be able transform unbelievers in his ambition into followers and cynics into believers.

Having worked exceedingly hard to get where he is today, it will be unfortunate if Akufo-Addo allows the political Johnny-Just-Comes, ‘Latter-Day-Saints’ and the Winner-Takes-All proponents in the party to dictate his approach to contesting the 2016 Election by, for instance, prevailing upon him to run his campaign without input from the party leadership.

The NPP loves to reference the victory of Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Nigeria’s latest election as a sign that the incumbent National Democratic Congress (NDC) can be beaten in 2016.

What the party doesn’t say is that the APC is the result of an alliance of Nigeria's three biggest opposition parties – the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP).

The parties merged to form a formidable and well-oiled political machine, which went on to crush the incumbent People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the last election.

That merger did not happen easily – it took painstaking effort and compromises on the part of all parties involved. You can only imagine the kind of effort that went into getting the mainly Christian South-West and the mainly Muslim North to agree on the choice of candidates to field and all that. Indeed, the leader of the South-West bloc, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, who is currently National leader of the APC, had to abandon his Presidential ambition for Mahammadu Buhari.

Today, the significant sacrifices made by all involved have paid off. Buhari is now President on the ticket of the APC, and Tinubu is also in line to contest for President sometime in future.

Needless to say, had Buhari gone it alone in 2015, he would have lost woefully, as he did in the previous three elections.

I believe there are vital lessons Akufo-Addo and NPP can learn from the Nigeria example - the first being that, in seeking political power, uncomfortable alliances have to be formed. This is especially crucial if the opponent is the formidable NDC.

As party leader, I expect Akufo-Addo to raise his game by leading the way in mending the broken fences in the party. Like Buhari, Akufo-Addo should not go it alone. He should get Afoko and Agyapong other perceived saboteurs involved in his campaign.

Going it alone, to put it mildly, is tantamount to career crucifixion for Akufo-Addo, because party executives control certain resources that are crucial to winning the election.

If the aforementioned party leaders are actively involved in planning and executing the campaign, they will be assured of their share in the spoils of victory. And if they are assured of their share in their spoils of victory, they work hard to make victory possible.

P.S: It was wrong for Kwabena Agyapong to grant radio interviews on the difficulties he and Afoko had working with Akufo-Addo. Although, Agyapong says he was provoked by attacks on him in the media by certain supporters of the flagbearer, he ought to have remembered that if a lunatic makes away with your clothes while you are taking your bath, you don’t run after him.

However, lashing out angrily on radio is not and cannot be proof that Agyapong wants to sabotage the flagbearer’s ambition. If Afoko and Agyapong wanted to sabotage Akufo-Addo, I believe it wouldn’t be done in an overt and reckless manner. It would be done covertly, surgically and mechanically.

The General Secretary’s decision to publicly attack Akufo-Addo only shows the extent to which the relationship between the party leadership and the flagbearer has deteriorated.

As stated already, the situation is not irredeemable; Akufo-Addo’s must make a conscious and spirited effort to salvage the relationship in the interest of millions of NPP supporters who want to see the party win power in 2016.

Columnist: Samuel K. Obour