Will the NDC Stand or Fall at the Tamale Congress?

Tue, 12 Jan 2010 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

E-mail: mjbokor@yahoo.com

January 10, 2010

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) holds its national delegates congress in Tamale on January 16. The purpose of this congress is clear: to elect national officers to run the affairs of the party and to determine the party’s future fortunes. Considering the current goings-on within the party, it is no exaggeration to say that this congress is more than a make-or-break affair. It holds much for the party and its government. Its outcome will also reflect whether the NDC has come of age in its efforts to facilitate our democratic experiment. I preview this congress in this sense.

The Tamale congress is crucial for several reasons: (1) The current atmosphere in the NDC suggests the strong presence of factionalism, whose negative impact on the party has the potential to make or mar its chances of remaining strong on the political landscape; the congress has the potential to worsen this factionalism if matters are not carefully handled to give every participant in the congress the fair opportunity of representation;

(2) The officers to be elected will have the arduous task of holding together the ranks of the party and to prepare it for the 2012 elections. Whether the party’s mandate will be renewed to remain in power or not will depend on several factors but the role of the national officers comes up as an important determiner; and

(3) The post-congress happenings in the party will determine whether it can stand on its feet or lose its disaffected members as happened after the Koforidua congress.

There could be other reasons why the upcoming congress will determine the future of the NDC. The congress is important also because it is coming at a time that the NDC government appears to be at loggerheads with the party’s founder and the faction supporting him. We can all tell from the goings-on within the party that the pro-Rawlings faction is bent on taking command so as to “return” the party to its “revolutionary ideals.” As to what this claim means, you and I can’t immediately tell but we can guess what it suggests—that the pro-Rawlings faction wants to get rid of the “greedy bastards” (in Rawlings’ own words).

Then, the pro-Mills faction feels empowered because it is the one ruling the country and thinks that it has to do things according to its own agenda. This determination not to be manipulated by the pro-Rawlings faction may account for some of the intransigence that we have noticed so far.

The battle lines have already been drawn, and the congress may become the instigation.

A cursory analysis of these two factions shows clearly that they are diametrically opposed in several respects. Members of the pro-Rawlings faction, who consider themselves as the NDC’s “hawks,” don’t hide their bitterness apparently because of their dissatisfaction at the Mills-led government for not administering affairs according to their wishes. Rawlings himself hasn’t made any secret of the major concerns and it is obvious that those toeing his line are also embittered.

These so-called “hawks” consider themselves as the bedrock of the NDC and are adamant in their stance. They will show up at the Tamale congress in a kind of mood that is likely to be undergirded by belligerence and a determination to have things done their way. But in the larger interests of the party and the country’s democracy, they are advised not to approach the congress like bullfighters. They have no prize to claim. Their only motivation must be to work with all others for the strengthening of the party and the deepening of our democracy.

Nonetheless, we can tell that these two factions will head to the Tamale congress, entrenched in their peculiar positions, and prepared to fight for their cause during the election of officers. The list of candidates for the various positions is itself intriguing, particularly, viewed against the background of the head-butting by members of these two main factions. Having worked so hard to return the NDC to power, what will be the situation if Asiedu-Nketiah, particularly, loses the post of General Secretary?

I suspect strongly that if care is not taken, any underhand measure to bend the rules of the game will worsen matters and eventually explode into something too terrible to imagine. If matters get out of hand and generate physical confrontations, then, it will be a free-for-all situation that will make the congress a non-event and dim the party’s chances of remaining as a formidable force. We need to know, however, that of all places in the country, Tamale is not a favourable venue for such an explosion!

The delegates should be reminded that they have the arduous task of either helping the party stand on its feet or pushing it down the precipice of self-destruction. They are encouraged to let their conscience determine their actions and decisions so that they can choose only those who are genuinely interested in doing “party work” to ensure the future viability of the party. They should not allow pettiness to cloud their sense of good judgement. Although the atmosphere at the congress may be so charged as to frighten them, it is important that they brave the storm to be able to move the party forward.

The delegates must act in accordance with the party’s constitution and go beyond personalizing issues. In effect, they need to know that mortal human beings have limits, which shouldn’t be confused with the interests of the party and the country, generally. If the NDC wants to move into the future with hope, its bigwigs and supporters must allow decorum to guide their conduct during this upcoming congress.

Sadly, I foresee anxious moments for the Mills-led government if the pro-Rawlings candidates get the nod at the elections. Such a Pyrrhic victory will not be worth celebrating, though. In sum, we will have an NDC government that is likely to be moving in one direction while the NDC (as a political party) will be going in the other direction. This political tug-of-war will not augur well for President Mills’ administration and his own chances of leading the party to contest the 2012 elections. Unless the unthinkable happens, that’s the scenario we are likely to see.

If it so happens, President Mills will become a captive of the so-called “revolutionary elements” in the NDC and will have a tough time ruling the country as his “own man.” This internal crisis will definitely have a negative impact on governance. My fear is that such a tension will tear the NDC itself apart and deepen its woes, especially if the government’s goodwill continues to ebb because of its inability to satisfy the needs of the electorate.

A careful analysis of the return to power of the NDC shows that the main problem to affect the party’s future is this internal bickering and not necessarily public concerns at the slow pace of the Mills-led government’s manner of administering affairs. This internal crisis threatens unity within the party and exposes it to further danger. The party is developing fault lines here and there and risks losing members. This lack of homogeneity should be the primary cause for concern; and both the pro-Rawlings and pro-Castle factions should be forewarned about this precariousness. Imperatively, the NDC must work hard to eliminate this miasma of factionalism and acrimony. From hindsight, one can tell that the breaking away of its followers to form the National Reform Party and the Democratic Freedom Party reflects the problems that have bedeviled the party for many years now. Keeping the rank and file together means finding better ways and means to solve internal problems.

So far, the truth is that the party has failed to stick together. There is so much needless hostility in the party, which the outcome of the congress must be geared toward neutralizing. This Tamale event shouldn’t be turned into a tool for further dividing the party. Otherwise, woe betides those who will be elected to lead the party to the 2012 elections. They will be presiding over a divided house built on sand that cannot survive the vagaries of the polls. Then, when they return to the opposition, they should blame their woes on the NPP. What at all is preventing these NDC bigwigs from seeing things beyond their noses? I wish all delegates Godspeed to Tamale and fruitful deliberations. The future beckons.

Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.