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Just after the December 7, 2004 general elections, of which the main opposition National Democratic Party (NDC) lost to the ruling National Patriotic Party (NPP), Dr. Obed Asamoah, chair of the NDC, licking the party?s wounds, demonstrated Ghana?s maturing multiparty democracy by explaining that the utterances of the so-called founder of the NDC, Mr. Jerry Rawlings, doomed the party chances of winning the general elections. Asamoah?s maturity, against Rawlings ?immaturity,? is that the NDC lost, among others, because of poor campaign strategies and Rawlings? virtual hijacking of the electioneering campaign from presidential candidate Prof. John Atta-Mills.
The complexity of the Atta-Mills and the Rawlings campaign conundrum is that coordination in terms of the basic issues Rawlings should say was nil, and so was Rawlings inability to balance his campaign outing with Atta-Mills so as not to create the impression that Rawlings is the presidential candidate. In some rural areas some people thought Rawlings was running for president and when they went to the polling booth and found no Rawlings candidature on the ballot slots they destroyed their ballot papers and some in their confusion voted for candidate/President John Kufour of the NPP.
Despite the lose, the NDC has proved the most effective opposition political party organization, just as the NPP did in opposition for almost 30 years, in recent times at mobilizing supporters, money and raising Ghana?s alternate political traditional ideology of social democracy (or Nkrumahism) for political growth. More coming from Rawlings military background and Socialist/Marxist bent, which has recycled itself into social democracy, the NDC has increasingly failed to intellectualize the latent core socialists/ Marxists and their ensuing amalgams into Nkrumahist ideology to sell their message to Ghanaians just as the NPP has done by recycling the Danquah-Busiah conservative-capitalist political tradition for political gamesmanship. By his hot, temperamental, violent, reckless, irresponsible and crude campaign talks and other public speeches, Rawlings alienated Atta-Mills and other fine social democrats from the mainstream Ghanaian polity, especially the increasingly floating youth voters, who are less ideologically inclined and are not tainted by the political stupidities of yesteryears, which has inhibited Ghana?s political development. Rawlings repeated remarks that he not an Nkrumahist further sent the wrong signals to the social democrats camp.
If the NDCs are to learn lessons from last month?s electoral blow, they could do worse than mix some of Rawlings? salty comments and confusions into their humble political ?fufu.? The NDC leaders have done well by clearing out the much-disgraced, loud-mouthed, reckless, and treacherous Dr. Josiah Aryeh, the then secretary-general and a law teacher at the University of Ghana, who not only dined and wined with the NPP figures secretly but NDC in-house investigations found him shamelessly corrupt and being bribed by the NPP (about $3,000) and repeatedly lied about his flirtation with NPP machinery (talks of his cross-carpeting to the NPP was ripe in the Ghanaian press in the last lap to the general elections). By attempting to clean the dark spots from the party and rejuvenate the social democrats, the NDC was looking beyond the Rawlings and other thoughtless figures who have failed to find a credible social democratic mission rooted in Ghana?s social democratic ethos, message, and meaning for a party in trouble.
The NDC not only just lose the December 7 elections, they also lost most of the established explanations they resort to for losing elections. Being in power for almost 20 years, the NDC had more than enough money, a social democrat candidate and a balanced ticket. Yet President Kufour scored a clear win in the popular vote and the presidential count without the rigging by the Election Commission, as Rawlings mindlessly repeatedly cried out as if the whole electoral process was collapsing for the NPP to win a massive landslide victory (The NPP?s almost 53% against the NDC?s almost 44% does not make the NPP any better political party machine than the NDC). In short, without serious introspection, there?s no one else to blame apart from the electorate who found Rawlings and the likes of Dr. Aryeh not only politically insane but also unfit for the emerging Ghanaian democratic game, which demands maturity, respect for Ghanaian values, and a high sense of responsibility.
To workout how they can win, the NDC must first work out why and how they lost. Dr. Asamoah and other objective NDC personalities have attributed the NDC defeat not only to the NPP more sophisticated marketing strategies but Rawlings and the likes of Dr. Aryeh?s political behaviour. The NDC had broad message but the NPP were different. The NPP were smart, they separated the party machine from government and skillfully separated personalities, such as the blunders by the likes of Internal Affairs Minister, Hackman Owusu Agyemang, from the party?s marketing strategies unlike the NDC which web site, for instance, which has incredibly broad national and international appeal, fused Rawlings, despite being out of power and barred from the constitution from running for office again, to the party?s mission and superimposed him over Atta-Mills and other party front-runners in the 2004 general elections. The NPP came into NDC areas with very specific targeted messages to take NDC voters away from NDC.
This is fine as far as it goes. Sadly, it does not go very far, it does nothing to help understand why the NPP were able to encroach so successfully on the NDC turf while the NDC message fell on largely barren NPP ground. The left/Nkrumahist/Social Democrats claim that if the NDC campaign machine had only been consistent and skillfully sidelined Rawlings on the campaign trail from the beginning, they would have neutralized the largely dull Kuffour: others claim that so long as NDC embrace social democracy favouring the now largely globally dead Marxist-Lennist agenda (Atta-Mills is a product of the now defunct Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute of Winneba), they will be forever consigned to minority status. But there is little evidence that if Atta-Mills had been more strident over social democratic issues he would have won more votes than he might have lost.
This was not true for the NDCs. The love died after the end of Jerry Rawlings? second term and has only been resurrected with the second coming of John Kufour. But it has almost been 30 years since a NPP party presidential candidate has seen the Osu Castle.
If there is a crucial lesson that the NDC should take from the NPP, it is that they ought to listen to their base, and not Jerry Rawlings and the likes of Dr. Aryeh. In the past such advise would have been trite, because the base was transient and elusive ? a loose coalition of social democrats from the Nkrumahist of all strands, the Convention Peoples Party (said to be the core inheritors to Nkrumahism despite their exaggerated and confused messages) and the NDC (an amalgam of Nkrumahists, Socialist/Marxist of various suasion and unconvinced social democrats). The 2004 general elections saw a surge in Ghanaian political activity through not only internal Ghanaian non-political groups but also those in the diaspora that represents the basis for an active core of support rooted in Ghanaian communities rather than a passive shell that coalesces on the December 7 general elections.
NDCs not only love their candidate, they felt wedded to Atta-Mills? mission. Throughout the campaign NDCs were drawn by the love of Atta-Mills, while NPPs were repelled by their hatred of him via Rawlings. Atta-Mills barely figured. However much blame one might want to pin on Atta-Mills for this, the truth remains that the NDCs chose the Legon law professor from the Central Region not because they liked him but because they thought other people might. Until the NDCs are happy with their own products, no amount of marketing will enable them to sell it to anybody else.
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