Feature Article of Tuesday, 17 July 2007
Columnist: Agyemang, Eric
Choosing A Presidential Candidate For NPP
Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Living - Choosing A Presidential Candidate For NPP
The NPP government under the able and competent leadership of His Excellency John Agyekum Kufour has set in motion the journey to providing for the people of Ghana a middle-income standard of living and welfare, in a truly democratic country. The Party aims to build a country where there is true Freedom and Justice, the rule of law, and respect for fundamental human rights and dignity; a country where there is recognition of the facilitating role of government in capacity building for private investment for wealth creation, veritable economic growth and development in an atmosphere of genuine press freedom and tolerance of opposing views.
Undoubtedly, his Excellency President Kufuor has laid a very solid foundation and raised the stakes so high that Ghana has become a perfect example of a country of “Good Governance”, whose recipe other African countries are queuing to copy. This excellent record of good governance places a big obligation on our Party, the NPP to strive to maintain, sustain and improve upon our achievements, if we are to realise our socio-economic objectives for mother Ghana.
So far as a party we are seen all over the world as one of the best organised and most attractive political parties in Africa, a position that we must all strive to maintain. Our president is currently the Chairman of the African Union, our Foreign Secretary is currently the Chairman of the African inter-ministerial Council, and our Party Chairman is currently the Chairman of the Democratic Union of Africa. All these international roles point to the extraordinary international acknowledgement of the important role Ghana, under the leadership of His Excellency President Kufuor and the New Patriotic Party is playing in continental and global politics.
At home, despite the frantic efforts of the opposition, led by the National Democratic Congress (NDC), to downplay the achievements of our party in government, our party is still seen by the great majority of Ghanaians as the best choice among all the political parties in Ghana, for the sustainable socio-economic emancipation of our country. Indeed there are those who occasionally confess their disillusionment with our style of governance and the relatively slow rate of precipitation of economic gains to the ordinary Ghanaian on the street; yet, faced with the choice of maintaining the NPP government in power or returning the NDC to power, they are quick in establishing their dreadful fear of ever seeing the country returned once again into the dark days of Ghana under PNDC/NDC regimes – where there was no rule of law, no respect for human rights and dignity, no freedom of speech, movement or association, and where private ingenuity and enterprise was punished rather than being rewarded.
Such is the goodwill and perception that our party in government has, both at home and abroad. It is this goodwill and perception which we need to work hard to maintain and enhance for our collective good, as we move into the critical transitional stage of managing to succeed ourselves in government by the year 2008. But this goodwill did not emerge by chance. It is the result of the collective work of all key players in the political chess of our Party, led by President Kufuor, his Cabinet Ministers and the Party leadership. It will be most unfair to ascribe our achievements to the ‘extraordinary’ performance of any one single individual in our party or in government. Every member of His Excellency’s government, past and present have had a part to play. It is a collective achievement in unity of purpose and direction; the kind of unity which we need to uphold and allow to grow for a better NPP in government in 2008.
Unfortunately, it is this unity, the very foundation on which our successes have been scored, that appears threatened and seems to be seriously undermined by recent events in the race for a succession to the ‘throne’ of His Excellency John Agyekum Kufuor.
At the beginning of his second term in office, the President is on record to have admonished his colleagues not to jump too early in the race for his ‘golden stool’, and asked them to concentrate on consolidating the gains of his government to give the country the best government it has ever had since independence in order to make it easier for the Party and the government to convince the electorate to return the NPP to government in 2008. If this advice had been heeded to, the President would not have been forced, on a matter of principle, to ask for the resignation of all those Cabinet Ministers who have demonstrably ‘jumped the gun’. It is a regrettable outcome but it is hoped that the decision will not create any leadership vacuum in the various Ministries of His Excellency’s administration affected by the mass resignation of Cabinet Ministers and indeed leading members of our great party.
As at the time of the Presidential directive, our party stood to lose the services of eight experienced cabinet ministers from our government. There is no doubt that such a situation will adversely affect the quality and image of our government and our party. It is like asking the fastest sprinter in an athletic relay to hand the baton, at the last lap, to the new and untested runner. The consequences could be disappointing. The problems associated with the succession to the ‘throne’ will even be made worse by the plethora of Presidential aspirants who are neither cabinet minsters, members of Parliament, nor ‘good standing’ members of the party, but are waiting on the fringes to jump into the race, just because they are card-bearing members of the NPP.
To quote the Senior Minister, Hon J H Mensah at the last Party congress in Koforidua ‘what kind of a united team can the NPP present to this country when not the eleven players on the field, but also all the reserves on the bench want to be Captain?’. Such is the negative effect that the plethora of presidential aspirants will have on the image and fortunes of our party, come December 2008, if we do not manage this leadership race properly. Indeed, our national constitution and the party constitution does not debar any Ghanaian (and party member of good standing) from presenting themselves for the high position of the President of the Republic of Ghana, but clearly not all Ghanaians will be winnable candidates on our party ticket and the party should have a mechanism of telling non-winnable candidates to step aside through a vetting system.
It is essential as a first step, for all these aspirants to do a critical self-assessment; that genuine, independent self assessment, devoid of opinions from their family members, admirers, supporters, friends and sometimes sycophants and opportunists, masquerading as ‘friends of Caesar, friends of Brutus and friends of Mark Anthony; to determine in their heart of hearts if their ambition to ascend onto the high throne of the President of Ghana is propelled by legitimate National and Party interests or by their personal self actualisation interests. In doing so each candidate should consider the very many vetting criteria that have been suggested by leading members and elders of our great party at different forums and in different media, to determine if they will sufficiently meet the high standards of personal credentials required to meet the vetting criteria. It is only after this soul searching exercise that each aspirant may find it advisable to jump into the boxing ring.
Different leading members of our party have on different occasions and at different forums given their opinions on the attributes and credentials that aspiring presidential candidates need to possess before they even contemplate joining the race for the leadership contest. These attributes and credentials do not in any way seek to diminish their constitutional rights as Ghanaians (and as Party members of good standing) to present themselves for consideration for the high office the President, but indeed are there to reinforce their capacity, competence and marketability as presidential candidates for the party. The essence of these prescriptions is not to debar anybody from contesting, but rather to ensure that we have a candidate who will not only appeal to the entire membership of the Party but will also be easily marketable to all Ghanaians. I will consider suggestions from four leading members of our party in the choice of a flag bearer – the suggestions form His Excellency President Agyekum Kufuor himself, the Party Chairman, Mr Peter Mac Manu, the Senior Minister Mr J H Mensah, and the Chairman of the Ashanti Regional Council of Elders of NPP Mr Akenten Appiah Menkah.
In his speech at the NPP International Conference in London, the President used his own credentials as a yard stick in the choice of his successor. He stated without equivocation that he is a thoroughbred of the Danquah-Busia tradition who has gone through the mill to gain the necessary experience and maturity which he believed he has combined effectively with ‘common sense’ to become an effective leader who has not only united the party, but has also united the country. His stature and style of management has won the admiration of not only Ghanaians but all Africans and indeed other world leaders. Emphasising on the need for experience in politics, the President advised against relying on emotions in the choice of his successor, and said where there were emotions they should be balanced against common sense.
Going by the prescription of the President, can we describe all our aspiring Presidential candidates as thoroughbred, mature people with demonstrable common sense who have the capacity to unite the party?
In his speech at the 2007 NPP Congress in Koforidua, the Chairman of the Party Mr Peter Mac Manu talked about the ‘Tripod Challenge’ which calls for a leader who can maintain that tripod structure of the party, which calls for the positive engagement of the various actors; the National/Regional/Constituency officers of the party, MPs and Regional/District Chief Executives, and the Executive and other Public Servants, to form that triangular mix for the effective and efficient administration of the country. Such a leader will definitely need the intellectual and management competence to manage the complex task of national leadership. Again it demands that the preoccupation of the aspirants need to be on the collective achievement of the synergies derivable from the effective and efficient management of the players in the tripod rather than on the parochial achievements the various actors in the tripod or the individual achievements of the spirants as Ministers of State or as Public Servants.
To quote the party Chairman ‘let us co-exist in peace and harmony to ensure that these structures work together in unison and for our common good. – I must reemphasise the single goal ahead of us, which is to win the 2008 elections so that NPP will succeed itself. We must all work to safeguard our party’s position as the ruling party. We must not allow our ambitions to override the greater objective of having a unified party. Let us not forget that our individual ambitions can only be achieved through the party’.
Can we sincerely say that the position and pleas of the Party Chairman as quoted above have actually received the serious consideration of the numerous aspirants to the throne of government?
The views of the Senior Minister, Mr J H Mensah, not very different in substance to the views held by the President and the Chairman of the party, were well articulated in his conference speech in Koforidua where he prescribed inter alia that ‘Ghana needs a disciplined team under outstanding leadership to give top-grade governance’ a responsibility which in his view laid in the hands of the leadership of our party. The NPP, unlike the NDC cannot be taken at the whim of any individual, because the NPP has a very rich and respectable tradition, it has policies, rules and procedures and above all it has its elders that we traditionally respect and seek advice from. The tradition of the party cannot be swept aside by the ‘revolutionary zeal’ of the ‘youth’ – it is not our tradition.
In the view of the Senior Minister, when the time comes for choosing a successor to His Excellency President Kufuor, each aspirant will have to demonstrate what contributions they have made towards building up the party. He suggests that those who have been indifferent to that task should not expect the same machinery to support them to become President.
The senior Minister was generous to lay down just three conditions for the aspiring presidential candidates. First, they should be able ‘to win the confidence and votes of the majority of Ghanaians electorate’ both at home and abroad. Secondly they must show solid evidence of accomplishment and track record in life, and thirdly, they must be able to ‘run an enterprise as difficult, complex and demanding as the Ghana Project’.
Generous as the conditions prescribed by the Senior Minister may be in the selection criteria, it is very doubtful if all the aspiring candidates can adequately meet them.
The ‘Seven Day Check Point’ from the Chairman of the Ashanti Regional Council of Elders of NPP Mr Akenten Appiah Menkah rather calls for far more rigorous criteria for vetting our Presidential candidate. Indeed it calls for a typical PEST (Political, Economic, Social and Technological) screening of all the candidates to ensure that they will be up to the task of State Management before they receive the nod from the party Congress in December 2007
Politically the potential flag bearer should be ‘certified and acknowledged member of the party with a track record of service, contribution, commitment and loyalty to the party, as well as undisputed testimony of sacrifice and suffering for his political convictions in the course of events for the establishment of the rule of law in the country’.
Economically the flag bearer must have a ‘distinguished public career and whose name and personality will lend positive credentials to the image of the NPP’ and enhance the economic development of our country.
Socially the flag bearer ‘must not only be intellectually and materially resourceful, but also socially, politically and economically well connected both home and abroad. Additionally the flag bearer must be completely detached from all forms of social, ethnic, regional, cultural and religious tendencies of discrimination’.
Technologically, the aspiring presidential candidate must appreciate, understand and have a deep insight into how to harness the enormous potential of global technological advancement in tackling the infrastructural, social, economic and industrial problems besetting the country.
There is no doubt that as we get closer to choosing our Presidential Candidate for the 2008 elections, the stakes are getting higher and the voices of the stakeholders getting louder and louder. This trend of events undoubtedly calls for critical evaluation of the strategic stance of the numerous presidential aspirants that we have lined up. To quote a caption from the late Dr Kofi Abrefa Busia, when he was head of the Centre for Civic Education, ‘unexamined life is not worth living’. The writer believes it is high time all these aspiring presidential candidates took a second look at their positions, vis-à-vis the chances of successfully going through the rigorous vetting system successfully in the first place, and then going on to win the support and votes of the a majority of Ghanaian voters, particularly the fringe voters.
As stated earlier, in reconsidering their positions, the aspiring candidates should endeavour to put the interest of the party above all personal ambitions – difficult though as this may sound. The Unity of the party should reign supreme above all other interests. The last thing any true disciple of the Danquah-Busia tradition wants is a repetition of what happened in 1979 when our party failed to withstand the pressures of internal feud for leadership, and the party was split into two. Even then, we did not have this plethora of Presidential aspirants at that time. Yes, any NPP member of good standing can present themselves for consideration for the position of the President, but not every member of good standing can be a Presidential candidate. So in the interest of party unity, many of these presidential hopefuls will need to reconsider their positions and start trading horses with more credible and promising candidates.
There are those with the opinion that the larger the number of aspirants, the better it is for democracy. This may be true, but then the cost of factionalism in the party, even after the election can be too high for the future cohesion and unity of the party. There is strong evidence to suggest that, after any hectic battle between political opponents, even though the official line has always been for all factions to unite behind the victor; but in reality and practice though, sometimes the bitterness, acrimony and the pains from the battle linger on for years and do indeed affect the unity of the party. While supporters of the victor enjoy all the spoils of power, the supporters of the vanquished endure perpetual isolation and sometimes become victims of covert victimisation within the same party.
It is for these and other reasons that all aspirants are being asked to re-strategise and if possible renegotiate their positions within the NPP government with the President so that a minimal number of winnable candidates may need to resign from the government as demanded by the government. Those who choose to come out of the race, may then start building alliances and trade horses with the remaining aspirants to ensure a civil and orderly election of a new flag bearer. It is hoped that such a move will not only foster party unity but will also allow the business of our government to continue without that mass resignation of Ministers of State. It is in this spirit that the decisions of the Minister for Parliamentary affairs, Hon Felix Owusu Agyepong and the Minister of Education, Papa Owusu Ankomah to bow out of the Presidential race are most encouraging and welcomed. It is hoped others will soon follow suit to reduce the number of contestants into single digits.
It is not too late to examine ourselves and strategically reposition ourselves for a united future for the party. The difficulty or ease with which we can retain power in the year 2008 will to a large extent depend on our ability to manage this leadership contest very well to come out with a marketable Presidential candidate who will have the ability to strongly unite the party behind him within the cherished vision, values and standards of our great party which we have steadfastly espoused, and which have become the cornerstone of the political ideology of the vast majority of Ghanaians.
Eric Agyemang, London
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