Feature Article of Sunday, 27 June 2010

Columnist: Ghanaian News Writer

The Foul Air Blowing through Ghana’s Ruling Party, N.D.C

It is a fact that one of the earliest and most visible critics of the Mills administration has been President Rawlings, he has also been the most consistent critic returning to the same theme, time after time and accusing government of moving at a slow pace and just not being good enough. During the first months of the Mills Administration he is reported to have cast a dim-light on the government by referring to the appointees as largely sub-standard. He referred to the Mills administration as dull, borrowing the phrase from a popular hip-life tune; in all of his utterances he has had a good following and many young and old NDC members continue to cheer him on.
By late July of 2009 President Rawlings had given the new government of Ghana such strident tongue lashing that he was already being appealed to by the chiefs from Volta region to tone down his message. For the most part, President Mills has avoided directly confronting the highly publicized verbal attacks from his political father, when the matter has been put to him directly he has usually avoided addressing the issue fully, directly or convincingly. As a result of this state of affairs there is a foul air of disquiet, disunity and enmity blowing through the National Democratic Congress today.
As with any new administration the Mills’ government did flounder in its beginnings at the reins of power, as the ministerial reshuffle underscore, there were mistakes and lapses. Whilst proponents of the Mills administration may excuse some of these as resulting from extenuating circumstances, the truth probably is that there are bound to be some mistakes in every human endeavor. Perhaps one of these mistakes continues to be a more instructive, assertive and well-thought out manner of answering President Rawlings. When President Rawlings states that the Mills administration has a mediocre team and the government keeps largely mute about this, the silence has a long-term negative impact. The Mills’ team for better or for worse is the NDC team as well, selling it as mediocre or second class will only serve to cast the NDC in a dim-light in the long term. Even if you replaced every minister during another term you will have the overwhelming perception of mediocrity of NDC appointees and to overcome for a long time.
For example, NDC members are assumed to be supporters of, or even party to the June 4th and 31st December military coups, this is simply not true but that is the largely the Ghanaian public’s perception. Never mind that some of the supporters were not even born during the time these coups took place. Of all the critics that the NDC can have there can be none more damaging than President Rawlings! As a former President he can criticize other African states and their heads, international organizations and there modus operandi and he can bring to the attention of the global international community any cause he so wishes. One needs only to observe the conduct and utterances of former US Presidents in response to President Obama’s policies to educate oneself as to how former Presidents should conduct themselves. President Obama’s immediate predecessor, President George Bush has indicated that being fully aware of how difficult the job of a President is, he is resolved as much as possible to be silent whilst President Obama does his best to solve the nation’s problem. President Clinton on his part has being supportive, preferring to do chores for the Obama administration or resolving difficult internal party issues. President Rawlings with all his stature has chosen to position himself as a vociferous critic the leadership of President Mills, whilst many within the NDC are still bewitched and hypnotized by his words. It is as if some members of the NDC forget, that the success of the Mills administration will return positive dividends for the party’s relevance, image and long-term survival; and conversely failure will result in negative returns some for the party. An immediate possible negative effect is an implosion within the party, as the cracks within the party grows greater and develops into chasms or distinct and clear enemy camps.
The point of this piece is not that President Rawlings is usually far from his mark in shedding light on the lapses of the Mills administration; the point is that, this is largely the point, place and duty of the opposing party. For example, one of the effects of his public repudiation of President Mills is that he is directly weakening the man’s position as the leader of NDC. President Rawlings behavior largely belittles his party’s rules, code of conduct for its leaders and it deals a severe blow to internal party discipline. The Americans have a saying that “it is the President’s party”, by this they mean that as soon as a flag bearer for the party is elected, he is allowed to take over the party, every time there is an internal tussle for the party centre it has dire consequences for a party.
The Mills’ administration must however, not make the mistake of treating the ex-president harshly or with enmity, ( although such would be the usual human reaction) for in treating him and his wife with the greatest decorum, civility and generosity they will win the hearts and minds of the party faithful and attain the respect of the nation. President Rawlings’ complaints must be answered not with harsh yelling and angry accusations but with action where lapses exist and with articulate, respectful and clear explanations where such would enlighten the populace as to the progress government is indeed making. It was Rahm Emmanuel, Obama’s chief of staff, who is known to have said that, “Never let a crisis go to waste”, the NDC government must not allow criticism of President Rawlings to go to waste. It will be more useful to use the attention it engenders to reinforce the message, that government wants Ghanaians to hear. It is better to have President Rawlings bitter words, than to have defeat born of complacency from listening to praises from government’s praise-singers.
Regarding, the NDC as one of Ghana’s main political parties, there is the need to ensure that democracy is deepened as a culture within the party. The party should thus work to clear the emerging image that currently clouds its name, as a party where some powerful people are, and continue to be kingmakers. The NDC should adhere to one of the mantra’s of the revolution, which was “Power to The People”, for if Power is really to reside with the supporters then there should be a more effective way of allowing political candidates to emerge democratically who are not beholden to any so-called powerful people within the party. It appears also that the decision to bestow the title of founder on President Rawlings was a mistake, for it seems to give the former President an over- bearing presence in the party and its affairs that are both unhealthy for reaching equity, which should be afforded to all members. Recently, a newspaper reported that President Rawlings was leading a charge to separate some parliamentarians from their seat. Whilst this is his democratic right his position as founder makes the news of his leading such a conspiracy most disturbing, since the party has elevated him to a status above that of any other ordinary member or even former President. His use of that position to attack other members of the party strikes this writer as an injustice to those concerned. (My position is that all Ghanaians should feel free to associate with the NDC if they so wish and being liked or disliked by any so-called big person should not be a factor in any citizen’s rise or fall within any Ghanaian political party). For in the minds of many ‘founder’ is ‘synonymous’ with owner, the direction of the party should be dictated by ordinary Ghanaians who wish to be associated with the party and not by a privileged few leaders.
The NDC has the opportunity now, to engrave in Ghana’s psyche, how a united and well managed party can govern successfully and bring to the ordinary Ghanaian many amenities and fruits of development that hitherto have remained elusive and out of reach. The NDC as a party, as government, as former presidents et al need to exhibit this shared interest, otherwise the Ghanaian voter will punish them severely for wasting the nation’s time. The foot soldier of the party is important but elections are won by the votes of a majority of the populace. A political party is digging its own grave when it is perceived as pursuing as priority, the narrow interest of only its ardent supporters. Remember the adage, Power To The people. The NDC occupies the ideological position of being left of the center, or the party that claims to lean towards caring more about the welfare of the disadvantaged in society; it should open its doors and windows wide and allow them to come in. To some extent the NDC is ethnically more representative than any of the other parties, it must assure Ghanaians that it will treat with equity any member of the masses if they wish to be members, run for political appointments and support them fully as their own when they win. For now President Mills has been treated shabbily by some within the party’s establishment, many on the sidelines are reading different reasons into why this has been the case, some question if it has do with his tribal background, the heart of the question is what is success as a leader in NDC dependant on.
Ghanaian News Writer