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Feature Article of Saturday, 22 December 2012

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

The utility player who powers the NDC machine

story: George Sydney Abugri

The not-for-profit African Leadership Institute which has been holding consultations with eminent Africans across the continent since the institute’s establishment in 2003 is spearheading an initiative to nurture the leadership talents of young, high potential Africans who would constitute the next generation of the continent’s leaders. The idea is to promote the quality of leadership and governance on the continent.

The late President Mills who attached a lot of importance to the nurturing of the leadership talents of young party cadres with proven potential gave the opportunity to many young party activists to serve on his administration. All of them have proven their mettle but while most are articulate communicators often in the media limelight, one of them who has repeatedly demonstrated a rare capacity to combine the attributes of manager, coordinator and organizer of projects and programmes is not in the news so often.

The late President Mills was very quick to spot Elvis Afriyie Ankrah’s multiple abilities and appointed him Deputy Minster of Local Government and Rural Development. Ankrah had previously served with fair distinction as Deputy General-Secretary of the NDC.

That President John Mahama has won the 2012 election in spite of having had only three months to conduct his campaign may be explained in part by the energy and personal determination that drove his campaign but especially by the singular vigour, robustness and zeal of his campaign team.

While all who contribute to the success of group effort must share the credit for the accomplishment individuals who have been exceptional in their contribution but who place a personal premium on modesty may not always receive deserving recognition.

No sooner had President Mahama launched his campaign than Ankrah embarked upon his new challenging mission with gusto, assembling the press, not for a news conference as you might expect but for a drink-up and some banter: “President John Dramani Mahama is passionate about the press taking its place at the table of our democratic development”, Ankrah said of his boss. He then went on to “remind” the journalists they partly owed their professional freedom to President Mahama who as Deputy Minister of Information and later as Minister of Communication in the previous NDC administration, “spearheaded the liberation of the media in Ghana.’

Ironically, the nomination of the Deputy Minister of Local Government and Rural Development as President Mahama’s campaign coordinator was met with discreet but stiff opposition from others with considerable influence in the party, who had an eye on the job, according to key party insiders.

The contribution of the young accounting professional turned political activist to the NDC’s electoral victory actually predates the December 7 election.

Ankrah traded his office as a minister of state for the role of master of ceremonies at the NDC’s Sunyani delegates conference to elect a presidential candidate for the election, Ankrah with sheer boyish, animated and infectious enthusiasm and bonhomie helped to make what was feared, could be an acrimonious congress with dire consequences for the future unity of the NDC.

When it came to ensuring optimum hospitality for delegates, guests and observers who attended the party’s delegate’s conference which was held in Sunyani to elect the party’s presidential candidate for the 2012 election, the party turned to Ankrah.

He was given headship of a committee appointed by the party to ensure the success of the congress and the comfort of all guests. With the party’s mandate, Ankrah went out and carefully recruited 120 ushers mostly from members of the party’s Tertiary Institution Network in institutions of higher learning.

So meticulous indeed was he in his selection of the ushers and their orientation that the ushering of guests and delegates to designated seats and the serving of food and drinks were done with such efficiency as to have given the atmosphere at the congress one of a grand festival.

For reasons of his own, his own volition and in spite of pressure from a group within his party the Deputy Minister of Local Government and Rural Development declined to push a bid for the opportunity when his name came up as one of several who were each being considered a possible running mate to President John Mahama who was elected presidential candidate at the congress.

Like most political activists with party leadership potential, Ankrah has had his fair share of blunders, gaffes and indiscretions: Amid the heated national debate over the feasibility or otherwise of the NPP’s promise of free Senior High School education, Ankrah blurted out that a programme of free Senior High School would crumble like the Melcom Building which collapsed recently killing at least 12 people.

Describing his comments as an attempt “to score cheap political points at the expense of other peoples´ misfortune”, critics assailed him with charges of insensitivity to the human suffering and loss brought about by a tragic national tragedy. The young politician rendered an unqualified public apology. Leadership nurturing has apparently made a profound impact on the former radical activist’s understanding of “the politics of political correctness!” If like cask wine, some of the more radical political activists in the not so distant parties are maturing with exposure to the intricacies of political leadership then Ankara is apparently one of them: Following the NPP’s rejection of the results of the presidential election, the NDC’s campaign coordinator maintained a surprising level-headedness and sense of maturity in the face of provocation from some activists NPP while the country was awaiting results. When the NPP was claiming victory and calling on supporters to be jubilant, the NDC’s Election 2012 campaign coordinator was asking NDC supporters to remain calm and peaceful.

Ankrah recently came unscathed through an attempt to link him to a row of plush mansions in the top market residential area of Legon which political opponents claimed he had acquired with questionable sources. It later turned out that properties in question belonged to someone else.

Where will one of the NDC’s most enterprising cadres turned poltical administrator go? Probably where a utility player goes when the coach has determined which of the player’s multiple talents, might best serve the team’s cause in the pursuit of its goals. www.sydneyabugri.com/web editing@sydneyabugri.com

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