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Feature Article of Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Columnist: Mensah, Nana Akyea

NPP Congress Blues: The Beginning Of An Inevitable End?

There is no doubt that Monday’s meeting between the National Council of Elders of the New Patriotic Party, NPP, and* *all five candidates aspiring to lead the party as presidential candidate for election 2012 on Monday, July 19, 2010 is a mend or break moment for the NPP.* *One side feels strongly that they are in a process of being given a raw deal whilst the other side contends there is nothing wrong, and that it is a shame that these aspirants are going public rather than using the party procedures. The general feeling is that the Akufo Addo camp which sees every advantage in an early congress is not in any mood to countenance what it sees as delay tactics by its opponents. The opponents also see what they describe as an ’Al-Qaeda’ within the party, a sort of Mafia that is determined to repeat what, they claim, went on at the Kumasi Congress which elected the party executives and to rig the impending August 7th Party Presidential Primaries in favour of one candidate: Nana Addo Danquah Akufo Addo. At the time of writing this article, Sunday, 18 July, 2010, no side seems to yield any ground.

A boycott of the primaries by these aspirants would no doubt, cast a dark shadow and spell a big doom to the Akufo Addo camp which believes itself to be the front-runner in the race. In order to avoid this, they must yield to the contestants’ insistence on transparency. For example, at recent press conference, Mr. Felix Fonder, on behalf of Prof. Frempong-Boateng noted that though all parties had agreed to use a photo album for the voters’ register and give copies to all aspirants by June 2, this promise had not been fulfilled. He further revealed that the first draft of the register was received on the 16th of June and was 85% complete, even though it had less than a 60% photo complement.“Moreover it was in a state of disarray with significant errors including same photos with different names, photos of women with men’s names and vice versa, as well as numerous gaps with no photos at all.”

All-in-all, this is not a document that they can work with and they have made that publicly clear. One would thus have to assume that the only option left to the Akufo Addo-controlled NEC of the NPP, is to soften their hardened stance, radically to address these concerns, and to bring the NPP Big Four on board. So far, what we are seeing is a continuation of the same thing. A statement making a brave public face on the internal wrangling signed by NPP’s Communications Director, Kwaku Kwarteng, said a meeting has been called at the Party Headquarters, Asylum Down, Accra at 2.30 pm on Monday, 19 July 2010. What is not clear is the fact that even though this statement is at pains to mention a series of previous meetings all aimed at a resolution of these problems, from the utterances of the aggrieved aspirants, the impression one gets is that the said meetings have been futile and complete failures. The very expression of confidence in these previous meetings is thus in itself very sinister, a sign that nothing new is going to come out of Monday’s meeting.

Meanwhile, the frustrations deepen and grow as we approach the August 7th date set for the primaries. The main grievance is focused on the voters register, but there are mor. The aspirants have made it clear that they are shy because they have been bitten once. For example, one of the candidates who contested the party’s chairmanship slot, Stephen Ntim, has voiced out some concerns relating to how the party’s electoral committee handled the grievances of aspirants. Mr. Ntim who lost the Kumasi congress to Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey is convinced that he was cheated. After months of keeping his cool, he finally described his painful experience on Asempa Fm’ Ekosii Sen programme on Thursday, 15 July 2010, citing how he was defeated due to the manner in which the electoral commission handled his petition. Mr. Ntim revealed that he sent a petition of about three pages long to the party chairman Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey to investigate the alleged electoral malpractices that rocked the Kumasi congress which was snubbed by Jake. According to him not only did he wait for one and half months for a reply, but in the reply, which he claimed was made up of only four lines, Jake indicated that the election committee would rather consider resolving the issues concerning the electoral irregularities and not necessarily investigating the matter.

Obviously aggrieved, Mr. Ntim cited some incidents which he believed robbed him of his votes. He said he was not given a copy of the electoral register. Secondly, there were proxy votes of about five hundred which exceeded the accepted proxy votes of one hundred and eight. According to him there were eleven proxy votes against him alone. He also alleged that voters from TESCON were hand-picked to vote against him. Those who have been following the story for sometime can readily recall the hints dropped by a bruised Ntim just after the vote and his insistence on using the party's internal procedures. Pressed by a reporter, he would not leak much at that time. But following party procedure has meant complaining to the thieves who are bent upon stealing again. As Ntim's letter to Jake and the response he received attests, the bottom-line has been Jake is the chairman and Ntim is not. And cheated or not, that is not going to change any time soon, with Jake receiving petitions through internal party procedures and writing what he likes in response.

Thus despite the spin, it is clear that the four presidential hopefuls, Prof. Kwabena Frempong-Boateng, Isaac Osei, John Kodua and Alan Kyerematen have lost confidence in the party s internal procedure for addressing grievances. Four of the five persons vying for the New Patriotic Party (NPP) presidential slot organized a joint-press conference on Wednesday, 15 July 2010, to air their grievances publicly. Political analysts are of the opinion that the very fact that these people were forced to come public is a sign that something is deeply amiss within the elephant family. They had warned at the press conference that the electoral register that will be used for the party’s primaries on August 7, 2010 is not credible and so they will no longer co-operate with the party’s electoral committee.

The four complaining presidential hopefuls who held the joint press conference in Accra, slammed the electoral committee and the leadership of the party for what they described as “an electoral register in disarray.”Additionally, there are reports that some party members are planning to seek a court injunction restraining the proposed congress from taking place as originally scheduled due to “unaddressed grievances in the road map to congress”. The aggrieved candidates in a press conference accused the national executives of presiding over irregularities which could tilt the election in favour of their competitor, Nana Akufo-Addo. The controversy aggravated, with Stephen Ntim, a failed National Chairman of the party and an ally to Alan Kyeremanten also wading into the controversy and accusing the national executives of plotting to rig the elections.

Quite naturally and expected of them, the lack of confidence in these meetings is not shared by the Akufo Addo-controlled National Executive Committee of the party. This is where the trouble is. The very statement announcing the impending meeting seeks to do the PR work by carefully enumerating the three previous attempts to resolve the problem: i. an earlier meeting of the National Chairman, General Secretary and the aspirants in June 2010, ii. a series of meetings between the Elections Committee and representatives of the aspirants since vetting was completed in June 2010, iii. and a meeting of the Elections Committee and the aspirants themselves on the 5th July 2010. But these complaints from the aspirants have been flowing like water after each of these these meetings. The last press conference did not take place before these meetings but after they had taken place. Thus apart from the cheap propaganda value, it appears the NPP National Council of Elders are at best merely raising a bandaged and festering wound. Amputations of the suicidal elephant to save it from its own self-inflicted wounds seem inevitable, but this may suit no one.

The beast is wounded and it is on its way to become a political ancestor, rather than an active property-stealing demonic ass. Others are pretending that they can really go it alone and prosper. The General Secretary of the Party, Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie has for instance, not taken kindly to the approach adopted by representatives of the four candidates and hinted of possible sanctions against them. A member of the New Patriotic Party Council of Elders Appenten Appiah Menkah, an Akufo Addo hard-liner, has also expressed shock at the ongoing media war between four presidential candidates on one hand, and the national executives on the other. “I don't believe anything within the party should be in the public domain,” he told Joy News. A former General Secretary of the party, Dan Botwe was equally appalled with the decision of the four candidates to go to the press. He described as unacceptable the actions of the four, saying their grievances about voters register "is much ado about nothing".

Party Chairman Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, would also quite naturally have none of the grievances of the four aspirants. In a response, published by the DAILY GUIDE, on 15-Jul-2010, he reaffirmed the ”official position” that the NPP had an “absolute belief in the credibility of the voters’ register” and that the fine details of how the register was compiled had been well explained to all aspirants who understood the process. He was therefore surprised at the latest turn of events. A leading Member of Nana Akufo-Addo's Victory 2012 campaign Team, Mr. Boakye Agyarko also hit back at the four presidential aspirants for taking issues of the party to the public domain, instead of using the party structures to address their grievances. He described the 'modus operandi' used by the four aspirants as a 'childish' approach and appealed to the National Executive Committee (NEC) to treat it with magnanimous contempt. Mr. Boakye Agyarko, who contested the presidential primary of the party in 2007 said, he could not understand the posture and channels being used by the aspirants to seek a redress.

'I think that it is bad faith. We, the victory for 2012 campaign team would not do anything like that. We shall channel our grievances through the appropriate channels of the party. We believe that is the only way we can move forward as a party,' he said. In another development, the General Secretary of the party, Mr. John Owusu Afriyie, aka Sir John also said the press conference was not necessary because the issues the aspirants were speaking about were being addressed.

According to the General Secretary, upon receiving the letter of complaint, signed by the four peeved aspirants, the party invited them to a meeting to discuss the matter, but they could not wait and went ahead with the conference. He insisted that the voter register had already been validated and submitted to the Electoral Commission and that the complainants could have easily found out from the EC which they did not do. He was of the view that they should have picked the register and studied it before raising any concern, than wasting their breath to organize the press conference. On the issue of lack of communication between the aspirants and the party, Sir John disclosed that the party was always in touch with the aspirants or sometimes with their agents. He declined press questions that the four aspirants were fighting Nana, saying 'they are fighting the process of the election', which in this case is the same thing.

Supporting the claims of the four aspirants, the MP for Asokwa and former Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly Chief Executive, Maxwell Kofi Jumah has even gone further to state categorically that some ‘fake’ members of the New Patriotic Party whom he calls *Al-Qaeda* are doctoring constituency registers of the party. Kofi Jumah, who was speaking on Asempa FM’s *Ekosii Sen* programme on Friday, said the act is “rampant” in the Eastern Region and believes the perpetrators intend to influence the outcome of the August 7 primary to elect a presidential candidate for the party. Contrary to criticisms that the action of the four – going public with their grievances – aimed at sowing seeds of discord in the party, Kofi Jumah said the four aspirants love the party, however they feel frustrated by machinations within the party that suggest they are being handed a raw deal.

He said those criticizing the four for going public with their grievances over alleged shortcomings in the party’s electoral register should also advocate an open door policy in the party, explaining that the party needs to first desist from creating situations that will cause its members to voice publicly whatever misgivings they may have. He said for instance if complaints or petitions are dealt with expeditiously, there will be no need for any member of the party to go public with the same issues. But when they petition the party’s leadership and see no action, they should not be blamed for washing the party’s dirty linen in public.

Kofi Jumah said those Al-Qaeda NPP members have long set about their clandestine jobs and should be told in the face that the NPP abhors their nefarious activities rather than taking on those who dare to speak about the wrongs. He said had those being criticized used the occasion to commend some good deeds within the party, even if publicly, none would have come out to condemn them. With the problem of internal party cohesion being a number one priority that is eluding the party, the Editor-in-Chief of the Insight newspaper says the NPP is heading to a defeat in the 2012 elections even if they manage to get united. Mr Kwesi Pratt says the NPP will lose the 2012 election even if the party “achieved 100% cohesion, “…the path to power must be one which is free of internal wrangling and baseless criticisms,” he told Radio Gold's Alhaji and Alhaji programme last Saturday. “…even if the party achieved 100% cohesion; it was totally united and all of its members voted for the presidential candidate of their choice, it will not guarantee them victory in the 2012 elections,” he said.

It is on this note that I wish them well in their deliberations, sorry, confrontations, today. They are trapped in a vicious web of contradictions. And it is not helpful that they would be negotiating with an inflexible and arrogant man who calls the shots. So far, the slogan is that Nana does no wrong even if he calls you a goat. As hard as chisel when he is obviously wrong, it has been observed that it would be easier for a camel to go through an eye of a needle than for the Akyem dwarf to admit that he is wrong. What I suspect might happen is that they are going to frustrate these aspirants to such an extent that they would have to come the the realization of who is the top dog and put up or shut up. So much for the internal party democracy at work!

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