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Opinions of Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Columnist: Gbankuliso, Issahaku

Bole-Bamboi NDC post-primary issues: Unity a must or mirage

The concept of “winner-takes-all” is one that anyone with the slightest familiarity with politics in our part of the world should be familiar with. It is quite simple: the person or group of persons (in the case of parties) who win(s) gets to control the resources and exercise the power asscociated with the domain. Simply put, the winner calls the shots.

In the aftermath of the NDC Primaries in Bole-Bamboi however, this time-tested, often berated concept is under serious threat. This should normally be welcome news for the anti-“Winner-takes-all” coalition. But alas, their celebration is shortlived as soon as they learn of the new concept that could replace the devil we all know: “Loser-takes-all”.

The NDC Primaries in the Bole-Bamboi consituency took on added significance among the Gonjaland constuencies, largely because, it is the President’s back-yard and each of the two candidates would have wanted the honour of the President potentially casting a ballot for them in November or December 2016. Of course, the real prize on offer is a seat in Parliament that used to be occupied by the Gentleman who now occupies the highest office of the land. Plus the seat is a guaranteed safe seat for the NDC with Alhaji Achanso of the NPP deciding not to contest (Alhaji Sulemana Adams Achanso is the only NPP Candidate with sufficient name recognition in the constituency to pose any kind of problem for the NDC).
There were other fringe factors that made the contest a decidedly keen one. First, both candidates were from the same side of town, Nyimange; a magical place in Bole, with a political histroy of punching above its weight. Nearly every politician of any significance in Bole histroy has roots in Nyimange: E.A. Mahama, first Regional Commissioner of the Northern Territories, B.A. Saaka, Former District Commissioner of West Gonja District, Professor Yakubu Saaka, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs under PNP (Limann) administration, Mahama Jeduah, MP from 1993 to 1997, J.D. Mahama, MP from 1997 to 2009 and current President of the Republic, and Joseph Saaka Akati, incumbent MP, 2009 to date. So there was a sense in which history beckoned, and the chance to join this “A”-List of distinguished illustrous Nyimange sons could not have been lost on the candidates and their supporters.
Again, the fact that the candidates are related by blood also played a part to heighten the tensions. To the best of my knowledge the candidates are cousins, both of them young and reasonbly successful in their respective careers, separated only by a small number of years in age. They attend the same funerals, weddings and child naming ceremonies (not the politically motivated ones). I am sure if they were not contesting each other, they would have been financing each other. One is a trained medical doctor who is currenly heading the National Ambulance Service, the other is a trained banker who is currently managing the Projects Unit of the Export Development and Agricultural Investment Fund (EDAIF). To an extent, this was an embarrassment of riches for Bole. If it was possible to have both men in parliament, Ghana and Bole-Bamboi would be the richer for it.
As individual human beings, Professor Ahmed Nuhu Zakaria and Alhaji Ussif Sulemana are both fine gentlemen. Both of them are extremely solicitous about other people’s problems and go out of their way to help, even at considerable sacrifice to themselves. Discretion does not allow me to list the number people Prof has helped and Alhaji has helped.
Regretably, in the run up to the November 2015 Primaries, the overzealousness of social media campaigners, who found fit to exegerate their own influence on the NDC primary electorate, over estimated the chances of their candidates, while doing nothing to actualize their dreams and ambitions. They filled the candidates’ ears with what they thought made them (the candidates) happy, while shouting down voices of reason who cautioned moderation. They enjoyed the comments on their Facebook and Whatsapp posts, basked in the praise of their fluency with the Queen’s language, without ever thinking to ask: “Has anyone in Zantige, Baale or Tinyekura read my Facebook or Whatsapp post”? I hate clichés, but there is one I cannot help in this case: “Elections are won and lost at the Polling Station”, not on Facebook.
It is foolhardy for any modern candidate to discount the influence of social media as an instrument for political mobilization. Barrack Obama won a whole US Presidential Election in 2008 on the back of Social Media. But this is Ghana, where when the lights go off and come back on people jubilate. Social Media can get you only so far; to achieve real success, you have to roll up your sleeves and do the heavy lifting of knocking on doors, shaking hands, kissing babies, and yes, sharing some salt.
I am sympathetic with Prof. Zakaria feeling a bit hard done by. But the people who let him down are those who gave him hope, telling him he was going to win without breaking a sweat, while doing nothing to secure him that victory. The people who let him down are those who took his money and chose to sit on social media and settle personal scores instead of going to work in the constituency, where the actual battle was being fought. If only they had spent a little less time tending their own egoes and a little more time pounding on doors in the constituency, the outcome might have been different.
In order to justify Prof’s investment in their gaping sycophancy, which turned out to be a giant trojan horse, they are continuing a campaign of misinformation and disimformation; blaming all kinds of people for their defeat. They are making any efforts to unite the party in the constituency impossible, at times openly threatening to sponsor the NPP’s Veronica Alele Hemmeng in the General Elections.
Since the primaries have been over, they have blamed the Presidency for their defeat, and accused the NDC National Executives of removing the names of their voters from the register: everyone but themselves. Surely, if you blame others for your own shortcomings, you deny youreself the opportunity to learn useful lessons from your own mistakes in order to correct them going forward. “Team Prof” would not be the first to lose elections in NDC Primaries in Bole and they would surely not be the last. The difference is that, while others are prepared to accept their defeat and their own role in it, Team Prof is not willing to admit any part in their unsuccessful bid. As an independent observer who loves Prof. dearly, this disappoints me a good deal. It diminishes his grace and lowers his stature. It hurts me that, if this continues, Prof. may not only have lost the primary, he could also just lose his respect right along with it.
I am pretty sure that I would be maligned for this benign contribution to a subject matter that is bothering a lot of people. Even before they have finished reading, the sycophantic crowd is preparing to expend achres of facebook and whatsapp pages to denigrate me. I take comfort in the knowledge that when they point a finger at me, the rest will be pointing at them. If they want to know why Prof. lost, all they need is a mirror.
I have heard it suggested that the President needs to invite the Prof and assure him of a place in his next government, should the NDC retain power. I would say NO to that.
There is any number of reasons why the President should never do it. I love Prof. even though I have never met him. Evidently, he has been tremendously helpful to the youth of Gonjaland and continues to do more for the development of our youth. But suffice it to say, he needs to summon his humanity and let his personal judgment overcome the voices of any advisors proferring this as a strategy. For what it is worth, it is a poor strategy to try to blackmail the President.
First, Prof. is not the only loser in the NDC primaries in November. If word gets out that a promise of such nature has been made to a losing candidate, we could have a stampede of losing candidates on the President’s doorstep the next morning; to say nothing of the signal it would send that the President is prone to blackmail. The Commander-in-Chief of the Republic cannot not negotiate with anyone trying to blackmail him.
Second, while the concept of “winner-takes-all” is deficient, it is the devil we know. To make such an assurance to Prof. or any other losing candidate for that matter, would be tantamount to endorsing a new and obnoxious concept of “loser-takes-all”. It would demotivate the winning candidates and reward petulant mediocrity. With all its faults, majority rule is the prevailing concept of democracy. It is definitely better than Minority rule. If in doubt, try apartheid South Africa.
Nothing in this article is to be taken to mean a diminished view of Prof. Zakaria on my part. He is a man I admire a great deal. I admire his success as a person, and I admire his selfless commitment to helping those he can help. More importantly, I believe he is destined for greater things. But great things can be achieved in politics just as they can be achieved in other fields of human endeavour. He can take consolation in the knowledge that, many successful people start off in life as losers. J. A. Kuffour contested elections three times before becoming President, J.E.A Mills’ story is no different. Akufo Addo, the Standard Bearer of the NPP is contesting his umpteenth election in 2016. And yes, Alhaji Ussif Sulemana who won the Bole Primary this time around, lost at the first time of trying, as I understand it. He lost in 2011 to the incumbent, Hon. Joseph Saaka Akati.
If it be the will of God, you can be what ever you want to be. So let those entrepreneurs of political mud slinging who are making an industry out of this disputed primaries give way for peace to reign. There are people who have no connection to Bole-Bamboi Contituency, who have jumped into the fray and are making peace overtures between these two brothers impossible. Such people must be found and exposed. The sooner the better.

Issahaku Gbankuliso
P. O. Box 50 E/R
Tamale, N/R