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Opinions of Thursday, 5 August 2010

Columnist: Ayeboafo, Yaw Awuah Boadu

A Critical View on the NPP's Presidential Primary

The forthcoming presidential primary of the NPP is an important political event worthy of analysis from a critical point of view. This write-up is a dispassionate analysis of the primary. It’s not aimed at promoting any of the candidates but rather reflect on the NPP’s leadership dynamics over its 18-year history and how it impacts on the chances of the leading contenders in the contest. Interestingly, the outcome will determine whether the de facto entrenched and deep rooted paternalistic and conservative leadership succession focus of the party will be giving way to a radical and pragmatic leadership focus.

The 18-year history of the NPP shows a leadership selection process influenced by conservative and paternalistic leadership style. A paternalistic style of leadership is where people are treated or governed in a fatherly manner. It is characterized by providing people with their needs without giving them rights or responsibilities. Even though, leadership contest in the party has been rigorous and democratic. It reminiscent a paternalistic hierarchical pattern, where there is a predetermined ordering of people from high to low, according to status or ability. Largely, in the NPP, age, the number of years as party member and the number of times one contest the party’s leadership seems to be the standard for being an eventual leader. Mr. Appiah-Menkah, a member of the party’s council of elders aptly sums it “Kufuor did the same thing. In 1992 when he came into the race knowing that he could not beat Prof Adu Boahen and Dr Selby, he took it as an opportunity to market himself and eventually won the 2000 presidential elections. "This is what the candidates must do and build themselves up for the future,"[1]

The party has held four presidential primaries since her inception in 1992 when the ban on political party activities was lifted. In 1992, six others contested against Adu-Boahen. He was at the apex of the pyramid having been at the forefront in fighting the obnoxious Rawlings’ regimes and was credited with breaking the culture of silence in Ghana’s politics. He was elected with over 1000 votes and Kufuor came third with 326 votes. The ensuing general election was highly tensed. It was largely fraudulent and rigged by the NDC. Adu-Boahen staged a successful boycott of the parliamentary elections. Rawlings wouldn’t leave power easily having been a dictator for over a decade and did everything to hand over power to himself.

In 1996, the number dropped to six, with five of the contestants having been in the 1992 contest. J.A Kufuor, who was third in the 1992 contest won against the 1992 favorite Adu-Boahen. Again Rawlings wouldn’t leave power until he was constitutionally barred. The election was largely an improvement upon the earlier one. Indeed, the choice of Kufuor over Adu-Boahen was very strategic as prof. was close to the end of his political career. The party thought it strategic to get a candidate who could wrest power after Rawlings was constitutionally barred. A candidate who was incidentally placed to be able to go the long haul was needed. Adu-Boahen, though, played a major role in the democratization process of Ghana he was not lucky to be president given the circumstance. May His Soul Rest in Perfect Peace.

In 1998, the NPP selected her candidate ahead of the 2000 general election. There is popular agitation for change from the NDC. J.A Kufuor, having been in the race for two times was well prepared to lead the agitation for change and was at the top of the party’s pyramid. The issue of change at the general election was well placed. He was left with a herculean task to shield himself against the change mantra in order to lead his party having been defeated in the 1996 general elections. He rose to the challenge shrewdly and the party decided strategically not to change him after a fierce fight. Nana Akuffo-Addo, who was waiting down the pyramid emerged strongly in 1998 for the first time and gave Kufour a run for his money, becoming second. Kufuor won the 2000 general elections and the party subsequently endorsed him for the general elections in 2004. The challenge to Nana is to convenience the delegates that he can come back strongly against Mills or who ever the NDC selects in 2012.

In 2007, when the end of the NPP two-term government became visible, the party was challenged to her limits in selecting a candidate for the 2008 general elections. Incredibly, 17 party gurus struggled among themselves to succeed Kufuor. There was a generational clash among the candidates given Kufuor’s two term presidency. Age was increasingly catching up with most of the potential guys up the hierarchy. It was the end game for Kufuor’s generational peers and a launching pad for new entrants down the hierarchy who by the conventional wisdom of the party ought to launch themselves. The potential leaders at the top of the hierarchical pyramid of the party became overbearing on the base and capsized the party. Nana was at his peak at the time and effectively defended himself against the new entrant Alan. Alan posed the greatest challenge to Nana denying him of a first round victory. However, Alan declined a second round vote conceding defeat to Nana. In Nana’s euphoria he said in an address amidst applause “Alan, you come after me”.

It seems most of the candidates were deluded, complacent and over-confident of winning the presidency given the party’s incumbent advantage and how it had performed in government. The ensuing contest was characterized with conflict which nearly burst the party along it seams. The contest effectively alienated the party’s support base and killed their interest. It unnecessarily exposed the party to the NDC’s vile propaganda machinery for incessant criticism. The NDC benefited by winning the general election narrowly as the NPP suffered from voter apathy. Nana’s first shot at the national presidency in 2008 gave him more votes at the first round vote than any other person in Ghana’s fourth Republican history apart from Rawlings, who virtually turned himself from a military dictator to a pseudo-democratic leader. However, Nana fell short by few votes needed to secure the presidency given the constitutional 50.01% requirement. Sadly, his strong showing at the first round was narrowed giving Mills the chance in round two.

The NPP learnt valuable lessons from what happened in 2007. It aggressively pursued constitutional reform, leading to the capping of potential presidential aspirants to five and the electoral register was expanded from about 2300 to over 100,000 voters. The effectiveness of the increased number of voters and the practical challenge in conducting polls in all the constituency capitals of Ghana will be put to test on 7th August.

In the forthcoming primary, given the stream of endorsements of the candidates so far one can conveniently say the August, 7 contest will be fiercely fought between Nana and Alan. Largely, it is likely to be a replay of the 2007 contest. However, the outcome will be interesting given the nature of the expanded voter register.

So far the conventional wisdom favors Nana. The high profile endorsement received is an advantage. The challenge is whether he can galvanize support from the expanded electoral register to win. Moreover, as one of the main agitators for the expanded electoral roll, it will be interesting to know how it benefits him. Also, the emotional premium attached to his services to the party, having taken the patience in rising up the hierarchy by always remaining loyal is an advantage.

Whether Nana emerges successful or not at the end will be determined by how his campaign manages his candidacy given his defeat in the general elections in 2008 and the future challenge ahead. While his fate looks like Kufour after losing the 1996 elections to the NDC, the circumstances differ. Firstly, Nana lost the race while we were in power and unluckily might have suffered from incumbency fatigue, coupling with the seemingly preference of Ghanaians for a two-term party rotation for the presidency and might have been a victim of the generational leadership backlog that resulted in 17 others contesting against him for the leadership. If the delegates get incline to the above scenario, Nana’s fate will look more like Adu-Boahen, strategically it would not be in the party’s favor to reelect him at age 66 as he approaches the end of the political road. The reemergence of Kufuor in 1998 was at the backdrop that the NDC was on her second four year term, Rawlings was constitutionally barred from contesting again and there was increased agitation for change. Kufuor was a situational leader and he effectively exploited it when he shielded himself against Nana’s fierce fight. The major challenge to Nana is how he shields himself against the Alan threat and convenience the delegates that he can come back to win. If Nana succeeds to position himself among the delegates as the potential candidate with the magic wane to take power from the NDC then he will have the advantage.

In Mr. Appiah-Menkah’s view “winning power from the opposition demanded extra work and the presentation of a candidate who had the ability to galvanize votes even in the ugliness of the political terrain”. Also Nii Ayikoi Otoo put it bluntly “the main concern of any political party is to win political power otherwise we should be doing NGO. We are looking for a winnable candidate for 2012, come August 7 and we should all focus on that one. Who might this candidate be? Alan came out strongly to give Nana a run for his money in 2007 by emerging second with more votes than any first entrant into the NPP’s race. His major challenge include, his short-lived intention of resigning from the party having been defeated by Nana in 2007. His stint at resignation raises legitimate questions about his loyalty to the course of the party and to a large extent the resilience of his leadership capabilities. However, it seems he stands the chance to benefit from the expanded electoral roll even though he was not in favor of it. Well, the delegates will pass the verdict and it will be interesting if Nana’s virtue of loyalty will be Alan’s bane. Who is Who in the Winnable Candidate Debate?

It seems no candidate can rely on traditional alliances and the conventional wisdom within the party will be put to test. The race will benefit the candidate who strategically fit the current political situation, a candidate with the ability to galvanize votes and a winnable candidate for 2012. Well! The jury is still out but intriguing clues are emerging.

Awuah Boadu Ayeboafo,

aayeboafo@hotmail.com, Tepa Ashanti