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Opinions of Friday, 24 August 2007

Columnist: Antwi, Eugene

Akufo-Addo has the edge

If Nana Akufo-Addo does take over from President Kufuor there would be no victimisation of the non-Addoites, says Eugene Antwi.

A week is a long time in politics - even for politicians. So normal people have probably already forgotten the reshuffle in which leading figures have all resigned to concentrate on their respective campaigns to win the New Patriotic Party's nomination and ultimately become the next President of our republic.

But some people take reshuffles more seriously. Indeed, there are men and women who are already worrying about the next one. They are the passionate supporters of the Positive Change Chapter II "project" who know that, in future, ministers will be hired and fired by a different President.

So NPP should have started the new political season with a spring in its step, ready for the seventeen-month run-in to the election. Instead, the leading figures prise open that suppurating old sore that festers within our party and government, but has little resonance or comprehension beyond it.

Yet the danger is clear enough. For a start, leaders can't anoint their own successors. Thatcher tried and failed - remember John Moore, John Patten, and the other leaders in waiting who disappeared without trace? The fact is that the next NPP leader will be chosen by the New Patriotic Party, not John Agyekum Kufuor. And at present, Alan Kyerematen, with his enthusiasm for the market, is not top of the pops among NPP's rank and file.

Who's to blame? Both sides, as usual. The New Patriotic Party has no grand old men in suits prepared to march in and knock sense into its warring factions. There are no old generals willing to wag a finger and remind them that "this great movement of ours" is greater than the vanity and irritation of one man and his henchpersons. Leading party figures do not really do the business - too much of a player trading to protect their own shaky fiefdom and its denizens.

Everyone is briefing, with an "I’m not talking to anyone but ..." and "All I want is peace and reconciliation, but ..." So here’s one version: Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko is a pugnacious and combative character. "He’d cross the road to have a fight - but only if he has to" - and that’s from a friend. Like Kofi Coomson, he is his master’s attack dog, bred to fight.

NPP’s chief current challenge, therefore, does not come from without but from within - and could even be called existential. This internal challenge does not mean that John Agyekum Kufuor’s leadership is under immediate threat, though some would like it to be. NPP’s real problem is its collective self-doubt about the kind of governmental programme that it wants to offer the voters next December.

The ministerial resignations provision in our constitution is a cloudy thing. At its core it amounts to little more than a set of notes towards the definition of "appropriate". It leaves to the President’s own discretion, as it must, any final response to allegations of peaking before time. That is a matter for leadership, not box-ticking.

Political leadership in a democracy means, if it means anything, exercising judgment beyond what can be determined by rules and procedures. It’s the extra bit, the bit the machine can’t do. Logic is not enough. Its conclusions will not follow as necessary consequences of the application of a set of regulations to a set of facts. "Guilty" v "not guilty" is not the question.

No procedure, however elaborate, can guarantee the wisdom of the judgments that leadership owes us. If it could, we should as well be led by procedures rather than men. No boffinry, however expert, can lend the authority that a President alone should shoulder. Beyond the switches and circuitries of stop and go, of traffic tallies and robotic red and green lights, a leader makes his judgments in a world of perpetual ambers. President Kufuor must not shirk this task.

The tragedy is that Kufuor and Nana Akufo-Addo tower above the rest, each with qualities to complement the other’s weakness. Our party overwhelmingly wants them both now, and Akufo-Addo to succeed later. They should both remember that.

A President in undisputed command can afford to be more giving and forgiving. He could do more to embrace - at least in public - the ex-Foreign Minister who loyally delivered the solidity and credibility of rock-solid diplomacy; commanding an international acclamation NPP or Ghana never earned before since Nkrumah. President Kufuor should not listen to those courtiers who keep urging him to show the ex-Foreign Minister who is boss. He is diminished by such petty and petulant shows of strength.

No, no, it’s not personality! Its ideals! But if the Kufuorites want to refute the Addoons claim that their differences is a battle for values and direction, then it is for Chairman Mac Manu to orchestrate a third-term programme that is genuinely radical enough to seize the imagination of all those who once voted NPP and swear they won’t this time.

But this is much more than a gamble about the succession. This alleged public declaration of war - and make no mistake, to covertly support Alan Kyerematen as his successor as both NPP’s flag bearer and next President, is seen by the party as a declaration of war - risks destabilising the entire party in the run up to the election campaign.

To think that our leading figures would go along with it quietly is, according to someone close to him, "ridiculous". It’s not just NPP. In the weeks to come, leading members, Ministers, Municipal Chief Executives, District Chief Executives, Members of Parliament and party members will join the fray.

The bottom line: this is not a contest between Kufuor and Akufo-Addo. That was in 1998. With the unity of the party being a core message of the Addoites, one can safely say that post-December 2007 NPP would not be an era of victimisation for those who exercised their democratic right to support candidates other than Akufo-Addo. That is one of the most assuring leadership pledges ever to come from any of the aspirants.

Perhaps, an indication of the kind of leader the NPP and the nation needs after 2008. Akufo-Addo can only continue to assure even those who choose to fail to see that he sees loyalty and the bigger picture above the kind of pettiness that sometimes threaten the party from seeing its core values, both in personnel and ideas. Akufo-Addo has the edge and it is no mystery why.



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