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Opinions of Friday, 4 December 2009

Columnist: Asare, S. Kwaku

Book Review: Chasing the Elephant into the Bush

Book Review of “Chasing the Elephant into the Bush: The Politics of Complacency”

Author: Dr. Arthur Kobina Kennedy
website: www.ghanabookreview.org

Reviewed By: S. Kwaku Asare, USA

In the aftermath of the 2008 presidential elections, no question haunted NPP leaders and supporters more than why and how Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo, the party’s presidential candidate, lost the elections to John Atta Mills, the then NDC candidate, who had been written off by most political analysts. Did the NPP primary season inflict irreparable harm on Akuffo Addo? Did President Kuffuor do enough for the campaign? Did the campaign team spend too much time on big rallies, which attracted curious people, instead of building grassroots organization? Did the campaign team waste valuable time in areas that the candidate had no chance of winning? Was the campaign too slow in responding to allegations by the NDC? Did NDC steal the verdict again? In “Chasing the Elephant into the Bush,” Dr. Arthur Kobina Kennedy attempts to address some of these questions.

Dr. Kennedy proposes that by the beginning of 2007, NPP had enough support to win a Presidential election with at least 54% of the votes. He argues that even though a smorgasbord of mistakes by the government, party, and the campaign team frittered away most of this comfortable lead, the party, nevertheless, had a narrow but significant lead on Election Day (E-day). But that narrow and significant lead was never actualized because the campaign team failed to protect the vote on E-day. To support this hypothesis, the learned doctor cites the number of rejected votes in NPP strongholds, problems with returning officers and polling agents, and failure to get out the vote in key constituencies.

Turning to the pre-election day faux pas, Dr. Kennedy tells the shocking story (a) of how the campaign team was built, without regard to the principles of effective organization; (b) of a campaign team whose members distrusted each other, and perhaps disliked each other; (c) of a campaign team that did not know how to capitalize on the popularity of President Kuffuor; (d) of a campaign team that had no control of spending, which was the prerogative of a spending committee; (e) of a candidate whose choice of a Vice Presidential candidate was vetoed by Da Rocha, resulting in the choice of a non party member; (f) and of an out of control Kyebi mafia that ruffled feathers and was unaccountable to the campaign.

Although Nana Addo had a campaign team that won an important and seriously contested primary, he decided to emplace a new campaign structure after the December 2007 NPP primary. In so doing, he opted for a complex multi-tier structure that was doomed to fail. Director (Kofi Apraku) and a Campaign Chairman (Jake O. Lamptey) were to run the campaign. However, there was a Coordinating Structure made up of the President, the Candidate, the National Chairman, and the Chairman of the Council of Elders. Below this was the Campaign Committee, made up of the Chairpersons of the 9 or so Campaign Committees, the National Executive of the Party, and 3 other people (Yaw Osarfo Marfo, Hajia Rukaya Ahmed and Ms. Mawuse Ayittey). There was also the Committee of Aspirants, made up of the 16 losing Presidential aspirants, who served in an advisory role to the Campaign Committee (this committee of aspirants met once).

As if that was not enough, there was also a Management Committee, whose membership was unannounced and which operated by invitation only; the various regional and district committees; and the so called independent groups, such as One–Touch group, Friends of Nana Akuffo Addo (FONAA), the Northern Communication Center, etc.

Dr. Kennedy describes in vivid details the problems that beset this complex and behemoth engine ? the overlapping roles and responsibilities, the difficulty of collaboration and maintaining trust, the fissures in the team, and the resignation of Allan Kyeremateng.

On the relationship between key members of the campaign team, Dr. Kennedy tells us that Kofi Apraku and Jake Lamptey were in the same building but did not communicate very well, in spite of repeated suggestions that they should be in daily communication. Similarly, Chairman Mac Manu and Secretary Ntow did not communicate as well. As evidence of distrust in the team, Dr. Kennedy describes a call that he made to Kofi Apraku, who told him “you are running to Jake Lamptey on everything. I am watching that.” Kennedy details many other dysfunctional events, including the exclusion of committee members from meetings, committees that had no control over who was invited to their meetings, failure to consult key committee members prior to key decisions. In consequence, Dr. Kennedy postulates that key people such as Dan Botwe, Kojo Mpiani and the President were underutilized. On the other hand, Kan Dapaah, the minister of Defence, was put in charge of Ashanti region, even though he was a very busy man.

On Allan’s resignation, Kennedy writes “it was felt that he had not been given a position influential enough or commensurate with his status.” But who felt this and did position and status matter? The “who part” is not answered but Kennedy informs us that position in the various campaign structures did not matter much. What mattered was who had access to the Candidate and the support of those making the spending decisions. Unsurprisingly, the Campaign Committee stopped running the campaign and started following the candidate on the road, leading to the much talked about long convoys.

Dr. Kennedy tells us that the Spending Committee, also called the Databank group, had the power of the purse and became the most important committee. He does not disclose the committee’s full membership but it appears Kelly Gadzekpo, Nana Ofori Atta, and Ken Ofori Atta were among those calling the shots. According to the author, “nobody was sure when and where the Spending Committee met. Regardless of whatever the Campaign Committee decided, the Spending Committee could make its own decisions as to what to fund and what not to fund, to the frustration and bewilderment of many.” As a specific example, the Spending Committee vetoed the Communication Committee’s advertising campaigns. In the end, “some amongst the Communication Committee who had special links to the Spending Committee developed and propagated adverts without reference to the Communication Committee.”

According to Dr. Kennedy, as late as September 2008, President Kuffuor was more popular than either Nana Addo or John Mills. Thus, getting him to campaign in the last days would have been helpful. Why did that not happen? The author does not give a definitive reason but he suggests that Kuffuor, through others, indicated he would do “whatever he is asked to do,” suggesting that the President was not asked to do enough and inviting the speculation that Nana Addo wanted to prove that he could win without Kuffuor. But Kennedy puts to rest the theory that the President did not help by describing other ways that he helped, including assisting in fund raising.

Dr. Kennedy gives an interesting account of the so called Kyebi Mafia. He notes that it is a misnomer since the members are neither exclusively from Kyebi nor are a mafia. Rather, this is the inner circle of the candidate. Of the mafia, the author writes “I have no doubt that the family has the best intentions in whatever they do. However, sometimes, in their eagerness to serve Nana’s interest, they ruffle feathers, sometimes very badly and gratuitously.” But the mafia did not only ruffle feathers of outsiders, they sometimes undercut one another with extraordinary viciousness. The reader is not giving a complete list of the mafia members but Nana Ofori Atta, Ken Ofori Atta, Edward Ofori Atta (the candidate’s brother aka BUMPTY), Nana Asante Bediatuo, and Gabby Otchere Darko are mentioned. Dr. Kennedy describes Gabby “as gifted and very hardworking, who is difficult to get along with and who offends people with casual abandon.” Dr. Kennedy gives an intriguing account of the events that led to the choice of Mahamadu Bawumia as the Vice Presidential candidate. Unknown to many, the Presidential Candidate had settled on Hajia Alima Mahama long before he won the nomination. Complicating matters he had made this public during a primary campaign at Walewale. On 3rd July 2008, the candidate’s inner circle floated a trial ballon to pave way for the formal announcement and introduction of Hajia Mahama. But Da Rocha punched the air out of that ballon by asserting that “if the candidate insisted on picking her, the party should be prepared to change the candidate.” The author does not delve seriously into the opposition to Hajia Mahama, except for reiterating the concern that some of those opposing her had, namely, “it would be difficult, particularly in the north to sell an unmarried woman on the ticket.” But whatever the reasons, Hajia’s misfortune proved to be a boondoggle for Mahamadu Bawumia, then deputy Governor of the Bank of Ghana. In spite of never being in the race for the nomination and his admission that he was not a party member, the candidate presented him as the Veep candidate to the National Executive Committee, amidst both opposition (Ama Busia, Haruna Esseku, Dan Botwe, Papa Owusu Ankomah, Kwabena Agyepong, and the author) and support (President Kuffuor, Osafo Maafo, Mike Ocquaye, Bin Salia, and Vice President Aliu Mahama). But by that time the Veep nomination fatigue had set in and it become a fait accompli.

Dr. Kennedy tells us that the first round results devastated the campaign team and left it completely unprepared for the runoff. The campaign team run an “agbena campaign” (one touch campaign) and had no contingency plan, in spite of the strategic advice that it had received from one Mr. Larry Gibson. The morning after the results were announced, the Campaign Director convened a meeting at which Nana Addo announced changes: (a) he was taking personal control of the entire campaign; (b) Mac Manu was to be the field director with day to day operational control of the campaign; (c) Jake was put in charge of advertising and media relations; (d) some new Regional chairmen were also appointed. But it was just too late to stop the bleeding and the harvest of mistakes continued. For instance, Christine Churcher begged for forgiveness in Cape Coast, which allowed the NDC to ask the rhetorical question, “for what sins?” Petrol prices were decreased and incarcerated drivers were released, further angering a discerning electorate. The parliamentary candidates disappeared and the smaller parties did not agree to an alliance. It was just too late in the day to change course, the election night had become dark, and the encircling gloom had become unavoidable.

Dr. Kennedy describes Nana Addo as a very considerate man who does not hold grudges. But he leaves his ex boss with some words of advice “It is up to Nana Addo to learn the strengths and weaknesses of those who desire to serve him and to deploy them to his best advantage. … It pays to put competence ahead of loyalty. … To get to the Presidency, Nana must reach significantly beyond his family.”

Throughout the campaign season, the NDC members made serious allegations of drug use by Nana Addo. Those of us who supported him were upset that the campaign team had not provided a forceful response. Allegations were also made against key campaign members, including Jake Lamptey (acquisition of lands) and the author (acquisition of a consulting contract). The author did not address any of these allegations, perhaps because the allegations were not serious or credible enough to warrant a response.

Dr. Kennedy devotes a few pages of the book to describe his own failed campaign. He talks about how shocked and bewildered he was that he got one vote, in spite of pledges from the Wenchi, Sawla, and various delegates. He concludes that “the extent of deception, of virtually all candidates, was breath taking.” Kennedy’s shock and bewilderment probably betray his own lack of understanding of perfunctory pledges in the body politic and his failure to listen to contrary advice.

Some final words about Arthur Kennedy. Who better to write this book than a Presidential Aspirant cum Campaign Communication Director? On every page of this book, Kennedy’s frustration with the campaign and disappointment in the outcome of the elections show. A seminal book on campaigns in Ghana, “Chasing the Elephant to Bush” is a controversial book that is going to attract unfettered praise and widespread criticism. Praise, because it documents what most people suspect or know, and criticism, because critical self-assessment is alien to our body politic. Wherever one lands on the laudatory scale, the book contains valuable lessons for all political operations. This is a book that every politician and student of politics should read.

The book is available at http://www.amazon.com/Chasing-Elephant-into-Bush-Complacency/dp/1449037038/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1259778142&sr=8-1

S. Kwaku Asare, December, 3rd, 2009