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Opinions of Monday, 21 September 2015

Columnist: Ohemeng, Yaw

Can Dr Arthur Kobina Kennedy see another ‘truth’ besides what he holds?

A little over a week ago, I wrote an article criticising Dr Arthur Kennedy on his incessant writings against his party’s flagbearer. In reaction to it, he has mischaracterised my article as vilifying him. Some of his supporters also retorted that ‘Truth stands” and that Dr Kennedy is speaking the truth. I am not perturbed by the name calling I also received. Like Dr Kennedy, I believe we should be civil to each other in discussing the problems currently besetting the NPP. Hence I wish to explore this truth for which some think Dr Kennedy stands.
There is absolute truth as the physical manifestation of nature such as night following day or the sun rising in the east and setting in the west. But besides absolute truths, all truth is judgement, as made by someone or a group. This judgement is premised on beliefs that can either be true or false. Beliefs are creations of the mind that cannot of itself indicate truth. Hence one must go external to belief to find truth.
Truth based on beliefs is supported by facts and the relationships created between these facts. Different people can assemble the same facts but reach different ‘truths’ due to the relationships they create between the facts and the emphasis they place on some or all of the facts. Usually the relationships created between the facts, and the emphasis placed on them, reflect self interest and personal biases. Hence critical minds ought not to accept someone’s belief as the truth; they should examine the facts assembled to underpin that belief, the source of the facts and the relationships created between the facts.
In this article, I have set out to discuss the truth as some see it as forming the basis of Dr Arthur Kennedy’s stance. Dr Kennedy himself has made this exercise relatively easy for me in an article dated 8th September 2014, and published on Ghanaweb, in which he sets out his ‘political principles’. It is clear from that article and subsequent ones that Dr Kennedy holds himself as the conscience of the NPP. Hence he wants the party to return to its values. Unfortunately he did not specify the values as at when. Are they the idealised values espoused during the founding of the party or the values specified in the party constitution or the values that won the party two successive elections?
I am asking these questions because the current events in the NPP appear to be replays of the past. Whilst it is unhelpful to rake up the past, there have been tensions between presidential candidates (including the Presidency) and party headquarters in the past; there have been flag bearer campaigns publicly criticising party national executives in the past, there have been complaints of presidential campaigns sidelining party headquarters in the past; and there have been unfair manoeuvring by presidential primary contestants in their bid to win elections before, even including the changing of delegates list at the last minute to favour a particular candidate.
Anyway reading through Dr Kennedy’s September 2014 article, the reasons why he thought the party has deviated from its values are founded on his belief that:
1. There have been orchestrated attempts to undermine the elected Chairman and the General Secretary;
2. The party has become intolerant as indicated by an attempted lynching of Tarzan, his own hounding and attacks on Mr Pianim and Dr Nyaho Tamakloe. This, he felt had culminated in the violence witnessed at the party headquarters; and
3. The presidential primary was turned into a sustained and carefully organised coronation of, presumably, Nana Addo.
In addition to these he also has a personal axe to grind. He referred to how troubled he was by the accusation that he wants to destroy Akufo Addo and the further accusation that Mr Kwadwo Mpiani and Dr Anane planned to poison Nana Addo. He did not stop there but went on to state that he believes that Nana Addo has accepted these accusations as true without offering any proof of this.
In assembling the facts to underpin these beliefs, Dr Kennedy has relied on particular facts coming from a particular faction of the NPP. He is, however, willing to change his views when new credible and verifiable information is presented to him. Unfortunately Dr Kennedy did not indicate in his article that he would actively go in search of this verifiable information but rather he would wait for it to be presented to him. This is the problem I have with the judgement he has made.
He professes not to belong to any faction in the NPP. If that is so, why would he employ limited facts? Did Dr Kennedy not hear of a group that was called GAKE and the insults they hurled at Nana Addo in the print, audio and electronic media during the primary? Did he not hear of Madam Hilda Addo and her railings against both Nana Addo and Dr Kwame Addo Kuffour? Well maybe he is still waiting to be presented with credible and verifiable information about these ones.
On the orchestration to undermine the National Chairman and the General Secretary, Dr Kennedy has to date not provided categorical information as to who is doing the orchestration. It is not difficult, though, to discern that he holds the flag bearer responsible. The facts to back this view are strewn within his articles and radio interviews. In this his ‘one-man’ crusade, it can be seen that he is not fighting to protect the mandates of all elected national officers or the other superior committees and councils but only the GS and the National Chairman.
Dr Kennedy stated in one of his articles that a flagbearer contestant circulated letters among delegates on who he could work with amongst the then competing national executive candidates. He named no one but it is not difficult to infer that that contestant is Nana Addo. I have read about this on numerous social media platforms and some people even ‘in-boxed’ me with this claim. In all instances when I have demanded to see a copy of the said letter, they have failed to produce it. Let us assume, however, that such a letter existed, can anyone honestly say that the other presidential primary contestants did not engage in any manoeuvrings at all to get their favourite candidates elected to the national executive? Even if true, this is insufficient to support the claim that Nana Addo is unwilling to work with the duly elected National Chairman and General Secretary.
The fact is Dr Kennedy and those he supported during the national executive elections misread the message from the Tamale Congress. They mistook the almost wiping out of the then executive as a vote for wholesale changes leading up to the flag bearer. They forgot about the messages the successful contestants themselves took to the delegates, which was to ensure that Nana Addo wins the 2016 elections. The rank and file of the party saw the subsequent manoeuvrings of the GS and National Chairman as a betrayal of the promises the two made to them. This misreading of the message from Tamale, in my view, set off the ugly chain of events.
In an article titled ‘NPP votes for change’, immediately after Tamale, Dr Kennedy urged the newly elected executives to “first…clean the party headquarters of those operatives who have become, in effect, appendages of factions in our party….They must be replaced, not by other factionalists but by respected and principled party people who will consistently put the party ahead of individuals and factions.”
On the face of it, this is not a bad piece of advice, but in their haste to implement this recommendation, the newly elected GS and Chairman assumed powers they did not have. They forgot that only the appointing body can sack appointees. Hence, instead of working the NEC for the changes they sought, they unilaterally set out to sack people. This was undoubtedly the genesis of all the mistrust that has since ensued.
The second reason why Dr Kennedy believes the flagbearer is undermining the GS and Chairman is that the flagbearer attended a steering committee meeting whilst the Chairman and GS were not available. In this, Dr Kennedy who has expressed his wish that the party’s constitution be allowed to work expected the flagbearer to refuse to attend a meeting which was properly called. The meeting called by the First vice Chairperson, whilst the chairman was out of jurisdiction, is constitutionally permitted. In fact the NPP constitution, in Chapter I(2a), recognises a quorum of seven members of the committee, attended by the Chairman, or in his absence, the First vice Chairman. This again, cannot point to the undermining of the aforementioned national officers.
The last reason I can infer from Dr Kennedy’s articles that he believes the GS and National Chairman are being undermined is the operation of a so-called ‘secret’ account by the National Treasurer. The question to ask is: can the Treasurer be said to operate an unauthorised account when the said account is in the name of the NPP and the Treasurer is the only official mandated by the NPP Constitution to handle the funds of the party? Per the party constitution, the Treasurer is only responsible to the Finance Committee, of which the Chairman is a member. I would have expected that those making the charge of the operation of a secret account would have pointed to it being on the blind side of the Finance Committee and not the GS or National Chairman. I would not also expect the GS to hold that he has to authorise withdrawals.
On the accusation that Dr Anane and Mr Mpiani want to poison Akufo Addo and Dr Kennedy’s contention that Nana Addo accepts this to be true, he has offered no facts that Nana Addo has bought into the ranting of Hon. Kennedy Agyapong. In fact, Dr Kennedy has had occasion to express admiration for Hon. Kennedy Agyapong during the national executive elections. That time Hon. Kennedy Agyapong was tagging the then national executives as thieves, which suited the side Dr Kennedy supported. That time Dr Kennedy called for the party to investigate the claims that some campaign resources were embezzled.
Why is Dr Kennedy not calling for similar investigations on the Anane-Mpiani accusations but this time jumping straight to tie the flag bearer to the issue? If the honourable MP has spoken untruths or libelled the two, what prevents Dr Kennedy from calling on him to apologise? Why is he demanding that Nana Addo rather apologises on Mr Agyepong’s behalf? Can an adult no longer be held responsible for his actions? This indeed forms part of what fuels the perception that he (Dr Kennedy) is out to destroy Nana Addo.
On the presidential primary seeming more like a coronation, the call by Sir John that Nana Addo would be brought back even if in a wheelchair appears to be what irked Dr Kennedy so much. This was undoubtedly a bad call but it is also possible to see it in the light of that moment. This was immediately after the disappointment of the Election Petition verdict. It is possible to see it in the light of the soothing of emotions that was required in the immediate aftermath. The subsequent calls by some elders of the party when the primary itself was underway were also bad, but can the flag bearer be condemned for being liked or being popular?
Even in condemning the elders who called for Nana Addo to go unopposed, we cannot fail to examine their reasons. It would be a liar who would have maintained that Nana Addo was going to lose the NPP presidential primary if he decided to run again. This was the context of the times. Nana had received commendations from all corners of the country, from friend and foe alike, for ‘the speech’ of August 29, 2013. Among the broad masses of NPP supporters, the 2012 election was stolen from him. One may disagree but sufficient information came out to question the quality of that election.
A number of old political hands therefore saw this as an opportunity for the NPP to harvest the goodwill of Ghanaians. They feared a bruising context will dissipate this goodwill. Subsequent events have proved them right. They also pointed to the clear indications that Nana Addo’s victory was almost a foregone conclusion, and in that, they were again proven right. Where the elders failed was not trying to convince the other would-be competitors behind the scenes before going public. This could have been handled in a better way. But the elections have been held and the victory was so overwhelming. So why can’t an avowed democrat like Dr Kennedy, accept the outcome?
On the perception that he is out to destroy Nana Addo, it is a fact that Dr Kennedy has tied the flagbearer to everything bad that is going on within the NPP. He has not seen it as the doing of the entire leadership. Of late some of his claims against the flag bearer have become shrieking and very personal. It is therefore not difficult to make the case that he is out to destroy Nana Addo.
I see the problem in the NPP as one of tension between constitutionality and convention, exacerbated by relationships that have gone sour. J. R. A. Ayee, in a February 2009 research paper, commissioned by The South African Institute of International Affairs, titled ‘The evolution and development of the New Patriotic Party in Ghana’, has this to say about the NPP Constitution:
“In the national level structures, specific roles and responsibilities have not been spelled out, which has led to conflict over overlap and duplication of functions.”
Nowhere is the tension between convention and constitutionality illustrated than by the claim that the flag bearer is the leader of the party. The flag bearer lacks any formal powers from the constitution. Hence any attempt he makes to be the leader risks the accusation that he is annexing power from other elected officers. Dr Kennedy makes this mistake too by at times blaming the flag bearer for not carrying out his leadership duties. He ought to know that the flag bearer has not been assigned any role in the NPP Constitution, neither has he been given any formal authority.
Often when people discuss leadership, they tend to view it as unidirectional where instructions are passed from the top to the bottom. This only obtains in regimented establishments. People fail to consider that followers have their own motivations for following and constant squabbles within the followership can derail group goals. A leader cannot be effective without formal (coercive) powers through which to reward and punish as well as soft (affective) powers. Currently the NPP flag bearer is operating with only soft powers.
When relationships break down, everyone works to rule – that is every elected officer asserts their right to carry out their mandate. Thus you have the Treasurer clashing with the General Secretary over the party’s accounts and the National Organiser clashing with the same General Secretary over activities that the party should support. Conventions have taken a flight in such an environment.
When relationships break down to the extent we are witnessing in the NPP, it is unhelpful to blame one side. Yes, someone might have initiated the action but the reaction of the others in the relationship helps set off the chain. Anyone hoping to see an end to the spiral downwards should aim to break the cycle of action and reaction rather than blaming any one side. Things will never stabilise by blaming one side to the exclusion of the others.
I know Dr Kennedy likes political quotations, and I will end with one. This is not from the USA; this is not a spoken one-liner either. It is in fact from Ghana; not anywhere else in Ghana, but from within the NPP. When Dr Kwame Donkor Fodwor rescinded his decision to resign as Ashanti Regional NPP Chairman, after backing Prof Adu Boahen, who lost to Mr J A Kufuor, he gave the following reason among others in a press statement:
‘I believe that anyone of the NPP’s presidential aspirants is better qualified for the office of President than the current incumbent, a view which was publicly stated by the candidate I had supported. It is therefore my view that, ipso facto, the candidate who was chosen by the party with such a clear and decisive vote will be an infinitely better President and Director of our country’s destiny than the one that the country is saddled with at this time.’
Is it remotely possible that Dr Kennedy can be the pragmatist that he claimed to be in his September 2014 article by seeing the truth in this statement of yesteryear, which is still relevant today? What he seeks is less convention and more constitutionality. He can do this by championing constitutional amendments that will spell out clearly: roles, responsibilities and lines of authority within the party. In the meanwhile, surely his truth must also include the belief that an NPP government in 2017 will be a far better outcome than an NDC one. I wish him all the best in, hopefully, this new quest.

Dr Yaw Ohemeng