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Opinions of Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Columnist: Aggrey, Harry Jonson

Choosing a Presidential Candidate-

Does the NPP really need to look too hard?

A lot has been written or said about the New Patriotic Party’s impending elections on August 7 at which their presidential candidate would be chosen. A lot of merits and demerits have been written about all the five the candidates, but after it has all been said and done, I do not see any argument which defeats the fact that Nana Akufo-Addo stands tall among them all.

My reason comes from the simple facts that of all the candidates, he is the one who stands at the very centre of the NPP ideology, which sometimes shifts to the right or left depending on the individual leading it. He is a centrist because he ironically started his youthful life as a Marxist during his formative years as an Economics student at Legon in the 1960s and had many intellectual battles with his father, a pillar of the UP tradition. But his father was to have the last laugh in February 1966 as his son was chased out of the university campus barefooted with socialist friends to his house in Nima for refuge after the overthrow of Kwame Nkrumah. The old man is said to have just sat in his chair on the veranda laughing as his first born was chased home by the soldiers.

The ideological transformation started shortly afterwards when the young Akufo-Addo returned to Europe to continue with his studies and work. And the synergy of his conservatism, liberalism and his short flirtation with socialism is obvious in his long-enduring popular appeal. The substance of this popular appeal is aptly encapsulated in his vision of “Indigenous Capitalism” as the way forward for Ghana’s future. “Ghanaians must adopt a “can do, will do” attitude towards economic growth”, the former NPP flagbearer has said time and time again. He has tremendous confidence in the ability of the Ghanaian and a firm believer in the economic ideals of his political party in so far as it aims to release the entrepreneurship skills of the private sector while at the same time realising the social consciousness of the party.

He has the proven track record of one who has defended democracy the most and who it seems to me to be the one understands it most. In the 1980s and 1990s, Nana Akufo-Addo used the law courts to defend the Constitution, promote human rights and civil liberties with celebrated cases such as Tuffuor vs. Attorney-General, NPP vs. GBC, etc. Once the veteran nationalist Atakora Gyimah founded the Danquah-Busia Memorial Club in Kumasi, Nana Akufo-Addo became Chairman of the Organizing Committee of the Club. It was around this time that his links with the grassroots were further consolidated as he travelled the length and breadth of the country to establish branches of the club, which were to be eventually transformed into local organs of the NPP after the ban on party politics, was lifted prior to the elections of 1992.

In March 2007 in London, when former President J A Kufuor addressed the 1st NPP International Conference, he, in talking about his successor as leader of the NPP, said in his Russell Square speech “We should go for a candidate with good experience, especially with government.” [We must elect] “a leader who’s mature and with track records. We are not going to experiment. We must vote for a thoroughbred of the [Danquah-Busia-Dombo] tradition who has not forgotten his roots. We are not a party of convenience. We are not a party of opportunism” Flanked by the then NPP Chairman Macmanu and the then Foreign Minister Nana Akufo-Addo, the President said, “The nation will expect your party to provide a worthy successor to my leadership. We must not make a mistake with the succession [repeated]. We must not [repeated for emphasis]. We must not be emotional. We must have a sense of balance. Let us balance our emotions with commonsense. Let us go in for someone who can hold us together.” What the former President said then is as relevant today as it was at the time of the speech.

Later on that evening, the former President repeated his very weighty words when he said, “Above all, the aspirant should be [one] who can hold the party together.” The President’s message was very clear on marketability and popular appeal, a person who can inspire both loyal members and floating voters alike. Nana Akufo-Addo can inspire and he has continued to inspire the hopes of Ghanaians who feel let down by the NDC administration thus far. Throughout his campaign to lead the party once again he has disregarded all the petty intra party squabbles and attacks against him by other candidates and has from Hamile to Half Asini, Paga to Aflao, across the length and breadth of Ghana spoke vehemently against the NDC’s litany of failure and his offer of choice for a genuine change.

It has been alleged though sometimes unfairly on former President Kufuor that he supports Alan Kyeremanten, one of the contestants and a fine gentleman by all standards. The President might like him, after all he picked him up from the Young Executives and made him an ambassador and later a minister of state; but the President himself said in London “As for love and emotion the creator gave all of us. But let’s balance our emotions with commonsense.” The former President ruled Ghana with a commonsense approach of the [Danquah-Busia-Dombo] ideals and as for commonsense, boy, he has. Do you think a man who advises conscience against emotions will choose love and emotion over experience, marketability, maturity and track record? Granting that the President prefers Alan, which we believe is not the case anyway; it is a case of head and heart and the President advises strongly to go for the head.

Nana Akufo-Addo is a complete and accomplished politician and a statesman. His loyalty to the Danquah-Busia-Dombo tradition as exemplified in the President Kufuor’s administration can not be underestimated. He describes the Kufuor administration as “a transforming force”. The government that radically widened the frontiers of good governance, with greater press freedom, a more structural attack against corruption, unprecedented macro-economic stability and more investment in the social sector especially health and education - with the setting up of a National Health Insurance Scheme and the implementation of free compulsory primary education (FCUBE) and greater emphasis on human resource development. Yet, despite all the good showing of the government, an orchestrated propaganda that “there is no money in the pocket” managed to sweep the government out of power. To his eager supporters Nana Akufo-Addo says he has not changed the view that the most effective foundation for a successful tilt at the presidency by an NPP candidate in 2012 will be the good performance of the Kufuor government compared to the already dead “Better Ghana” agenda of the NDC.

With the do nothing NDC government concentrating on negative propaganda against the NPP’s achievement, Nana Akufo-Addo’s campaign words will strike a cord with the delegates on August 7. He says, “The youth of our country have no confidence in the government. It is a tragedy we need to correct because a country which has lost the confidence of its youth is a country without a future. I am certain that I will be able to assemble and harness the best talents within the party and nation at large, both at home and in the Diaspora to form a government of which we can all be proud. That government will not only deliver on the promise of economic prosperity and the consolidation of democracy but will also be sufficiently secured to be able to govern”.

He is a unifier as this is one of the qualities that former President laid in his famous Russell Square speech. Nana Akufo-Addo says on party unity “I for my part will do everything possible to promote our unity and will ensure that if indeed I am your choice [on August 7] all my fellow aspirants will work hand-in-glove with me to realise the vision of the pioneers of our movement who fought to build a free, just and prosperous society in this corner of Africa. It is our party that has emerged to carry forward the goals of that tradition into the future. Much as this generation is impatient with the failures and defeats of the past, it nevertheless recognises the immense contribution that the pioneers and their successors by their sacrifices and martyrdom have made towards the development of democracy in our Republic. Their work shall not be in vain”.

If on August 7 the NPP Congress vote Nana Akufo-Addo [and I know insha Allah they will] they will be giving back to Ghana the opportunity to recover from the present failures of the NDC administration. A man whose eloquence, command of the English and French languages, and powerful negotiation skills made him a brilliant choice to implement President Kufuor’s diplomatic initiatives, the successes of which are self-evident. Nana Akufo-Addo is a small man by stature, simple by all standards but his courage, level headedness and resilience of purpose is without comparison. Ghana needs his nature, his qualities and his maturity to move forward. The NPP will not make a mistake. We have never made a mistake in the past and we will not.

It is my humble wish that the party delegates on August 7 will find in themselves the will for NPP to triumph over the weakness of the NDC administration by choosing Nana Akufo-Addo as its Flagbearer. This choice must be done devoid of any emotion, tribal biases and intimidations. Selling Nana Akufo-Addo to Ghana, a country he has dedicated his entire adult life to shape and build with all the democratic forces will be the easiest task for NPP. A Nima boy, schooled at Kinbu, a footballer in his youth, a fluent speaker in Twi and Ga, they do not come as common a background as that. He was born in affluence, no doubt about that, but he was brought up in the most humble form to prepare him for this test.

Harry Jonson Aggrey