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Opinions of Thursday, 2 August 2007

Columnist: Arthur, Jessica Maame Nyarko

Choosing a Presidential Candidate- Does the NPP really need to look hard?

The NPP once again stands at a cross road in choosing a leader to lead it to the December 2008 election and there is a long parade of candidates vying for the position. What makes the contest very interesting is that they are looking for a leader to replace an already competent leader in President Kufuor. But well and truly the NPP is not looking for any individual who has cash to spend but a visionary who can drive the party’s agenda. In this case they are looking for a thoroughbred in the Danquah-Busia tradition with proven organizational skills, exceptional dynamism, towering political pedigree and unmatched international exposure. They are not looking for novices whose experience in politics fades into insignificance beyond the NPP days but the one who understood the party in its wilderness years like President Kufuor himself, and who has the energy and capacity to drive the Agenda for Change Part III. This is the job description, and the desirable person specifications to go with it are charisma and good luck.

Even before the contest has begun there is media speculation and allegations of a presidential imposition. I would like to disbelieve it because President Kufuor is such a shrewd politician to soil his clean hands in this contest. If there is a truth in this alleged imposition, then it is truly unfortunate and would probably be one of the 'heart and head' conundrums. It would also amount to the worst meddling in politics since Rawlings’ infamous Swedru-declaration which has cost Prof. Mills, the beneficiary, eight years of political life and a probable sixteen. The charge against President Kufuor may not be fair because we know the President’s language when he is faced with the mood of his party. Let’s examine the evidence: At Koforidua, early this year at the NPP Conference, the President clearly stated that the NPP is a conservative party in its set up and therefore after his generation the next generation of leaders should take over. Clearly on top of the list was Nana Akufo-Addo, according to the President. In London recently at the NPP International Conference, news reaching us in Ghana clearly suggested that the President wanted a successor who was mature, experienced, and ability to unite the party. He famously likened the NPP and its agenda with Rolls Royce and said you do not associate Rolls Royce with novices.

It would therefore be inconceivable for the President whose language is for a conservative succession to create and imposition with possibly a novice who he himself, not the party, has created. The Agenda for Positive Change [APC –the good old pill which Ghana needed to heal its aching head] Parts I and II has created leaders for Ghana, hence the array of contestants for the NPP flag bearer, but if you rewind NPP to its foundation days, how many of the contestants were there? The NPP is 15years old now and the names mentioned in dispatches 15 years ago were Hackmann Owusu Agyemang, Yaw Osafo Maafo, John Kufuor, B J da Rocha, Theresa Tagoe, the Late Agyenim Boateng and Nana Akufo-Addo who became the Chairman of Organising Committee. But well and truly the party is older than 15 years and those who understand the ideals of the party should be those whose names are mentioned in dispatches before 1991.

The NPP as a party has a clear agenda which was fashioned into its manifesto called the Agenda for Positive Change. This agenda has been based on the guiding vision of its forebears famously captured by Dr. Danquah as “[The party’s] policy is to liberate the energies of the people for the growth of a property owning democracy in this land, with the right to life, freedom and justice, as the principle to which the government and laws of the land should be dedicated in order specifically to enrich life, property and liberty of each and every citizen”. It is based on this credo that the NPP created The Agenda for Positive Change and chose President Kufour to be its custodian and driver in Part I and Part II. Part III therefore requires someone who has the vision, capacity, experience and the knowledge to drive it on behalf of the NPP. It is for this task that the party is looking in itself for a thoroughbred from its next generation of leaders who can drive the Agenda forward. This Agenda is like Rolls Royce in cars, “you don’t associate Rolls Royce with novices” says the President.

Devoid of all emotions, I would like to humbly suggest that among the array of the good candidates for the NPP flagbearership, Nana Akufo-Addo is someone with the required vision, proven organizational skills, exceptional dynamism, towering political pedigree and unmatched international exposure, who can unite the party and who will easily be accepted by the rank and file of the party and the swing voters”.

Nana Addo has dedicated his entire adult life to fight for the ideals of the Danquah-Busia tradition. In 1977, he was the first person to join General (Okatakyie) Akwasi Amankwa Afrifa to oppose Kutu Acheampong’s attempts to form a one-party state under the guise of UNIGOV. As General Secretary, of the broad-based People’s Movement for Freedom and Justice (PMFJ), he was instrumental in bringing about the downfall of Acheampong. Yet in 1979 when some young people joined the frenzy of the blood curdling AFRC, his youthfulness did not drive him away from his ideals for democracy for Ghana. He continued with his fight for the restoration of multiparty democratic rule to Ghana. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Nana Akufo-Addo used the courts to defend the Constitution, promote human rights, and civil liberties. He conscientised the nation and conditioned her mind for democracy through his Alliance for Change which fought against the PNDC all the way in the 1980s. . He was a founding member of the NPP and nurtured its young organising committee in 1991 and he has never left his drive for change since. If there is one leader of the NPP who has been ever present in politics or the ideals of struggle for change, it is Nana Akufo-Addo. He has dedicated his life to the cause of a truly free and democratic society. He has risked his life, his legal practice and his businesses to ensure that the Danquah-Busia dream did not become still-born. He never cut corners along the way, made no alliances with forces against progress for his own personal gains.

The NPP has never been about individuals. It has always been about ideals and it has pursued this ideal through its God-driven agenda for Ghana. That is why it was prepared to stay in opposition for 30 years and 30 years it struggled together - young and old, men and women. The Party has an asset in Nana Akufo-Addo, who said “historically, currently and in the future, the NPP remains the most credible instrument for Ghana’s development. We have the opportunity and the destiny to dominate the democratic, social and economic development of this country for a generation and more importantly, use that opportunity to bring the real benefits of good governance to every citizen in this country. We need to hold on steadfastly to our enviable tradition of courage, conviction, endurance, patience and hard work that has kept us together and striving purposefully ahead all these years. It is therefore important that the party recognizes the paramount need for unity”.

In 1998, Nana Akufo-Addo challenged President Kufuor for the NPP leadership. On the balance of experience, the party gave the mantle of leadership to President Kufuor to drive the Agenda for Positive Change I forward. He rolled it into action and has superbly steered it this far. The results of good governance, economic stability, freedom of the individual and of institutions and an array of effective social programmes in education, health and public transportation are there for all to see. Nana Addo was graceful in defeat and thereafter dedicated his service to the party and the government of President Kufuor. He was also instrumental in initiating a series of reforms of the legal system and the Ministry of Justice, prominent amongst them being the establishment of the new fast track system. President Kufuor’s first major cabinet reshuffle in March 2003 took Nana Akufo-Addo to the Foreign Ministry. His eloquence, command of the French language, and powerful negotiation skills made him a brilliant choice to implement President Kufuor’s diplomatic initiatives, the successes of which are self-evident. The image of the country has been considerably enhanced during his tenure as Foreign Minister. Effective involvements in Liberia and Guinea Bissau, and the leading role he is playing as a member of the International Working Group (IWG), whose work is helping to restore peace to troubled Cote d’Ivoire, attest to his excellent diplomatic skills which have raised aloft the diplomatic profile of Ghana, not to mention the crescendo in hosting the latest AU summit in Accra.

It is my humble wish that the party delegates in December 2008 will find in themselves the will for NPP to succeed itself in 2008 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, Ga and Hausa, 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. He stood up for the nation in the 1970s [PMFJ], struck a blow for political change in the 1980s [Alliance for Change] and served her in the 1990s [MP] and led her as part of the government in the 2000s [Minister]. He has the capacity and content to beat Prof Mills hands down. He is seen as the man most feared by the NDC.

So is there a real conundrum in choosing him? I DON’T THINK SO.



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