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Opinions of Friday, 18 April 2014

Columnist: Ata, Kofi

Did Nana Akufo-Addo Stab Jake in the Back?

By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK

The NPP National Executive Election contest is over, done and dusted until after the 2016 general (presidential and parliamentary) elections. It’s the results and the voting dynamics of the elections, particularly the two most senior and powerful positions and their implications for the future that are the subject of analysis for this brief article.

The posts of National Chairman and General Secretary were the most sought after and perhaps, next to the Flagbearship in the Party’s leadership hierarchy. The contest for the two positions became more exciting as the incumbents who were standing for re-election were seen as from the Akufo-Addo camp whilst their most serious competitors were regarded as pro Kufuor camp and perhaps a threat to the Akufo-Addo agenda. I expected a close contest between the two incumbents and the challengers but what was not apparent to me was the impending tsunami for Jake Okanta Obetsebi Lamptey. In fact, if anything, I had envisaged Sir John going down in a potential wipe out and not Jake because he was the worse of the two partners in crime for openly declaring their support for Nana Akufo-Addo to contest the party’s Falgbearership for the third consecutive time soon after the Supreme Court Presidential Petition ruling in August 2013.

According to the results announced by NPP Communication Directorate (see, “Full results of NPP National Executive Elections”, Ghanaweb, April 14, 2014), Sir John obtained a whopping 1, 990 votes, which was 41.8% of the total 4,756 votes, whilst the winner, Mr Kwabena Agyapong gained 2,529 votes, 53.17% of the total votes. This to me was an impressive show by Sir John. I never knew that despite his communication diarrhea which landed him in trouble with the Supreme Court and narrowly avoided prison incarceration for contempt of court, Sir John was that popular with the NPP faithful and grassroots.

What really accounted for Sir John’s impressive performance? It is no secret that Sir John is a diehard fanatic of Nana Akufo-Adoo’s presidential ambition and his third consecutive attempt agenda. For this reason, he realised that any chances of him retaining his post was to tie his apron to the clothes of Nana Akufo-Addo and hoped that Akufo-Addo’s popularity amongst the party faithful and grassroots would secure him a second term and that is exactly why his performance far exceeded expectations. In fact, he has been very ungrateful to the delegates by his allegation that they betrayed him. Anyway, as the saying goes, “a leopard never changes its spots”. Sir John in his characteristic comical verbal disasters is reported to have said “fear delegates not ghosts” and described them as wicked for not giving him a second term. I consider Sir John’s encouraging results at the elections as nothing but a reward for his absolute loyalty to Nana Akufo-Addo rather than his performance as General Secretary for the last four years.

If the above analysis on Sir John is accurate, how come Jake received only 66 votes, just 1.4% of the total votes of 4,738? Was Jake disloyal to Nana Akufo-Addo despite his public support for the third consecutive attempt? Just days to the elections, some newspapers, including the Al-Hajj reported that Nana Akufo-Addo no longer supported Jake’s re-election. This, I believe was a big blow to his attempt to retain his National Chairman position. In fact, the paper went further to claim that Mr Paul Afoko was Akufo-Addo’s preferred candidate for Chairman and that was a big boost to the challenger.

There are more serious reasons why Jake performed abysmally at the elections. First, was the allegation of corruption made against Jake by Kennedy Agyepong, specifically, the allegation that funds and motor bikes he Kennedy Agyepong provided for the 2012 campaign were mismanaged by the National Executive. After Jake denied having received anything from Kennedy Agyepong, pictures of some of the alleged motor bikes parked at the residence of Jake’s Aide appeared in media. This was very damaging for Jake and I believe the party faithful and grassroots considered that as sabotage and a betrayal of Nana Akufo-Addo by Jake.

The second reason was the controversy surrounding the purchase of a ministerial bungalow (which he occupied as a minister under the Kufuor regime) and prime state land by Jake at ridiculously low price, which is now worth millions. The Supreme Court case by two leading NDC members to stop Jake from taking ownership of the state assets also did not augur well for Jake in the eyes of the public, though he won the case. With the publication that Nana Akufo-Addo did not want Jake to be elected the National Chairman, coupled with the two negative incidents, his fate was doomed. In fact, Jake should have bowed out of the contest but as symptomatic of an African politician he deluded himself and soldiered on, hoping against hope. In the end he was humiliated and will take some time for him to recover from the haemorrhage before he could resurrect his political career. I doubt if Akufo-Addo will even consider him for any appointment if he finally becomes president on January 7, 2017. That is, if it is true that Nana Akufo-Addo abhors corruption and is serious about to fighting corruption in Ghana.

In general, what do the voting dynamics or pattern and the outcome portray, particularly, regarding Nana Akufo-Addo’s future ambitions? Though on face value, the victory of Messrs Paul Afoko and Kwabena Agypong is seen by some political pundits as a disappointment for or even threat to Akufo-Addo but hope for Mr Alan Kyeremanteng, I disagree with such conclusion because both Afoko and Agyapong won by claiming to be supporting or have the support of Akufo-Addo. They therefore relied on Nana’s popularity within the party to come to office. For this reason, they risk the anger of the grassroots by working against the most favoured and most popular party member and politician of the moment.

Moreover, NPP is desperate to return to government and cannot afford to suffer a third consecutive presidential election defeat. It is therefore in the best interest of both the new Party Chairman and General Secretary to work with all candidates for the flagbearership in the hope of securing victory in December 2016. Failure to do so and win the presidency for the party will incur the wrought of the party and are most likely to be visited by the same fate as Jake and Sir John, if not even worse in 2017. That is, if they plot against Akufo-Addo and are unable to deliver the presidency, irrespective of who the flagbearer was, the party faithful and grassroots will chase them out of office and not wait for them to be voted out within days of the electoral defeat.

Those who claim the two are part of a 2020 agenda for Alan are also wrong because if they fail to deliver the ultimate price in 2016, they would be swept away and may not be in a position to influence matters after 2016, let alone 2020. I do not doubt that the two are Alan sympathisers or supporters. However, I also believe that the two are more matured politically than Jake and Sir John and would therefore be more circumspect in their modus operandi. They will not openly take sides and show bias towards or in favour of a particular candidate during the flagbearership contest. For the above reasons, the flagbearership contest between Akufo-Addo and Alan Kyeremanteng is on and would be fairer than in 2010.

What are the implications for Nana Akufo-Addo? The results are indication that Nana has lost control of the two leading positions in the party’s National Executive Committee. His remote control manipulation of the National Executive will no longer be effective. This is because both Afoko and Agyapong will assert themselves as independent minded and prove that they are nobody’s poodle. This is not bad news for Akufo-Addo either. In fact, it should be positive for him because if he wins the third contest with Alan, it would be seen as a fairer game than when Jake and Sir John were in-charge since they were regarded as being under the spell of Akufo-Addo.

The voting dynamics are also indicate that though Nana has lost control over the two most important and powerful positions within the party machinery, he has not lost total influence over the National Executive since there are still pro Akufo-Addo members within the National Executive. Another interpretation is that, at worst, he lost his overall influence over the National Executive but still maintains his immense popularity amongst the party faithful and the grassroots. This is manifested by the fact that, almost all the contestants for the various positions campaigned either using his name or pledged to work for him when elected as a means to an end (securing enough votes for victory). In fact, a university lecturer in Ghana described Nana Akufo-Addo as an institution within the NPP. Though I would not go that far, I agree that as an individual politician, Nana Akufo-Addo is formidable not only within NPP but also in Ghanaian politics.

The election of the new National Executives, has thrown up new opportunities and risks for the party as a whole and the two leading potential flagbearership contenders. How the new Executives, the collective party leadership, potential contenders and their close associates manage their own affairs as well as those of the party will go a long way in determining whether the party will be returned to power or not in December 2016. As at now there is a lot to play for, especially, the new National Executives, Regional Executives and potential contenders all have a major role to play in a make or break political journey. For example, how do the new National Executives manage the Regional Executives who trooped into Nana Akufo-Addo’s residence to pledge their support to him soon after his return from his six months holidays in the UK? All and sundry must tread carefully because an open hostility towards or bias in favour of any of the two potential flagbearer contenders could be catastrophic for the party.

Others have posited that NPP will disintegrate if it loses the 2016 presidential election. Again, I disagree with such gloomy prediction because NPP is too big a party to suffer such calamity in the event of a third consecutive electoral failure. However, if Nana Akufo-Addo is the flagbearer and is defeated for the third time running, then, the “institution Akufo-Addo” within NPP as described by the university lecturer will disappear. It will only remain the individual politician, Nana Akufo-Addo. Indeed, those considered to be in his camp or faction will dissert him in droves. On the other hand, should he win the presidency in 2016, the “Akufo-Addo institution” will become more formalised not only within NPP but across Ghana. Nana Akufo-Addo will certainly leave his imprints across the length and breadth of Ghana for a very long time and for generations to come, whether for good or for worse.

This is my brief analysis of the NPP National Executive Election outcome. What do you think? Happy Easter.

Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK