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Opinions of Thursday, 5 July 2018

Columnist: Eric Bawah

Freddie Blay: The man who picked up and fixed the pieces

When partisan politics was lifted in Ghana after 11 years of stultifying dictatorship, the UP tradition formed the New Patriotic Party (NPP). I was with high hopes that the NPP would win the 1992 elections.

I miscalculated the ability of the NDC, which is an offshoot of the PNDC, to 'rig' the elections. In fact, I thought after suffering so much under Rawlings's regime, Ghanaians would surely vote him out because the country was virtually on its knees begging for change.

In the 1992 elections, we voted for members of Parliament on a different date and the presidential election on a different date. After the parliamentary election, it became abundantly clear that the 'rigging machinery' of the NDC was well oiled; hence the then Presidential Candidate of the NPP, Professor Adu Boahen, called for the boycott of the presidential election. Neither a gun was fired nor a stone thrown.

All that the NPP did was to write a book called 'The Stolen Verdict' in which all the malpractices during the parliamentary election were catalogued. The stuffing of ballot boxes, the beatings suffered by Ghanaians by the commandoes (Rawlings's private army) and the naked and brutal intimidation, among other bad practices, were documented. Mr. Rawlings had his own way to rule the country with the same players who controlled the country during the PNDC era.

Parliament was heavily dominated by the NDC and so they had their own way and mismanaged the economy. The NPP remained patient and strategized for electoral reforms which led to the introduction of transparent ballot boxes and the embossment of pictures on voter ID cards.

Even then the NDC insisted that only voters in the regional capitals would have their pictures on their voter ID cards. In 1996, Mr. John Agyekum Kufuor was elected as the flag bearer of the NPP and the party fought so hard with international support to make sure everybody who was illegible to vote had his or her picture visibly embossed on the voter ID cards.

My hopes were rekindled when we went to the polls but sadly I once again miscalculated the ability of the NDC to 'rig' the elections. Even though we were supposed to be practising a democratic dispensation, the whole thing turned out to be a quasi military regime with the commandoes still active; they took over the polling stations.

Mr. Kufuor lost the presidential election but thankfully the number of Parliamentarians from the NPP camp increased considerably. In 2000, when Mr. Kufuor won the election and was sworn in as the Executive President of Ghana, Ghanaians felt like the Israelites who were brought out of Egypt where they were in bondage.

In 2000, the NPP started yet another agitation when they demanded that the pictures of voters should as well be embossed on the voters' register and it was done because Mr. Rawlings and his NDC cohorts had no choice to challenge that reform since the whole nation supported the idea. The NPP under candidate Kufuor won the presidential votes and went on to get majority in Parliament.

Mr. Kufuor had his eight-year term smoothly and introduced several social intervention programmes which assuaged the suffering of many Ghanaians. As for the 2008 general elections when Nana Addo led the party, I will not blame the NDC for snatching power because the NPP became complacent, thinking that with the good works done by ex-president Kufuor it was going to be easy for the party to win.

During the first round of voting, the people of the Ashanti Region, the power base of the NPP, became more complacent as many of them did not even care to go out there to vote. Ghanaians will never forgive the people of the Ashanti Region for showing no interest in that particular election. It was during the second round that they trooped in their numbers to go out to vote but the harm had already been done.

In the 2012 general elections, my hopes rose to the sky because of the way Ghanaians embraced the promises of Nana Akufo-Addo like the Free SHS, among other juicy campaign promises. Even though the 'war chest' of the NDC was overflowing with 'stolen money' from the national coffers, people stood on their feet and voted massively for the NPP. Eventually, the results had to be decided at the Supreme Court where a split decision gave Mr. Mahama the nod.

As for the 2016 elections, even the founder of the NDC told Ghanaians that from the way the Mills/Mahama duo mismanaged the economy, the NDC would lose the elections.

Albeit every Ghanaian knew the fact that the NPP would win the election, what happened a few months to the election made some of us lose hope of the NPP coming back to power.

A political party in opposition which was cruising to victory suddenly found itself divided when party members started infighting. The party headquarters became a boxing ring following the suspension of the National Chairman, the General Secretary who is the CEO of the party and the Second Vice Chairman. Things went from bad to worse and the centre could not hold.

Mr. Freddie Blay took over as the Acting National Chairman and John Boadu was pushed to take over as the Acting General Secretary. The NDC seized the opportunity to tease the NPP and did not lose any opportunity to tell Ghanaians that an opposition party in disarray could not rule the country if Ghanaians voted for the NPP. That was when Mr. John Mahama who was the sitting president as well as the flag bearer of the NDC referred to Mr. Freddie Blay as “Opana”.

I never heard Mr. Blay responding to the uncouth utterance of the then candidate Mahama. The man proved to Ghanaians that he is well cultured and has good manners and would never go down the gutter to slug it out with anyone. Unknown to some of us, Mr. Blay and his team were picking up the pieces in order to fix what was scattered through in-fighting.

I must confess here that a few months to the election, I was completely devastated because I knew what happened and continued to happen would go against the NPP on Election Day. For your information, since I started writing this column, I first met Mr. Blay in the office with his wife, Madam Gina Blay, who was then managing Daily Guide ; she is now Ghana's ambassador to Germany. Surprisingly, when I met him one more time during his campaign tour of the Brong Ahafo Region, he was able to recognize me and even mentioned my name. I couldn't hide my joy and we hugged for a long time.

Dear NPP delegates

It is not for me to tell you who to vote for when you go to the polls to elect National Party Executives of the NPP. Four years ago, you went to Tamale to elect National Executive members of your party and you know what happened later.

But for the popularity and charisma of Nana Akufo-Addo and the intellectual capacity of Dr. Bawumia in analyzing the state of the economy for Ghanaians to understand the real state of the economy, what I recounted above would have brought the party down. In Tamale, you went as a united party in opposition seeking power.

It was after the party had won power that troubles started brewing in the party. If the captain and his crew members who were able to steer the boat safely in troubled waters are seeking to be allowed to keep the ship afloat, they deserve the nod, don't they?

In the case of the NDC, they went to Sunyani for their delegates' congress with a divided front. The former First Lady, who was then the First Vice Chairperson, challenged her party's sitting President who was vying for the flagbearership position.

The then First Vice Chairperson in the person of Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings resigned from the party to form her own party. Since then things have never been the same again. Today, I do not know what can be done to unite the NDC with Mr. John Mahama and his gang of accomplished losers standing at one side; Rawlings, the founder of the party, standing at the other side and Nana Konadu peeping through the window trying to see what comes next.

Comparatively, the NPP stands tall as far as unity in the party is concerned. There are so many fine flowers in Koforidua where the NPP Delegates' Congress will be held but it is not all the flowers in Koforidua that the people of Koforidua nip in the bud. Similarly, we have many flowers in the NPP but remember one good turn deserves another.

The Akans say if the person who eats crab tells you that he can eat calabash, do not doubt him. Shine your eyes! I, your 'irrepressible' Earth Angel Gabriel, will be hovering in the firmament in Koforidua to have a bird's eye view of whatever will happen there.