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Opinions of Saturday, 28 February 2009

Columnist: Haruna, Mahama

Grooming and Development of Party Youth. Any lessons for the NPP?

I received news of the appointment of young turks in the NDC like Haruna Iddrisu, Mahama Ayariga, Mubarak Muntaka, Zita Okaikwoi, Alex Segbefia, Baba Jamal, Fiifi Kwetey, Alex Afriyie Ankrah and others into responsible positions in the NDC government with mixed feelings.

Even though the list of young men that are likely to be appointed as Deputy Ministers and other positions has not been exhausted as the likes of Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, Omane Boamah, John Jinapor and so on are in line, I am tempted to comment on this development.

In fact the question that came into my mind was whether my party the New Patriotic Party is learning any lessons form this development. I may not be an admirer or member of the NDC but a positive thing one can not take away from the party is it's policy and principles aimed at the development of it's youth. It has always systematically groomed, moulded , and trained it's next generation of leaders. The NDC believe the effective role of it's youth in national development in the future depends on their development today and has therefore always seen the need to build a party that would consider and involve it's youth when it comes to decision making.

The NDC has always worked to bridge the generation gab by including the youth in the governance process of this country when it was in power between 1992 to 2000, and developments so far in 2009 indicate is has not departed from these principles. One may be tempted to say that this policy of developing it's young ones to take over from the older generation has paid dividends for the party in last years election.

Political parties must make investments-pecuniary, material and human resource in their cadre corps so that they could be supported in all ways in their training. In that sense the parties will build a strong pool from which to select future leaders. After all those who will emerge as the leaders would already have been imbued with parties ideals and strategies for governance. They will be better informed about the history and future aspirations of the parties and it will behove them to lift high the banner of their parties.

Thus the parties will save themselves the trouble of having to deal with hitherto unknown but powerful elements who emerge from obscurity to buy peoples conscience to become leaders especially when the parties come to power.

Even before the NDC lost power in 2001, it had already baked its younger generation to take over a struggle to win back power.Mention could be made of Baba Jamal, Haruna Iddrisu, Elvis Afriyie Ankra, Fiifi Kwetey, Kobby Achempong, Rojo Mettle Nunoo and many others who were allowed to operate freely without any obstacles thereby giving them some political leverage. In the National Executive elections of 2002, some of these young men even won positions people doubted they could perform effectively and efficiently. The old bones like Harry Sawyer, Alhaji Mahama Iddrisu, P.V Obeng and others actually allowed these young ones who had the energy, intelligence and drive to operate while taking guidance and wisdom from them.

What about my party the NPP? This was a government that proclaimed it has a vision of equality of opportunities for all party members regardless of age. It also claimed to be a party that does not forget all those who have been part of it's history. There was a perception that those in government did not have the best interest of the party's rank and file at heart. It's youth no longer have confidence in it because of the way they were treated when the party was in governmen.

We are today faced with a situation of disillusionment and apathy. The ability of the youth of NPP to offer intellectual and physical contribution to the governance process was underrated and not recognized. It was a tragedy the NPP needed to correct but failed to do so. A party which has lost the confidence of its youth is a party without a future.

Many of those that can be called 'older generation' hold the view that the youth lack the capacity to engage in any meaningful decision making. Contrary to these stereotypes examples have shown that what the youth lack in experience they make up for in creativity energy and fresh perspectives. The youth possess ideas that relate specifically to their capabilities.

When the NPP came to power in 2000, it was alleged the President J.A Kufour disclosed to close confidants that he did not believe in the wisdom of the youth especially anyone that his son Chief Kuffour was older than. He therefore failed to appoint any of the younger personalities who were part of the history and struggle to win power for the party into any responsible position. I vividly remember the thousands of TESCON members who were sent to parts of the country that were 'unfriendly' to the NPP. Some were harassed, beaten and maimed. The hundreds of youth who worked all over the country have their stories to tell. Mustapha Hamid, Musah Superior, John Boadu, Isaac Asiamah, Boye Laryea and many others with some working on the quiet. The youth were totally left out, a situation I believe affected the party's fortunes in the last election.

What baffles me is the fact that J A. Kufour at thirty two years was made a Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs by then Prime-Minster K A. Busia and I believe this catapulted him into the presidency in later years.

The older generation in the party were ever ready to clip the wings of most the personalities earlier mentioned. The NPP government was handled by these old people some of whom were geroncrats without any input from the youth. During the 2004 elections these young ones never relented in their effort to make sure the party wins again with the hope that things will become better, but after the elections, the trend continued. I do still remember how Mustapha Hamid had virtually lick asses of the powers that be but was rejected as a deputy minister. Mohammed Amin Anta nearly got frustrated lobbying for a deputy ministerial appointment even though these were young personalities ahead of their NDC counterparts presently appointed as full ministers.

The year NPP could have learnt lessons and make amends was in 2008 but alas this was never so. The older ones vowed never to allow the younger ones to 'take over' their party. The likes of Kwaku Kwarteng, Dan Markins Afenyo, Seji Saji, Issahaku Kotomah and many others contested the primaries of their constituencies but lost under bizarre circumstances. The party still needed the Mike Ocquaye's, Hackman Owusu's , Malik Alhassan's and others for reasons I am still expecting answers.

Moreover young Turks like Abu Jinapor, Issahaku Kotomah, Stephen Amoah, Attefa, Protozua etc who wanted to be assertive and visible were described as boys who have over bloated self- images, ambitious, arrogant and boys out-pacing themselves. What makes the situation serious is whether some of our youth will ever be happy with the way they were treated when the NPP was in power.

Using myself as a case study, it surprised many people when I was rejected as District Chief Executive (DCE) for Bole when the position became vacant in 2007 although I was the preferred choice of the rank and file of the NPP in Bole because of my struggle and sacrifices for the party since its formation, but rather went to someone who joined the NPP the day he was appointed as DCE.

In 1992, the NPP in Bole-Bamboi could not mobilize just ten people as delegates to its Congress simply because many people did not want to associate themselves with the party. Although I was seventeen years old and in Secondary School form One I was chosen as delegate because I was already a staunch NPP activist. I was the leader of NPP at my Secondary School and Teacher Training College and after College made Secretary of the the NPP in the Bole-Bamboi constituency. I worked so hard for the party that I stepped on a many toes including those of then member of Parliament and now Vice-President of the Republic of Ghana John Dramani Mahama (who is a distant Uncle). In fact most negative stories about John Mahama originated from me. Even as a student at the Ghana Institute of Journalism, I became a reporter for The statesman' a newspaper sympathetic to the NPP and therefore wrote many stories that were highly critical of the NDC.

As a National Secretary of the National Union of Ghana students (NUGS) in the 2006-2007 academic year and therefore second in command to all Ghanaian students, I realized the motive of Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa who was my President in throwing students onto the streets in support of NDC and to make the NPP unpopular under the disguise of demonstrating against the Representation of Peoples Amendment Bill (ROPAL). I therefore with the help of other students stopped him from using students for his parochial and political interest as well as mischief against the NPP. He engaged in many actions resulting in violence and chaos on the campus of the University of Ghana-Legon. His activities were so dangerous and anarchical that discerning students of the country from the various campuses helped me and we were able to impeach him though he disputed this. May I disclose to readers that I have always admired Okudzeto because I am yet to come across a fighter like him. He is a genius. The wrangling was so intense that it affected most of us in terms of our academic work. I nearly failed to acquire my B.A Degree in Communication Studies certificate although I was one of the brilliant students at GIJ and that perhaps accounted for students reposing so much confidence in me and electing me into numerous positions. I did not write a semester exams for the first time but later sat for it and passed with distinction. I believe Okudzeto would not be regretting what ever happened to him because his party NDC is today utilizing him and I hear he has been penciled for a deputy ministerial appointment. What about me? I am now struggling to make ends meet after putting my life into the hands of my party.

After working so hard for my party, I had so much hope that the party could have recognized my effort by at least appointing me as a DCE.

The NPP is now in opposition and I wonder if it's youth will still be committed to seeing the party come back to power. Anyway I believe this depend to a large extent on the party's general policy towards it's youth and to a less extent on who becomes the next National Youth Organizer.

BY Mahama Haruna- email-maharun1 yahoo.com.

Tel-0243-313-113

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