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Opinions of Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Columnist: Ata, Kofi

Is Akufo-Addo’s Landslide Victory now Doubtful?

By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK September 7, 2014

Until Saturday September 6, 2014, I genuinely believed that Nana Akufo-Addo was massively and democratically elected at NNP’s Special Congress on August 31, 2014 and was persuaded that the other contenders, particularly, the main challenger, Mr Alan John Kyeremanten should withdraw to save himself from humiliation. In fact, in a comment on Dr Samuel Adjei Sarfo’s article, I naively compared the insistence of the Alan Team to continue with the race to the proverbial dead goat that is no longer scared of the sharp knife, which would be used to slit it throat (see, “The Call On Alan To Step Down”, Ghanaweb, September 5, 2014). Then, yesterday, I read a statement by the NPP Northern Regional Chairman, Daniel Bugari Naabu and I was gobsmacked (see “Bugri Naabu Investigates Alan's 4 votes in Northern Region”, Ghanaweb, September 6, 2014). I could not believe what I read so I visited Citi FM website and the reports on this subject were worse than what was contained in the Bugari Naabu statement. The objective of this article is briefly to analyse the self confession or revelation by Bugri Naabu relative to the landslide victory, the risk to Nana Akufo-Addo success in 2016 and in the context of its potential national implication for Ghana’s democracy.

I know that this topic is debatable and for that reason fundamentalists from the two main parties (NPP and NDC) will jump to draw their own partisan conclusions without critically analysing the contents of the article. Whilst NPP will accuse me of being an Akufo-Addo hater NDC on the other hand, will without question concur with me. For both, that is none of my goal but I am seeking to analyse and pose questions for further analysis as contribution to deepening democracy in Ghana. Therefore, what I want is objective and honest debate of the issues raised herein.

On Citi FM’s website, there were three other reports on the matter (“NR NPP Members Divided Over Bugri-Naabu’s Threats”, “NR NPP Members Must Obey my Wishes – Bugri Naabu” and “Northern NPP to Smoke Out Four Alan Supporters”). After reading these reports, I was persuaded beyond doubt that, either Bugri-Naabu is a dictator or does not understand the word democracy. He even claimed that “his wishes” should be obeyed because he was democratically elected and yet had the audacity to state in his aforementioned statement that, “I am a democrat and part of a party that believes in democracy. We believe in the right of every individual to exercise their democratic rights”. This man talks and behaves like a Somali warlord or a mafia boss and not a democrat. Indeed, he is a disgrace and a danger to democracy.

Why should the self induced confession or revelation by Bugri Naabu that all delegates swore by the Bible and the Koran to vote for Nana Akufo-Addo for 100% victory for him in the region as was in Upper West cast doubt on Akufo-Addo’s landslide victory? There are different reasons but I will address a few.

First, elections in developing countries, especially, local and internal party elections are full of intimidation, coercion and the use of money and other material benefits including promises of appointments to secure the votes of delegates and voters. Often these acts are perpetrated on behalf of candidates by either the local, regional or national leaders of the party or supporters of the candidates. This is true of local and party elections in Ghana and the last NDC flagbearship contest between the late President Mills and Nana Konadu-Agyemang Rawlings was reminiscent of this.

Second, such intimidatory and even scare mongering tactics are more effective in elections with few voters or delegates as the practice could not be replicated on a national scale with millions of voters. The scare mongering tactics is also most effective with electorate that has strong religious and cultural beliefs and the voters are made to believe that failure to vote as ordered or instructed to do is a religious duty subscribed by the faith, so the use of a religious (holy) book to swore an oath to put fear of death, calamity or a misfortune into them and to compel them to vote in a particular way.

Third, due to the small size of the electorate, the vote of individual delegates is easily traceable and miscreants or recalcitrant delegates could be indentified and punished. In some cases, the least punishment would be a refund or return of any monetary or material reward received in advance but there could be more severe punishment for those who dare disobey the orders of the party officials’ voting instructions.

Four, often, such strategy to secure victory are only discussed within and known to a few die-hard and trusted supporters of the candidates as such plans are against national election laws and regulations as well as against the spirit of democracy and fair play.

Last but not the least, Bugri’s open confession or revelation did not only portray some or all the examples above but his threat to investigate and find those who disobeyed his decree fit the concept of traceability and the consequent punishment. He made the revelation on a radio station that is widely listened to in Ghana and across the world. He knew what he was saying and was not a mere joke as he now wants the public to believe.

Bugri Naabu talks and behaves as if Northern Region NPP is for him and therefore he is above the laws governing party affairs. He also probably believes that he is bove the laws of Ghana and can therefore act as he wishes. In a country where there is high level of indiscipline and near lawlessness with the elite, rich and powerful able to buy their way out, what Bugri Naabu said is not mere threat but was real. It did happen. Those who do not believe that it did happen should wake up to reality.

What is not clear is how widespread was this Bugri Naabu intimidation and coercion tactics as far as the whole election was concerned? It is more likely to be certain that tactics were used in the three northern regions and probably others where Nana Akufo-Addo obtained over ninety percent. It is also less likely that the tactics were used in Brong Ahafo and Volta Regions where Nana Akufo-Addo won by 58 and 55% respectively. Perhaps, they were not confident that they could keep the plan a secret in the two regions, feared being exposed prior to the election or they could not trust their own party leadership in those regions.

What are the potential future implications, if any, for Nana Akufo-Addo in 2016? One wonders if the sole purpose of the Bugri Naabu tactics was to secure an overwhelming victory for Nana Akufo-Addo throughout the country (which was achieved) in order to render the second round as an exercise in futility and therefore compel the other contestants to drop out. If that was the aim, then, with the “yentie obiaa” from the Alan Team, that might have failed. On the other hand, could it be that the Alan Team may also be aware of the Bugri Naabu strategy and therefore believe the scam could not be orchestrated on 45,000 delegates so their intransigence to soldier on despite all the odds against them?

If, and it’s a big if, Nana Akufo-Addo’s landslide victory was secure with duress, intimidation and scare tactics even only in the three regions, was he validly elected? Is that the reason why his supporters are calling on Alan and others to withdraw for him to be acclaimed on October 18 in order to avoid the vote of 45,000 delegates where it would be less likely to be made to swear an oath on the Bible and Koran to vote to Nana Akufo-Addo?

Notwithstanding whatever happened in the Super Delegates Conference on August 31, I am still of the view that Nana Akufo will be crowned NPP Presidential Candidate for the 2016 Presidential Election. However, if his victory on August 31, 2014 was the result of any mafia tactics, whether on small or large scale, with or without his knowledge and blessing or even active participation, even a clean, free and fair victory on October 18, 2004 could have negative consequences for him.

First, the confession by Bugri Naabu whether it was a mere joke or not would make it very difficult for the Alan faction to accept defeat and genuinely offer their support to Nana Akufo-Addo as the flagbearer for 2016. In fact, my view is that the party could be further divided by his confession. Second, if the victory was by what appeared to be fraud, then the very popularity of Nana Akufo-Addo as a candidate among the party faithful is even now questionable. This is because, if that is very solid on the ground, then there would have been no need for such anti-democratic and intimidatory tactics to be hatched and implemented. That is was a sign of fear, desperation or lack of confidence.

Second, with such plan unrealistic to implement on a national scale, especially by an opposition candidate (more likely to be successful by an incumbent government), Nana Akufo-Addo run the risk of being defeated in 2016. This is not only because of the inability to coerce of compel voters on a massive scale to vote for him but because Buri Naabu’s confession could turn away independent voters from Nana Akufo-Addo. In fact, the confession could also damage Nana Akufo-Addo’s credentials as a true democrat who believes in and upholds free and fair elections.

What is the potential implication for Ghana’s democracy? Bugri Naabu’s confession should be taken very serious as it’s a danger to Ghana’s democracy, free and fair elections because it has the potential to cause trouble in 2016 if such tactics are used by any of the two leading parties (NDC and NPP) and especially, in the three northern regions. The confession also brings into question the credibility of Ghana’s elections and electoral system because the NPP’s special delegates’ congress election was supervised by the Electoral Commission under Election Laws and Regulations of Ghana. The confession though has nothing to the work of the Electoral Commission staff who were present it could still cut a slur on the integrity of Ghana’s elections. Again, Bugir Naabu will play a key role in the 2016 general elections. Therefore this should be a matter of concern for all who believe in true democracy and the concept of free and fair elections, even if there is no such thing as absolute free and fair election.

In conclusion the confession or revelation by Bugri Naabu has not only damaged the said election, but puts a question mark on the results as well as damaged NPP’s credential as a party that believes in democracy and Ghana, as the so-called torchbearer of democratic elections in Africa. In the minds of Alan and his supporters, there will always be doubt over the landslide victory of Nana Akufo-Addo whatever outcome of the impending contest.

Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK