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Opinions of Monday, 13 April 2009

Columnist: Amoako, Maxwell

Losing The Election

by Maxwell Amoako

Any democratic country would invariably go through elections to elect its leaders. All political parties for this reason must craft a manifesto as basis of its agenda to ameliorate the ills of society, jumpstart the economy of the country and provide a better tomorrow for the electorate.

However, incumbent governments more often than not have been complacent with governance. They take things for granted and conclude that the governed would almost always support their programs and vote for them. They only realize they are wrong when they unfortunately have lost the elections.

Did the New Patriotic Party become a victim of this phenomenon? What went wrong for a government that was seen by some Ghanaians to be systematically developing the country? Providing a good Bus System (Metro Bus Transport) to help access easy transportation and reduce fares for the people, install a National Health Insurance Service to make health care affordable to all, support families by the provision of a hot lunch to school children, assisting pregnant women to deliver babies at State Hospitals and Clinics without any further costs to them are some few good things amongst many things that the NPP government put in place. With all the foregoing should the NPP have lost eight (8) regions of the ten regions in Ghana.

1.1 FACTIONS WITHIN THE NPP The ultimate goal for each political party contesting an election is to present their most formidable candidate within the party to stand as flag-bearer or parliamentary candidate to win elections for them.

Some individuals in recent past have intimated that seventeen (17) presidential aspirants for the flag-bearer ship of the NPP party were too many. My take on the matter is simple. Every individual registered member of the party must be allowed to run for any office in the party when they think they qualify for the said position. The electorate or is it delegates of the party in their congresses have the final word.

America arguably appears to be the crown jewel of democracy and can teach a lesson or two in this direction. In 2004, the Democrats fielded ten candidates for President in their primaries and John Kerry finally won. In 2008 their number reduced to eight, namely, Barrack Osama, John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, Joseph Biden, Dennis Kucinich, Christopher Dodd and Mike Gravel. Barack Obama won. The Republican Party for 2008 also presented ten candidates during their primaries for president and John Mc Cain finally won. No rules were made to restrict numbers. People left the race individually when they concluded they were short of cash or no longer viable in the race. Once a nominee was found all rallied behind the candidate.

Ghana can learn from the United States of America. The NPP party could amend its constitution and hold early congresses. This is to enable them elect its leaders quickly and allow for ample time for healing for those who were bruised during the primaries.

In Ghana, the delegates chose Nana Akufo-Addo at Congress but did all rally behind him? The president at the time, Mr. Kufour, who was the defacto party leader, had a pivotal role in ensuring that all supported the new elected leader. Mr. Kufour’s open and blatant support for Allan Kyerematen, one of the presidential aspirants did not help matters. It brought in its wake tribal sentiments being expressed by party members. Many rightly or wrongly believed the president wanted to superimpose his surrogate on the party to be able to manipulate the next government if his party won the election and this infuriated many as it created the Kufour/Allan faction versus the Nana Addo faction.

Another area worthy of note was the imposition of parliamentary candidates by some National Executive Office holders on the electorate. What happened in Bekwai, Suhum and other places was unfortunate and must not be repeated. The interest of National, Regional and Constituency executives in any constituency must not hold sway over that of delegates/electorate. Executives would have their say and the electorate should have its way.

Wasn’t it embarrassing for the NPP after the elections to plead with its own members who due to frustrations from the party had gone independent (solo) and won parliamentary seats to vote with the Minority. Imagine what would have happened if these successful independent candidates were enticed by the NDC government with juicy ministerial positions? This would have occurred on the watch of arrogant executives who did not care about the sensibilities of the electorate as they were “Monarchs” in any constituency.

Again, rumors abound that some executives at the National level did not get along and were working at cross purposes. If these allegations were true, they were worrying as they were instructive as they in no small manner helped to strangulate the effort of the party in coordinating its agenda at the local constituency level. If executives really understood the goals and battles ahead why should Mr. A not speak with B?

1.2 PERCEIVED NEGATIVE ROLES OF THE PRESIDENT One unfortunate perception that gained currency with the body politic was the perceived negative impression that the president Mr. J. A. Kufour secretly worked against his own candidate.

This assertion was buttressed by the fact that the president chose to honor Prof. J. E. A. Mills, the most formidable opposition candidate with the highest State Award in an election year. No one can gainsay the fact that the learned professor deserves an award. On several occasions he averted bloodshed, chaos and anarchy in the nation when he conceded he had lost elections. But did the president have to reward this exemplary behavior during an election year?

Naming J. J. Rawlings and Kojo Tsikata for similar awards made many believe that the president had lost his focus. What did he want to achieve by rewarding persons who were architects of a revolution that killed and maimed many innocent Ghanaians? Was it to serve as a quid pro quo in the future to guarantee his safe retirement? Was it prudent to award JJ Rawlings whilst prosecuting his wife at the law courts? Your guess has always been very good and I am not about to fault your judgment now. This faux pas was unpardonable.

It is also alleged that Mr. Kufour did not put in much effort in Nana Addo’s campaign and that he entered at the penultimate stage. Whilst it could be argued that one cannot compare the role Jerry Rawlings played to elect Prof. Mills to that of a sitting president, party members expected Mr. Kufour to have delegated some international functions to the Vice President to enable him assist the campaign. Many think his effort then would have paid off and more than compensated the rough deal being meted to him by the NDC now.

The president enunciated “Zero Tolerance” of corruption at the early stage of his administration. His administration appeared (and I am choosing my words advisedly) to have played lip service to this mantra. His cabinet appears to be the best Ghana has witnessed in the last century. Whatever happened to Mr. Safo Marfo at the Education Ministry when he side-stepped the Public Procurement Law 2003 Act663 in the procurement of materials? Whatever happened to Dr. Richard Anane when he was remitting his mistress in the United States several thousands of US Dollars and had been indicted by CHRAJ? Let me concede that the courts later exonerated him but should the president have kept his job for fourteen months without any replacement?

2. ELECTORAL SYSTEMS IN PLACE MUST BE OVERHAULED

No country in the world can boast of a system which is perfect and devoid of anomalies. Even the United States of America had its “Florida”. However, it is incumbent of governments to reduce fraud and deceit in elections to its barest minimum. If loopholes are not closed but exploited to the advantage of the ruling part, you would sooner rather than later realize that your opponent is also cheating and taking similar advantage when they have gained power.

The country should be able to sit with its donor partners to help it procure and acquire Electronic Digital Equipment for conducting free, transparent and fair elections. Whilst this might be an expensive venture, it would in the long run reduce fraudulent practices associated with politics in Africa.

The incidence of accusing the Electoral Commission not procuring the appropriate indelible ink for application on the day of the elections to favor one of the contending parties would be a thing of the past. Returning Officers who compromise their neutrality at Polling Stations because of mercenary reasons would not be able to exercise their diabolical acts.

The need for adequate security at all Polling Stations cannot be over-emphasized in any election. It was laughable to read and hear the ruling government complaining to the populace that its polling agents in some parts of the Volta Region were not allowed to supervise elections in that region Who was in charge of security? Was it the opposition parties or the government? Macho men with brute force should not have their way. Sufficient security would ensure that ballot boxes won’t be collected at will and the peoples wish won’t be torpedoed.

3. GOVERNMENT POLICIES AND PROGRAMS MUST BE SENSITIVE TO THE ELECTORATE

3.1 PROCUREMENT OF AEROPLANES FOR THE NATION. The NPP government did not accept the purchase of an aero-plane by the NDC. The party felt the previous administration had not come clean on the subject matter. Thus, the NPP refused to fly the plane for several years. The president then flew commercial flights on his international trips to signify that the nation could do without the plane and perhaps the more urgent needs of the country must receive attention.

At what stage did Ghana observe the need for these planes? Could it have waited for the time when the nation’s finances had received a clean bill of health? When oil revenues are in and we could easily afford it? This situation caused people to believe that the government was frivolous in its spending and not considerate of the teeming masses below the poverty belt. Timing was of the essence here. Prof. Mills has already indicated to parliament that his government would review that purchase.

3.2 THE BUILDING OF JUBILEE HOUSE (PRESIDENTIAL PALACE) The Indian government was kind enough to grant the Ghanaian government Sixty (60) Million US Dollars some few years back. Out of this amount thirty (30) million dollars was a grant to build a presidential palace.

Whereas many argued against the project, it can be debated that this was a grant to the government and was not coming at any further cost to the nation. Architectural drawings and top personnel for this project was to be provided by India. It was therefore understandable that the Indians had calculated everything and put the total grant for the said project at USD$30M.

It was therefore unfortunate when the former Chief of Staff, Mr. Kwadjo Mpianim appeared before parliament and could not account for what the government had put into the project. The initial amount of USD$30M supposed to have completed had escalated into several millions of dollars. It kind of gave the electorate the notion that something fishy was on-going with the president’s tacit approval. How could a government of “Zero Tolerance” of corruption not be able to account for the public purse it had used?

3.3 PURCHASE OF GA LANDS/ GOVERNMENT BUNGALOWS Tribal matters in Africa must not be allowed to snowball. When the Gas without equivocation indicated that they were not happy that their lands were being taken away from them, the NPP should have listened and amicably resolved the issue. The NPP should have been warned when the matter turned political with the NDC promising the Gas that should they win elections any untoward acts by the NPP so far as Ga Lands were concerned would be reversed.

If the thinking of government at that time was that they had done nothing wrong, it devolved on them to adduce cogent arguments to debunk the matter. If the government did something in this direction, they were not successful. The situation was worsened when it was rumored that Achimota Forest was to be sold for commercial activities with our own members, Osafo Marfo, Nkrabea Efa-Dartey and others coming out to say they would oppose government if they went ahead with the plan.

The sale of State bungalows to Obetsebi-Lamptey and others did not help public opinion towards the NPP. If the NDC did that in time past such errors should not have been repeated. Dan Botwe recently criticized all previous government functionaries that procured vehicles from the State. One reason he proffered was that Ministers know where to buy cars and certainly the State must not be one of them. The NPP literally gave the elections away and took the electorate for granted that they would accept every move by government without question.

3.4 REDUCTION OF PETROLEUM PRICES Petroleum prices were regulated by National Petroleum Authority during the Kufour era. When world prices of crude oil dropped, this reflected in local prices of petroleum prices in Ghana and the vice versa was true. However, several months before the 2008 elections, world crude oil prices dropped without a corresponding drop in the country and government assigned several reasons for this.

It was surprising after the government had lost the 7th December election, and in spite of the good reasons that had been put forward earlier, it was now willing to review prices. The only interpretation put across was that the NPP was losing the elections and was now prepared to do anything to reverse their fortunes. It was too late as the NDC pounced on that gimmick to their advantage. Don’t be complacent and take the Ghanaian voter for a ride must be a good lesson to be learnt here.

4. CONCLUSION

To err is human and the party must not cry over spilt milk. Let us correct as many wrongs that we can correct. Mr. Kufour is again pivotal in redressing the balance. He must not be seen to be openly throwing his support behind one of the candidates. He must unite the party and quickly, too and sooner rather than later, this would pay off. The writer has not been able to posit every reason that made the NPP lose the last election, but should we adopt recommendations stated elsewhere in this write-up, I think our party would wrestle power from the NDC in 2012.