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Opinions of Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Columnist: Mayor Agbleze

NDC must have universal membership suffrage now

I am a valid voter, a member of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and a Ghanaian. For now I wish to introduce myself modestly. But I believe those who have eyes for selfless duty and responsibility to the tradition of the party would have spotted the likes of us a few times when it matters the most. Every political party has a tradition, distinct and, or, peculiar ways of doing things. This is evinced in the basic paradigm or framework by which its policies are formulated, activities guided and future shaped. For the NDC, I can only state quite unequivocally what I believe I understand is our wont. The NDC party is the party for the working class and the downtrodden, popularly referred to as the populace, and in the Ghanaian cliché, the grassroots party. It identifies with the Labour Party of the UK, the Democrats of the USA and the United Russia in Russia. Members of the NDC’S appeasement stem from their adherence to the core tenets such as probity, accountability, honesty, service to humanity and love of country. These precepts are put first and above every other consideration in all the endeavours of the Party. In some of the layman’s definitions of the popular concepts of the political discourses; communism is, ‘from each according to his ability and to each according to his need’; socialism is, ‘from each according to his ability and to each according to his deed,’ and capitalism is, from each according to his ability and to each according to his greed.’ I think the NDC is a socialist inclined party. However, upon sober reflection, recent developments within the party and the realization of where those at the helm have driven us to, I do not believe we are where we intended to be since the formation of the party and have not evolved to sustain a mass working class political party. In other words, we have drifted from our core doctrines of probity, accountability, honesty, service to humanity and love of country.

I used to hold steadfast to the view that when honest, diligent, hard-working, determined, and loyal Ghanaians are gathered, that is collectively called the NDC. But what the party have become today is a far cry from what the Founder and the founding members intended for our great party. Today the leadership of the Party at any level does not by conduct, speech and spirit appeal to the potential voter who will turn 18 years old soon in the light of the above.

On this note, I would like to ask a few questions that have boggled my mind for a very long time and beg answers. What is the NDC’s appeal to that potential voter turning 18 years old today, such that we can anchor that young person’s loyalty for a lifetime? What is the NDC’s appeal such that we can awaken and sustain the spirit of voluntarism, the passion of loyalty and the ecstasy of patriotism and loftiness of the party’s philosophy in that young person turning age 18 soon?

Where is the NDC’s shine in the darkness of corruption, the arrogance of power, the bigotry of nepotism and the ruin of kleptocracy?

If June 4, 1979, from whence we came, were we a party in the 1979 elections, we would have scored 90% of the popular votes. I dare anyone to prove that would not have been possible.

By the time the metamorphosis was completed, and our revolution became a political party in 1992, picking excess baggage in the process; that popularity dropped to about 60% in the 1992 election won by the Founder, ex-President J. J. Rawlings. And by the time HE former President Rawlings left Office in 2000, we were heavily defeated at the polls by the NPP. At the end of HE J. A. Kufour’s Presidency, the NPP became generally defined in the mind of most Ghanaians as crony capitalist bunch of buddies, or in a more educated parlance, economically; rent-seeking capitalists. Albeit not the kind of rent landlords ask for.

They called themselves ‘property owning democracy’, a term the experts in the political sciences are yet to put a definition to.

If nobody else saw it coming the Founder did. We fought back from the defeat of 2004, and won the Election 2008 largely due to the empathy of the Ghanaian, who was disappointed in the property owning rent-seeking capitalist NPP and their profligate spending of state resources. We won that election with the humble Asomdwehene HE Professor J. E. A. Mills (May His Soul Rest in Peace). The rest of that chapter has become history.

Today, with HE President John D. Mahama as our leader, the NDC is sick from head to toe. The NDC is seized by a general malaise from brain to brawn. We have lost our lustre completely.

The greatest bane of the Party which has dimmed our shine is the selfishness of the leadership at all levels. This has originated from the structure of the party. From the way the party is funded, through the conduction of intra-party elections to the manner the party governs when elected to govern. All these and associated weaknesses hinge on one, and only one flaw, the electoral college and delegate vote system of the party.

The Electoral College/delegates vote system must go!

We must do away with the electoral college/delegates system totally if the NDC as a party of the honest working class must survive. Not only as a political party, but also with its ideology, identity and character intact and different from the other political parties as white is from black, as light from darkness, and as good from evil.

I am not asking for the expansion of the Electoral College or the delegates at all levels. I am indeed, advocating for the total obliteration of the collegiate system of electing our leadership at all levels.

With all due respect and apology to everyone engaged in the current nationwide consultation at all levels of the party, brainstorming for a change in the structures and processes of the party, and the constitutional reform, I beg to differ strongly on the resolve of the leadership to do a new parallel biometric registration for all party members.

It is utterly unnecessary.

My reasons for opposing such a move are very simple and I have stated them as follows: One, there is already a biometric register compiled by the Electoral Commission for national elections. This data is available to all the parties, including the NDC. The NDC like all the other parties depend on this register for the conduct of the National Elections. This data is public, it is free and it is secure. Secure, because the bi-partisan (or better still multi-partisan) effort and scrutiny made it so. The effort of all the parties and the citizenry made sure we got the best register possible, even on the face of the pink sheets; it remained the primary document of fact and resolve. It is absolutely not practicable for the NDC to convince me that they have the resources to conduct a cleaner, incorruptible and regularly updated register than the Electoral Commission’s Biometric Register.

Secondly, the party cannot afford it. I hear it is being proposed in some circles that the huge cost of the party biometric registration be borne by the card bearer or the party member.

This is clearly a drawback to where we are now. By this means, some few opulent and unscrupulous individuals within the party would fund the biometric registration for members in exchange for their support and loyalty. The party must use the EC’s register alongside a simple pen and paper party membership registration, and the ordinary membership card as we already have.

Thirdly, for statistical purposes, we would need a reliable data. Extracting membership from the EC data is easy and simple and at relatively no cost at all. The party can use this data for all its planning, projections and analysis free of charge, and at the greatest advantage of using live EC data. On the other hand, the party’s own biometric register can NEVER be congruent with the EC register, NEVER. This basic flaw would undermine ALL planning, projections and analysis using the party’s data, as it will not and cannot correlate with the Electoral Commission’s dataset.

If the primary business of the party is to win elections organized by the EC, then no other data set is best suited for this objective than the EC’s Biometric Registration data set.

Point number four, to be able to win elections decisively; we need to ‘energize the ground’. If the NDC is truly by intent, deed and purpose the party for the ordinary Ghanaian, then we must consider anything less than 60% of electoral votes a failure. All poverty surveys show that more than 80% of Ghanaians are poor! And that is our support base. These people look up to the Party to better their lot, every time they go to the polls, but so far we have let them down.

We must keep the ground fertile, vibrant and growing. The party’s lustre and allure must constantly attract the young voters as they turns 18 as light attract flies in all the slums, the zongos, the korpes, and in all kurasis.

The poor and the downtrodden would always be with us that is what the sages say. Therefore, our Party would always have the core duty as a social democratic party to constantly reward them equitably for their hard work, ensure they have social, economic and legal justice, prepare them for achievable hopes and aspirations and deliver without fail on our promises to them. No other party must do this better than the NDC!

Making party membership cheap, easy and accessible is one of the surest ways of achieving this object. My fifth point. I am not aware of a single constituency of the party which is financially sound and accountable. Most of the constituency executives continue to be leeches on the MPs or party “big men” before, during and after elections, thereby perpetually selling their rights, responsibilities and authority for a pittance.

Success at party executive positions can be measurable at all levels by a multi-dimensional weighted index. In that way, we can get rid of non-performing party executives at all levels based on real scientific data. Human resource management has since the advent of ICT and the capability of computers to handle multi-parameter simulations and iterations, have been able to assist professionals in human resource practice to clearly discern between personality A and B for specific tasks and assignments. The current bandwagon externalities in which party executives in bourgeoisie laissez-faire, engaged in trying to outdo one another in claims as to who pulled the magical strings for the NDC’s success in 2012, smack of a system without order, to wit a system falling apart with the centre, clearly misfit to direct affairs. Such a system cannot be replicated or refined and therefore not useful for a living organization like a political party.

Advancing my argument to the sixth rung, by making universal membership suffrage a pillar of the party, the simple pesewa coins, indeed the widow’s might for many core members of the party, which are collected as dues and donations at the ward and constituency levels would be properly accounted for. This process will nurture leaders who would have learnt to be penny wise straight from the grass roots. The party is in dire need of honest and accountable leadership.

On the seventh rung, when I was ‘conscientizing’ my Democratic Youth League of Ghana (DYLG) pupils some decades ago, I thought them as I know it then that the religious groups (like the church) or the party are the same in many respects but differ in only one thing. The party works to deliver a better life (Ghana) here on Earth, while the religious groups work to deliver a better life hereafter in Heaven. Today Churches are growing by leaps and bounds because almost every day they have attractive activities to sustain their memberships and attract new ones. What do we see of our grassroots party? Perhaps, the enthusiasm would be resurrected in another electoral cycle when an amorphous machinery will be put together to raise the cacophony to a deafening crescendo. A new set of Toyota V8s are released in a frenzy of a safari called ‘campaign trail’ crisscrossing each other on the rain guttered roads, blowing dust into our humble hamlets. Finish. Quod est in omnibus. Where do we, the Ghana Living Standard Survey (GLSS) certified poor Ghanaians, connect? Where is our handle? How do we contribute? Who will recognize and reward our widow’s might in our very own grassroots party?

Not only are the aforementioned of serious concerns. My eighth point is that I have heard some party big wigs say the biometric registration is needed to ensure that true party members are identified. They have missed the point by a distance measured in light years! A grass root party membership is not identified by the construction of the alphabet on a piece of card. Why can’t we learn from the various examples around us? How are we able to differentiate the Muslim, Catholic and the Buddhist in society? The answer is not far-fetched - by their everyday life which translates into their faith and worship in the communities and wherever they congregate.

Same for a grassroots party! A biometric registration, with a GSM/GPS card will not ensure that the party membership is not infiltrated by those who are bent on doing so. But it will certainly put the hurdle of membership too high for the grassroots that we must depend on for electoral victory. It will alienate the grassroots from fully participating and contributing their quota to the Party. In that skirmish, they will lose their rights and authority to check the headship of the responsibility and authority entrusted thereon as it is happening now, but only made worse.

Ninth, without a universal membership suffrage, a few stinking money bags would hold the fortunes of the party to ransom and pollute the system with corruption, greed and avarice. The Economist Magazine in it issue March 15, 2014 edition rendered crony corruption succinctly.

Crony corruption is the special type of money-making: ‘the sort made possible by political connections. This can range from outright graft to a lack of competition, poor regulation and the transfer of public assets to firms at a pittance. Well placed people make their fortunes this way as rulers issue profitable licenses, permits and contract to their cronies’. In Ghana, the system has developed into a class of robber-barons, who are in turn fuelling and greasing party machinery.

This relationship between our crony-democratic leaders and the bourgeoisie have created a lawless nouveau riche who have lost all respect for the poor, the laws, the society and even the party that supports them. Today, what do we see after each primaries? Disgruntled candidates are coerced or compelled to submission, with the promise or perhaps the hope of some other fortune in the party. Some brave ones dared go solo and have won gallantly. Notable examples include HE James Victor Gbeho in 2000. What happened between the Party Executives in Ashaiman and those who vote for the Party in that Constituency in 2000 is noteworthy for the textbooks. At this juncture in 2000, the Party Executives and Delegates failed to identify the choice of the Party’s Electorate for a parliamentary candidate between Hon. Franklin W.K. Aheto and Hon. Alfred Kwame Agbesi. And as it is usually rendered beautifully in my native Ewe, when two dogs fight over a bone, it becomes a trophy for the chicken. The NPP’s Emmanuel Kwesi Teye won the seat without sweat. Many of these things readily come to mind, for brevity I have mentioned but these two. These situations however have developed deep seated acrimony between the ‘endorsed candidates’ and the ‘refusenik candidates’ and their followers to this day. The result today is that the structures of the Party have developed widespread fractures at all levels that the leadership is wishing would heal naturally. Alas!

A universal membership suffrage would cement these fissures, and not only that, it would never happen again. If candidates are beaten at a free fair universal membership suffrage poll, you can stay put and count on better days ahead.

The only means to keep this tinder box from the powder keg is to give universal membership suffrage to the people at the least cost possible. And that must happen now. Abolish party congresses completely and totally.

A universal membership suffrage would heal these wounds, and not only that, it would never happen again. If a candidate is beaten at a free fair universal membership suffrage poll, he or she will just stay put and hope for better luck in days ahead. It would become fool hardy to go independent!

The tenth point, neither my last nor the least, but to be brief and allow others join the discourse to enrich the debate, may I pose a question? What is the value of an NDC membership if such a person is not a valid Electoral Commission voter? Nothing before and after the decimal point, period! Such people will not go and queue like you and me, but when the party is elected into power, they would be the first on the corridors of power. Free riders. We see them around. Riding in huge ex-government Land Cruisers bought at a trifle! Is that the kind of situation my party wants to perpetuate? In the 2012 election for example, I know some few party big people whose wards were not around before and during the elections. But soon as the results were announced, they flew down, made a beeline to the GETFUND to submit their applications and others to have their scholarships renewed. Can we sustain the party like this?

My proposal is simple. The basis for the qualification of NDC membership is a valid Electoral Commission’s Voters Identity Card.

So when one turn 18, and have attained the voting age, that person must register with the EC and obtain a voters identity card. The EC would update its biometric register accordingly and our electronic copy of the same data is updated in tandem, at no cost, no pain and no hustle. That card is then brought to the pen and paper guys at the Ward/Zone/Constituency and your name is entered into the book of the Party. Pay your dues, make donations you can afford on fair weather days, participate in party activities, evangelize the party, hold your officers and executives accountable and participate in all elections.

So said, every party member is verifiably at least an EC voter to start with. Other benefits are abound, too numerous to count, and I hope my dear reader, that I have succeeded in putting your mind in that direction.

If we can simulate the national vote by universal membership suffrage, we would be able to greatly reduce spoilt and rejected ballots very much in our favour.

Mangaana yakaari

Thank you.

Mayor Agbleze

agblezemayor@yahoo.com