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Opinions of Monday, 16 August 2021

Columnist: E. G. Buckman

NPP @ 29: Setting some pertinent records straight for the sake of posterity

By the grace and mercy of the Almighty God, some of us are alive to witness the 29th birthday of the New Patriotic Party in this Fourth Republic. It has been an interesting rollercoaster journey thus far. I doff my hat for the brave and committed founding members and grassroots members who withered the storm of intimidation, harassment and victimization to ensure that the vision of our forefathers to see Ghana develop in freedom was not lost in history. I also mournfully doff my hat for all the gallant departed Patriots. May their patriotic souls rest in peace.

The 29 years have been years of myriad experiences - struggles, perseverance, triumphs, defeats, heartbreaks, betrayals, disappointments and mistakes, to mention but a few. Some of us have been fortunate to have scored 29 out of the 29 years. Others are yet to score pass marks, but the most important thing is that all of us continue to share a common vision that needs to be managed and steered properly so that we don’t veer off the road like others have done.

Moving forward from 29, the party should be careful not to fall into the temptation of creating demigods in the party. The ownership of the party should be made to remain at the grassroots from where the party draws its strength and essential nutrients to grow to remain relevant and competitive. This means taking a very good care of the grassroots by having sustainable support programs for them.

Besides, the party should find a legitimate way to break the culture that allows only the highest bidders to have their way to lead the party. This culture has been the cause of confusion and division in most constituencies. As it has proven to be the case, most of the highest bidders lose elections because they are mostly people who don’t really have strong connection with the constituency they seek to represent.

Now, to the owners of the party, I write this article to throw light on some pertinent issues that have been kept in the dark for a long time. Some people in the party have made it their strategy to make Alan Kyerematen, a distinguished founding member of the party, look bad in the eyes of party members whenever there is presidential primary to be contested. In the run up to the party’s 2023 presidential primary, they have resurrected their wicked strategy once again to mislead and misinform the uninformed in the party. And, truth be told, their malicious strategy has worked for them over the years.

In response to their malignant strategy that seeks to malign Alan’s hard-won reputation in the party, I have been compelled to write this article to set certain records straight. And, as I always do in my articles, I boldly and frankly present to you nothing but verifiable truths and facts, so bear with me good people of the party. Perhaps after this article, those who describe me as Alien in their article would revise their notes about me. Let’s start from the 2007 Legon Congress.

In 2007, at the Legon Congress, Mr. Alan Kyrematen, wisely and magnanimously allowed Nana Addo to lead the party, for the sake of fostering peace and unity in the party, despite the fact that Nana Addo could not obtain the required 50% plus one votes at the Congress. What Alan gave Nana Addo that day was a priceless political gift. Anyone who was around saw how Nana Addo cherished and appreciated that wonderful gift from his friend. I wish people would get to watch the video of Nana’s speech on that day to hear what he told Alan, to appreciate what I am talking about.

What we need not forget is that it was within Alan’s right to let the second round take place and, if he had allowed that to take place, anything could have happened. The election could have gone either way. Now, let me share with you something very interesting. When Alan took that bold and wise decision to let Nana Addo lead the party for the 2008 election, one of the first people who called him to congratulate him was the late Prof. Evans Atta Mills, may his humble and gentle soul rest in peace. The late Prof. may have been intrigued by that wonderful decision.

Interestingly, as fate would let it happen, the late Prof. also found himself in a similar situation with Nana Addo in the 2008 election, as Nana Addo led him in the first round with 49.3%. Ironically, Prof Mills, the Asomdweehen, didn’t say for the sake of fostering peace (asomdwee) in the country, Nana Addo should be made the winner, as Alan had done. At that point, Prof. Mills knew it was 50-50, so he went ahead and contested the second round and surprisingly won the election against Nana Addo.

Do you know what that tells me? Perhaps Alan Kyerematen could have also won if he had contested the second round with Nana Addo. But, as he himself has said, he did what he did in order not to further deepen the division in the party so that the party could go into the 2008 election with a united front. It’s unfortunate how some people in the party have malignantly chosen to forget that singular significant decision of Alan that saved the party.

I am glad he himself said in an interview with Paul Adom Okyere that he hasn’t regretted doing what he did to save the party. It was such an expensive sacrifice. But, with the wisdom of the hindsight, was it worth it? Yes, it was worth it, even though some people wish it could be obliterated from the history of the party. Thank God there are good people in the party who still remember it.

Contrary to what many have misleadingly sought to portray to destroy Alan in the party, his support for the party and, for that matter, Nana Addo in 2008 elections was quite enormous. I think one day the President should tell the good people of the party, particularly those who are still blaming Alan and Ex-President Kufuor for the 2008 defeat, what they did for him and how he appreciated the myriads of supports he received from them.

As Alan Kyerematen had promised to do when he magnanimously lifted Nana Addo’s hands to lead the party, he went all out to support the candidate. You see, what people should understand is that joining the campaign was nothing compared to the sacrifice he had made at the Congress. So, even in the face of blatant persecution of his supporters, he still joined the campaign and went all out to support Nana Addo.

In fact, Alan personally called and spoke to some of us who had been unjustifiably disqualified to throw the pain out of the window and follow his example to go all out to campaign for the party to win the election, which we gladly did. We really gave our all and fought hard. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as expected, as so much self-inflicted harm had already been done.

We couldn’t break the eight in 2008 as a result of our own internal political pettiness. We didn’t lose the 2008 election because of President Kufuor or Alan Kyerematen, as some people have disingenuously presented it out there to destroy their political reputation. Neither did we lose the election because 17 people contested, as some people erroneously claim. In fact, the campaign activities of the 17 candidates rather gave some impetus to the party’s political activities at the grassroots. We need to tell the true story as it is so that that unfortunate experience can become a useful guide to the party’s future decision-making process.

What made us lose in 2008 was the unnecessary disqualification of parliamentary candidates who had supported Alan Kyerematen in 2007 Congress. I happened to be one of the disqualified candidates, so I know what I am talking about. I remember telling candidate Nana Addo and Chairman Peter Mac Manu in separate meetings why the party would lose the Cape Coast seat to the NDC should they disqualify me.

At the time, all the people who were contesting the primary with me had lived most of their lives in Accra and, as a result, had no strong connection with the party at the constituency level. So, there was no way any of them could win the election at the time. Cape Coast politics has its own peculiar dynamics and what they were doing to me was going to have only one outcome – defeat.

I told them! In fact, I told all the National Executives of the party in a meeting at the party’s National Headquarters. Mr. Peter Mac Manu, Nana Ohene Ntow, Laud Commey, John Boadu and the rest would bear me out on this one.

From every indication at the time, most of them were more interested in disqualifying me than winning the seat. In fact, one of the Central Regional Executives who was part of Nana Addo’s campaign team in the region even said that if by disqualifying me, the party would lose the Cape Coast seat, so be it. Well I was one of the main guys in charge of Alan’s campaign in the region, so, you can understand where he was coming from.

Eventually, as they did to other Alan supporters, I was disqualified without any reason. In my disqualification letter, which I received after the primary had been done, they only said the reasons for my disqualification could not be stated in the letter and, that I was not permitted to contest the primary. Of course they couldn’t have stated that they were disqualifying me because of my support for Alan Kyerematen. This was how they treated a second-term Constituency Youth Organizer who had contested the party’s parliamentary primary four years earlier with Honourable Christine Churcher and lost narrowly to her.

And, do you know what they did? Interesting things do happen in politics. The announcement for the primary was made on Friday night and the primary itself was conducted on Sunday. They did that because they feared I would go to court to stop the election. They did all that just to lose the seat to the NDC. It is significant to note that the NDC didn’t only take the seat from us; they also won the presidential election with 55.88% against our 44.12%. I am talking about a constituency President Kufuor (as he then was) had won easily in 2004 with 56.97% against Prof. Mills’ 41.83%.

I remember when all of us (the disqualified candidates) met candidate Nana Akufo Addo (as he then was) in his office then at Ridge No. 16, opposite Electoral Commission office, upon his invitation through one of his special assistants at the time, Mr. Obiri (now a Chief), among other things, I told him that his presidency was more important than me becoming an MP so he should allow the parliamentary primary to be conducted again.

Unfortunately, he didn’t allow that to happen, even though a high-powered meeting, of which he was part, had agreed that those affected constituencies should have their primaries rerun. The information I had at the time was that the high-powered meeting was necessitated by National Security reports that had come to the President’s table from those troubled constituencies. Those reports indicated that the party risked losing some seats as a result of the needless disqualifications that had taken place.

If you could remember, Shaba, who had also been disqualified, disregarded Nana Addo’s admonition and went ahead to contest as an independent candidate and won the Nkawkaw parliamentary seat. The sad news was that the party lost significant fortune of presidential votes and parliamentary seats that year as a result of the unnecessary disqualifications. One of the constituencies was Tain, which happened to be the constituency that ultimately decided the election.

Let me respectfully say this: I have no doubt that if what was agreed on at that high-powered meeting, which was chaired by the Ex-President Kufuor and was attended by party gurus like late Peter Ala Adjetey, late C. K. Tedam, late Nana Awuku Snr (may their great souls rest in peace), candidate Nana Akufo Addo, S. A. Odoi-Sykes, Ama Busia, Peter Mac Manu and Kwadwo Mpiani as the secretary, had been allowed to run without interference from the presidential candidate, the party would have maintained its majority in parliament and would have won the 2008 elections hands down, either in the first round or second round.

Let it be mentioned that in the 2020 elections, similar disqualifications and poor handling of parliamentary primaries cost the party some significant fortunes, except that the cost wasn’t as devastating as that of 2008, even though the party lost the Speakership to the NDC as a result. I don’t know who would have been blamed if the party had lost the election as a result.

So, those who still blame the Ex-President Kufuor and Alan Kyerematen for the party’s defeat in 2008, these are some of the facts I felt you need to know. You may want to continue with your unfounded malignant accusations against them to look bad because that strategy has worked for you over the years. But, I can assure you that this time it wouldn’t fly.

Let’s not distort the history of the party in favor or against anyone. I have a lot more to say, but I intend to make it short for now. Perhaps the right time would present itself for more to be told. Any party member who is interested to know the truth can fact-check everything I have said from the names I have mentioned herein. I never lie in my articles.

I remember prior to the second round, President Kufuor (as he then was) sent one Auntie Naana, who I was told, was the wife of the famous Blay Meizah (late), to Cape Coast to come and call me to the Castle so we could discuss how we could win the Cape Coast votes in the second round. However, when we got to the Castle, the President had left for Sunyani to attend to an urgent assignment, so I was made to deal with Ambassador D. K. Osei, who was then the Secretary to the President.

I can say on authority that the old man (the Ex-President) did all he could, but as I have said, the harm had already been done by those persecutions and disqualifications and, as a result, all the efforts yielded no fruits. For now, I wouldn’t want to go beyond this point on this one.

The late Prof. Mills painfully defeated Nana Addo in 2008 simply because, through our own avoidable mistakes, we marginally fell short of the required 50%+1 votes, and the NDC had won the majority in parliament in the first round. So, Ghanaians thought it would be good for the country if they formed the government.

Prior to the second round, when I was invited by candidate Nana Addo (as he then was) to meet with him again in Cape Coast at Heaven’s Lodge, I found a nice way to remind him what I told him when we met in his office at Ridge in Accra. I remember we both laughed and resolved to work even harder to win the second round. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be.

That day, Mr Kwabena Agyapong, Mr. Boakye Agyarko and a few other senior members of the party were in the room with Nana Addo. We had a hearty chat over breakfast, as it was in the morning. Nana Addo reechoed to me the promise he had given me in his office and I also assured him my full commitment to the second round campaign with my resources. Unfortunately, much as we gave our all, we painfully and regretfully lost an election that could have been won easily. If people can’t be bold to place the blame where it should be, they should leave Ex-President Kufuor’s name and Alan’s name alone.

Fellow Patriots, let’s not make another form of mistake in 2024 and regret later. Let’s not give room to “so be it”. For me, the party has a very rich tradition that should not be broken. With what is currently happening in the country, it wouldn’t be politically prudent to do something that has the potential to break the party’s front.

What I mean to say is that if the party breaks its tradition, it would be extremely difficult to have a solid united front to break the eight years jinx in 2024. The party needs unity more than ever before. I think people should stop fantasizing and bring themselves to the realities of the time. The Ghanaian political market remains very unpredictable, volatile and risky. Therefore, political experimentation is not a thing to be considered. If the 2020 elections unexpectedly proved to be tough and heart-wrenching, the 2024 one is going to be the toughest. There should be no room for complacency and mistakes.

What happened to the party in the 2020 election is not something to be taken for granted. I really don’t agree with those who are saying that the party can present any candidate and win in 2024. The party would need a magnetic candidate who can draw votes from the various identifiable communities and groups in the country. It would take an unblemished marketable candidate to achieve that.

Since politics is about numbers, a simple objective region by region arithmetic and strategic analysis can be done to determine which candidate can easily get the massive votes from the party’s strongholds and the swing regions to win in 2024. This shouldn’t be a difficult thing to do. Economic, religious, ethnicity, political maturity, women and youth factors are some of the significant factors a political party needs to consider in the selection of it’s presidential candidate.

Well, I felt I needed to set some pertinent records straight even as we celebrate our 29th birthday as a political party. No malice intended.

Shalom shalom!