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Opinions of Monday, 21 January 2013

Columnist: Mensah, Kobby

NPP vs. the Public Good Argument: Beyond the Courthouse

In the past couple of weeks we have been left stranded as people, as party supporters, as voters, as political observers, as a nation and even to some, as party managers on what will really happen at the Supreme Court when finally the NPPs electoral petition is heard. Beyond the claims of who did what, or didn’t do what, no one knows what the judges would say. Not even the judges themselves, frankly. Over the past weeks, people have all tried to juxtapose their views with some kind of logical arguments to draw conclusions on the case, and how it is likely to pan out in the Supreme Court. But the bulk of what has been considered logical in most of these arguments, positions and conclusions are value-laden; tainted by the authors’ own interests in the case in one way or the other. Hence, we can’t say for certain that their views are what would prevail at the D-day. Therefore, I just want to look beyond the courthouse. Let me point out here that my views have no legal foundation as I speak as a lay person with no legal expertise. It is also value-free, as I stand to gain nothing but the fulfilment of a mental exercise, and most crucially adding to the documentary evidence on how rich the country’s political culture has grown to become that even as ordinary as some of us are, we could still contribute to a political discourse hitherto preserved for the elites in society. I am, like majority of Ghanaians, looking at things purely as an audience of a “political pantomime” that has been unfolding over the past weeks.

I want to look at the implications of the first ruling; the NDC’s joinder application, and its symbolism for a possible NPP victory or otherwise of the substantive case before the courts? Would ‘the 22-01 ruling’ offer momentum to, or stall the NPP agenda? If the former is the case, would it be foolhardy for the followers of the NPP to “massively” hope for a possible “court declaration” for Nana Addo presidency? But if the latter happens, how should the NPP frame their narrative for the defeat in order to manage the impact of what others see as an embarrassing episode in the party’s history? I take the first one first.

In my view, ‘the 22-01 ruling’ is symbolic to the overall NPPs legal struggle for redress. Should the judges agree with the NPPs position that the NDC party has no business joining the President in the suit against his electoral victory, that would be a huge boost to the confidence of the NPP party and its followers although it does not substantively affect the main suit, and would not in any shape or form determine success or otherwise at the courts. What it does, symbolically and psychologically, however is to give numerical advantage to the legal team of the NPP given that the score of victory would be 1-0 of a 2 round bout, in boxing terms, in favour of the NPP. It will also in no doubt rekindle supporters belief in the leadership, and would make them think that may be, just may be, there is some truth in what the leaders are telling them. Let’s not forget what the spin doctors of the NPP party will make out of this supposed first round victory. Equally from the NDC side, of course, a victory in the first round of judgment would offer numerical strength to their course in representation terms, and in terms of their psyche on a possible victory, ultimately. Again let’s not forget how the spin doctors of the NDC will play it out in the public sphere in respect to the substantive case going forward.

Perhaps, I should slightly adapt my view and say that a possible NPP victory on the NDC joinder application could, to some extent, add some amount of substance to the NPPs position in the main case since, from a lay perspective as mine, the number of the opponents to face will now be reduced to two, the President and the EC, as opposed to three, the President, the NDC party and the EC, should the ruling of joint application goes against the NPP. But should such a victory give the NPP party supporters and sympathisers hope that Nana Addo could possibly be declared a winner? Well, to me it’s certainly a foolhardy for anyone to be in that mental state given that many factors could contribute to the ruling on the main case.

For example, it is certainly in order for judges to take into consideration what will be in the interest of the “public good”. And in this case, given that the nation is by now bedding down with the reality of Mahama government, declaring Nana Addo president could distort and disrupt what seems to be the reality of the times, and could have the capacity and eventual consequence of plunging the nation into intense chaos. Given a position such as this, the odds are certainly against the NPPs agenda, and behoves on the leadership and the followers of the NPP to adjust their expectations to a reasonable level of possible disappointment. And on this basis I come to the second part of my position, and that is how should the NPP frame the narrative of defeat in order that the party could save itself from what some will consider as a colossal embarrassment should the case be thrown out, or at best should the NPP lose the case at the end of the main trial?

On this point, it is my fervent hope that the party leadership begin to advance a narrative that they have already began, which is that it is as a principle, and goes to serve the public good, that they resorted to the courts when they felt aggrieved and cheated as opposed to the streets. They should also argue, as part of this narrative, that the precedence makes it incumbent upon future disgruntled candidates to resort to the courts for redress as oppose to the streets, which undoubtedly advances our democratic gains. Having said all that, I see two things on this case going forward.

First, I don’t think the NPP will completely withdraw from the legal “battle”, given what we know now. If anything at all, I see “draw down of troops” as opposed to total surrender of the battle field. By this I mean the party may at some point, in one way or the other, come to a sort of end to the presidential agenda but would keep some of the parliamentary cases going as a possible strategy to deflate the idea that the entire case was “bogus.”

Second, I see an impending implosion in the party between two schools of thoughts in the struggle for leadership: those of the view that “its our time to chop” and those in the “unfinished business” camp. This probably will manifest any moment from now, or towards the party’s convention sometime in the future given the recent comments by some of the party stalwarts like Wereko Brobbey, and the Director of Communications in the Tain Constituency, Charles Akuoku Tuffuor. Again, in my view such an internal struggle to take back the leadership of the party would be a good thing for the image of the NPP. This is because the insurgent faction could craft a separatist narrative to convince the nation that despite the seeming public show of support by the entire party machine, they were the silent minority who could not voice their opposition to the status quo. This move could go a long way to repair, restore and redeem the party from its supposed image contamination. And on this note, well, I will bring to an end my first part of the story. However, we’ll keep watching with rapt attention this mega political pantomime unprecedented in the history of Ghana as one day posterity will called upon us to tell and, or live the story once more.

By Dr. Kobby Mensah, Sheffield