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Opinions of Monday, 3 June 2013

Columnist: Kennedy, Arthur Kobina

Open letter to NPP national chairman

June 3rd, 2013

Dear Sir,

RE: CONCERNS ABOUT THE NPP

I wish to respectfully address you and other leaders of our party on some recent developments. For a while now, I have been increasingly concerned about our party’s conduct and its image.

I believe that as one who has risked my life and liberty, given so much of my time and treasure to our cause and cares deeply about our indispensable role in our country, I have an obligation to speak up.

My first concern is the rise of intolerance in our ranks. It seems that the party of Danquah, Busia and Dombo does not value freedom of expression. Whenever there is dissenting opinion, instead of engaging the substance of the dissenter, he/she is attacked personally. We seem to believe that anyone who disagrees with our prevailing orthodoxy is corrupt or has some evil motive. After we went to court to contest the results of the 2012 Presidential elections, Mr. Kwame Pianim suggested that we should reconsider our “persistent boycott of government business in Parliament.” In response, he was attacked viciously. His membership of our party as well as his personal integrity was questioned. Even before this incident, Joy fm had reported on August 8th 2012 that Hon. Kennedy Agyapong had “suspected that Mr. Pianim benefited from the judgment debt because he praised President Mills for being incorruptible.” Mr. Chairman, regardless of what our party thought of Mr. Painim’s opinions, he deserved more respectful treatment that he got. It is wrong for our party, which has rightly reached out to new people, like Dr. Bawumia and made them leaders to treat someone like Kwame Pianim who has given so much to this party for so long so shabbily.

Before the Pianim case some young people in our party, inspired by some misguided elders had attempted to prevent President Kufuor from attending President Mahama’s inauguration. Even though it had advance information of the President’s plans, the party was silent.

Mr. Chairman, this pattern of intolerance and personal attacks is once again on display in the case of Dr. Wereko-Brobbey, following his comments on the validity of our case and the performance of our start witness.

While I disagree with his opinions and the timing of his comments, our response and the accompanying vitriol have been completely unnecessary.

Mr. Chairman, why is the party of the rule of law tripping over our regulations to suspend Mr. Wereko-Brobbey when we have not had time to investigate more serious allegations? He has alleged that his warnings to those in charge of our campaign to protect our votes were ignored. He has also claimed that our polling agents were insufficiently trained and that this may have contributed to why they “slept while our Tilapia was stolen”. On the surface, these appear to be more deserving of investigations and sanctions than his unflattering opinions of the performance of our star witness. After all, Mr. Chairman, Tarzan is not a member of the Supreme Court panel hearing our petition. An organization that always has unanimity of opinion may be a lot of things but certainly, not a political party. The person who disagrees with us 20% of the time is not an enemy or an opponent; he/she is on our side. This leads to my second concern, which is our fealty to principle. Mr. Chairman, I was attracted to this party by the fearlessness and willingness of men like Adu- Boahen, Sam Okudzeto and Da Rocha to speak truth to power even at great cost to themselves. The desire to attack errant members is sometimes such that we throw our own cherished principles and positions overboard. Throughout the tenure of President Mills, we fought against the efforts of the NDC to criminalize the conduct of Kojo Mpiani and Wereko-Brobbey while in government. Now, in the heat of the moment, even NPP members are attacking the actions of Tarzan in government. Mr. Chairman, after we expend energy tarnishing Tarzan’s record in government, which is also the NPP record, can we defend it when the NDC attack it in 2016?

As Kweku Baako said, “Let us disagree with Tarzan on issues he is raising but let us not accept NDC’s propaganda that he failed at VRA and at Ghana @50 because that is patently not true.”

Mr. Chairman, my third concern is how paranoid we have become. Even though we are undoubtedly the party with the largest following in Ghana, we seem to think that everybody out there is trying to get us. We whine that virtually everyone in the media is in the pay of the government and is doing propaganda for the government. Members of the “coffee-shop mafia” who seemed to be our allies have turned and our explanation is that they have been bought. Would that mean, Mr. Chairman, that when they supported us, we bought them? Could it be that we are doing things that are turning people off? My last point, Mr. Chairman, related to all these, is extremism. Too many of those speaking in our name are too shrill and too insulting. When we are represented in public by young and ambitious people whose only distinction is their willingness to insult others and their sycophantic attitude to leaders, we turn moderates and uncommitted voters away from our candidates. While we are many, due to the divided nature of our electorate, we cannot for the most part, elect Presidents and Parliamentarians all by ourselves. Mr. Chairman, regardless of the outcome of our election challenge, the issues I have raised here will be important to our party’s success far into the future. I know that the party’s leaders cannot control the behavior or the attitude of every party member. However, we can certainly do better. I suggest respectfully, that going forward; we strive to be more inclusive, both in our consultations and actions. In this respect, it is regrettable that our last campaign effectively sidelined some of your own National Executives who had been duly elected because they were not considered to be loyal to the candidate. Furthermore, let us attack positions and ideas instead of people. We are, after all, the party that has the men and women to move Ghana forward.

Also, our leadership should encourage moderation and tolerance. Not long ago, our friends in the NDC were struggling to deflect the very credible charges that they were the party of violence and extremism. Today most Ghanaians believe we are wrestling them for that title and it is close. The first step in this encouragement should start with modeling moderation. A very good model here is former President Kufuor. All of us must study his moderation and gentleness of manner and learn from him. Another is you.

Finally we must re-invigorate our commitment to principles rather than people, no matter who they may be.

May God guide and guard us as we endeavour to serve our nation. Convey my encouragement best wishes to all our executives.

Arthur Kobina Kennedy