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Opinions of Monday, 28 October 2013

Columnist: Otchere-Darko, Gabby Asare

RE: Akufo-Addo abandons third-term

Gabby asare otchere-darko responds to Akufo-Addo abandons third-term bid story

Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko

My attention was drawn to a story on on Tuesday, 22nd October, 2013, attributed to the Al-Hajj newspaper, which carried the headline, ‘Akufo-Addo Abandons Third Term Bid.’

Whiles it was just one of the speculative reports on the political future of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the 2012 Presidential Candidate of the New Patriotic Party, the Al-Hajj, perhaps, in its attempt to inject but a false dose of credence into the speculation, referred to me as a source.

The Al-Hajj wrote, “This sudden decision by Nana Akufo-Addo, who had received numerous calls from leading party members to once again contest the flag bearership of the party for the third time, according to our sources was what informed his nephew, Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko’s decision to make good of his promise of exiting national politics.

“Gabby, who until recently was the Executive Director of Danquah Institute, according to the source, recently told a big shot of the party confidentially of his uncle’s decision to bow out of front line politics, hence his (Gabby) decision to also travel abroad to broaden his knowledge and enter academia.”

I wish to put on record that the decision to hand over the executive leadership of the Danquah Institute to Mustapha Hamid and my pursuit of other related interests outside of Ghana have absolutely no links with the former Foreign Minister’s political future. Also, my cousin Nana Akufo-Addo has not mentioned to me anywhere that he was bowing out of frontline politics.

He has asked for time to reflect and come back to announce his next step, and I believe, while we are free to express our views on his political future, as I intend to do here, we are not at liberty to make unfounded attributions.

Indeed, I believe that after all that he has heard and seen, after all the calculations and analysis of the current social and economic situation in Ghana, the state of the NPP and its prospects and challenges of electoral victory in three years time, Nana Akufo-Addo is more likely to offer himself to lead the opposition party for the 2016 presidential election than not. This is my expectation. Nothing more, nothing less.

Knowing how Nana Akufo-Addo feels about his party and country, and knowing all too well how the people also feel about him, I am convinced that Nana Akufo-Addo will respond positively to the obvious sentiments within his party and across the country and among Ghanaians everywhere.

Those sentiments, as I know them to be, are that Nana must not abandon his visionary project to put this country on a clear path to transformation. The intensifying feeling out there is that the NPP must rescue Ghana in 2016. The question is, who is best placed for that rescue mission?”

BEST BET The smart money appears to be that if NPP wants to win in 2016 rather than to begin the process of preparing a fresh candidate for 2020, then Akufo-Addo is their best bet. That is not to say that there could not be a better candidate out there. But, in the absence of any scientific evidence, that exercise can be at best speculative.

Right now, Akufo-Addo is the most popular and most marketed opposition politician out there. The NPP must ask itself whether they have the luxury to engage in a grueling presidential primary next year, which would happen if Nana was not running, opening up new factions, new cracks and trying their luck with a fresh face; an untested quantity.

One Ghanaian entrepreneur and former TESCON member, Janet, who has been forced by current economic difficulties to close shop and move back to Worcester, Massachusetts, where she lived six years ago as a graduate student in America, put it this way to me yesterday: “We want power in 2016, let Akufo-Addo give us that power. I am only begging him oh to give us at least one term; do the Mandela thing if he is not too keen to stay on himself. Just win for us.”

She explained, “He must win us power first. Get in and use the four years to change the system and put in place the programmes and people who can put Ghana on that unstoppable road to transformation. He should come in and say: enough is enough with the corruption! We must use the money to school our kids, build our roads, attract industries, and he has the courage to change the culture of leadership in Ghana for good.”

Janet said, “Let us return Ghanaians to experiencing what competent, decisive and progressive leadership is all about. We experienced it under President Kufuor. But, it has been downhill ever since. We need a visionary man with a sense of history and urgency to get things done.”

She cautioned her party, “Ghanaians will not forgive the NPP if it throws 2016 away!”

The thing is, we all know where the decisive electoral battlefields of 2016 are and it is not about Nana’s capacity to win. It is about the NPP’s capacity, as a party, to ensure that their presidential candidate is declared the rightful winner, and in accordance with the wishes of the majority of Ghanaians.

The NPP knows to win in 2016 it needs to focus more of its energy and resources on events at the polling station. How do they begin preparing to counter the reenactment of the extra-electoral maneuvers that overwhelmed them in the few weeks before polling day and on the day itself?

How can they foresee and preempt new ones? A position of perpetual catching-up is tantamount to a state of perpetual opposition.

NDC ‘WIN’ AT ALL COST How does the party neutralize a repeat of that unprecedented reckless use of money, use of state resources, to ‘win’ an election, literally and practically, at all cost?

The fiscal cyclone the John Mahama government finds itself in at the moment is traced directly to the President’s decision last year to throw fiscal prudence to the wind to over-spend in a remarkably desperate attempt to hold on to power. That was the lull of the current economic storm; the cumulonimbus cloud that precipitated the crisis of priority spending. That is what led to the record 11-12% budget deficit of 2012.

Yes, the confetti of cash that was thrown at the election and targeted electorate contributed to the incumbent President and National Democratic Congress candidate being declared victor. We need an informed national dialogue on the use of state resources in election year, using 2012 as case study in order to guide against a re-occurrence.

We are all keen to delve into the details of the much-delayed 2012 Auditor-General’s Report. The details of how reckless we never thought a democratically elected government in 21st century Africa could get. Preventing this from happening in the future is a very essential collective exercise that Ghanaians must engage in now if we are to protect the integrity of our democracy and the effective use of state resources for development.

SUICIDE PACT But, I am convinced that the reckless expenditure of the NDC government in 2012, especially, will turn out to be the biggest suicide pact of any ruling party in the Fourth Republic.

When those who opted by all means necessary to take custody of the governance pantry and menu to cook and serve the meals of leadership to the people have now turned around to ask the people at the national diner to rather get out of the kitchen, then you must begin to wonder.

When those who cannot stand the heat in the kitchen of leadership are rather the ones asking their dinner guests to get out of the kitchen, you must begin to fast and pray; fasten your belts of resistance for there can only be a mighty turbulent ahead in the skies of Gyeedadom.

CHEF’S APRON You cannot cause a mess and then turn around to strangle the windpipes of protest against the mess that you caused. Those protesting were not in the kitchen with you when you decided to spend more of the recipe on dessert than on the main course. If you rather cannot stand the heat then prepare to hand over the chef’s apron.

2014 puts as into the second gear of economic turbulence. The gale force winds of crippling debts and fiscal strangulation can only pick up speed as arrears of payments due to both workers and contractors build up and targets in capital expenditure, goods and services struggle around 40% below the mark, denying the economy of the needed stimuli, forcing employers to lay off workers and leaving families to go hungry.

The borrowing and borrowing more to pay debts, what has been termed Mahamanomics, would continue to garrotte economic activity. My prediction remains that Ghana is likely to encounter a government shut down next year, which, unlike the United States, would have nothing to do with the opposition parties.

If I may paraphrase Akufo-Addo’s words, 2014 is the time for the NPP to think together and be together. I can see the nation returning to the 2000 mood, where it had just had enough of the NDC. That is where it is all heading. The popular slogan now is that the people are tired: Boys abre; Girls Abre; Ghana Abre.

EYE ON THE BALL But, for the mood of the people to have electoral resonance requires some strategic engineering. The opposition parties must keep their eyes on the main ball. 2014 marks the year of discontent. The obvious thing is to focus on rubbing the sores of discontent and throwing an alternative lifeline to the electorate. Make yourself attractive to the disillusioned voter so that she may be inspired to even bother casting her ballot in 2016.

However, that is only a fraction of the work required to ensure victory beyond riggable margins. Beyond that, focus your resources in ensuring that it is the vote of the people that counts and not the quaint count of those who do the counting.

It is a compelling point to make that maintaining Akufo-Addo frees the NPP and its limited resources to invest more on the essentials of securing the votes at the polling station.

For the NPP to win it needs to get the basics right; build a solid, united defensive/offensive front, with a credible alternative programme for progress. This calls for total commitment and that commitment comes from how the leaders and members deal with each other within the NPP from now on. They cannot afford to divorce the short-term internal struggles for party positions from the struggle for political power in 2016.

The question to ask is this: which presidential candidate is likely to be your best bet of presenting a more united NPP front? What leadership must do, from the polling station area level, through the constituencies to the national campaign, is to improve on making everybody feel on board and making sure that all those on board work sincerely for the 2016 project.

TWO TERMS TREND I do not think that facing a ruling party ending its second term in office on the back foot is really the time to open up new cracks within the party. This is the time to build consensus and bring all on board.

Consensus building must, therefore, be a major preoccupation of the party now. They must sit down together and talk with each other and work with each other.

Going by Akufo-Addo’s recent message to the party on how they must conduct themselves in the contests for party office positions, and his message at the Akufo-Addo Ladies event in London at the weekend, togetherness is the key to unlocking the gates to that short walk to victory.

The decision by the Obetsebi-Lamptey-led National Executive Committee to abandon the contentious proposals to vary how internal contests for party positions were held is a strong indication of a party willing to listen to its rank and file and build consensus on the best way forward.

John Mahama’s campaign message in 2012 was on point: every party has been given a second term, the NDC was only asking for a second term. He got it and he is doing what he can with it. The NDC’s second term ends in 2016. The NPP has no reason to allow Ghanaians to even consider breaking that established trend of the Fourth Republic. Two strikes and you are out!