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Opinions of Saturday, 17 May 2008

Columnist: Appiah Kusi Adomako

Scourge of Incubency: Reality Check For NPP


Appiah Kusi Adomako, Leaders of Tomorrow Foundation, Kumasi

I start this article with a few lessons from British politics. Just a few years ago, the UK’s Conservatives were virtually unelectable. After a string of electoral defeats to Tony Blair’s Labour party, the party was caught up in a vicious circle of internal wrangling which saw four leaders of the Conservative Party in the space of eight years. Three of these were soundly trounced by the Labour Party Tony Blair who wet ahead to win an unprecedented third term as Prime Minister. The Conservative Party’s fortunes would only turn when Dave Cameron, then thirty eight (38) years was elected as the leader of the Party. I daresay that if Dave Cameron had been in Ghana, at 38 years, he might still be looking for his first job let alone become a Party leader. Yet this young Man has greatly modernised the Conservative Party making it almost look like the next government and he as the Prime Minister –in-waiting. So effective has the Cameron “youth effect” been in UK politics that his pal, Boris Johnson, until recently described as a buffoon by some has successfully taken on and soundly beaten the incumbent London Mayor, the Labour Party’s Ken Livingstone. Suddenly, the rules of politics are being re-written. Call it the curse of incumbency but it comes to a point where people simply want change, where to them any change is better than no change and thus may move for change if even the choices open to them are not necessarily better. The realities of political administration, taking sometimes difficult but necessary measures easily makes incumbent governments unpopular. This is true especially, where much of the electorate may not have the means to independently analyse issues by themselves and rely heavily on the opinions of so called analysts, heavily tainted by their own political colourings to make their minds up.

But make no mistake; the NDC’s political revival did not start with the selection of John Mahama as a running mate. The party’s revitalisation started when it’s deliberate infusion of youthful blood into its machinery. This saw the likes of Haruna Iddrisu, Elvis Asiedu Ankrah, Seth Ofori, Baba Jamal and other student leaders of the recent past into leadership roles. I can almost hear Okudzeto Ablakwah joining the fray. Times have changed from the early days when the NDC almost entirely rode on the fame, popularity and charisma of its founder, former President J.J.Rawlings. Today, the NDC’s founder appears to have been almost ex-communicated from the Party he set up and whose constitution he signed with his own blood. Very important decisions are made which he does not agree with but the stance is like, well he does not have to agree with it. His chosen and anointed, Prof. Mills who pledged to consult him 24 hours 7 days a week has broken that promise. During the recent selection of the party’s running mate at least, it is obvious that the former President was not consulted. This is evidenced in the very public show of disapproval by the former President and his wife and the dismissal of a once crucial ally, Mr. Victor Smith who would defend the former President to death.

The selection of John Mahama has brought a new sense of life to the NDC. He has always been one of those who brought lots of respect to the party. The NPP will be politically naive to take for granted the clout that John Mahama brings to the NDC’s ticket. It was an act of political bravery for Prof. Mills to go in for what he knew was the best for him. I am of the considered opinion that the NDC could have possibly won the election outright if they had been bold enough to elect John Mahama as the flagbearer. This is not only because of his perceived broad appeal, but because of a new wave blowing across the globe, where deep seated political traditions are changing. The kind of wind that blew away Australia’s John Howard at a time of economic boom and has seen the UK’s Labour Party sink to an all time low rating. This new wave has seen Barack Obama, virtually a political novice confound the establishment in the US and in 1997 blew the then youthful Tony Blair to power ending years of Tory hegemony and which brought huge electoral embarrassment to the 80 plus Mugabe. Fortunately for the NPP, the main rival, the NDC did not go for the youthful candidate who could have possibly wrestled power from them. In choosing Prof. Mills, it is sort of like-for-like. What they lack in the now ageing Prof. Mills, they have made up for in the youthful John Mahama. The least the NPP can do will be to at least match the NDC. The advantage for the NPP is that they are choosing after the NDC has made its choice. With the benefit of hindsight, they can out-do the NDC.

The likes of Kwabena Agyepong, Dr. Arthur Kennedy, Dan Botwe et al are all suitable to complement the NPPs ticket. But if you asked me, I would repeat what I said earlier that the person should be of the Northern stock. A practicing Moslem will be a huge bonus given the simmering discontent amongst some Moslems for the NDC’s choice of John Mahama whom they perceive as a Christian.

So if the NPP will avoid the scourge of incumbency which has seen high profile casualties amongst sitting MPs lose their primaries, If the NPP wants a fair chance of a record third term, then they’ve got to get it right first time. This means going for someone who is young, energetic and connects easily with young people. If you asked me, I will mention Boniface Abubakar Saddique and H.E Alhaji Rashid Bawa, Ghana's Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Both of these are highly capable and can match NDC’s John Mahama. Another time, I will analyse what these men can do for their party and I will even hazard a sort of guess as to which of them will be the best. Most of the other names being touted will simply not be good for the NPP.

I will end with these words for the ruling party from my good friend Kwame Ofori-Kuragu, that “staying up is down to you, and staying down will be up to you”. A word to the wise, in this case is surely from the North.

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