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Opinions of Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Columnist: Antwi , Eugene

Success and succession

The only certainty is that the struggle over NPP's future has only just begun, says Eugene Antwi

After an expectant month in which a Cabinet reshuffle has been delivered as an attempt by President Kufuor not only to seize personal control over the New Patriotic Party (NPP) but anoint his successor, a period of momentarily careful restraint might have been expected, if only to calm nerves, soothe disappointments and ponder over the future. Instead, allies of the various Presidential hopefuls have chosen to further raise the room temperature of our NPP. President Kufuor's homily that anyone who placed “personal ambition” above the “needs of the government” would pay “a very high price” was rightly taken as an attack on the leading heavyweights in his Cabinet.

The heavyweights certainly include the Akufo-Addos, Owusu-Agyemangs, Osafo-Maafos, Ocquayes, Aprakus et al who have personally sacrificed to bring our party to government, lost prestigeous jobs, led demonstrations, defended our party and its supporters in court of law in the process and deserve the succession more than others. In my last piece, I wrote thus "this alleged public declaration of war on President Kufuor's part - and make no mistake, to covertly support a particular candidate as his successor as both NPP’s flag bearer and next President" against these heavyweights with sizeable constituencies and following in our noble movement risks destabilising our party in the run up to the 2008 general elections. We must be guided by the bitter lessons of 1979, where a split within our ranks over the leadership led to the Popular Front Party (PFP) arrow-headed by Victor Owusu and United National Convention (UNC) piloted by William Ofori-Atta producing Dr Hilla Limann's administration. Hilla Limann became the biggest beneficiary of our divisions and Ex-President Rawlings disingenously capitalised on the People National Party's infighting and the rest is P/NDC and history.

On that score, President Kufuor badly needs the support of his former heavyweight Cabinet colleagues who have worked assiduously to bring about almost all NPPs achievements since 2001 in his retirement. NPP remains a political party and not a fan club or a personality cult. If the “radical” ideas that members hope, correctly, to place at the centre of a third-term agenda are perceived as an assault on our party flagbearers' contest, it will be far harder to convince parliamentarians, party members or the public to embrace them. NPP cannot afford to be Trotskyite in ideology or Leninist in its method of leadership.

President Kufuor should, therefore, not only detol-clean the tea cups in his own kitchen but order certain tongues to stay silent. Courtiers of President Kufuor, in particular, might usefully spend more time with their families or businesses and rather less on the airwaves. The contrast between the broadcast interview a few weeks ago given by Kuuku Welsing-Jones, the Spokesman for Kyeremateng campaign team, and that of the ex-Ashanti Regional Minister was striking. Mr Welsing-Jones went out of his way to outrageously stoke the embers of succession by saying that President Kufuor is bigger than our noble movement. At the end, Hon S K Boafo, a close ally of the President, proved that he is a pastor/lawyer cum politician by saying that the President does not have a candidate. Hmm, we hear !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.

The President will have the chance to set out a more conciliatory approach in his speech to the party Congress in December, that is, if by then he has demonstrated his neutrality and impartiality by word and by deed. For now, therefore, it is not enough, though, to hail the Kufuor-led administration record in public if those believed to have the ear of President Kufuor are known to be lampooning these leading heavyweights in private. The ultimate success of this administration will depend on unity in the pursuit of achievement and not in destroying itself by factionalism on the question of the succession. NPP may not survive a showdown between the President and leading members of our great and noble party.

Subject to these pretty big caveats, President Kufuor has some time to make his mark before handing over to his successor. But, as I told a leading figure in mid-May, this prospect creates problems. “If you are President, you are concerned about your legacy. If you are coming in, you are concerned about your inheritance. As a party, we are concerned to get continuity between these stages and keep NPP in office.” Between now and the December Congress, NPP needs its free speech, its outspokenness, its arguments, or it isn't a living party at all, merely an electoral machine, oiled with the baubles of office. It is important to emphasise that all of us being of the same family must be decorous to one another and agree to disagree without bitterness, and criticise to reform not to destroy.

President Kufuor's legacy will depend partly on his own acts in office, but also on the state of the party he leaves behind. Far better a united party, which is able to renew and refresh itself for a third term, than a fractious, bitter and depleted one. Could it be that Kufuor realises what damage would be done to NPP if he blocked, indefinitely, the legitimate claim of the finished product to replace him whilst still baking one in the oven at the Castle. Above all, the New Patriotic Party is in power by divine intervention, so let President John Agyekum Kufuor not tear asunder what God has put together.

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