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Opinions of Monday, 5 May 2008

Columnist: Ato Kwamena Dadzie/Daily Dispatch

THE OUTSIDER: Smile, Alan... smile while you can

When the UP tradition split up for the 1979 elections, I was a two-year-old malnourished boy with a stomach as hard as my hard with ‘born-to-suffer’ written all over me. Times were hard. Whiles my mother and I agreed that my kwashiorkor needed to be dealt with, William Ofori Atta (aka Paa Willie) and Victor Owusu couldn’t agree on the simple matter of who should lead the UP people into the elections.

Some have attributed this to an Akyem-Asante split with Paa Willie leading the Akyems and Victor Owusu at the helm of the Asante pack. So deep were their differences that the two men decided to go their separate ways. Ofori Atta formed the United National Convention and Victor Owusu formed the Popular Front Party. To cut a long story short, they both lost the elections to Hilla Liman, who was eventually kicked out of office by the master coup maker. You don’t need to be fully equipped with a medulla oblongata to know that if Victor and William had not been so parochial in their thinking, the UP would have won the elections of ’79.

When Alan Kyerematen childishly decided to resign from the NPP a lot of alarm was raised that ’79 was going to be repeated. The fear was that since he came a distant second to Nana Akuffo Addo in the party’s primaries, he might go away with his supporters and this would cost the NPP a lot of votes. So people started begging Alan – literally – to change his mind. Initially he was adamant. But when the president intervened, he rescinded his decision and now he’s back in the fold of the ruling party. The president is happy, the party chairman is happy and, of course, Alan is very happy – he’s had his way.

I don’t think B. J. da Rocha (a former chairman of the party) is happy. And there are many others who will not also be so enthused by Alan’s return. Mr. da Rocha described Alan as a ‘loose cannon’ and urged party members to let go of him. I completely agree with him.

I strongly believe that Alan’s departure wouldn’t have made any difference in the December elections. And I disagree with those who argue that if he had stayed out of the NPP ’79 would have been repeated and they would have lost. First of all, ’79 and ’08 are two different years which fell in two different centuries. Ghana today is different from the Ghana of ’79. Thirty years ago, when Victor and William were bickering over their selfish interests, our country was struggling to get out of years of military dictatorship. Democracy was an experiment whose results were not that clear to many people. All people did at the time was vote occasionally for a civilian president who always ended up with a kick in the butt from a bunch of ‘abongo’ boys. In ’79 people could only refer to Kwame Nkrumah’s few years of civilian dictatorship (tinged with a lot of socialism) and Busia’s few years of free market capitalism. So it was either Nkrumah’s party or Busia’s party. Before the elections in ’79, political party activity had been banned for more than a decade. All the parties that took part in the polls were, therefore, ‘new’ – albeit with historic inclinations towards the Nkrumah and Danquah-Busia traditions.

In 2008 the story is different. We have been under civilian administrations for 15 years. It has not been easy but we’ve conducted the democratic experiment quite well and most Ghanaians know what the main parties stand for. We’ve tasted Rawlings, we’ve tasted Kufuor. We know the NDC and we know the NPP. And we know the CPP. These are the three main parties. Ghanaians are not ready to start experimenting again with a ‘new’ wayside party. So Alan could have gone ahead and formed a party of his own just to take part in the elections and he would have lost miserably. Ghanaians are not prepared to vote for a ‘new’ party. That’s why Goozie Tanoh, despite all of his nice words, couldn’t win the elections in 2000 and Wereko-Brobbey was left with no choice than to declare that his party was “on leave”.

The NDC did not lose the election because Goozie Tanoh split the party up. They lost because we were tired of their arrogance and we wanted change. If Alan had stayed out and the NPP had lost, it would have been because he left (or a breakaway faction went out to form the Reformed Patriotic Democrats). If the NPP loses, it will be because Ghanaians are simply tired of their broken promises and their lies.

I am sure Alan himself recognises that he made a bad move with his ill-advised decision to quit and that is why he changed his mind. Otherwise, no amount of persuasion would have changed his mind. He knows that he is better off staying in the party. He knows that if he had chosen to stick to his guns, he would have been forced to kiss his political career goodbye. But with party big-wigs begging him to return, he knew he had the bargaining chip and he made very good use of it. Now, he is back and in charge of Nana Akuffo-Addo’s ‘identifiable groups’ (once again, what the heck is that?). He has also been promised a lot of things, which no one wants to make public. I can only hope that they have not sold the nation’s soul to him. Alan has also been assured that his grievances (most of which remain a well-kept party secret) will be investigated and addressed.

So all of this leads one to ask: why is Alan Kyerematen being pampered like a spoilt brat? Maybe it’s true that he’s the president’s ‘chap’. It is not good for a party intent on staying in power to fall on the wrong side of the president. Not quite long ago, a former party chairman, Haruna Esseku, said the presidency was in charge of the collection and distribution of kickbacks. I have no reason to doubt Mr. Esseku (even if he claims he didn’t say any such thing). Maybe the president has threatened that if his ‘boy’ is not well taken care of he will not make the cash available. Or, perhaps, they are telling us that Alan Kyeremanten is indispensable. Maybe (tofiakwa) if he falls dead today, the NPP will collapse tomorrow.

Whatever the case may be, Alan is back. He has had his way. I hope he’s happy – at least for now. The fact remains, though, that he will always look back on the day he resigned with regret because I don’t think he will ever come as close to leading the party as he did last December. The NPP might also look back on the day it went begging him with regret. Now, almost every major party member with a false sense of grievance will be thinking that the only way to get his or her way is to threaten the party with resignation. It might not work for all as it worked for Alan – especially if you don’t have the president on your side. But it’s worth a try.