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Opinions of Friday, 11 April 2008

Columnist: Ato Kwamena Dadzie/Daily Dispatch

THE OUTSIDER: Where can Obed take his DFP?

Dr. Obed Asamoah’s Democratic Freedom Party (DFP) is determined to stay the course and not go the way of the Reform Party (just went away as surprisingly as they came) or Charles Wereko-Brobbey’s United Ghana Movement (go on leave). Last Saturday at the Accra Polytechnic, DFP delegates elected a ‘communications consultant’ (I think that’s how some PR people prefer to be called these days) as their candidate for December’s presidential contest. But that’s the easy part. Now they have an election to contest and I don’t think they will have it easy.

After breaking away from the NDC (like DFP recently did), those who put together the Reform Party didn’t waste any time selecting the smooth-talking Goozie Tanoh as their presidential candidate. He was very smart and he had the looks too (which, according to some people, can help win votes in Ghana). After losing the elections in 2000, Mr. Tanoh has hardly been heard or seen in public. It has been rumoured that his political misadventure also turned out to be a massive Tsunami that washed all of his cash away and that he is in serious debt. Poor guy. I really liked Goozie. He said all the right things but he couldn’t win votes. Compared to the DFP’s candidate for December, Goozie was popular.

In 2000, I don’t know what came over Charles Wereko-Brobbey but someone lied to him that he could also form a party, run it like a one man show and win the presidential election. Maybe he was on an ego trip. I don’t know. What we know for sure is that he lost not just the race but a lot of money as well. Then shortly after the elections, he came out with the popular phrase that his party, the United Ghana Movement (UGM) “is on leave.” The party went on leave for doing no work. Luckily, for him, he still had connections; his friends in the NPP still liked him and gave him a job as Chief Executive of the Volta River Authority only to be sacked later. As he was packing out of his office, he claimed that he had neither been pushed nor forced to jump. “I am stepping aside,” he said.

With the examples of Charlie Brobs and Goozie Tanoh still fresh on the minds of the Ghanaian electorate, it might be easier for Obed Asamoah and his DFP followers to scale Mount Chomolungma than convince people that they are different from the NRP or UGM.

I will congratulate them for holding a successful congress. But I don’t really fancy the DFP’s chances in December.

To begin with, their presidential candidate, Emmanuel Ansah-Antwi, is not well-known. Even some of the delegates who attended the congress last Saturday got to know of him at the congress grounds. With just about eight months to the polls, how is he going to market himself to Ghanaians when Nana Akuffo-Addo and Prof. Mills have been in the limelight for years and have repeatedly visited every constituency in this country?

Secondly, I don’t think the DFP has got cash. Elections are won with cash –mostly for running the campaign but, especially in Ghana, you also need to have cash to buy votes. As former chairman of the NDC, Dr. Asamoah should know about this more than I do. They perfected the art of vote-buying. Unless Dr. Asamoah still operates a hefty bank account under his bed (as we all found out some years back), I think the DFP’s campaign is going to be seriously under-funded. And an under-funded party doesn’t an election win... unless, as happened eight years ago, there is an overwhelming desire for change – positive or otherwise.

I have no doubts in my mind that Dr. Asamoah is on his own now and that he is still not tied to former President Rawlings any way. Unless, the two of them are putting up an Oscar-winning charade, I am convinced that the two of them are now sworn enemies. But Dr. Asamoah has to convince voters that he hasn’t got a Rawlings streak in him. That is to say that people need to be convinced that he is not an egocentric control freak.

So far the things we are hearing from the DFP indicates that Dr. Asamoah might not be any different from his former boss. The candidate who lost the race for the DFP’s presidential slot, claims that Dr. Asamoah did for the winner what Rawlings did for Atta Mills a couple of years ago – covertly, anointing a candidate. This was one of the things that Dr. Asamoah opposed within the NDC that made him fall out with his former boss. Since the formation of the DFP, Dr. Asamoah has done well not to throw his weight about – at least not publicly. But his title of party ‘patron’ smacks like Rawlings’ title as ‘founder’ of the NDC. A fledgling party like the DFP needs a leader not an overlord.

Whatever happens after the elections in December, I hope that the leaders of the DFP will work hard to make sure that they do not follow in the footsteps of Goozie and Charlie Brobs. In politics, the fewer is not always the merrier. So the big parties will always be big and strong. But we need the smaller ones too. It would be great if the DFP stays on and becomes a strong party. But I won’t be surprised if it doesn't.