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Opinions of Tuesday, 31 August 2021

Columnist: Ebo Buckman

The 2020 elections and the vital lessons for the 2024 elections

Vice President of Ghana, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia Vice President of Ghana, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia

The 2020 elections were elections many NPP members and supporters wouldn’t want to remember. Both the presidential and parliamentary elections results really came as a shocker to many.

Many supporters of the party anticipated both the presidential and parliamentary elections to be a walk in the field for the party. There were many who even predicted that the NDC was going to be completely annihilated in the presidential election and that they would barely make 40% of the ballots.

My prediction, 52%-47% in favor of the NPP, which was greatly doubted and criticized by many party supporters and members, turned out to be more realistic. To be fair with those who made such wild predictions, their predictions were based on the 2016 results and the performance of the Nana-Bawumia administration as they perceived it.

For the first time, Ghanaians were made to enjoy nationwide free SHS education. Again, for the first time in this current Republic, Ghanaians were made to enjoy free water for nine months prior to the election and, in certain places, free or subsidized electricity. Nurses and teachers’ trainee allowances which were cancelled by John Mahama were restored.

The NPP government did what would have given any of its supporters the confidence of landslide victory to the extent that the party’s National Executives even decided to disqualify some aspirants and be rude to aggrieved aspirants who felt unfairly treated. After all, landslide victory was on the way coming so they could afford to be rude and arrogant to their own party members.

However, there were certain issues and allegations that came together so strongly against all the good things the Nana-Bawumia administration had done, thereby significantly reducing the expected impact of all the good things on the election. Unfortunately, the party mistakenly thought enough had been done by its communicators to explain and defend the issues and allegations respectively.

The NPP thought the good people of Ghana were going to treat those allegations as groundless, but they were wrong. You see, one thing the NDC has mastered in doing more than any other party in this country is propaganda. They know where to direct their propaganda-coated messages to get the right result.

They have come to understand that in the Ghanaian political market, bad news sells faster and better than good news. They dexterously placed the issues and allegations in their propaganda mill and rolled them out one after the other to feed their base and a significant segment of the floating voters.

Were they successful? Well, their shocking performance in the elections answers the question. And, has the NPP committed any expensive “mistakes” in the second term that the NDC can capitalize on? To be objective, certainly! Will the NDC be churning out more allegations through their propaganda mill in the 2024 elections? The answer can only be a big yes.

Since they don’t really have any convincing message for Ghanaians, they would want to employ the same tactics they successfully used in the 2020 election. They would wait for the NPP to make more serious mistakes so they can capitalize on them to their advantage.

This is where it becomes politically unwise to present Dr. Bawumia, who is perceived by many to be an apron string of the so-called Akyem Mafia, as the presidential candidate for 2024. Per the results of the last election, one could rightly conclude that Ghanaians almost rejected the Nana-Bawumia ticket.

No matter how one looks at it, the NPP’s nose-dive performance in the elections cannot be said to be an overwhelming endorsement of good work done. The massive surprise votes John-Jane ticket had included a significant number of protest votes against the Nana-Bawumia ticket.

Does it really make sense that Mahama who performed so badly in the 2016 elections would pull up the kind of surprise votes he had when he did not have any convincing message? There could be only one explanation for this. Some Ghanaians who had voted for the NPP in 2016 were simply unimpressed with Nana-Bawumia's performance in spite of free SHS and some other good stuff they had done. Obviously, a significant number of electorates paid more attention to the negatives than the positives, hence the NPP’s unexpected nose-dive performance that got many on tenterhooks.

If truth be told, it would be a political disaster for NPP to present a candidate who was part of a ticket that nearly got rejected in the 2020 election, especially where no party has won three straight terms so far. The party would need fresh faces on their presidential posters.

The party would need a credible and popular brand that Ghanaians, especially the youth, women, and floating voters, can easily fall in love with and forget or forgive the mistakes of the past. The party would need a candidate whose vision and message can give hope to the teeming unemployed youth in the country.

Without doubt, should Dr. Bawumia be presented as a candidate, a host of factors would work against him and, for that matter, the party? The same old issues and allegations that nearly cost the party its political power plus new ones in the second term would be brought up against him and you can trust NDC on that, as they would make sure the issues and allegations stick on him since he is the Vice President and, for that matter, the leader of the Economic Management Team when all those alleged corrupt practices took place.

Besides, certain comments and promises made in the past by Dr. Bawumia have currently come back to haunt and hurt his credibility. I know the PR efforts being made to ameliorate the damage those comments and promises have done to his person and credibility. However, the damage seems to have become indelible. You see, when what is drowning you are your own words, words of others cannot save you.

Many in the party believe that but for those needless comments and wild promises of his, which have now become reference points, Ghanaians wouldn’t have been so hard on the government as they have now.

Should someone like Bawumia be presented as a candidate, the party would be put in a constant defense mode, something which is not good for a political party in an election year. I dare to ask, why would the party want to take such needless high risk when there are relatively low-risk candidates who could be more marketable?

I have always wondered where Dr. Bawumia would get the needed massive votes from to win the 2024 election, should the party mistakenly present him. Both arithmetic and market analysis don’t favor him. Let’s do some basic analysis here.

His own backyard, which is the North and the Zongos are completely bought and paid for by the NDC since 1992 because of Rawlings’ indelible assistance to the North and the Zongos. Truth be told, the NDC would always get the numbers from its strongholds, namely the North, the Volta, and Oti regions. However, the NPP risks losing massive votes in the Ashanti Region should the party mistakenly chooses the wrong candidate.

And, I dare to say that it is really frightening to think of the NPP without a massive vote from that region. As my sister would always say “In the last election, the Ashanti Region cut short my diarrhea”

Again, the party risks losing some significant votes from the Christian Community which has been a good “friend” of the party over the years, should they present the Alhaji. Some warnings and signals have come forth already from that community that constitutes 71.2% of the country’s population. No need for self-deception; the risk is real and huge.

Moving forward towards 2024, the NPP must be more sensitive to the mood and behavior of the political market and make decisions and choices that are pleasing and acceptable to the dominant segments of the market.

A market-sensitive party is always able to discern the heartbeats and thoughts of the electorates for the right decisions and choices. The NPP cannot afford to be oblivious to the blatant market signals.

Besides, the party must come to the realization that name-calling has lost its efficacy in the political space. It didn’t help the NPP in the 2020 elections and wouldn’t help it in the 2024 elections. Calling the NDC names like the “party of it is impossible” wouldn’t earn the party any significant votes.

The Vice-President should be known by now that a party in power doesn't look down to criticize the opposition; it looks up to satisfy the electorates. Ghanaians already know what the NDC did and didn't do in the past.

They don't need the NPP to TELL them the NDC story. They need the NPP to DO for them what the NDC didn’t do to make them happy and satisfied.

You see, when it comes to performance measurement and judgement in politics, it is not what politicians think they have done that matters; it is what the electorates think the politicians have done that matters.

That is why the party must be more market-sensitive and pay special attention to what the electorates say. Again, the party must be able to distinguish between the voice of the NDC and the nonpartisan electorates.

It is not every criticism that should be seen as coming from the NDC. Some are genuine concerns from ordinary citizens that must be taken seriously. Over the years, politicians have ignored or rubbished the genuine concerns of the electorates at their own peril.

In the same vein, when it comes to the election of candidates for external elections, particularly the presidential candidate, the party must pay serious attention to the nature and behavior of the political market. It would be a disaster for the party to produce any candidate without first scanning the market to know the kind of candidate the market would want to buy. In other words, every single factor that can affect election results must be brought to the table for analysis.

It would be a disaster to leave out a factor simply because it doesn’t favor you or your preferred candidate. That is why I always cling when people try to downplay the role of the religious factors in our elections.

Obviously, the Alhaji knows the country’s political market which is overly dominated by the Christian Community doesn’t favor his political ambition. That’s is why he is currently moving from church to church doing everything he can to portray to the Christian Community that he loves the Lord Jesus and His Church more than them.

It is not for nothing that he is currently championing the construction of the National Cathedral. The only thing left for him to do to completely win the Christian Community is to accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior to be born again and be filled with the Holy Spirit, which I doubt he would ever do.

Again, it is not for nothing that he has been giving fat offering envelopes to some churches and individual senior pastors anytime he visits their churches to talk in their pulpit.

He is desperately doing everything he can to prove that the religious factor isn’t a problem. But, you see, the hard and bitter truth is that it is not just a problem, it is a major problem for his political ambition.

In fact, presenting him against John Mahama who is a Christian would be a senseless and needless risk. Until the NDC presents a non-Christian candidate, the NPP shouldn’t take that risk. The closeness of the last elections doesn’t support such risk.

This doesn’t mean we don’t love non-Christians in the party; it only means we are being wise with our political strategy. After all, the NPP is the only party that has produced two Vice-Presidents from the Muslim Community.

Most Christians, particularly the fanatic ones, see his actions differently, as some believe he sometimes overacts. Some even describe his actions as “fake and pretentious”.

One respected and influential senior Bishop in the country, is on record to have said that if he (the Alhaji) really believes in the things he stands in the pulpit to say, he would have given his life to Jesus to be born again and be baptized with the Holy Spirit by now The Bishop then added, “he is not deceiving anyone; he is deceiving himself”.

Well, as to whether he would be able to significantly basket the Christian Community votes with his perfectly crafted acting strategy, should he in the most unlikely event becomes the party’s candidate for the 2024 election, I would candidly say that what happened to the NPP at the Ajumako Enyan Esiam Constituency remains the best lesson and answer. You may want to know what happened in AEE.

In 2008 the NDC’s new chap then, Ato Forson won the parliament seat with a difference of 2,930. In 2012, Ato Forson won it again with a difference of 3,290. In 2016, Ato Forson won it again with a difference of 3,698. Then came 2020, when the NPP mistakenly presented Dr. Rashid, a Fante-Muslim, against Ato Forson in an overly Christian-dominated constituency.

Prior to the election, nothing in the constituency suggested that such a horrible result could emerge. That is what makes the religious factor very dangerous. It is always calm on the surface but dangerous beneath.

As usual, the NDC, through their efficient propaganda mill, covertly, played the religious card against Dr. Rashid. In the end, Ato Forson won it again, but this time with an abnormal difference of 11,000, despite the party treating the constituency as a special project to oust Ato Forson.

No serious political party would ignore a thing like that in its decision-making process at the macro level, especially when you are dealing with a propaganda-expert party like the NDC in a very competitive political market like ours.

Any good and objective political strategist would tell you that, in the context of the nature of the Ghanaian political market, if the NPP presents Dr. Alhaji Bawumia against the NDC’S John Mahama, the party’s electoral win-lose ratio, would be 3:7.

That is to say that the party would have a 70% chance of losing and only a 30% chance of winning. No prudent investor would want to waste his or her resources on investment with such high risk.

With all due respect, only a naïve, uninformed, greedy, or selfish politician would say that you can bring every factor that affects election to the party’s surgical table for analysis and consideration relative to the selection of a candidate, except the religious factor.

As a matter of strategy, on the scale of significance, one factor that must always be at the top of the scale is the religious factor.

A serious political party simply cannot ignore this important factor. I believe that when it comes to the issue of power, one has to be bold and frank to say it as it is because once you lose power by mistake, getting it back is extremely difficult and expensive.

The political parties themselves know this and that is why they almost always present a Muslim candidate in an overly Muslim-dominated constituency and a Christian candidate in an overly Christian-dominated constituency.

Ejura and Asawaase constituencies in the Ashanti Region are typical examples. If Ghana were to be overly dominated by Muslims, Buddhists,s or Hindus, smart political parties would have always picked their candidates from them.

That is why no party in Senegal would present a Christian to win an election in that country. This is a commonsense strategy and is never antithetical to our peaceful coexistence.

If this strategy hasn’t created any problem at the micro (parliamentary) level, why should people call it religious bigotry when it is employed at the macro (presidential) level.

The end of every political strategy is power. Therefore, it would be a wise thing to do if the party sticks to its current Christian-Muslim strategy.

As to why Dr. Bawumia is desperately seeking to overthrow the very formula that gave him the underserved opportunity to become the Vice-President, I am yet to understand. There was no way the party would have considered him as a vice-presidential candidate had it not been the formula, yet he wants to overthrow it. Greed?

To the suffering and neglected delegates who fought so hard on empty stomachs to help bring the party to power in 2016 and 2020, I say to position yourself to enjoy what is currently flowing from the “second hill” as your thank you handshake.

If you really love the NPP, then make it your duty to fight to maintain the party’s tradition, but change the system that has neglected you!

Shalom shalom!