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Opinions of Monday, 10 May 2021

Columnist: Ebo Buckman

The 2024 Elections: The unpardonable political sin the NPP must not commit (AEE constituency calamity as a case study)

File photo: New Patriotic Party (NPP) flag File photo: New Patriotic Party (NPP) flag

Sometimes, when I sit back and reflect solemnly on the kind of tortuous journey the party has embarked on since 1992 vis-à-vis the current happenings in the party, it makes me wonder whether winning political power is still the primary objective of the party.

Perhaps we need to be reminding ourselves quite often that the current power we are holding was won with 51.3% and that, the last time we lost power in 2008, we had won the 2004 elections with a bigger margin and a clear majority.

Strangely, those who are expected to know what is good for the party are rather the ones who are now playing politics like a video game – seeing only what’s on their screen. There is a bigger picture out there that should not be ignored. That bigger picture is the nature of the political market.

You see, when playing a video game, you can choose weakest opponents, manipulate the game and defeat them because you control everything. But, when playing the game of politics, you don’t choose your opponents, neither do you control everything. And, more significantly, you cannot manipulate the entire political market to win.

You can only when you have obeyed the dictates of the market.

Looking at the nature of the political market in this country, it would be an unpardonable political sin to replace the party’s current winning formula with the kind of alternative some of the party leaders are suggesting. It is often said that coming events cast their shadows.

Well, a frightening shadow of an imminent political calamity was cast in the Ajumako Enyan Essiam Constituency in the last election and I owe it a duty to bring it to the party’s decision-makers’ attention by this article, so that right things can be done to prevent the real humiliating event from occurring in the 2024 presidential election.

I have been thinking! Wouldn’t it be politically wise and commonsensical for real compromises to be made so that the whole party can unite behind the party’s tried and tested winning formula to win the 2024 elections? Why the incessant maneuverings to prematurely sacrifice a formula that has given the party four victories?

Do we have to needlessly sacrifice the hen that lays our golden eggs just to feed an apparent improbable political agenda of a group of people who are only seeking to perpetuate and protect their current political gains and fortunes?

Should a team change its winning tactics just to satisfy the team’s manager’s son when it is so obvious that his inclusion in the lineup would create a weak-link which can be exploited by the team’s opponent to defeat them? Again, should a team change its legitimate winning tactics because its opponent is complaining about it?

To those who are seeking to overthrow the party’s current winning formula, I humbly wish to caution that your agenda is ill-timed and ill-disposed to the fortunes of the party in the 2024 presidential election. The earlier that agenda is dropped the better!

The best of managers who have succeeded in their fields of endeavors would tell you that a winning formula is expensive and hard to come by and so when you are fortunate to discover one, you keep it conscientiously until you discover a super alternative winning formula, especially when you find yourself in a very competitive environment. There is no denying the fact that our current political environment is extremely competitive and volatile. The 2020 elections results on my mind.

Per the last presidential and parliamentary elections results, whereas the NDC made a significant surge, the NPP significantly nosedived. That is already a worrying sign that the 2024 elections would be an uphill task. Note this, friends, if we could slip from 52.4% in 2004 into opposition in 2008, then slipping from 51.30% in 2020 into opposition in 2024 is a frightening possibility that should not be taken for granted. O yes, it really is a frightening possibility!

You see, the NDC, by going to the Supreme Court to create the impression that they were cheated in the last election, have psychologically conditioned and prepared their base for the 2024 elections already. That’s why we must not entertain any idea of political experimentation. The 2024 presidential election is going to be a make-or-break election. Nonetheless, we can easily win it if we stick to our winning formula – the NDC’s scariest nightmares.

If you are an objective NPP politician who really cares about the 2024 elections, you wouldn’t hesitate to agree with me that going into that elections, the critical issue to be considered by the NPP delegates isn’t whether a presidential aspirant belongs to Kufuor faction or Nana Addo faction, even though some pro Alhaji guys have started playing the faction card already.

In fact, if that lowly card is to be played, then logically, 2024 must be for someone from Kufuor faction in that order. But, as I have said, that is not the critical issue to be considered for decision making.

Again, the critical issue is not whether one is an Akan or non-Akan, neither is it about how long and well one has served the party, even though if you take the two frontrunners, one is a founding member and one of the major financiers of the party who sustained the party’s financial health from 1992 till power was won in 2000, whereas the other joined the party in 2007 when he was privileged to become Nana Addo’s running mate. Once again, these aren’t the critical issues to be considered.

In fact, the critical issue isn’t even about which of the potential candidates would be the most fantastic president. Personally, I believe all of them would be fantastic on the job.

In all sincerity and without doubt, the most critical issue that needs to be considered is which of the potential candidates would be an easy-to-sell product for the current Ghanaian political market.

O yes that is the most critical issue! We are going to produce a candidate to sell to Ghanaians in 2024 and we cannot be oblivious of the nature of the market in which we are going to sell our candidate.

That is why the wise NPP fathers, in arriving at a formula or strategy for the party, selflessly considered a host of factors, chiefly the market factor. A great deal of political candor, thinking and calculations went into that particular decision making process before arriving at what has turned out to be a major political breakthrough for the party.

As it happened then, after the 1996 Great Alliance debacle, they went back to the formula, because in it they found a partnership that would ensure the party’s victories in successive elections. That is how victory was finally won in the year 2000. Again, that is how we won the last two elections. And, that is how we should win the 2024 elections.

I have always likened politics to a typical village palm nut soup (ab3nkwan). It takes the interplay of various ingredients to make it real aromatic and delicious.

You simply cannot add any suggested ingredient to it and expect to have the desired taste and aroma - you have to stick to your tried and tested recipe. One important ingredient is the stinking fish. You may not like it because it odiously offends the nose.

However, when the right quantity is used, the right taste and aroma come out so aromatically and deliciously. Mm, why am I whetting my own appetite at this time of the day?

In a nutshell, the point I am making with the ab3nkwan analogy is simply this: you don’t ignore certain key factors in politics and expect to win an election. For example, when Nana Addo chose “The battle is the Lord’s” slogan, he was very clear in his mind what he wanted to achieve with that as part of his marketing strategy - to appeal to the Christian Community.

The key political wisdom here is that in this country, a political party cannot ignore the influence of certain key factors, particularly the external ones and win an election. Don’t be deceived, religion plays a role in politics.

Now, back to my winning formula argument. So, when all important factors were considered, including the fact that the political market is overly dominated by the Christian Community (currently 71.2% according to GSS), followed by the Muslim Community (currently 17.6% according to GSS), the wise fathers settled on this power-winning formula: CSP + MNV = V.

That is, a Christian Southerner Presidential Candidate plus a Muslim Northerner Vice-Presidential Candidate is equal to victory. This makes political sense, doesn’t it? This formula has nothing to do with religious discrimination or bigotry, as some may want it to seem.

On the contrary, what we have in the formula is a unique partnership that was equitably structured and predicated on a common understanding that in politics power comes before anything else.

You see, when it comes to political strategy, the question of how must come first before the question of who. In other words, before you decide on who to pick as a candidate, you first have to know how the political market operates, so that you can produce the right candidate for the market. It was on the basis of this that the formula was devised.

Political parties cannot produce any candidate they want and force the market to like him or her. That is not how it works. For example, no amount of advertisements can make fanatic Muslims or Jews like pork. Market always rewards obedient and respectful producers, but punishes those who do otherwise.

The market has determined for us a solid winning formula and woe betides us as a political party if we disobey the dictates of the market and do otherwise. This isn’t a matter of the NPP not wanting to present a Muslim or a Northerner as their presidential candidate in 2024; it is a matter of prudent political strategy relative to the nature of the political market.

For those who are seeking to set aside the party’s current formula, I want to bring to your knowledge one imperative risk management principle. The principle requires that when you want to try an experimentation or take a new risk in any market, you don’t do it at the macro level.

It first has to be tried at the micro level where the cost would be minimal should you fail. And, it is only when you have succeeded with a series of experimentations at the micro level can you consider trying it at the macro level. This principle is even more crucial in politics because political power is expensive.

So, hear me good people of the NPP! Before you decide to present a non-Christian presidential candidate against a Christian candidate of the NDC in this country of ours where Christians (71.2%) overly dominate other faiths, make sure you have successfully experimented that decision at the parliamentary level.

At least at the parliamentary level when the experiment fails in one constituency, a win in another constituency can defray that loss. When you experiment it at the presidential level and you fail, the party would find itself in opposition, as there would be nothing to defray that loss.

If truth be told, over the years, both the NPP and the NDC have been prudent in managing their risks, as they have almost always presented Muslim candidates in Muslim-dominated constituencies and Christian candidates in Christian-dominated constituencies. And, the reason for this basic political strategy is so simple.

Market determines what to produce. So, what is stopping the NPP from applying the same prudence or strategy at the presidential level, by presenting a Christian candidate in this exceedingly Christian-dominated country of ours? Politics!

Now, let me tell you what my political crystal ball tells me. It may sound very unpalatable to the Alhaji’s camp but I will say it because it’s going help the party.

Even if Alan Kyerematen, who is undoubtedly the party’s best political asset for the 2024 presidential election decides not to contest the 2023 presidential primary, the party delegates should vote for another candidate other than the Alhaji if they are really serious about winning the 2024 elections. Why? Kindly continue to read!

This brings me to the Ajumako Enyan Essiam Constituency Calamity. It shocks me to the bone marrow why the NPP hasn’t learned a lesson from what happened to the party in that constituency in the last parliamentary election. What happened there is a microcosm of what would happen to the NPP in 2024, if they make the mistake to present the Alhaji as the party’s presidential candidate.

The 2020 AEE Constituency Calamity was a clear case of political miscalculation and it buttresses my unbending argument that in an overly Christian-dominated environment, it is politically unwise and dangerous to present a non-Christian candidate against a Christian candidate of the rival party.

Many were thrown into a state of shock by the horrible margin of defeat the party registered at Ajumako Enyan Essiam, considering the fact that the constituency was treated as a special project to get Ato Forson out. But, frankly speaking, I wasn’t shocked at all.

I had told a friend there from day one that the party was going to pay dearly for the unpardonable political sin they had committed.

My friend sent me pictures of their massive keep-fits to tease me that my prediction was a figment of my own imagination, but I kept telling him it was going to be a disaster until the disaster finally struck.

Since then, my friend has been calling me the political professor. Friend, I don’t think I am anywhere close to that title. Isn’t this a matter of common sense? I humbly wish to ask.

As I have always said, the kind of role religion plays in politics is the role of a silent killer. It doesn’t kill you with a shout from the mouth, it kills you with a conviction in the heart.

Dr. Rashid is a very good and intelligent person by all standard, but he simply wasn’t good for the political market there. Metaphorically, the NPP wasn’t prudent enough to sell banana in that monkey dominated market. They thought they could convince the monkeys to buy a well packaged apple.

You may say but that constituency was already an NDC seat. You see, that is not the point. The real point would be well understood if it is situated in a proper context relative to the results of the previous parliamentary elections.

So, kindly permit me to furnish you with a sequence of results in that constituency from 2008 to 2020. Before I do that, let me remind you that from 1996 to 2004 the NPP’s Isaac Edumadze (now late), may his soul rest in peace, dominated that constituency.

Now, let’s look at the facts and figures. In 2008, the NDC’s new chap then, Ato Forson won it 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, the year of unpardonable political sin! Ato Forson won it again, but this time with an abnormal difference of 11,000. O yes, 11,000!

This is how the unpardonable political sin was committed! The party mistakenly chose to ignore that in a free political market environment, it is the market that determines the kind of candidate to produce for an election.

The party ignored this important principle and went ahead to produce a non-Christian candidate in an overly Christian-dominated constituency to run against a Christian candidate of the NDC for the first time. An unpardonable political sin indeed!

The punishment for this kind of unpardonable political sin is humiliating defeat. And, that was the exact punishment the party suffered in that constituency. Sadly, some of our leaders are stubbornly and selfishly leading the party on to commit the same kind of unpardonable political sin in the 2004 presidential election.

May we not be overtaken by this selfishness-driven temptation to fall into this unpardonable political sin and suffer the humiliating punishment thereof!

Hence, my argument that changing our current formula now would mean taking needless uncalculated risk that could only bring defeat, regrets, tears and pain. The party is at a crossroads and levelheadedness is needed for prudent decisions to be made to save the soul of the party from perishing in opposition.

My suggestion! Since the formula gives us a significant advantage over the NDC, let’s continue to use it until we discover a super alternative formula.

Truth be told, the nature of our political market makes the Bawumia Agenda unrealistic and extremely risky. In fact, if I have to say it as it is without fear or favor, I would say it is a hovering disaster which should not be allowed to land on the head of the party in 2024.

As I have always said, the Alhaji is a very good and intelligent person, but he is simply not the right product for the political market in this country at this time. When the NDC present a non-Christian candidate, we would also present our Alhaji to beat them. Until then, let’s stick to our winning formula.

We shouldn’t make the mistake to create for the NDC an avenue through which they can deploy their propaganda machinery quietly to play the religious card with convincing propagandas at the grassroots, particularly the rural areas and be playing emotional gospel songs loudly at their political rallies, and on television and social media to sway the hearts and minds of a significant number of the 71.2% Christians in the country, especially the gullible and fanatic ones.

The NDC wouldn’t mind using their propaganda machinery in Christian-dominated communities, largely in the rural areas, to reduce the whole contest to Christian-Muslim thing to make Mahama appear as a Christian hero in a battle.

Well, I have been around long enough to know what they are capable of doing. That is why I am being very practical here. Do you remember in those early days how they succeeded in using their propaganda machinery to convince the typical Ga communities that the NPP would remove the capital of Ghana from Accra to Kumasi if they came to power?

If the NDC could succeed in crafting propagandas out of the Egyapa deal and even free SHS and other good policies and programs of the party, which nearly cost us power 2020, what else can’t they do? They are really desperate for power and would do anything possible to try to win it. Let’s not be the ones to arm them to harm us politically.

With all due respect to all party leaders at all levels, let’s stop all the needless squabbles and be more levelheaded towards 2024. Let’s not allow ourselves to be misled by the few belly-full guys who are only seeking to hold on to their fortunes.

If the truth I have been espousing is bitter and painful to take in, kindly bear with me. I like saying the truth however painful it may be to those it is intended to help.

I could have chosen to be quiet like many others. But, should I be quiet now and regret later and say I should have sounded the alarm a bit louder? No! The Silent Killer lurks to devour!

Here comes the most ludicrous argument: over the years, the NDC have been accusing us of being an Akan party that uses Northerners as Vice-Presidents and dumps them, so this is an opportunity for us to change that Akan-party tag. Are we really serious about winning the 2024 elections? Why don’t we also accuse them of being anti-Muslims party?

At least we have given the Muslim Community two Vice-Presidents. The NDC would have accused the NPP if they thought the NPP formula was weak. They are complaining because the formula is a real thorn in their flesh.

This time I want to conclude my article with a very short poem for my good friend and his wife from Dwen Hwe Kan village.

Friends, the name of your village speaks volumes. I hope you would love this poem of mine.

Thou art precious o power
Out of thy loin streams tears
For champs and losers alike
To those who win with rejoicing
To those who lose with regrets
With care you desire you’re handled

Shalom to all!