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Opinions of Monday, 19 March 2012

Columnist: Ata, Kofi

The Rawlings/NDC Dilemma: To Campaign or Not to Campaign?

By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK

The road to 2012 General and Presidential elections began in earnest for the ruling National Democratic Congress on Saturday March 17, 2012 with the first rally in Accra to outdoor the parliamentary candidates for the Greater Accra region. Unfortunately, the undercurrent factions within the party appeared to have raised its ugly head to mar the beauty of the first of many to come and also diminished the gargantuan rally into one besieged by controversy of either organisational problems or the role to be played of the founder of the party. The Founder of the party, Ex-President Rawlings and his wife refused to attend the rally for apparently not being invited (on time) and his name used to promote the rally. This article is to consider the dilemma facing both the Rawlingses and the NDC, the options for them and the potential consequences for both if the Rawlingses continue to boycott the NDC 2012 election campaign.

Though NDC as a collective would want the world to believe that there are no problems between President Mills, his government and the Ex-President and his wife, it is no secret that there are serious differences of opinion between the President, his government and the Rawlingses. The whole world bear witness to the fact that, the Rawlingses have publicly castigated the Mills administration as corrupt, incompetent and accused him of failing to prosecute corrupt officials under the NPP administration, called leading members as greedy bastards, etc. Though the President has not directly responded to the Rawlingses, his supporters and leading members of the party have directed their anger and frustrations at the Rawlingses in equally damaging, uncomplimentary and undiplomatic language. For example, the Party General Secretary’s comment that the dog that barked had been removed, when Dr Obed Asamoah and others rejoined the party. The final straw was the decision by Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings to challenge President Mills for the party’s flagbearership for the 2012 Presidential elections, culminating in the break out of open hostilities, the subsequent warfare between FOKAR and GAMES and the raw treatment given to the Rawlingses at the party National Congress in Sunyani, not metioning the humiliating defeat she suffered at the primary elections.

Many both within and outside the party expected that after the congress, efforts would have been made to bring the various factions together but sadly and for reasons yet unknown, the divisions have remained and conflicts exacerbated with FONKAR going on the attack with allegations upon allegations and the Director of Communications at the Presidency name calling FONKAR leaders. I do intend to go into the merits of the hostilities but the lack of leadership by President Mills as Party Leader and Presidential Candidate to take the bull by the horn by resolving the differences with the Rawlingses is disturbing. After all, he was the victor in the battle for the flabearership and all that was required of him was to administer either the “victor’s or the victim’s justice” by throwing the olive branch to the Rawlingses. I am not any way suggesting that the President should have compromised and conceded to the demands of the Rawlingses, especially their “justice” of prosecuting former NPP officials. As victor, Party Leader and President of the nation, I believe that he had the advantage of taking the first step to bring the party together. This was critical because he only won the NDC battle but not the war and he needs all hands on deck for the biggest battle of his political career, the 2012 Presidential Elections when he faces the formidable opponent in the person of Mr Willian Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo.

What are the potential implications of the Rawlingses not campaigning for NDC for the forth coming General and Presidential elections. I am not pretending to be a soothsayer with a crystal ball to read into the future but it would be foolhardy for anyone to assume that the absence of especially, Rawlings would not have a negative impact on the electoral fortunes of the party. There is no denial that Rawlings has a large support among the Ghanaian electorate and he can energise voters. Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings also could use her goodwill with the 31st December Women’s Movement to bring out voters to the party and its presidential candidate. Bearing in mind that in 2008, the elections were won by the narrowest of margins, numbers would be even more crucial in 2012. That is why NDC would cut their noses to spite their own faces if they fail to persuade the Rawlingses to be part of their 2012 campaign efforts. It is possible that NDC could still win the elections without the Rawlingses, but the global evidence is that, divided parties do not win elections.

The Rawlingses are also taking a big risk into the future of the unknown, if they continue to boycott the party campaign. Should President Mills retain power without their participation in the campaign, their influence over and within the party would be obliviated into history. In that scenario, their plans to take control of the party would vanish into thin air and the only option left to them would be either to leave the party and form a new one or remain as ceremonial leaders. On the other hand, should the President be defeated by Nana Akufo Addo, the Rawlingses would have the option of collectively licking their wounds with NDC or say, “we told you so”. They would be losers but still have the option of taking control of the party. However, the danger is whether there would any NDC as it is at the moment thereafter for them to take control. The likelihood is that, NDC could break apart with even the possibility of the Mills faction forming another party or joining the CPP. Whichever outcome of the two scenarios, the Rawlingses would not come out any better.

The other card the Rawlingses could play is for Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings to put her political ambition to the test by contesting the Presidential elections as an independent candidate. If that happens, she would not only deliver the Presidency to Nana Akufo Addo on a silver platter but she would also suffer the second political haemorrhage of her political life and put to rest her presidential ambition. This option is more dangerous for the Rawlingses because they would be held responsible for the defeat of the NDC and any subsequent breakup of the party. They could also be accused of being power drank and wanting power for power sake or probably seeking revenge on President Mills.

The last option left in the reshuffled cards or the game of musical chairs would be for the Rawlingses to follow the Arab saying that “my brother and I against our cousin but my brother, my cousin and I against the enemy”. They could also take a cue from Ex-President Kufuor that, he would prefer to be a messenger in the ruling party to being the General Secretary of a opposition party. In the event of this option, the Rawlingses neither have to eat humble pies to join the NDC 2012 campaign nor do they even have to explain why after all what they have said about and done to the Mills administration, they will have to campaign for him and the party. Their simple excuse is, “we have weighed the two evils” of Ghana under President Mills and Ghana under President Akufo Addo and have concluded that, despite the corruption, incompetency, team B, etc, Ghana under President Mills is the lesser evil.

I am persuaded that the Rawlingse are very much aware of the consequences of their actions and omissions and would not want NDC to go into opposition. I say so because the address by Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings on Saturday to the Akuafo Hall Ladies is conciliatory, despite the fact that she accused the Mills faction or the party leadership of rigging the flagbearership elections. She claimed that she could have gone to court to contest the results but did not do so for party unity. This is an indication that she accepted the results. That is why I am of the view that the Mills faction or President Mills showed lack of leadership by his failure to approach the Rawlingses to smoke the peace pipe. Remember what Obama did after the bitter contest between him and Hillary Clinton in 2008. Despite that devastating advert against Obama that when the phone rings in the night, who will answer, Obama was the first to approach Hillary after he won the Democratic primaries even before the party’s national convention because Obama knew that he needed a unified party with the Clintons on board for victory.

But would the pride of the Rawlingses allow them to join the campaign train without the effort from the President Mills? No, from my personal experience with the former first family, that would be a hard nut to crack. They are both strong individuals with insatiable appetite for protocol to be observed and respect and recognition to be accorded them. The disrespect shown to them at the party conference and still ongoing must stop. How can the Greater Accra branch of the party justify how they went about with the invitation to last Saturday’s rally? One is tempted to conclude that, that was typical of the incompetency within the party and the government but one should not ruled out the possibility of a scheme by the hawks within to curtail the influence of the Rawlingses over the party. Both the Rawlingses and the Mills faction within the party must come together for the collective interest of the party and nation. They either swim together to safety or sink together. United they stand and divided they fall.

It would have been incredible in the past for Rawlings to ask the party to refrain from using or misusing his name to advertise party events. It is also interesting for a member of the NDC Communication Team to claim that, Rawlings cannot stop the party from using his name. He may be right because Rawlings does not own exclusively rights to his name. Again, as party founder, the party has the right to use or misuse the title of party founder, if the name Rawlings is recorded in the party’s governing documents as the party founder. Rawlings could resign or give up his position as party founder if he wants to stop the party from using his name and title as party founder.

This war of attrition or the battle for the soul and body of the party would end with no prisoners of war being taken by either side but only causalities on both sides. The beneficiaries would be the bystanders which are the opposition parties, particularly the main opposition party. They are enjoying the ensuing civil war within the NDC and are in fact, hoping that it continues till the elections. Who can blame them, after all, is the Democrats not enjoying the Republican Presidential Primary candidates attacking each other and wishing for more?

To ensure a lasting and working ceasefire and for peace to prevail within NDC that would bring them together as one family, yet with differences of opinion and approach that could ensure victory for them in 2012, the Rawlingses must accept that they cannot always be at the centre stage of Ghanaian politics and for the NDC to learn to accommodate the Rawlingses and give them the respect and recognition that they rightly deserve.

Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK