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Opinions of Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Columnist: Kennedy, Arthur Kobina

The Troubles Of The NPP - Arthur K

24th May, 2010

Poor NPP! So much goodwill from Ghanaians and yet so much ill-will from within.

No political party in our history has ever enjoyed so much good-will from the public and yet looked so close to losing elections.

With the NDC’s promised “BETTER GHANA” looking increasingly like a “BROKEN GHANA” and the nation eager for deliverance, the NPP appears determined to self-destruct and to, once again, snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

A fortnight ago, the Asantehene, Otumfour Osei Tutu II, publicly expressed concerns about the divisions within the NPP and its potential to deny us victory in 2012. He made those remarks when Nana Akufo-Addo, the 2008 NPP Presidential Candidate, made a courtesy call on him at the Manhyia Palace in Kumasi. The Asantehene stated “The NPP flag-bearership is supposed to be a family affair; but why are you fighting for your personal ambitions to the detriment of the party that you claim to love?” Of course, the Asantehene added that he had expressed the same concerns to Party Chairman Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey and Mr. Alan Kyerematen, another aspirant to the flag-bearership. The reaction to the Asantehene’s comments from the party faithful can be summed up in one sentence; “Nana, mo ne kasa! Bo ho bio!” Indeed, many party members have expressed the same concerns and been ignored at best or insulted by the powers that be. It is probable that if anyone had made the same remarks made by the Asantehene, he would have been attacked viciously by the constellation of sycophants around our party’s poobas. Remember “CHASING THE ELEPHANT INTO THE BUSH” ?. Indeed, but for the fashionable sycophancy that has gripped our party, it should not have required the Asantehene to call attention to the divisions in our party. Alas we have old people but hardly any elders in our party. Virtually all those who in other times would have called errant people to order are all happily engrossed in the factionalism that the Asantehene was calling attention to. Da Rocha who called Alan’s resignation petty and publicly warned Nana not to impose Hajia on the party is gone to his eternal rest and we miss him too much to put into words already.

Unfortunately, the self-destructive streak that has seized our party is not new. The Danqhah-Busia tradition has been here before. In 1979, with the tradition widely tipped to repeat its overwhelming 1969 victory and return to government, the party was seized by factionalism. After endless bickering over who would be leader and other such mundane matters, the tradition split into the Popular Front Party and the United National Convention. Facing daunting odds in the elections, the Nkrumaists, the Peoples’ National Party, decided to make UNITY their watchword. They chose as their Presidential candidate a little-known former Diplomat. They won Seventy-one of a possible One hundred and forty seats in Parliament and their Presidential Candidate, Dr. Hilla Limann, got the most votes in the Presidential election without securing the 50% required to win. Analysis of the Parliamentary results showed clearly that without the split in the ranks of the Danquah-Busia parties, they would have won an overwhelming majority in Parliament and probably elected the PFP candidate, Mr. Victor Owusu, one-touch as President. Despite the sobering implications of the first round, the UNC could not support the PFP candidate, their ideological soul-mate, in the second round and Dr. Limann was elected President. The rest, as they say, is history. We had the disastrous twenty-seven month Presidency of Dr. Limann which paved the way for the Rawlings dictatorship. That 1979 defeat, to put it bluntly, was caused mainly by complacency and pettiness.

By 2008, it appears that the lessons of the 1979 defeat had faded and we were back to our complacent ways. With overwhelming goodwill on our side and perhaps the best record of any government since independence, we once again, managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Some say we lost because we had too many concert parties. Others say the divisions that started in 1979 resurfaced to divide us once again. Many say we did not get out the vote and police the counting well enough. Others say we lawyerred too much while the NDC was hustling on the ground. I have examined many of these issues and clearly stated my views in my book, “CHASING THE ELEPHANT INTO THE BUSH”. Many in our party have dismissed the book and any other serious analysis about how and why we lost. Unfortunately, heading into 2012, many of the issues that plagued us are still with us.

The party that had no macho-men to respond while our young men and women were brutalized in the Volta Region during the 2008 election have had a member assaulted by macho-women while attempting to place a poster for a Presidential aspirant at our party’s national Headquarters. Where were the macho-people when we needed them in 2008 in the Volta Region?

Despite the oft-stated determination of the NDC to jail as many NPP members as possible, re-enforced since the election by NDC functionaries, including the Attorney General, the National Security Co-coordinator and former President Rawlings, an NPP official accused the 2008 Presidential candidate of our party, Nana Akufo-Addo, of being behind the prosecution of former NPP government officials!! How can we distrust our own so much?

There have been claims by members of both Alan and Nana campaigns that they are being harassed by others for supporting their candidates.

We have spent significant time debating the Asante-Akyem rivalry when we know that even when united, Asantes and Akyems together, cannot bring us victories by themselves.

The ink on our thumbs during the election of our new National Executive is hardly dry but some in our party are hard at work trying to undermine TEAM JAKE at every turn. Looking at all these and the state of our party, it is tempting to agree with what Cassius told Brutus in Shakespeare’s JULIUS CAESAR because it applies to the NPP: “ The fault, dear Brutus is not in our stars, But in ourselves that we are underlings.” In 1979, it was our fault that the PNP won. In 2008, it was our fault that the NDC won. In 2012, it will be our fault if the NDC is returned to government. We seem to be biting our collective tongue and enjoying that too much. As the Asantehene pointed out though, there is still time to turn things around.

Here is how we can do so. First, to all those who still bear grudges about 1979 or 2008, I say let it go. Let us focus, not on defeats in the past that we cannot undo but on victories in the future that we can win. No amount of effort can change the results of 1979 or 2008 but we can win in 2012, with unity.

Second, let our candidates regard this contest as a primary after which we shall work together to help make the winner President. Victory in this primary will be meaningless unless it is followed by victory in the 2012 General Elections. Let us have a high-minded debate about how we can make our party and our nation better. Let us have respectful debate about the relative strengths and weaknesses of different candidates without insults. Our candidates must forthrightly condemn unacceptable pronouncements or behaviours by their supporters.

Third, let the elders in the party stand for the party, not for individual candidates. Elders who have already lined up behind particular candidates do not have credibility to adjudicate quarrels or reconcile factions. Led by President Kufuor, let them represent what is best about our tradition and stand above the fray.

Fourth, let the National Executive ran a fair, efficient and transparent Primary, both at the Presidential and Parliamentary levels so that afterwards, they will have the moral standing to unite all of us. While the efforts out there to paint them as biased has no credibility at this time, they must be careful not to give grounds for it. It will be tragic for our party if they are compromised by this primary process. When virtually all members of the National Executive condemn Kwame Pianim for his unfortunate comments at the Prof. Frimpong Boateng launch and are silent after the assault of a member right at Party Headquarters, it creates the unfortunate impression that our leadership may not be even-handed.

Next, the press must avoid the tendency to blow up every petty complaint. The amount of attention given to the Funeral donation by Jake or to Kwame Pianim’s midguided comments during the launch of Prof Frimpong Boateng’s campaign, were excessive.

Finally, to the membership of our party, let us not mistake this primary for the general elections. The very candidate you are condemning now may be the one you have to sell in 2012. Be sure that when people start repeating the accusations you are making against other candidates, you and all of us will not be embarrassed. Let us stand behind our new Executives as they lead us to victory in 2012. Above all, let us work and pray, for unity and for God’s grace, as we work towards victory in 2012. If we cannot unite, Ghanaians who will be voting in 2012 will wonder if our party has what it takes to unite Ghana. Let us move forward, together, to victory in 2012.

Arthur Kobina Kennedy