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Opinions of Thursday, 30 August 2018

Columnist: D.C. Kwame Kwakye

The accusations from an insider - Has the NDC infighting begun?

Elections are part of every political process and in a democratic state like ours that gives the electorates the opportunity to decide who leads them at the political party level and the country at any given time.

Political parties go through same process to elect individuals members of the party wants them to lead either at the polling station or branch level, constituency level, regional level and ultimately at the national level including the flagbearer and leader of the party.

The National Democratic Congress (NDC), the largest and most formidable opposition party has begun the process of electing party officers. They've already completed their branch and constituency elections and still left with the regional, national and the flagbearership race to be done. Elections are normally characterised by emotions, rancour and verbal attacks and counter attack in order for the competitors to undo each other, all manner of tactics are employed in order to win whether fair or foul. In most most cases foul language in campaigning becomes the norm.

ENTER MR. BAGBIN

Honorable Alban Kingsford Sumani Bagbin (born 24 September 1957) is an NDC Ghanaian politician who is currently the Second deputy speaker of Parliament. He is also the Member of Parliament for Nadowli West and longest serving member of parliament in our dear motherland. He has in recent times in his quest to lead the largest opposition NDC been making some unfavourable comments about his own NDC especially against the former president John Dramani Mahama and his perceived associates or appointees in his government.

On the 19th August, 2018 under the caption "Mahama's boys bought V8, built mansions in 4 years – Bagbin", it is reported that Mr Bagbin on a campaign in Keta in the Volta region made comments such as "the pillars that support you when you’re up there, are the pillars you have to fortify to continue to carry you up there when you weaken them, you fall. You cannot put something on nothing. We have to change. “Don’t tell me that the boys that suddenly came closer to the president within four years can build mansions and buy land cruisers and you say there are no resources, where are they getting the money, their salaries?” Mr Bagbin queried.

The above comments have received rebuttals from party executives including the national organizer of the NDC in the person of Mr. Kofi Adams including a threat of activating the disciplinary procedure against Mr. Bagbin.

Unfortunately for the second deputy speaker of parliament he did not mention any particular name in the said allegation against the erstwhile NDC government. Could Mr. Bagbin's comments be taken serious considering his stature in the NDC or we should take it with a pinch of salt? This allegation by Mr Bagbin has already been spoken about by Mr. Thomas Kusi Boafo, the current CEO of the Public Sector Reform. He said the NDC government sold over 700 state vehicles including V8 cars some as old as six months to party officials, friends and cronies of the government. He even added that some of the V8 cars were sold as cheap as ¢5000.00. Tvnews.com, 27th January, 2018.Could this be what Mr Bagbin was referring to?

STAMMERER

The second deputy speaker of parliament has descended too low in my estimation in his pursuit to lead the NDC. He has accused President Mahama's choice of communication minister in the person of Dr. Omane Boamah as wrong all because he is a stammerer. He is quoted to have said "Dr Omane Boamah, who stammers; “wasted time” communicating to Ghanaians due to his disability". Graphic online.

In my humble view, Dr. Omane Buamah discharged himself creditably very well during his tenure as communications minister and for Mr Bagbin to accuse and blame his disability as part of their loss was hitting below the belt, very unfair to Dr. Boamah and that cannot be among the reason why the NDC lost the the 2016 elections. Dr. Boamah stammers as I do, but that couldn't be the reason why the NDC lost. If Mr. Bagbin has better accusations to make, let him do so and leave Dr. Boamah alone.

TERTIARY EDUCATION AND MR ABLAKWA

In recounting why the NDC lost the 2016 elections, Mr. Bagbin is quoted by citinewsroom.com on the 22nd August, 2018 captioned "Making Ablakwa a Deputy Education Minister cost NDC – Bagbin" by saying “we had very good material in our last government but the placement was wrong. Look at my son-in-law Ablakwa; brilliant handsome young man but he had problems before he got his certificate at Legon. You recall they almost rusticated him.” He further stated “after he’s done national service in Parliament and joined politics, he was made a deputy Minister for Education in Charge of Tertiary. [So for] the lecturers, what are you telling them? Some of these decisions affected us a lot,” Mr. Bagbin said.

This might be a moot point but in our part of the world where we respect, adore the elderly and titles, then with what Mr Bagbin said true, he might have a point. This is not to slight Mr. Okudzeto Ablakwa, but however well intentioned the appointment was, it was still misplaced. How was the appointing authority expecting Mr. Ablakwa to handle Vice Chancellors, UTAG and the whole university community taking his age and other factors into consideration?

I'm one person who was all for it when the Mills and Mahama administration decided to blend youth and the old in government. It was politically expedient to do so because the Ablakwa's, Omane Boamah's, Ato Forson's, Kwakye Ofosu's etc would be the face of the NDC going forward when the old guard fade away.

No one was born with experience, we all acquire some as we grow and given the opportunity to work. If the youth are not given such opportunities to make mistakes today, when would they acquire the requisite experience in future? But with the Ablakwa's case I'm tempted to agree with Mr. Bagbin that, it wasn't too expedient taking into consideration the person's he was supposed to deal with another portfolio would have served him better, the state and the party.

DR SEIDU DANAA

The Nadowli West member of parliament, Mr. Sumana Bagbin also waded into another area of why the NDC lost the 2016 election. This time he accused President Mahama's appointment of Dr. Danaa. His accusation is not because of incompetence but because of his disability. According to Graphic online Mr. Bagbin is reported to have said “If you are not whole can you be a chief or a queen mother?

So when you form a government and make the Minister for Chieftaincy a blind person and the chiefs are objecting and you don’t change it, what are you telling the chiefs? These are facts I am stating. I have not added anything. You all know it, but you may not have appreciated the impact of what happened. And when some of us are close and can forsee it and we say it, then you are somewhere and you are telling people to insult us".

Well, this is a murky area for the honourable member of parliament to have waded into. In the Akan traditional system, anybody with any kind of deformity or disability cannot be made a chief or queen under no circumstance. That is a statement of fact by Mr. Bagbin. When Dr. Danaa's name was mentioned as the chieftaincy minister, there were mixed feeling but the dust settled as usual and we allowed sleeping dogs to lie.

Would it have been better if Dr. Danaa wasn't made a chieftaincy minister since his disability is frowned upon by our tradition in relation to the chieftaincy institution? Some would argue that, since he wasn't a chief himself and was a government appointee, was it a big deal? If, the president then wanted to demonstrate that disability wasn't inability, could anyone fault him for that? In appointment should the president be guided by the cultural ethos of the people or should that be ignored with respect to modernity with reference to this particular issue? How did the appointment of Dr. Danaa affect the electoral fortunes of the NDC?

Such commentary from Mr. Bagbin has attracted public opprobrium from former president Rawlings, President of the Ghana Federation of Disability Organisations Yaw Ofori Debrah, and the flagbearer of the Convention People's Party (CPP) in the 2016 elections. While Mr Yaw Ofori Debrah has described Mr Bagbin’s comment as disappointing and wants an apology, Mr. Ivor Kobina Greenstreet the CPP standard bearer has decided to petition the speaker of parliament to refer Mr. Bagbin to the Privileges Committees because he has described Mr. Bagbin comments as "unsavoury and unacceptable remarks un-befitting of the high office of the speaker". Daily Guide Newspaper, 23rd August, 2018.

In as much as Mr Bagbin's comments are factual, in my humble view it would have been better left unsaid. Because as things stands, it appears Mr. Bagbin has something against persons with disability which I think isn't the case.

From the foregoing, it appears Mr. Bagbin is on mission to discredit the former president who has today declared his intention to contest for the flagberership of the NDC and puts him on a collision course with those ardent supporters of Mr. Mahama. Is it the beginning of the infighting within the NDC?

Mr. Ben Ephson who is the managing editor of the Daily Dispatch and a known pollster has posited among others on Starr FM on the Ist day of August, 2018, that “from the way things are going in the NDC, I can say their flagbearership elections is going to be very dirty, very very dirty.”

The veteran journalist said the infighting and jostling for power within the Umbrella family is happening at a time when NDC members should have rather remained united and attacked the governing NPP over the several scandals that has rocked the Akufo-Addo led administration.

He added that “The NDC has turned guns on themselves and if they are not careful, they will not be united in 2020. They are digging their own grave."

Judging from what is happening, can it be concluded that the race to elect a flagbearer for the NDC would get murkier and dirty as claimed by Mr. Ephson? Or the NDC would learn their lessons and have a clean campaign? Or better still the party would be strong enough to deal with persons who intend to foment trouble? Only time would tell.

Sitting on the fences, I would closely be monitoring events as the NDC flagbearership race gathers momentum and hope and believe that Mr. Ephson wouldn't be a prophet of doom but rather a prophet who has revealed to redeem the NDC from doom.