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Opinions of Thursday, 25 December 2008

Columnist: Nyamekye, Kwabena

What went wrong with the Ghana National Party

By Kwabena Nyamekye

The birth of another political party, Ghana National Party in Ghana’s democratic dispensation was received in some circles as a welcome alternative to the NPP and NDC as the CPP was struggling to gain any traction. The then Executive Chairman, Mr. Ofori Ampofo assured Ghanaians that the party was not formed to merely add to the existing political parties but to wrestle power from the ruling NPP. The affable Ofori Ampofo who later became the party’s Presidential candidate decided to abandon his Presidential ambitions and stood as a Member of Parliament but unfortunately lost.

The diaspora formed Ghana National Party which was established on a strong accountability, efficient services delivery and effective leadership slogans struggled to gain any traction in Ghana as the party made several mistakes and under-estimated the popularity of the NPP and the NDC. Some of the main founders resorted to remotely controlling the affairs of the party from the diaspora and left the task of marketing the party to the Executive Chairman and few others. While the party was struggling to make any inroads in Ghana, party members on the Ghana Leadership Union (GLU) forum were spending most of their time preaching leadership to an audience where most of the participants could not vote in Ghana. While they preached leadership on the forum, their party was crumbling in Ghana lacking financial resources to match the campaign initiatives of the NPP and the NDC.

GNP sent letters to appeal for funds when they had not developed a coherent strategy to convince their colleagues in the diaspora and Ghanaians at home that they had the competencies to become a viable alternative government. Some of its members preached revolutionary language of taking the country back when they themselves did not have any recognition in their communities and had no appreciation of the financial resources required to run a political campaign. With some of the party’s founders unwilling to return to Ghana and rather preferring to call the shots from their overseas basis, the party could not market their team to the electorate to give the Ghanaian Press and electorate ample time to verify their backgrounds and their capability to handle the numerous problems facing Ghanaians. In essence, they made a mockery of the political process with their unwillingness to make personal sacrifices to return home thinking that they can form a party from the diaspora, preach from their overseas homes and leave everything to Mr. Ofori Ampofo and few others.

The GNP failed to comprehend the political protocols that led to the cancellation of their planned congress and the attendant inexcusable blunders of lying to Ghanaians that they were postponing the congress due to the delay of a parcel from overseas. While trying to fool Ghanaians, it was revealed that the Electoral Commission had banned the party from holding a national congress until they completed regional congresses. When the party complied and completed their regional congresses and organised the national one, it was poorly attended and in most part ignored by the Ghanaian Press. This highlighted the urgency of a re-think and the Presidential candidate then decided to stand as a Member of Parliament rather than set himself for a disgrace at the Presidential level. With lack of adequate financial support and the party’s inability to attract competent personnel, this was a wise decision. Mr. Ofori Ampfo became the only standing parliamentary candidate of the party but lost.

What are the lessons for some who under-estimate the political maturity of the Ghanaian electorate and think anyone can preach change and be given the ticket to manage the affairs of the country? As Larry S Gibson once said on a Ghanaweb article "the more successful candidates are not necessarily those with the most popular policies. Rather, winning politicians are those who relate on a personal level with the electorate." That is the main reason why the GNP is where they are now with zero parliamentary seats despite all the good policies on its website.

Despite the leadership and strategic commentaries on the GLU and GNP forums, there were apparent flaws in the party’s ability to translate talk and theories to practical outcomes. In fact the GLU President and a founding member of the GNP, Dr. Kwaku Danso clarified to the writer that one key purpose of GLU is to share and hence educate. He emphasises that “the cultural shift in Ghana is due to poor ineffective leadership that is supposed to lead, guide, inspire, intellectually stimulate our people and manage resources to help us become a globally competitive society.” However such a claim that the purpose of GLU is to educate is challenged by some of the forum members. In a recent contribution, one member wrote: “We are only here to exchange ideas, plain and simple..we are on the verge of becoming irrelevant if all we can do is to hurl insults at one another!!”

The forum has transcended into insults, challenges on Ph.D qualifications, 1960s bombings, Nkrumah faction versus Danquah-Busia etc. All these are happening in an era where factions within the CPP and PNC are endorsing Nana Akufo Addo and Prof Mills. The forum does not seem to appreciate that Ghanaians have moved on from the 1960s and are consolidating the democratic dispensation first ushered in by the P/NDC and continued by the NPP. Both the Nkrumah and Danquah-Busia factions are working together for the betterment of our country while the GLU forum wastes its precious time discussing bomb throwing in the 1960s. On the debate on academic qualifications, one contributor on the forum summed it up nicely as “Is it worth the time speculating about someone's academic record when we could have been discussing how to improve the literacy level in our country where 49% of the population cannot read or write in any language.”

Dr. Danso who moderates this forum and claims to have leadership expertise was quick to remove an NPP supporter for promoting his party’s credentials. While he claims political neutrality he endorses the intense politisation of issues on the forum and the fruitless discussions on Ph.D qualifications.

In order to revamp the GNP, Dr. Danso and his colleagues on the GLU forum have a duty to channel their time and resources to the GNP cause. Over the next four years, the party needs to sell their capability to Ghanaians and what they can do differently from the NPP and NDC. It is only then that the party will be able to mount a strong challenge and get some representation in Ghana’s Parliament.