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Opinions of Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Columnist: Amorse, Amos Blessing

When volunteerism became 'moneysharerism': The case of NDC's campaign

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By Amos Blessing Amorse

Political campaign is not an easy task to be left in the hands of neophytes. Politicians in general know this basic rule in politics. Every election has been fought on the strength of the human resource available to a political party.

Volunteers have at all materials times played crucial role in NDC campaigns. These volunteers support the main campaign team in executing their task. In the past, these volunteers were responsible for mounting party flags on poles, pasting posters, sharing paraphernalia in pursuit of galvanizing support for the party.

This breathtaking exercise was done not for any material gains. There were those who engaged in this exercise on empty stomach. Others leave their works and engage in this laborious work with the sole aim of either helping the party retain power or recapture power.

The contributions of volunteers to NDC’s victory in previous elections are well scripted in the history books of the party. In the past, shockingly as this may sound, people acted as volunteers because they wanted their names to be mentioned as persons who contributed to the party's victory.

Those were the days when selfless service and sacrifice to the party was one's claim to fame. Sadly, this enviable virtue which bounded NDC supporters as comrades has evaporated.

In modern days, selflessness and sacrifice for the NDC has given way to tokenism, cronyism, greediness and godfatherism. These things which were alien to the pillars and principles on which the NDC was founded are now the fulcrum around which the party operates.

People see the least opportunity in the party as money making avenue. The slightest opportunity is seen as pot of gold where people could easily deep their hands into it and become rich overnight. This mentality was what led to the formation of hundreds of volunteer groups for this year's election.

Of course, there were some few groups which predated this year's election. But they were even the worse culprits. They were also caught in the web of enriching themselves instead of galvanizing support for the party.

The NDC entered into the December 7 election with a lot of resources at its disposal. The party also had a lot of impressive infrastructural achievements to campaign on. The NDC also enjoyed relative stability compared to the main opposition, NPP.

What was left for the party was how to manage these positive attributes and put them to profitable use. Alas! This was where the NDC shot itself in the foot. Poor coordination became the Achilles heels of the outgoing government.

Mr Kofi Adams was until the last election trusted as a master tactician in grassroot mobilization. Mr Sidii Abubakar was also touted as wielding same attributes. This brought a lot of respite to NDC folks. With Mr. Samuel Ofosu Ampofo at the helms, supporters of the NDC were convinced that the election would be a walk over.

Unfortunately for the NDC, the supposed talents of these kingpins fizzled into thin air at a time they were needed most. A major contributing factor to the party's defeat was how these volunteer groups were handled.

Almost all these groups had the same agenda. Their sole campaign tool was the "almighty" green book. It was so easy to form a volunteer group ahead of this year's election. All that one needed to do was to get some few friends, create a WhatsApp group, give it a name that have something to do with NDC, get an influential person in the party or government to link you to those in charge of the campaign funds, and start making money.

This became a very lucrative business at the tail end of the campaign. With the number of volunteer groups multiplying day in day out, there was scramble for resources and needless infighting to gain grounds. Some went to the extent of blackmailing others to gain favor with those who control the largesse.

At this point, "fine" ladies were the best persons to put forward to request for funds. Without these "fine" ladies as baits in your group, you cannot be assured of maximum collaboration from those in charge of the purse. I recalled how a leader of one of the groups made of "oldies" complained bitterly on Facebook about how they have been neglected because they were not "sparkling".

There were some of these groups who were formed by some powerful but unseen hands to prepare the stage for their future political standing in the NDC. The groups in this category never had problem with funding. The godfathers behind it made it possible for them to secure branded air-condition buses to tour the country.

At this point all that members of these volunteer groups did was to show pictures in the greenbook to "villagers" and take selfies with them. These selfies were used as proof of what they were tasked to do. Facebook in particular was daily awashed with greenbook holding NDC volunteers engaged in hearty talks with electorates.

Due to the money making opportunity that was created courtesy volunteerism, some constituency executives abandoned their constituencies and joined the craze. They left the enormous work that needed to be done in their constituencies in hot chase for money. Constituency women organizers and youth organizers in particular, were those who latched on this rare opportunity.

They left the jobs for which they were elected in their respective constituencies to do to go chasing their own share of the "free" Mahama "paper". They were mostly praised by their masters as doing yeoman's job in ensuring Mr. Mahama's reelection.

Few weeks to the election, these volunteers, mostly based in Accra, were sponsored to travel outside their constituencies to other regions like Upper East, Upper West, Brong Ahafo, Volta etc to campaign. With their green books in their hands, they engaged anybody who crossed their path.

Language barrier became the main shortfall that exposed how unwise this decision was. To the chagrin of some of the locals, hospitals, roads, circle interchange and other projects were shown to them as achievements of the Mahama government. Based on this, the locals were entreated to vote for Mr. Mahama.

Persons who walked on roads with gullies were shown pictures of asphalted roads constructed in other places as justification for Mr. Mahama's retention in office. Those without electricity were shown pictures of rural electrification projects Mr. Mahama had commissioned in other villages.

Those without portable drinking water were shown pictures of the Teshie desalination projects and other water projects. Those who complained of hardship were directed to "watch" pictures of the Kotokuraba market, Cape Coast Stadium, Komenda Sugar Factory and other projects.

This was the kind of uninspiring and counterproductive campaign the NDC used its volunteers to stage. What would Circle Interchange do to someone in Domeabra Obom who cannot feed his family? How will a driver in Central Tongu feel if he sees pictures of Teshie-37 road asphalted while the road he plies is unmotorable?

Aside the anger this campaign style sparked in persons who live in areas where non of the projects in greenbook were located, some constituency executives who hosted these volunteers also became furious. Resources that should have gone to them were wasted on these volunteers. The arrogance of some of these volunteers made matters worse.

It is open secret that some constituency executives angrily told the leadership of the party that they were going to leave the work for the volunteers to do since they were those financed to do their work. These warnings were taken lightly and at the end it affected NDC substantially.

In the past, constituency executives led the party's campaign in their various constituencies. In this year's election however, some constituency executives did not participate directly in the party. Some PCs relied on these volunteers; they invited them to their constituencies, spent huge sums of monies on them while constituency and branch executives were told to sacrifice for the party.

I remember when the President visited my constituency; I had to beg leaders of some of these volunteer groups for T-shirts to give to known NDC activists. I saw with my eyes T-shirts packed in sacks but these volunteers were unwilling to give them out. Apparently, my PC had paid for the printing of the T-shirts, but for strange reasons they were left in the hands of volunteers who had no idea of how we have been dealing with the people.

Days after the President's visit to my constituency, a leader of one of the volunteer groups who is my friend complained to me about how my PC had been reluctant in paying the balance of a sum they were promised before they visited my constituency.

I was awestruck by this development. We had many of our comrades in the constituency who walked several distances to work for the party without any monetary compensation. But those who travelled in air condition buses to the constituency for some few hours to showcase their "Accra lifestyles" were paid huge sums of money. This angered many of our comrades in the hinterlands.

There were instances where some volunteers visited constituencies without the knowledge of constituency executives. This also generated lots of anxiety among our comrades. Volunteers became the chieftains over elected constituency executives. Their phone numbers were in high demand because you cannot get to the big shots except through them. The love for money dominated their work and this created needless competition amongst them.

The competition was not over who wins souls for the NDC but who rides in the most luxurious cars, wear fancy cloths, take selfies with kingpins and hurriedly upload same on social media. "Moneyteerism" replaced volunteerism; that was the exact description of the sad incident.

A few of these groups received no or little support for their supposed projects. The groups that fell under this category were groups which had members who openly chastised some leading lights in government and party. They were taught a bitter lesson for opening their mouths too wide.

Regrettably, the Volunteers' Coordinating Centre under the aegis of Mr. Kofi Adams supervised this dismal "execution" process. Ordinarily, the Youth leader or his deputies should have been in charge of these volunteers. But that was not the case. The Youth Leader and his deputies rather rivaled these groups from its inception. It took some open confrontation to get the Youth Leader and his deputies to mend their broken relationship with these groups.

The Youth Leader and his deputies saw these groups as parallel structures put by unseen hands to dwarf their influence and at the end kick them out of office at the next Congress. They moved in quickly to avert the impending calamity but it was too late.

Truth be told, the Youth Leader and his two deputies are partly to be blamed for the wasteful use of the volunteers. If they had asserted their authority and provided leadership, that mess would probably not have cascaded to that level.

When things got offhand, the Youth Leader and his deputies embarked on a phantom "special operation" code named "operation 57% for JM". This was completely at variance with what some of these groups campaigned for. From the word go, it was clear Sidii Abubakar had lost grip on the youth front.

Some of these volunteers became more powerful and influential than the Youth Leader. The Youth Leader who until his election was touted as darling boy of the Big House was said to have been sidelined by managers of the campaign. The Big House was allegedly said to have found favor with other persons hence sponsored them to form these volunteer groups.

How the Youth Leader lost his position at the Big House to some leaders of these volunteer groups is something that political scientists may in the near future investigate. With all these worrying issues unresolved, December 7 came to pass and we lost miserably, albeit painful.

We lost favor with the youth though a lot of money was earmarked for youth operations. Whether the said money was used judiciously and for the right purpose is another interesting topic for discussion. Volunteers which many thought would complement the effort of the main campaign team became our waterloo. The formula for "murdering" the NDC was very simple: the Presidency provided the wood for the "coffin", party leadership provided the nail and hammer, and the volunteers nailed it beautifully to send us to opposition. We have arrived in opposition, more lessons to be learned.

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