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Opinions of Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Columnist: Al-Hajj

Who leads NDC into 2016 elections

He was thought by many pundits of not having even a dog’s chance of retaining his position as Chairman of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) when the party goes to congress later this year, but at the official launching of his third term bid, incumbent Dr Kwabena Adjei, appears to have raised the stakes higher for party stalwarts crisscrossing the country all in a bid to ditch him.

Soon after his triumphant campaign launch, which was well-patronized by party kingpins and grassroots at the Kama Conference Center in Accra last week, other aspiring National Chairmen of the NDC, who hitherto were engaged in low profile campaigning have suddenly been jolted into action and have intensified their campaign with others joining the media frenzy to promote their bid.

For the first time in the history of the ruling party, the incumbent Chairman is facing a fierce challenge from two of his deputies, and an astute party linchpin from the NDC’s “World Bank.”

Prominent party members present at last week’s launching of Dr Adjei’s campaign included General Secretary, Johnson Asiedu Nketsiah; National Organizer, Yaw Boateng Gyan; acting Propaganda Secretary, Solomon Nkansah; Deputy National Organizer, Alhaji Baba Sheriff; Deputy General Secretary, George Lawson; Greater Accra Chairman, Joseph Kobina Ade Coker and many other party heavyweights and faithful.

While launching the campaign, Mr. Johnson Asiedu Nketsiah took time to explain why he and Yaw Gyan and some of the other national executives were at the launch of Dr. Kwabena Adjei’s campaign.

According to Mr. Nketsia, since the Koforidua congress of the party in 2005, because he, Dr Kwabena Adjei and Yaw Boateng Gyan had little or no resources when they decided to take up leadership positions in the party, they jointly launched their campaign and that tradition has since remained.

Tracing his relationship with the NDC chairman to their days in Parliament and at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture where he was deputy to Dr. Kwabena Adjei, the NDC General Secretary stated that it was not true that the former and the other executives are soft, hence have allowed him to wield enormous power in the party.

According to him anybody who holds that view is ignorant of the inner workings of political party organization especially in the NDC.

In a brief speech, Dr. Kwabena Adjei implored delegates and NDC supporters to take a cue from the Biblical passage which says “man shall not live by bread alone.”

He said his records as National Chairman and the various positions he has held both in party and government that has led to the grooming of leading political lights in the party like Mr. Asiedu Nketsiah will speak for itself on the voting day.

On the issue of verbal attacks on him, Dr. Kwabena Adjei announced to a highly packed auditorium to allow those going round badmouthing him to continue, saying “let them say.”

Dr. Kwabena Adjei, under whose administration the NDC was shepherded from opposition to win the 2008 general elections and went further to retain power after a fierce contest in the 2012 polls, will have his vice, in charge of elections and National Coordinator of National Disaster Management Organization, Mr Kofi Portuphy to contend with.

Aside the scary challenge from Mr. Portuphy, Dr. Kwabena Adjei, who has served in almost all political positions under the Jerry Rawlings/Mills administrations, is also being tackled from other angles by another of his deputies, Alhaji Hudu Yahaya and the former Trade Minister and Ambassador to Malaysia, Ambassador Dan Kwasi Abodakpi, who doubles as his compatriot from the Volta land.

What makes this year’s contest for the NDC chairmanship race very dicey and interesting is that the four candidates haggling for the post all have impeccable records in the party and are also cadres of the 1982 revolution led by the NDC founder, Jerry John Rawlings.

Indeed, aside not been novices in Ghanaian politics, all the four aspiring candidates have held sensitive executive and party positions and are within their rights qualified to lead the party into the 2016 election which has been tipped by analyst as very crucial.

Who Wears the Crown?

As the campaign hits fever pitch, very interesting political permutations based on the loyalty and credentials of the four aspirants are being flaunted in the mass media to court support of party delegates.

If the NDC should decide not to break tradition by allotting the National Chairman post to any other region than the Volta region, then Dr. Kwabena Adjei and Ambassador Dan Abodakpi appeared favored by the unwritten pact to reserve the highest party post to the party’s World Bank of Volta Region.

However, both candidates would have to rely on their past performances and popularity in the Volta region and in the party to scale through the ugly jaws of electoral surprises.

While many in the NDC’s World Bank and other parts of the country believe the incumbent chairman has done a sterling job by leading the party from opposition in the midst of scant resources to win power in 2008 and retain it in 2012, therefore, ought to be given another mandate into the 2016 elections, some section of the party think otherwise.

They are of the view that in order to maintain the tradition, Ambassador Dan Abodakpi should replace Dr. Kwabena Adjei to inject some freshness and newness in the running of the governing party.

Proponents of this idea argue that regardless of the unprecedented achievements of Dr. Kwabena Adjei as the only chairman of a political party to win election twice on the trot, it was time for him to bow out for another native of the Volta land to step in his shoes.

But aficionados of the incumbent chairman have rebuffed this suggestion, stating that Dr. Kwabena Adjei has an unfinished business of retiring Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo and defeating the New Patriotic Party for the third time.

Aside this, Ambassador Dan Abodakpi’s promise to strengthen and empower the grassroots is said to be making waves and drawing support to his campaign.

Even though he appears to be the dark horse among the aspirants, political pundits say he can cause an upset if he utilizes his grassroots prowess to garner support.

On the other hand, Mr. Portuphy and Alhaji Hudu Yahaya are also wielding enormous political clout in the party and are making a fine case why the party delegates should break tradition and crown them with the chairman post.

The National Coordinator of NADMO, a native of the Greater Accra region but with some genealogical leanings to the Volta region, was considered the leading candidate for the NDC chairmanship slot until last week campaign launch of Dr. Kwabena Adjei, and the official entry of Alhaji Hudu Yayaha.

Until the entrance of Alhaji Hudu Yahaya, who is expected to rely heavily on the Northern card and the highly admirable role he played when he served as the party’s first General Secretary, but pundits seem to narrow the contest to a two horse race between Mr. Pee as Mr Portuphy is affectionately called and Dr. Kwabena Adjei (Wayo Wayo).

Indeed, at some point many tipped the NADMO boss to easily cruise to victory come congress day. His loyalty to the NDC coupled with his vigilance as party representative at the Electoral Commission that has resulted in the party winning the last two elections is a record his admirers keep touting.

His privileged position as NADMO boss and his performance on the job is said to be the magic wand that has attracted many of the party’s grass root to his campaign.

However, political pundits say it would be too early to call the election for Mr Portuphy as Alhaji Hudu Yahaya has also thrown in a strong challenge interspersed with some convincing messages that is resonating with party faithful.

Aside being a legal practitioner, longest serving vice Chairman, first General Secretary of the party, well-known and respected Northern opinion leader and many others, he is said to command respect in sections of the grassroots and old guards particularly the cadre corps of the party.

Candidates’ Credentials

While Dr. Kwabena Adjei prides himself as a former university lecturer, PNDC deputy secretary in various portfolios, Minister at different Ministries, MP, deputy and later majority chief whip, majority leader in Parliament and chairman of board of public corporations; Ambassador Dan Abodakpi is also touting positions he held in the PNDC days, MP for Keta, Minister of Trade and later Ambassador to Malaysia as key positions that have prepared him to man the chairmanship post.

Mr. Portuphy on the other hand is also riding on his days in the lecture halls at Legon and Korle bu, PNDC days as secretary for various state institutions, enviable record as a product of Oxford University and the longest held position as NADMO boss, while Alhaji Hudu Yahaya is also trumpeting his achievements as a long term serving vice chairman, first NDC General Secretary, PNDC secretary in various capacity, board chairman of different state organizations, chairman of the conflict resolution committee of the party and legal practitioner as “tools” to woo delegates.

Considering the weights all the candidates carry in the party, though Dr. Kwabena Adjei’s achievements leapfrog the others, it remains a tight race and only the impending congress can tell who among the four really has the support of the delegates.

Slates

Reports so far indicate that the contest is a straight fight between candidates of the presidency and those supported by the party with the other candidates operating on the fringes, relying on their own mettle.

Dr. Kwabena Adjei, John Asiedu Nketsiah, Yaw Gyan and others are said to be the party candidates squaring off with Portuphy, Kofi Adams, Ludwig Akpene Hlordze and others are alleged to be enjoying supports from the presidency.

Though Mr. Portuphy appears to have distanced himself from the presidency, and alleged to be campaigning on the need for party to have control over government when elected, sources say the presidency believe he will win, hence its decision to back him.

Ambassador Dan Abodakpi and Alhaji Hudu Yayaha are said to be carrying their own cross and are using their influence in the party to draw attention to their campaigns.