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Opinions of Sunday, 29 November 2009

Columnist: Aggrey, Harry Jonson

Why the NPP must choose Lawyer Owusu-Afriyie

.... as new General Secretary

THE TRANSITION for NPP to position itself to regain power has begun, or rather the transitions. In politics, as in comedy, timing is everything. In this vein, I believe it is fair to say Mr. Owusu Afriyie known on the public airwaves as Sir John, the 54 year old Kumasi based lawyer and member of the Ashanti Region communication team of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) is the most formidable of all the contestants in this year's NPP General Secretary race and as such gets my vote. Clearly, he towers above the rest, in terms of his communications acumen, team and coalition building skills, excellent public relations and his hard hitting inspirational radio debates. He is a dynamic, exciting and engaging fellow as well as a dyed-in-the-wool apostle of the Danqua/Dombo/Busia tradition. His political philosophy has always been that a feared enemy must be crashed completely because if one ember is left alight in the enemy, no matter how dimly, it smothers, a fire will eventually break out. This has always been his belief in the way the NPP should see the NDC. In his estimation the NPP has always tried to spot the NDC half way and that it is only by all out attack on the hypocrisy of the NDC that the party will be exposed.

Sir John is a barrister-at-law from University of Ghana-Legon (Class of 1979) and Ghana Law School (class of 1981). He lived briefly in the UK where he studied further at the Inns of Court School of Law. After his studies he worked with the International Students Hostels under the auspices of the UN. He then went on to work for a number of London Borough Councils including Barking and Dagenham, Newham, Slough, Croydon, Sutton and Borehamwood as Housing Officer. In 1990 as a founding member of the New Foundation Club which metamorphosed to become the Progress Party International, Sir John became a founding member of NPP UK and Ireland in 1992 and has worked incessantly in holding the NPP together in UK and later in Ghana. He had always been of the view that the only way we could build a strong based for NPP UK and Ireland was to help the numerous Ghanaians who were either refugees or asylum seekers from the regime of the PNDC. His popularity with the ordinary Ghanaian UK resident was his willingness and ability to support and advise them in their fight for legal immigration status. He helped form the Ghana Welfare Association in London which helped a number of Ghanaians along these lines thus using them to strengthen the base of NPP UK.

Known as the king of spin, Sir John has always been a student of the Alistair Campbell’s school of spin under the New Labour Agenda in UK. Combined with his skills in legal advocacy, he has always believed that party programmes and policies must be packaged and presented in such a way that will make massive and positive impact. The NPP as a conservative party has been an analogue tradition in a digital world and that his spin skills are necessary to help fashion the parties ideals.

Currently working as a private legal practitioner in Kumasi, Sir John is a family man with three children and he has risen through the ranks from polling station to national level positions of the party all in voluntary capacity. He has helped and overseen the party across the country establish itself on the media front by constantly bombarding the NDC in areas where they are going wrong and this in government helped the party to win the 2004 elections. He has said that with his experience in campaigning through the complex media landmines, he was prepared to be "a moving General Secretary" who would lead the party in its nationwide campaign for the next election. The New Patriotic Party in this critical period of its life-cycle needs a General Secretary who can work under pressure and not "an armchair or office based executive". Further the NPP needs someone who will strengthen the common touch base to ensure that a broader base of party structures and the membership contribute to party building, instead of leaving it to an only a few at only critical times. Furthermore, Sir John will bring his vast wealth of political experience both within the Ghanaian context and in the UK to bear on the direction and fortunes of NPP nationally and worldwide vis-à-vis 2008 General Elections and that of 2012. He would also work to form and ensure effective collaboration with party members and executives at the local levels to ensure a resounding victory for the NPP at all times when elected as the General Secretary of our party. As an experienced campaigner, he would energise the grassroots to generate support for the party's activities. Sir John would strengthen the local levels of the party and build a team with all rank and file of the party to ensure solid foundation at the local levels in readiness for 2012. As a General Secretary of our Party's Executive Committee, Sir John recognises the importance of the establishment of an Electoral and Research Unit. Such a specialist unit will be a permanent feature at the NPP Headquarters, if elected. He will put a searchlight on swing voters to build teams that will activate and integrate them into the NPP fold. Sir John has proven talents. He is accommodating and listens carefully to people even under pressure. These are very essential attributes of a prospective General Secretary who at the drop of the hat will rise to defend the party. Owusu Afriyie is the only true foot soldier among all the contestants. A true rooky, he has never held any party executive position. He has never been rewarded for his work and yet the most formidable name in the media legwork of the NPP. He has volunteered his time, energy and expertise to fight for the NPP from UK to Ghana. I believe he will establish a formidable secretariat unit at the NPP Headquarters manned by analytical, dynamic and media savvy personnel, if elected as general secretary. He is already part of a strong research/intelligence unit in Ashanti Region of the party and has pledged to replicate the Public Relation Information Management Unit (PRIMU) he put in place in the Ashanti Region in all party offices to propagate the ideals and virtues of our party through the media. Sir John also serves as a bridge between the old and the future of the party, thus encouraging all professionals and especially the youth to contribute their quota towards our party's progress. He has a great deal of respectability among MPs, former ministers of state and the current party leadership and at the same time a common touch with the party’s grass root – our strength. I urge all party members and faithful to give him the chance to prove himself and consolidate the work which his predecessors began since 1992. His understanding and expertise in building coalitions (electoral pacts) as manifested in his role in the Great Alliance with the CPPUK in 1996 and subsequently in 2000. These are sophisticated but effective tools for winning political power. In UK he was the voice of NPP on local radio stations such as the WBLS, the first Ghanaian community radio station in UK. The Kumasi-based lawyer believes in putting in place a recognition and reward system to motivate our hardworking party executives/activists. Also, the NPP requires somebody rich in political scheming to lead the party to victory in 2012. According to recent research, our party loss in the 2008 election had been attributed to its weakness at most constituency and polling station levels and we need someone who possesses gravitas, confidence as well as a dynamic, visionary leader who has gone through the mill with successful landmarks like Sir John to lead the party secretariat to victory, come 2012.

I will conclude that, nothing shakes my conviction that the Kumasi based legal and communications wizard is the best placed person, in terms of his political activism, excellent media skills, unbridled commitment and dedication to the cause of our great party. He has the requisite credentials, and the experience that transcends all levels of the party. A vote for Sir John would be a vote for further inclusive growth of our great party.

Harry Johnson Aggrey harryjonaggrey@yahoo.com