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Opinions of Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Columnist: Dr Jones Adu-Gyamfi

Rejoinder: NPP is discriminatory

The Member of Parliament for Nkwanta North, John Oti Bless has described the New Patriotic Party (NPP) as a discriminatory party citing former President Kufour’s decision not to support any of the 17 candidates that contested the flag-bearership of the party in 2007.

This is not the first time this issue is being drummed up against the NPP.

Sometimes, it is twisted as NPP is anti-Northern. I often wonder why Vice President Aliu is singled out. President Kufour did not endorse his own brother, Dr Addo Kuffour, but one does not hear members of the NDC say that President Kufour is anti-family or anti-Ashanti; he did not endorse Mr Dan Botwe yet neither he nor the NPP is accused of being anti-Eastern; he did not endorse Papa Owusu Ankomah, yet he nor NPP is not accused of being anti-Western. I could go on for all the 17 candidates.

So why this emphasis on Vice President Aliu? Some have argued that perhaps President Kufour should have done what President Rawlings did at Agona Swedru, where he declared his support for the candidature of his vice, Prof Mills.

Indeed in Oti Bless’ submission: “The baton was handed to Atta Mills when he was a Vice President and when Prof Atta Mills was President, Mr John Mahama was his vice and the baton was handed to him. Therefore the NDC does not discriminate. This is reasoning that this article seeks to address.

If any political party has demonstrated that it is non-discriminatory then it is the NPP and sometimes the NDC learns from the NPP to improve on their democratic practice.

NPP is a party that seeks to “ensure that there are equal opportunities for all citizens without discrimination on any grounds whether of gender, age, position, politics, religion or status” (NPP constitution, page 2). With this underpinning principle, the NPP did not prevent anyone from contesting the 2007 primaries and the party ended up with 17 Presidential aspirants. This is the hallmark of a true non-discriminatory party where everyone is given equal chance of being elected.

Prior to the NDC amending its constitution in 2001 to expunge the title of founder and leader from President Rawlings, no one dared challenge President Rawlings in NDC affairs (see Rawlings threw punches in cabinet, The Independent 30th December 1995; and Obed Asamoah quits NDC Ghana News Agency 5th January 2006).

So it was, therefore no one challenged his Swedru declaration for the candidature of Prof Mills as the flagbearer of the NDC in the 2000 elections. The constitutional amendment was to ensure that "from now on the new NDC is going to be built on real democratic principles and structures. Every post in the party would be contested for, including the position of a flagbearer. No more acclamations and declarations” (Evening News 19th June 2001).

Disgruntled members against the Swedru Declaration were hounded out of the party. This was the period that saw Mr Goosie Tanoh quitting the NDC to form his National Reform Party. Mr Tanoh had an eye for the Presidency but he was not given the chance in the NDC.

Very recently, a certain Mr George Boateng was prevented from contesting the flag-bearership of the NDC against President John Mahama, a clear case of discrimination. Which party has the hallmark of discrimination? Having neutralised President Rawlings’ power in the NDC, its General Secretary Mr Asiedu Nketia called on renegade members to return since the “the barking dog that scared away people from our party has been tamed”.

Needless to add, President John Mahama became president fortuitously. Given the time limit to the 2012 elections after the death of President Mills, the NDC had no option but to rally behind President Mahama as their candidate. Even there were dissenting voices e.g. Mr Martin Amidu who wanted a proper election of the flagbearer.

Those who supported the acclamation of President Mahama as the 2012 Presidential candidate argued that “time was of the essence and there was no need sidelining a well marketed candidate who is already President of the country for another person” (Ofosu Kwakye, 18th August 2012 on myjoyonline). Had it not been time limitation, perhaps the NDC would have opened nominations for others to contest then-Vice President Mahama.

Similarly, had Prof Mills completed his tenure, then-Vice President Mahama would have joined other aspirants in the NDC to contest the flagbearership just as Vice President Aliu did. After all, there are other NDC members with ambitions for the Presidency e.g. Mr Spio-Garbrah even deliberated on contesting against incumbent President Mills in 2012, and may still have that ambition.

President Rawlings did not endorse President Mahama in the 2012 elections, yet and rightly so, no one accuses him of being anti-Northern but the NDC does not miss an opportunity to use President Kufour’s non-endorsement of Vice President Aliu as evidence that NPP is anti-Northern.

The NPP has demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that it is a non-discriminatory party, and in particular - not against people from the Northern part of Ghana. The party demonstrated its love and concern for the northern part of the country by developing the idea of a Northern Development Authority, which the NDC copied and named as Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA).

In the NPP competence and equal opportunities supersede tribal considerations. This is what we must promote in the country.