Delegates of the opposition New Patriotic Party will gather in Tamale over the week-end to elect national officers who will lead us to the next election.
I recall with nostalgia the great leaders of our party:
Danquah’s vision—Busia’s approachability—Victor Owusu’s intellect–Adu Boahen’s fearlessness—Sam Okudzeto’s steadfastness —Da Rocha’s candour– Ala Adjetey’s respect for the institutions of our party– Kufuor’s poise.
Once, we had “esprit de corps”. I remember the first time I met S.K. Boafo after a long separation. He was the Ashanti Regional Minister, presiding over a meeting when I walked in. He jumped out of his seat like a kid. We hugged and screamed like kids—for a long time, oblivious of all the others who were there. I miss those days. It seems that we have lost a significant bit of the glue that connected us together in the elephant family.
The Congress in the north will be great. The North is a great place with very warm-hearted people who are excellent hosts. In 2007, the north was the only place where invariably, there was food and a drink waiting for my shoe-string campaign at every stop. Many would point, proudly, to couches and beds on which Kufuor had slept while campaigning. The absence of former Vice-President Aliu Mahama and former Minister Mustapha Idris will be felt greatly. I recall the dinners the late Idris hosted for us in 2008. My lasting image of him is from one evening in September of 2008. I was in Tamale and went to see him at a Mosque where he was praying. After prayers, he pulled up a chair and sat down. For the next half-hour, he poured out his love and vision for our party and its members. May these two giants, who did so much for our party, rest in peace. In their absence, Chairman Bugri Naabu and his team will be great hosts.
To all who will gather in Tamale, I commend the words of Isaiah 1:18 “Come, let us reason together.”
To be candid, the great elephant party is at a significant cross-road. A decade ago, we were ascendant and seemed poised to retain power for generations. We blew it, sadly.
To return to power, we must reflect on the causes of our defeats. The Republican Party in the US has reflected on their defeats and is now poised to recapture the Senate before reclaiming the Presidency in 2016. Their reflections included candid interviews by Mitt Romney, on the decisive turning points in the campaign. With defeat staring him in the face, President Obama reached out to former President Bill Clinton for help and held on to the Presidency. I am sure there are lessons for us, from both the conduct of the Republicans and the Democrats.
We have moved from our defeat to the next elections without much reflection— except for the Supreme Court case that claimed that our polling station agents “slept while our tilapia was stolen”. Having accused our hard-working polling station agents were culpable in our defeat, it is only fair that we determine who else were culpable.
In the current elections, we exhibit, once again, behaviours that caused our defeats. Once again, we are attacking one another like enemies and sowing the seeds of future divisions. If we were a soccer team, we would be accused of practicing so hard that we render our best players unfit for the real match. Imagine Barcelona’s Dani Alves going after teammate Messi so hard in practice that come match-day, Messi cannot give of his best. Our current behavior is a far—far cry from 1992 when our Presidential aspirants got along so well that they could travel together and appear on the same plat-forms. While the insults that are being exchanged by candidates make one sad, the worst part is how party elders have joined in, with insinuations that this candidate cannot work with this person etc. The attacks we see now will only get worse with the flag-bearers’ contest. It was just such a campaign that led to McManu and Ohene Ntow—both fine men, leading us into 2008 while barely on speaking terms. While such divisive talk might fuel the ambitions of some individuals, it harms our collective interest. The truth is that given how the Ghanaian political landscape is aligned, no NPP FACTION can win elections on its own.
Even when united and firing on all cylinders, there are not enough NPP members to win elections ourselves. We need significant numbers of floating voters and NDC members to win in 2016. We must realize that Tamale will be meaningless unless it leads to victory in 2016.
As a party, we seem to have gone right back to the rhetoric that marked the days after our 2008 defeat. We claimed that Ghanaians with “buyers’ remorse” would return us to power in 2012. Buoyed by the false confidence, there were discussions about who would be excluded, not just from the future cabinet but also, the coming campaign. Alas, we spoke too soon. Once again, “ye tankwa da high”. While the blunders and the incompetence of the NDC must give us encouragement, there is a lot of work to be done before 2016.
Aside from learning from our mistakes in 2012—and there were many, we must do the following:
First, return to those early days when we cared about one another and were strong on principles. When Da Rocha called Alan and Nana Addo out, respectively, out for quitting NPP and picking Alima Mahama as running-mate, he was standing on principle. When Dan Botwe insisted that President Kufuor come to party headquarters to pick up his nomination forms as candidate for President, he was standing on principle.
Second, we must know that accountability and corruption will be big in 2016 and be strong on them within our ranks. We will be on weak grounds in 2016 if we permit the whitewash of Kennedy Agyapong’s allegations to stand. When a committee says that it found a house with motor—bikes but cannot determine its ownership and that money given for one purpose was used for different purposes without due processes being followed, we invite charges that we will be the kettle calling the tea-pot black when attacking the NDC for gargantuan corruption. As our numerous attorneys will tell us—he who seeks equity must come with clean hands.
Third, we must demand better performance from our Parliamentary caucus. It is sad that Hawa Yakubu alone in 1992 as well as the team we had between 1996 and 2000 were far more effective than the team we have now. They are not an effective voice for Ghanaians in the midst of Woyome, Akomfemgate, Dumsonomics, inflation and other issues.
Fourth, we must have better co-ordination amongst our leaders. It is baffling that within days, Dr. Akoto-Osei said the Single Spine Scheme is contributing to excessive government spending while Dr. Bawumia said the exact opposite.
Fifth, we must rebuild our relationships to key persons and institutions in our country. It is a major concern that barely a decade ago, we used to have excellent relations with the judiciary, the EC, the media and Manhyia Palace but these have changed significantly.
Sixth, we must campaign differently. We must use all our weapons, have a separate Parliamentary Campaign Committee and be more respectful in our language.
Finally, I urge my party, after the usual condemnation of this piece, to reflect on the substantive matters I have raised and act on them.
May God take all delegates to and from Tamale safely.
Let us move forward to victory in 2012—together.
Arthur Kobina Kennedy