Yesterday, while I drove to pay my lawyer friend a visit, I contemplated happenings in the New Patriotic Party (NPP). Tried as I did, I could not bring into context why the main opposition party should be drawing daggers with its self; at least not at a time when there seem to abound obvious challenges of governance within the incumbent National Democratic Party (NDC). A situation the NPP can milk for all it is worth – only if they are strategically positioned, in this context, if they are well organized.
On arriving at my friend’s place I parked, and owing to the ‘screen slaves’ most of us have become these days due to social media, I decided to check my Facebook page briefly before stepping out. It was within these few minutes of scanning various status updates that I got a light bulb moment on the matter of the prevailing confusion within the NPP. Call it an epiphany, or if you like, a revelation. This occurred after I read a quote that LIoyd Amoah, a lecturer at the Ashesi University, had posted on his timeline. It reads as follows:
“The destinies of kingdoms are laid out just like those of men; seers who study the future know this – knowledge of the future is their gift. We griots, we are keepers of the knowledge of the past, but whoever knows the history of a country can read its future.”- Kouyate, the Griot as reported by Djibril Niane.
Immediately, I realized the answer to the NPP’s troubles lay more in their history than in the present. Our nation’s history recounts well the several blistering defeats the political tradition of the NPP (i.e. the UP) suffered at the hands of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) in the first republic. While many would want to attribute that entirely to the unrivalled charisma and organizational superiority of Kwame Nkrumah and his team; I want to add that, the formative cause and interests that propelled UP politics then must have also been a critical determinant.
One would recall that while the CPP was formed out of a common purpose, that is, to attain immediate political and economic independence of the larger masses, the UP was berthed from a compromise of a motley crew of diverging interests; whose only commonality was that they were all disgruntled with the CPP. As such, political parties based on tribal, regional and religious beliefs, irrespective of their different goals, decided to pitch camp together in order to rid themselves of a common adversary.
When Nkrumah, and for that matter the CPP, was overthrown in February 1966, the UP tradition was left to contend with itself; a contest which till today has not abated. The UP tradition’s first internal contradiction led to a vilification campaign against K.A. Gbedemah. As a result, the Ewe caucus and other groupings took off onto a different political trajectory – a matter which can be treated in a different article to account for what has become known as the “World Bank” phenomenon in Ghana’s politics today.
Subsequently, the differing tribal interests that underlay the UP tradition came to the fore once more when the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) decided to return Ghana to democratic ways after series of coups and counter-coups. Thus, while the UP tradition had another opportunity to clinch a second political victory in 1979; the internal Ashanti – Akyem bickering led to a split; where William Ofori- Atta of the ‘Big Six’ went off to form his United National Convention(UNC), while Victor Owusu led the Ashanti bloc into battle with his Popular Front Party(PFP). Consistent with the old adage of divided we fall, they both lost at the polls. This created an easy path for the morphed Nkrumaist tradition – the Peoples National Convention (PNC) – led by Dr. Hilla Limann, to once more sail easily to victory.
One would think that the UP’s current offspring, the NPP, would have learnt from the bitter lessons of divided interests within a political party – be they tribal or otherwise. Sadly, this does not appear to be the case. As such, prior to the elections of the year 2000, Ex-President John Agyekum Kufuor was given a rather vicious contest in the party primaries by the current flag-bearer, Nana Addo-Danquah Akufo Addo, the scars of which seem to be affecting the internal dynamics of the party till date.
Meanwhile, even before Kufuor could exit office in 2008, a multiplicity of interests arose on his heel, leading to a presidential primary with a record 19 candidates from within the same party. This occurrence is testament to the reluctance of key elements within the NPP to subject their various agendas to a common purpose – which most often has been the need to appear united and work towards political victory.
In this same vein of the inability to shelve personal motives for the greater good, the Nana Addo bloc felt spited by the strong rise of Alan Kwadwo Kyeremanteng (rumoured to be Kufuor’s blue eyed boy) to contend his so called “turn” to be flag bearer. Once again, the purported Asante-Akyem rift seethed and seared at the sentiments of party members and potential neutral voters; thus contributing largely (though not exclusively) to two successive defeats of the NPP at the polls – with Nana Addo as flag bearer.
Prior to current happenings, the NPP seemed to have learnt its lesson. They reformed the party constitution to avert too many interests surfacing at their internal polls and even went ahead to give a resounding endorsement to their flag bearer in their last primaries. Many thought these developments foretold a U-turn in the party’s discordant ways onto a path of core political unity and coherence of purpose. Alas! Many thought wrong. All of a sudden, acrimony has slithered its way into the NPP’s camp once again; with the flag bearer’s end purported to be at daggers drawn with the party Chairman and General Secretary. Meanwhile, elections are just over a year ahead.
As though this unhealthy internal wrangling was not terrible enough, the tempestuous power struggle festering in the NPP is being directly linked to the dastardly and gruesome acid attack and death of the party’s Upper East Regional Chairman – Alhaji Adams Mahama. Tongues of senior party members have begun to wag and accusing fingers are being pointed. On this basis, if nothing at all, one does not have to be a seer to predict their future political fortunes if they consistently fail to learn from the effect of their past and recent bitter contentions.
History has shown consistently that the NPP’s defeats at the polls are more from within than external. It should be noted that their inability to manage divergent internal interests has accounted greatly for their less than par electoral record; more than the craft or wizardry of the opposition. When viewed in the light of their total contribution to politics and multi-party democracy in Ghana, the UP tradition’s total years of rule pales in comparison; owing to the aforementioned reason.
Another key dimension to the whole matter is the fact that, the main opposition parties the UP tradition had to contend at one point or the other had a sort of patriarchal figure around which they rally. The UP’s tradition has however been and still remains a paradigm of fiefdoms within the same party; who find it rather too difficult to subject their varying interests or egos to one leader; towards the attainment of the greater goal for all.
Today, putting history into perspective, the death of Alhaji Mahama could be a harbinger of things to come in election 2016. That party stalwarts are prematurely inferring culpability of their own colleagues, when police investigations are not yet conclusive to that end is the most self-destructive move I have ever observed about any political grouping with a common objective.
To prevent history from uncannily repeating itself, this is the time for the NPP to organize an extraordinary session of key members. The purpose of which must be to exorcise each other of the toxins and acrid sentiments being haboured; instead of prescribing punitive actions against factions. Like never before, the NPP needs a man to stand tall among their ranks and call for a ceasefire.
I propose either former President Kufuor, or the flag bearer – Nana Addo, to bell the cat. Kufuor on his part has become a statesman who can throw the challenge to the so called factions to meet and resolve their differences while he chairs the talks. Nana Addo, going into battle for the third time cannot afford to lose. It will therefore be in his personal as well as the collective interest to garner as much support as possible; both intra-party and from the undecided crowd. These happenings can therefore make or unmake him. Instead of being on the fence, this is the time for him to exhibit true leadership by calling all the factions to order. He must declare unity and call to oneness those calling for the head of the Chairman and General Secretary. A lack of this display of camaraderie from him will greatly erode confidence in his leadership – both within the party and without. These are some of the probable approaches the party can adopt to avert the trend of their past electoral misfortunes.
Ironically, the utmost counsel for the UP tradition now must be one that comes from their most avowed nemesis – Kwame Nkrumah; and it says “Seek ye first the political kingdom, and all other things shall be added onto you.”