GHANA: The Sunyani Verdict: A Lesson for the Rawlingses – An Analysis By Dr Michael J.K. Bokor

The writer, Dr Michael J.K. Bokor
The outcome of the just-ended special delegates’ congress of the NDC at Sunyani sifted the political chaff from the grain. President Mills polled 2,771 votes (96.9%) and Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings had 90 votes (3.1%) out of the total 2,861 valid votes cast. Five ballots were rejected. No negative incident happened to provide the party’s opponents with the ammunition to continue placarding it as “violent” or “undemocratic.” Congratulations to all who made the congress successful.

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The thrashing of Nana Konadu by President Mills at [the Congress] speaks volumes. Plainly put, it indicates that President Mills enjoys overwhelming support from the party’s main pillars and should be supported and encouraged by all to rule the country in peace. He needs everyone’s support to implement the government’s “Better Ghana Agenda” within the context of the NDC’s manifesto so that in December 2012 when he presents himself to the electorate for a renewal of his mandate, they can make an informed judgement.

Now that all allegations of ingratitude, incompetence, divisiveness, vindictiveness and what-not that his opponents in the NDC touted as his inadequacies have been reduced to absurdity by the Sunyani Verdict, it must be clear to all that he deserves maximum cooperation to make the NDC appealing to the electorate. It doesn’t really matter for anybody to continue blaming him and inciting hatred against him.

The Sunyani Verdict is a welcome relief and must be capitalized upon by all to move the party’s agenda forward. It must serve as an eye-opener for the Rawlingses and their followers that President Mills is not the kind of person that they have misperceived and projected. That being the case, there is nothing to warrant any further denigration of him and his government.

There is no need for anybody to continue causing mischief with vain insults and bogus claims of “Team B,” “Greedy Bastards,” or whatever else was used by the Mills detractors prior to the Sunyani congress. The party now has the glorious opportunity to rebuild itself and it behooves its functionaries to either work hard for it to remain in power or sink together.

With the overwhelming support shown by the party’s delegates to President Mills’ bid to lead the party to the 2012 polls, some may think that the party’s main worries are over. In a sense, we may agree with them, considering the heavy weight that the intra-party wranglings brought to bear on the party before the Sunyani special delegates’ congress. But in another sense, we will caution against complacency on that score because the problems that militate against party unity are still alive.

Nana Konadu lost the contest long before it even took place. The reality of the situation is that the majority of those whose views I sampled made it emphatically clear that they regard Rawlings and his wife as traitors who don’t deserve their sympathy or votes. They are unhappy that after fighting hard to help President Mills win the mandate of the people to carry out his government’s agenda, the Rawlingses have turned round to undercut him. They consider this attitude as damaging and unbecoming. Thus, the Rawlingses have certainly become unattractive. Such people were vehement that they would never vote for Nana Konadu in any way. And the results showed that they didn’t.

Regardless of all that Nana Konadu had said and promised to do to revamp the party, she lost. No doubt, the resounding victory of President Mills confirms that he enjoys the unalloyed support of the overwhelming majority of the vote-casting delegates, which puts at naught any claim by the Rawlingses that those on whose shoulders the party rests at the various levels (national, regional, and constituency) are unhappy with President Mills’ attitude to the party’s affairs. If the verdict of the delegates sums it all up, then, one may say that the Rawlingses have been proved wrong.

But wait a minute. There is another aspect of the issue that we must not miss. Those who voted for President Mills qualified as “delegates,” who are only the party functionaries considered as “eligible” to cast ballots to choose the Flagbearer. They are in the minority as far as the national membership of the NDC is considered. Assuming that they acted in consonance with the wish of their constituents, we may say that their vote is representative enough of the situation in the various constituencies. But we must be cautious in making any such assumption.

Thus, the verdict of the numberless functionaries of the party, especially those presented as “foot-soldiers” by the Nana Konadu faction, may not necessarily be captured in the Sunyani outcome. These functionaries didn’t attend the congress for us to know how their stance could sway the outcome of the election.

I want to suggest that those “foot-soldiers” who used Nana Konadu and members of her campaign team as ventriloquists to express their discontent and anger at the government’s inability to create jobs for them or to settle them for working hard to put the NDC back in power, will still have their reasons for being embittered. The outcome of the Sunyani congress won’t immediately change their stance against President Mills. That is why the intra-party problems cannot be wished away by anybody who thinks that President Mills’ success at Sunyani “does it all for the party.” So also is the case of the 90 delegates who voted for Nana Konadu.

Of course, the Rawlingses have been enigmatic all along. They chose to work against the grain, deceiving themselves that they can sway the delegates (or the vast majority of NDC activists) to their side. Those of us who have consistently spoken against Nana Konadu’s decision to challenge President Mills have been stubborn in our assertion that she is not the solution to the NDC’s credibility problems.

We have cautioned against her bid all to no avail. Now that the wool has fallen from her eyes, we hope she will see things better and come to realize that just like her husband, her political sun set long ago and will never rise again to shine on her in the high echelons of national politics.

If she fails to recognize this fact, she will for long remain in the self-destruct mode that carried her to Sunyani and back to Accra. She and her husband even left the congress grounds unceremoniously, an indication that they were either dissatisfied with the Sunyani Verdict or that they didn’t want to hang around to be booed or jeered at again that day. To his credit, Rawlings’ quick acknowledgement of President Mills’ victory as he held high President Mills’ left hand is commendable. But will his wife see things as we expect her to?

The outcome of the Sunyani congress is a complete rejection of the Rawlingses’ agenda in the revamped Social Democratic culture of the NDC. I think that the issue also has much to do with the impolitic and over-ambitious desire by Nana Konadu to cause a “palace coup.”

Contrary to some people’s conclusion that their defeat means the party has been wrested from their control, I opine that the Rawlingses can still play vital roles if they redeem themselves and go with the grain. What happened at Sunyani provides an epiphanic moment for them to reassess their role in contemporary Ghanaian politics if they want to be relevant at all. Sunyani has provided clear evidence to suggest that they haven’t been completely written off and still have a place in the party to play roles that are compatible with the party’s new dispensation.

I have insisted in several articles that the viability of a political party is determined by how that party adapts to changing times as its functionaries adjust to the exigencies of the situation. My contention has been that for the NDC to be viable in future, it needs to outgrow its fixation on the Rawlingses because as mortal human beings, they will definitely die one day. Should the party die with them as such?

That’s why what happened at Sunyani should be welcomed by all and used as the catalyst to revamp the party to cater for all ideas and people on which it must depend to grow. I was glad to see in pictures, the many P/NDC functionaries who had been actively involved in nurturing the party but faded to the background because of peculiar problems that they had with the Rawlingses.

Their resurfacing and ongoing efforts by the Mills government to bring back into the party’s fold all those who deserted it because of their discontent at the conduct of the Rawlingses is good news for the party. In a democracy, numbers matter.
The Rawlingses may be licking their wounds now and finding it difficult to come to terms with reality but will help repair the harm they’ve done to their own self-image if they seek reconciliation instead of vengeance. Under the current circumstances, they need to know that they are the cause of their own woes. Their rejection by the party’s delegates must be the rude awakening to help them fall back into step.

What transpired at Sunyani must end all acrimonious wranglings in the party. Any further challenge to President Mills’s authority will amount to a destruction of the party’s chances. Anybody who chooses to do so is not a genuine NDC follower. Those who expect a second term for President Mills must use all the internal channels of the party and the avenues created by the government to voice their grievances and criticisms instead of taking to the media. It’s time to demonstrate political maturity. That’s the challenge posed by the Sunyani Verdict.