The NPP’s Primaries—Matters Arising by Dr Michael J.K. Bokor

The NPP has successfully conducted nationwide primaries to choose its Parliamentary candidates for the 2012 elections. Despite the confusion in some of the constituencies or the initial cancellation of the elections in 10 others (for reasons already explained by the party’s leadership), everything went according to schedule and results released to tell us who will be contesting the Parliamentary elections where. Good job, and congratulations to all those who made it possible.

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Barring any court action by any of the losers to overturn the outcome of the elections, it is abundantly clear that the results will stand as a true reflection of the party followers’ sentiments. The NPP has set a good record in organizing these primaries to elect Parliamentary candidates. This eye-popping achievement is commendable by all accounts. It is an immense contribution to our democratic experiment that must be celebrated and emulated by the other political parties.
Indeed, judging from the circumstances surrounding the primaries, one can tell that there wasn’t as much acrimony as might threaten the unity of the party. By and large, the pockets of dissension and bickering that prevented the voters in some of the constituencies from electing their representatives are controllable. The party’s leaders should, therefore, make efforts to tackle those issues so that those areas can also select their representatives and position the party for the 2012 elections.

The outcome of the elections in some of the constituencies raises interesting issues. In the Abura-Asebu-Kwamankese constituency, Dr. Kobina Arthur Kennedy had 159 votes (as against Job Acquah Markin’s 299 votes) and thus failed to win the slot. Yes, he was trounced. Another failed bid for him.

This defeat of Dr. Kennedy doesn’t surprise me at all because I foresaw it. In one of my articles analyzing why Ghanaian professionals would choose to set aside their chosen careers and enter politics (transforming themselves into career politicians), I predicted a loss for him. Part of what I said included:

“Arthur Kennedy wants to enter Parliament to solve the problems that have bothered the people of Abura-Asebu-Kwamankese. What baffles me is that for all these years that Arthur Kennedy has been in medical practice, he hasn’t bothered to have anything to do with that constituency until now. What does he think the people of that area need now, which he will provide in his capacity as a politician and not a medical doctor? What didn’t the people need from him as a medical doctor that he couldn’t do but will now want to do as a politician?
After all losing the gamble to become the NPP’s Presidential Candidate for the 2008 elections—and having pushed himself out of contention in the high echelons of the party—he has nowhere to go but to descend to the constituency level.

For one thing, he hasn’t been in touch with the people all these years and risks being rejected. Even if he succeeds in expending all his resources branding himself as the best to solve their problems, the question on why he thinks it is only through politics that he can do so remains.”

Some incumbent MPs also fell in the primaries. The controversial Maxwell Kofi Jumah, MP for Asokwa, was too cocksure of victory, basing his optimism on what he referred to as his efforts at providing development projects for his constituents. But he became a casualty and must take a long time to understand why he lost to Madam Beatrice Appiah-Agyei, former Deputy Regional Minister for Ashanti and CEO of the KMA.

Jumah lost the elections long before voting started. Circumstances surrounding his political career alone should have alerted him to the danger lying ahead of him; but steeped in his own self-delusion, he felt otherwise. I don’t sympathize with him at all because he is a very good example of the very bad things that shouldn’t be allowed in Ghana politics.

We all heard all that radio Gold had broadcast during the 2008 elections; we heard all the disparaging comments he had made about his challenger, which raised eyebrows all over the place. We also were not left in the dark in any other matter involving him as far as the in-fighting between the Akufo-Addo camp and that of Alan Kyerematen was concerned. By design, Jumah had worked hard to undercut himself and shouldn’t blame anybody for his plight. At long last, his balloon of self-pride and arrogance has burst into smithereens. Good riddance.
Jumah had bad human relations instincts and shouldn’t expect his constituents to retain him. Even, Iddrisu Musah Superior, who contested the Tamale Central slot from his base in the UK, won with 278 votes—an indication that the voters held him in high regard. It takes more than development projects to win the goodwill of the people. That’s the lesson some politicians fail to learn—and suffer for it.

Other incumbent MPs fell too but their situation doesn’t arouse that much interest in me. Their own constituents knew why they rejected them for new representatives. But this happening establishes one fact: that the party’s activists whose votes determined who lost or won deserve commendation for exercising their democratic rights freely.

New entrants included two vociferous women who are easily remembered for their uncouth language and belligerence, especially in launching verbal attacks on President Mills and the NDC machinery. They are Frances Essiam (for Adenta) and Ursula Owusu (for Ablekuma South). The choice of these two women adds a new complexion to the political dynamics, not necessarily because they are not qualified to be in Parliament, but because their (dis)reputation has preceded them. Let me leave matters here and pray that they will come to understand clearly what politics entails and conduct themselves with more decorum.

The NPP leadership should be commended for carrying out this exercise. Indeed, they proved that they understood clearly how to sustain their party to make it viable. Contrary to fears that some might attempt manipulating the situation or openly massage the feelings of the voters in favour of their preferred candidates, nothing of the sort happened to endanger the primaries.

By providing the logistic and financial support for this successful process, they have proved that managing the affairs of the party is a heavy responsibility that can be performed with the correct state of mind and attitude. This is what will make the NPP grow—as happenings of this sort instill confidence in the party’s followers and attract new ones.

The situation is so because the party doesn’t have to worry over any personality cult, who owns it, or who its Founder and Leader is, contrary to what is happening in the NDC and tearing it apart. By all accounts, former President Kufuor kept away and had nothing to do or say to create tension. Neither did Akufo-Addo too impose his will on anybody (At least, that’s my hunch, seeing things as an outsider).

I am convinced that the deep tap root that the NPP has (as an offshoot of the United Party) is also responsible for this state of affairs. Decades after the death of the forebears of this party, there is no use for anybody to claim to be a founding father of the party to impose his will on members. This attribute makes the NPP better situated, which is reflected in the just-ended primaries.

The lesson that the primaries teach is crucial and must be learnt by the other party leaders, especially those of the NDC, so that they can improve politicking and allow room for give-and-take, not a one-man show. I am confident that such a lesson can help us improve our attitude to each other and come to appreciate the fact that we can benefit from politics only if we make use of its strengths to grow our democracy instead of using it as a tool to divide and harm opponents.
The NDC must not only be interested in sending goodwill messages to the NPP on the occasion but it must also learn the lesson that the NPP’s success teaches. Will the party ensure that its own forthcoming congress to choose the flagbearer (or choice of Parliamentary candidates later on) doesn’t break into mayhem? We wait to see.

For now, let’s appreciate what the NPP has done. It’s a credit to the party that must be acknowledged. Congratulations to the incumbent MPs who have been retained to contest the 2012 elections; and welcome to the new faces. The battle has just begun and all must gear themselves up for what lies ahead.