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21.12.2001 Feature Article

NDC Internecine Battles

NDC Internecine Battles
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With all the punches and counter-punches being thrown around by National Democratic Congress (NDC) officials against each other, prior to the party's December 28, 2001 national congress, the NDC seriously risks imploding. Hence, I feel like Rodney King, the Los Angeles police brutality victim in asking the combatants: "Can't we all just get along?" The not so brotherly battles being fought in the media, is about the control and direction of the party. And, it pits what is turning out to be, the Jerry Rawlings faction against the Obed Asamoah faction. The imbroglio began when the Founder and Life Chairman of the NDC ex-president Jerry John Rawlings reportedly sought to pre-empt interest in leadership positions by leaking the names of people he supported. This idea of Jerry Rawlings as the king-maker, did not sit well with Dr. Obed Asamoah the current treasurer of the NDC, who rightly considered the Rawlings move, not only an affront, but a veiled attempt to sideline him in the party hierarchy. All of a sudden, the NDC has begun to talk about party democracy. That the NDC seems to be interested in party democracy must come as a relief to observers who have always, and rightly, considered the party as a mere lapdog of its founder Flight-Lieutenant (rtd) Jerry Rawlings. It now appears that at least some of the 'leaders' of the NDC are willing to challenge Rawlings on his dictatorial control of the party. While Rawlings remained the president of Ghana, and provider of all manner of patronage, the party allowed, and indeed encouraged his dictatorial trends in exchange for whatever benefits accrued from this symbiotic arrangement. It is in this regard that the party bestowed on Jerry John Rawlings the position of "Life Chairman" of the NDC, for what the party described as his "exceptional leadership". In addition, the proclamation accompanying the position stipulated that the Life Chairman would "participate and chair" cabinet sessions in an NDC administration. That was the extent to which the party leaders and members were willing to sacrifice democratic principles in furtherance of the Rawlings political machine, in order to serve their mutual vanities. It must not take a God to decipher that had the NDC won the 2000 presidential elections, Jerry Rawlings would have remained the de facto president of Ghana. Jerry Rawlings had simply emasculated the NDC leadership to a level that made them impossible to distinguish between the interests of Ghana, and that of Rawlings. Former president Rawlings bestrode the NDC world like a Colossus, beneath whom people like Dr. Obed Asamoah "found themselves dishonourable graves"! This pernicious fear and elevation of Rawlings by the NDC bordered on idolatry. And like all idolatrous worship, the affection was only skin-deep. It was predicated upon what goodies the gods could provide!!
The election of J.A. Kuffour as president of Ghana on December 28, 2000, discombobulated the NDC because it abrogated the patronage that Rawlings dished out to the teeming sycophants who sang "Hallelujah" unto him.
December 28, 2000, also removed the Rawlings intimidation factor since he no longer controlled the instrument of violence in the state. Now that Jerry Rawlings is no longer the "Krotwiamansa" (the valiant Lion), before whom even the most garrulous lost the power of speech, men like Dr. Obed Asamoah have regained their legal acumen to argue against the NDC constitution which peculiarly placed the powerful offices of Leader and Chairman in the hands of one man. He wants that provision abolished. Dr. Obed Asamoah has crafted the convincing argument that the party's 2000 presidential candidate played second fiddle to the Chairman who also served as the Leader, and that contributed to their loss at the polls.
To add insult to the Rawlings injury, Obed Asamoah has decided to contest for the NDC chairmanship, which will effectively make him the leader of the party until the election of the party's candidate for the 2004 presidential elections. And to hit Rawlings where it really hurts, Obed Asamoah, has promised to bring back to the NDC fold, Rawlings' nemesis like P.V. Obeng, Kojo Tsiakta, Dr. Kwesi Botchwey, and all those who ran afoul of Rawlings and were effectively kicked out of the NDC. Obed Asamoah's aim, put simply, is to sanitize the NDC of any scent of Rawlings influence and control! It appears that Dr. Obed Asamoah has used his position as Chairman of the Reorganization of the NDC to blind-side ex-president Rawlings for the control of the NDC. Is this the way to treat a Life Chairman! Will the Life Chairman take things lying down!!
There is a valuable a lesson to be learned in the ongoing NDC internecine battles.
The lesson is this: Sycophancy is detrimental to the building of a self-sustaining political party. Since its formation in 1992, or rather its metamorphosis from PNDC, the NDC has been a party fed on sycophancy. An integral aspect of this was the identification of the party with the person of Jerry John Rawlings. Because of this, the NDC risked becoming increasingly irrelevant in the post-Rawlings era. Some members of the party have finally realized that the NDC can no longer be caught up in the Rawlings trap. And, that defending Rawlings or issues related to Rawlings vis-a-vis the national interest, eviscerates the party from the national issues.
It is irrelevant now to ask where was Dr. Obed Asamoah when the NDC was showering Jerry Rawlings with all those positions. Nor to ask about his newly-found fondness for democracy within the NDC. Indeed, any Ghanaian could have taken the NDC to court for its undemocratic character which contravened the constitutional enabling act of the political parties. That act requires political parties operating in Ghana to reflect the democratic nature of Ghana as specified by the constitution. Even a partisan NDC honcho, would have been hard pressed to convince anyone that the NDC is a democratic organization. The "Swedru Declaration" whereby Jerry Rawlings simply selected Dr. Atta Mills as his running mate is only one vivid example of how undemocratic NDC was under Rawlings leadership.
Will the NDC be able to find an acceptable role for their Founder? Will Jerry Rawlings act like an elder party stalwart and call the feuding factions to a meeting before the scheduled congress to iron out differences in order to ensure a peaceful congress? Will Obed Asamoah calm down his newly found zeal and show some respect to the Founder, who, it can be argued made all of them into what they are today? For Jerry Rawlings, he may be finally coming to terms with the realization that, sometimes losing power is like becoming an aging heavyweight throwing punches that just don't hurt anymore. This should serve as a lesson to all political parties, and party leaders as well. When you are on your upward climb, do not step on people that you expect to provide you with a cushion on your fall from above!
With all the factions angling for positions, the upcoming NDC national congress on December 28, 2001, promises to be markedly different from prior congresses which served as a mere rubber stamps to the wishes of the Founder and Life Chairman. It is probable that the assorted birds who flocked to the NDC nest, will fly away to prune their own feathers, and feather their own nests. We may be witnessing, unfortunately, the beginning of the fragmentation of the NDC, in the manner of the CPP, which was also personality based. Except that the NDC has no clear ideology!!!


Kofi Ellison
Kofi Ellison, © 2001

The author has 60 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: KofiEllison

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