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28.04.2003 Feature Article

The NDC's Obed - Rawlings controversy

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1. What is seen as a major NDC problem ahead of Election 2004 is the NDC founder-chairman personal relations problems, which some have used to explain the successive defeats in six bye-elections in the current life of the NPP Government. NDC detractors are relishing in a definite translation of the intraparty problems and bye-election losses into an NDC defeat at Election 2004. NDC sympathizers are worried about such translation. To both NDC detractors and sympathizers alike I say - not so fast! 2. Divisions within opposition parties at the approach of elections attract more press attention than divisions within Governing parties, even where the press is not so much tilted against the opposition as in Ghana. Hence the way the Ghanaian press reports NDC divisions is disproportionate to the real dimensions of the problem. In so doing the press adds to the problem. 3. I have written intensively and extensively about internecine warfare within the PNDC/NDC since its inception to be able to state confidently that the Obed -Rawlings differences have been a permanent feature of the political landscape of Rawlings Mark 2 since Dec 31. What is new is that it is being played out of Government, in opposition. Obed¹s relationship with Rawlings can be characterized as one of perpetual cohabitation, they have different temperaments and they do things differently. Perhaps it is because of this long history of cohabitation that resolution of the intraparty problems around Founder and Chairman might be more achievable that readily thought. What are the chances of that?
4. Despite blame from either side it is reasonable to observe that Rawlings has prevailed in the present conflict. It is the perception that at a time when the NDC¹s back is to the wall, one of its most articulate spokesperson with the distinction of having manned the trenches in all the trials and tribulations of the party has gone MIA when the party needs him most.
That person, Obed Asamoah, is also increasingly being seen to be inconsolable. After he spat the dummy when denied the NDC no 2 spot at the last elections. After he refused to appear on TV to defend the NDC when it lost the last elections. After he dumped the founder from the leader¹s position. After he was elected Chairman which would not have happened had Mills, Rawlings and other senior party members voted. And still after he embraced sworn enemies of NDC heavyweights in the Botchwey campaign for the NDC flagbearer.
Obed may be correct or in his right in some or all of his actions or inactions to date. But fact remains he is now on the outer of the party and if the history of cohabitation in the party is any guide, I expect Obed to back out of the corner he is presently in by pursuing options such as demanding a say in the NDC no 2 spot for elections 2004 and securing spoils for his backers should the NDC be successful. In exchange of course for things Obed is known capable of delivering. Should Obed succeed in that he would only be acting true to form, ie shoring up his own position out of adversity. What are the chances of that?
5. To win election 2004 the NPP is banking its hopes on continued intraparty NDC woes, capitalizing on the 6 bye-election wins, maintaining the rage against NDC rule through corruption trials eg Quality Grain, and through the NRC to expose past human rights violations. To date we have witnessed how risky and what double-edged swords the latter two could be and I argue how similarly the former two could turn out to be..
Consider the corruption trials. What on paper was a sure winner for the NPP in netting those who have had their hands in the till has been so clumsily handled that the impact is lost. The gamble on netting star defendants on a law the defendants themselves brought into existence but did not use while in power has proved politically costly indeed. On the eve of judgment in Quality Grain, incoming NPP Deputy Minister of Justice, Mr Patrick Ambrose Dery, has discredited the law under which the Quality Grain defendants were charged, describing the charge - ³causing financial loss to the state" as unconstitutional. He was reported as saying that the law of ''causing financial loss to the state'' was dangerously elastic which questioned the integrity of public officials. He suggested the Law be amended or repealed by Parliament. Is Ambrose winking Presiding Judge to acquit the Quality Grain defendants? And should the Justice convict the Quality Grain defendants, wouldn¹t Mr Derry look foolish defending the State on appeal?
Significant for the present analysis is that either an acquittal or conviction of the Quality Grain defendants might have the same effect - reinvigorate the NDC or press the urgency and hurry a unified NDC posture for the next elections. The bye-elections losses, as much as if the NDC had won them, could have the same effect.
6. Obed Asamoah, politically astute as he is, will be well aware that the NDC is not yet down and out, that in his own interest it would be risky leaving the party to join or form another, riskier if he left politics altogether. The history of cohabitation in the party, which has survived serious enough purges to have caused implosion of the party on numerous occasions but did not, convince me that Obed will stay or that the party may ask him to leave as a measure of last resort but seek to do so as amicably as possible. The conspiracy of events at the moment and the tyranny of time for the NDC to get combat ready mean we will know which way things will pan out in weeks rather than in months.
7. The present analyses will be incomplete if I do not countenance the worst possible scenario. If Obed parts ways with the NDC, he will not threaten the dominant opposition status of the NDC and the votes he will carry with him will not be soft NDC votes easily transferable to the NPP at election 2004. When asked after the NDC lost whether he would leave the party as rumored, he replied ³it is impossible². So if Obed parts ways with the NDC now, will he be leaving with his soul? If he does not leave with his soul, he could well determine who gets the 50 per cent plus one votes at the next presidential elections. Should Obed succeed in that he would only be acting true to form.
8. The aim of this piece is not to assess who might win the next elections. Otherwise I would have given space to what the NPP Government is actually doing in power. The aim is to provide another way of looking at the present NDC woes and to caution against premature jubilation over those woes. One of the enduring aspects of democracy is how the Press, if it is doing its job properly, prepares the public for any eventuality. That way the public does not wake up in shock at unexpected electoral outcomes, spilling into streets on their own accord or at the instigation of opportunistic politicians to destabilize the state. I have observed the NDC party of champagne socialists for too long to write it off carelessly.
The author is a native of Ghana, and a social commentator based in Melbourne, Australia. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage. *


Nii Armah Kweifio-Okai
Nii Armah Kweifio-Okai, © 2003

The author has 15 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: NiiArmahKweifioOkai

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