“Doc, mo adi yen hwan mo paa!”
“Doc, how did this happen?”
"Doc, tell me we shall be back in 2012"
These are some of the sentiments expressed to me following the December 2008 elections by NPP supporters, from Axim to Zebilla.
Of these sentiments, the most widely expressed is the last one seeking reassurance that we will be back in 2012.
Obviously, I cannot promise that we will be back. A lot of prophets predicted things that did not happen in 2008 and that should be a cautionary tale to all of us.
Before suggesting a road back to power for us, let me address a few myths/falsehoods.
First, many have taken solace in the pervasive mood of sadness that appears to have gripped the entire nation since our defeat and based on that are asserting that since the NPP has more support than the NDC, WE WILL BE BACK IN 2012. ,
While our apparent support is encouraging, elections are about VOTES, not SUPPORT. Regardless of how much support a party or person has, only VOTES THAT ARE COUNTED COUNT. In 2012, regardless of our support, if we do not translate that into counted votes, we will lose. We need not look further than 2008.
Second, some believe that after being in opposition in the last 8 years, the NDC has learned from its mistakes and therefore cannot be defeated. That is bull. They have already made a year's worth of mistakes in the last two months. As a matter of fact, I am even thinking of running a "SPOT AN NDC MISTAKE" competition amongst our supporters but I am holding off for now. The mistakes are so common that people will win a lot of money.
Third, some are wondering what happened to all those public and civil servants who were believed to support us.
They are there but most of them are moving so fast towards the NDC or working so hard to cover their NPP tracks that you may not be able to recognize them now. Don't worry though- they will be back when we win.
Many are asking how we could lose after our spectacular performance in government over the last 8 years.
Actually, the phenomenon of parties and governments losing elections' after performing well in government is not that rare. After winning the Second World War for Britain, Winston Churchill's conservatives lost the next General election to Atlee and the Labour Party. In 2000, In the United States, the Democrats lost to the Republicans despite creating 22 million new jobs in the largest peacetime economic expansion in American history. Also, in 2004, despite an unpopular war, President Bush was re-elected in the United States.
Candidly, coming back depends on a number of factors. Amongst these are the performance of the NDC, how well the NPP organizes and campaigns and unforeseen events.
Now here is my blueprint for coming back in 2012.
First, we must find out the issues and people who caused our defeat. I am a doctor, so I believe in post-mortems. Besides, how can we correct our mistakes when we do not acknowledge them? While I agree with those who counsel against washing our dirty linen in public, I disagree vehemently with those who do not want us to wash the dirty linen at all. While such an exercise may embarrass some including me, it will make us stronger and help us to win. This post-mortem must be completed in a matter of weeks, not months.
Second, we must rebuild our party from the ground up based on the spirit of selflessness and volunteerism that helped us to survive thirty years in the wilderness. Our virtues were surrendered too easily to the temptations of victory.
This rebuilding must include the selection of candidate who are known to the party and respected in their areas. In the last elections, we risked too many seats by rejecting the will of the people.
Third, we must discourage factionalism in our party. This is perhaps the biggest challenge facing our party. It is becoming almost impossible to express an opinion without being labeled as a tool of someone or the other. The energetic debates that characterized our party in opposition do not seem as welcome as it used to be. Whether we like it or not, no faction in our party is capable of winning an election on its own and if anyone believes that, that person is seriously mistaken. In 1979, we tried facing the electorate with a divided party and managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of certain victory. For the sake of Ghana and posterity, let us not try such nonsense again.
Fourth, we must pay attention, right from now, to the concerns of floating voters and regions. The truth is that neither the NPP nor the NDC has a majority of Ghanaians behind it. Elections, for years to come, will be determined by swing voters and regions and the sooner we make this a central consideration in our strategizing, the better it will be for us. This means that we must pay more attention to the issues and sensitivities of these voters and regions.
Fifth, we must engage the smaller parties more aggressively and respectfully from now on. We must rebuild the bonds and the chemistry that made them our natural and enthusiastic allies in 2000. These parties, obviously, did not relate to us the same way they did in 2000. Indeed, every honest person knows that virtually all of them except the DFP worked for the NDC during the ruff-off. The positive relationships we had with them before will take time to rebuild and the sooner we start the better.
Sixth, we must return to the politics of the streets. We used to be the driving force behind the "Alliance for Change" and some of the most populist street movements in our history till we tasted power. Then poof! That was it. Our big men used to go on air regularly to make our case and attack the opposition till we got into power and all of a sudden, they were too big to get up in the morning and go to a station or take a phone call from a journalist.
Seventh, we must re-affirm our fealty to our principles.
We must, as we have been since our inception, be unapologetically the party of decentralization which must have as its core, the election of DCE's and the return of financial power to our District Assemblies. Any timidity in pursuing such an agenda will signal that we have lost our way. In addition to this, we must promote rural development and private sector development. Aside from these, one of the defining principles of our party is internal democracy. Primaries that are brazenly manipulated to the advantage of some have no place in our party and its traditions. This party that believes in the rule of law must ensure that rules are applied consistently across our party from one end of our country to the other.
If done consistently, this will reduce the number of independents as well as fence ¬sitters. This will enhance our inherent claims as the party of "zero-tolerance", against all forms of corruption.
Eighth, we must discard complacency. One of our greatest errors during the 2008 campaign was the smug self¬ assurance that we had the election in the bag long before any votes had been cast. That sense of complacency prevented us from reacting to situations in a manner that could have helped us and from policing the counting of the votes with an aggression that may have given us victory.
Unfortunately, we seem to be approaching 2012 with the same misguided self-confidence. Indeed, I have never seen a more confident party after an election defeat. The counsel and caution of history is that those who ignore history are condemned to repeat its tragedies. If we do not learn the lessons of our loss, we will lose again.
Finally, I am an optimist. I hope that we shall together, learn the right lessons, share the necessary burdens and do the right things so that together, we shall claim the victory that we deserve in 2012. We must not and cannot face again those comments that I referred to in the beginning.
Winning in 2012 will require leadership, at all levels of our party. It must be new or re-invigorated leadership, from the polling station' to national headquarters. It must be leadership, concerned with the challenges of ordinary people rather than the comforts and privileges of big people. It must be eloquent leadership that will make our case to the nation with clarity and with conviction. It must be exciting leadership that respects and therefore appeals to floating voters.
This elephant does not belong in the bush. The people want it back home. Let us bring it home.
By Dr. Arthur Kennedy