Dr. Kobina Arthur Kennedy, a leading member of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) has disagreed that issues affecting the party must not be discussed in public. “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”, he said.
Speaking to The Chronicle in an interview, Kennedy said a number of factors contributed to the defeat of the party in the December elections. He therefore stressed the urgent need for the party to find out those issues, and to identify people whose acts of commissions and omissions caused the party's defeat in 2008 elections.
He also stressed the need to rebuild the party from the scratch, at the grassroots, to the top hierarchy on the spirit of selflessness and voluntarism, which helped the party to survive thirty long years in the political wilderness, saying “our virtues were surrendered too easily to the temptations of victory.”
This rebuilding process, according to him, must include the selection of candidates who are not only known in the party but also respected in their constituencies. This is in view of the fact that the NPP risked too many Parliamentary seats by rejecting the will of the people.
Dr. Kennedy also urged the party to discourage acts of factionalism, emphasizing that “This is perhaps the biggest challenge facing out party.” For him, it was becoming difficult to express an opinion without being labeled as a tool for another person.
He questioned the absence of intellectual debates which used to characterize the party during its days in opposition, which have all vanished into thin air.
“In 1979, we tried facing the electorate with a divided front and we lost the elections. For the sake of Ghana and posterity, let us not tread that path again”, he cautioned.
Further, he urged the leadership of the party to pay specific attention to the concerns of floating voters and the regions, since neither the NPP nor the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) has a clear majority in the mandate of Ghanaians.
He noted that swing voters will for a long time to come determine elections in the country, hence the sooner NPP made this a central consideration in its strategies, the better it will be for the party.
Furthermore, he said there was also the need for the NPP to start engaging the smaller parties more aggressively and respectfully by building and extending the bonds and the chemistry that made them the NPP's natural allies in the 2000 General elections.
“Indeed, every honest person knows that virtually all of them, except the DFP, worked for the NDC during the run-off”, he noted. Probably taking a line from Professor Mills and the NDC's door-to-door and house-to-house campaign, Dr. Kennedy said “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.”
He wondered why the big wigs in the party who used to go on air regularly to defend the party and attack the opposition stopped when they got power and virtually became too big to get up in the morning and go the radio stations or take a phone call from journalists.
Obviously not happy with events that culminated in series of demonstrations at most of the party's constituency primaries, he said the “primaries that brazenly manipulated to the advantage of people who had no place in our party and its traditions. This party that believes in the rule of law must ensure that rules are applied consistently in the party and at all parts of the country.”
If done consistently, he believes that would have the tendency of reducing the number of people going independent. Dr. Kennedy further urged the leadership of the NPP to discard complacency, which he noted was the greatest error during the 2008 campaign, saying “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.”
Though 2012 is fast approaching, he noted that the party seems to be proceeding in the same misguided, self-confidence, and therefore, had cause to caution its leadership “if we do not learn the lessons from our loss, we will lose again.”
To him, winning in 2012 will require a new and re-invigorated leadership at all levels of the party, from the polling station to the national headquarters.
Meanwhile, the party has set up a committee to review the 2008 General elections.
The committee, which is chaired by Ghana's immediate past High Commissioner to South Africa, Jim Heyman, has been tasked to look into what led to the party's defeat and make recommendations, for amendments to be made.
Party Chairman, Peter Mac Manu, who disclosed this to The Chronicle, expressed the hope that the committee will do a comprehensive work to enable the party to return to power in the next elections.