22.04.2009 Feature Article

The implosion of the NDC - Arthur K. Kennedy

The implosion of the NDC - Arthur K. Kennedy
22.04.2009 LISTEN

I am worried about the factionalism within the NDC.
There is the Rawlings faction.
There is the Mills faction.
There is the Mahama faction.
And there may be others.

These factions are going after one another, viciously. Since President Mills assumed office, he has probably faced more severe criticism from former President Rawlings than from the NPP. While the President's spin-doctors were trying to convince the nation about how fast he and the NDC government were moving, the former President was undermining their spinning with some pointed comments about the speed and direction of the new government. As a result, the commonest saying about the President and the government is "ofei dull".

There are rumours about clashes between the Vice-President and the former President, allegedly involving the pulling of guns. Of course, this has been denied.

After the former President's comments on the speed and direction of the government, the Vice-President also spoke to the media and made some pointed comments, which, without mentioning names, were generally believed to be directed at the former President.

The information Minister, Mrs. Okaikoi, the Director of Communication at the Presidency, Koku Anyidoho and the Presidential spokesperson -Mahama Ayariga are at one another's throat about their spheres of influence.

According to NDC insiders, what we are seeing is only the tip of the iceberg.

According to NDC insiders, behind the scenes, members of particular factions barely speak to members of other factions. Already, with their government barely in place, there is a scramble to succeed President Mills by those who have calculated that he cannot or will not run again.

The unintended or maybe intended side effect of all these is that the President has looked weak, tentative and not completely in charge of his own government.

That perception of a President not in control was given more currency when recently, the President angrily reminded the nation that he is the only President. "When the people of Ghana voted, they voted for only one President. They did not vote for President number one and President number two."

The President's statement led to frenzied speculation about who the President had in mind.

The next day, his spokesperson, Mahama Ayariga, explained that the President had the opposition in mind when he made those remarks. Others still insisted that the President had had some in his own party in mind. A few days ago, the President reiterated his comments in his press briefing by contradicting his spokesperson and said he had not had any particular group in mind. He said in effect that whoever the cap fit must wear it.

Ordinarily, given my party affiliation, most would expect me to be happy that the NDC is having difficulties. It is a cardinal rule in politics that when your political opponent/enemy is in the process of destroying himself, you should not interfere. The rationale for this rule is that when your party's opponents are suffering from self-inflicted wounds, you stand to benefit.

Despite all these, we should all be concerned about the NDC because their stability and cohesion are tied to that of our country. When the NDC and hence its government implodes, it may take the country down with it. While I want the NPP to win the next election, there must be democracy for there to be a democratic transfer of power. That is why, between now and January, 2013, the welfare of the NDC should be a national concern.

We have seen this before. Between September 1979 and December, 1981, the ruling People's National Party was engulfed by factionalism and in-fighting. Then as now, members of the party attacked one another in public. The President was openly defied in public and in Parliament. Even one of his budgets was rejected. Then, as the government staggered from one crisis to the next, people lost confidence in it and in democracy.

When we woke up on 31st December, 1981, to the sound of martial music and the announcement of liberators who had come to rescue us from the PNP, many people just said "good riddance".

It was Santayana who said "Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat its tragedies".

To be clear, I am not suggesting that those involved have any sinister motive. It is just that eventually, such disparate actions coalesce and take on a life of their own, beyond anyone's control and lead to untoward consequences for the governing party and the country.

In all candour, I am not making this foray into NDC's divisions because all is completely well on the NPP front. But while the nation can afford a divided NPP for a while, it cannot afford a divided NDC. Our national interest requires, for now, a united NDC.

How can we restore amity and comity to the NDC?
First, it is important to heed the reminder by President Mills that Ghanaians voted for only one President. It is crucial that all of us do our very best to support the President as he discharges the mandate given to him by the people of Ghana.

This means that all institutions and individuals must give the President their support and resist the usurpation of powers and functions, reserved only for the President.

Second, the NDC must find ways of hearing dissenting voices from their party in private.

The former President, His Excellency Jerry Rawlings, must show more support for the man he plucked from political obscurity and worked so hard to make President. All those years, while others doubted the vision and competence of President Mills, the former President was there by his side, steadfast in his support. It is regrettable that after working so hard to get President Mills elected, the former President is undermining him. He must find more appropriate channels to voice his concerns. As one who has held the office of President before, President Rawlings is in a unique position to appreciate the pressures of the Presidency and hence to show more understanding.

Third, the President's advisors, despite the temptation to do otherwise, must remember that the President's constituency is Ghana and encourage the President to be, in effect, the President of all Ghanaians. He may have won by less than half of a percent but he won the entire Presidency and took the oath to serve, not just NDC members but all Ghanaians. The President has said some good things but he must act in a manner consistent with that talk.

Fourth, the President too, needs to respect his party more. He did not win elections as an independent candidate. He won on the ticket of his party. Therefore, he must involve his party and its structures in making decisions in which they have legitimate interests and must have input.

The recent appointment of Ministers and District/Municipal/Metropolitan executives sometimes gave the impression of a Chief Executive, holed up with his advisors, not bound by his party's advice, doling out favours to his friends and punishing those who have crossed him in the past. These actions have led to protests from various constituencies in his party. In our democratic dispensation, it seems that all what parties are used for is as vehicles for nomination. Once the nomination is in the bag, in too many instances, parties are relegated by candidates into the background.

Fifth, this year, the President, consistent with the pledge made by him and other Presidential candidates, has pledged to set up a Constitutional Review Panel with membership from all parties.

That panel, hopefully, will look at strengthening our democracy so that this and future parties in or out of government can handle better the various interests and factions in their ranks.

Finally, I urge we the people to stand up for our democracy. We should demand that the NDC behave more like a governing party than a splintered protest movement, until we can choose another party to govern in 2012.

Let us move forward, together.

Credit: Arthur K. Kennedy