Flaws in the Proposed Amendments to the Constitution Of the NPP
Prof. Wayo Seini
The proposed amendments to the NPP constitution probably became necessary because of the chaos that characterized the conduct of the Party in the 2008 general elections. It was felt that too many presidential hopefuls merely stoked up tension in the party and confused the electorate in general; at the constituency level, a narrow electoral college did not, in many cases, help in producing a parliamentary candidate who was perceived to be popular enough to win the seat and thus created a lot of chaotic and, in some cases, violent scenes that portrayed the Party poorly to the electorate; aspiring Vice-Presidential hopefuls went out to publicly campaign for a position that is not elective and added to the woes of the Party. Indeed, it was felt that the electoral college for both the parliamentary and presidential candidate was so narrow that members could easily be corrupted in various ways to produce candidates who might not reflect on the true wishes of the members of the party and the electorate in general. Thus, any constitutional amendments that do not reflect on these concerns will be deeply flawed and will therefore not serve the general interest of the Party and the nation.
The amendment which provides that “A member who stands as an independent candidate or supports any independent candidate against the Party's sponsored candidate automatically forfeits his or her membership” is worrying. In the 2008 elections at least four of the independent candidates from the Party who stood against the official candidate won their seats, in some cases by a wide margin. This implies that the system that produced the official party candidate was not efficient and the independent candidate does not have to be punished for that. Remember that politics is about numbers and throwing somebody out of the Party reduces the number, particularly when such people normally have a following. When numbers were getting short in Parliament for the Party in last year's elections I remember the General Secretary was on radio counting all these successful independent candidates as our members. I know it is wrong to defy the party under such circumstances. But having left the Party myself in anger for two years and returned, I know how painful it is to take such decisions, particularly when one is convinced that he or she has contributed immensely to the building of the Party and yet is being given a raw deal. I will propose that such persons should regard themselves as immediately suspended from the Party with the duration determined by the National Executive Committee (NEC) after the elections.
The provision that “All card bearing members at the Polling Station Area are eligible to vote provided that such a member is in good standing for at least three(3) months before the election of Polling Station Executives” is open to abuse and fraud. Three months is such a short period that a person who is determined to influence the composition of the Polling Station Executive could easily flood the membership with his cronies a few months to the elections. The party has been in existence for seventeen years now and has built a hard core of members at all levels. Thus the minimum qualification for membership of a Polling Station Executive should be two years and for voting should be one year, both of good standing.
Another provision which does not make sense to me is the inclusion of a “Nasara Coordinator” to be elected by members of a Nasara Club in a Constituency. The Nasara Club was formed to work for the improvement of our fortunes in the Zongos. Not all constituencies in the country have Zongos. In some areas, like the three Northern Regions, there is hardly a distinction between a Zongo man and other residents. Thus, constitutionalizing the Nasara Club may even have a negative effect since it might serve to open divisions in cohesive communities. In any case an unbiased assessment of the Club will conclude that it has not lived up to our expectations. We need to go to bottom of our poor performances in the Zongos and address the issue through policies that will improve our image rather than through organs that will only drain our scarce resources without any tangible results. Thus, the Nasara Club representation at all levels should be expunged from the amendments.
The idea of a Steering Committee is to have a smaller body than the Executive Committee that can meet more frequently in between Executive Committee meetings to deliberate and solve problems as they arise. In the original Constitution the Steering Committee was restricted to only elected members at all levels. The suggested amendments seem to be repeating the entire Executive Committees as the Steering Committees from Polling Station to the National level. I suggest we keep to the provisions of the original constitution that restricts membership of the Steering Committees to only elected members at all levels.
Another provision which confuses my mind is the provision that “An existing founding member whose name was submitted to the Electoral Commission during the registration of the Party” as delegates to conferences. In 1992, it was agreed that not everyone could submit his name to the Electoral Commission. Yet there were many people who contributed immensely to the formation of the party. Therefore any of such persons who paid a prescribed subscription fee and also agreed to pay an annual prescribed fee became a founding member. Some of those who submitted their names also became fee-paying founding members. The provision should therefore include all existing founding members of good standing. On the personal note I treasure my framed Founding Member's Certificate a lot and have never failed to pay my Founding Member's dues since 1992 (including the two years I sojourned in the NDC). I don't think that any Founding Member of good standing will be happy about this discriminatory provision. It raises legal issues and should be rephrased to include all founding members still alive, since the number even in 1992 was small and would have reduced through natural selection.
The provision that “The Youth Wing of the Party shall have rules and regulations to govern its activity, including the elections of its officers, which shall not be inconsistent with the Party's Constitution” should be expanded to include a provision which subjects such rules and regulations to the approval of the NEC. Also, there should be some official of the Party responsible for the Young Elephants who should include ages 13 to 18 instead of 16 to 18. One of the appointed Deputy Constituency Youth and Women Organizers should be assigned this responsibility for boys and girls, respectively. Apart from these minor flaws, all the other proposed amendments, in my opinion, are likely to address the issues that called for the constitutional amendments.