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30 September 2009 | Politics

Will JJ and Spio battle Mills and John for 2012?

The Statesman
Will JJ and Spio battle Mills and John for 2012?

Plenty of talk within the circles of the New Patriotic Party about factionalism within the main opposition party. There are the few who wish to believe that there are no camps in the NPP and the many who admit there are camps.

More worrying for party analysts is the growing worry among the rank and file and sympathisers that factionalism could see once again defeat snapped from the jaws of the National Democratic Congress by the NPP. But, if those involved in the competition-driven NPP factionalism mean well for the party then the NPP has very little to worry about. Polling station officers' elections in first week of October; constituency and regional officers' contests follow in October and November, respectively.

Once national officers are chosen in December, the stage is set for the presidential candidate to be chosen, preferably in the first half of 2011. This leaves NPP until the end of 2011 to sort out all major differences, bond together behind the nominated leaders and set clear guidelines and mechanisms to ensure a harmonious parliamentary primaries in 2011/12. But, the potential for deep-wounding factionalism appears more apparent in the ruling party than the NPP.

I made this point before September (see maiden edition of The Thunder) and a couple of articles recently support this view. First of all, power has its obvious way of making competition for positions seem like a one-off race for limited accommodation in heaven. Secondly, there are high voltage live fault lines in the NDC that are likely to experience a power surge in 2012.

Former President Jerry John Rawlings has already given notice that President John Mills and Vice John Mahama are presiding over borrowed time, with a grace period shorter than hoped. In the eyes of the NDC founder and some notable players, President Mills is fast losing his credit worthiness. President Rawlings can be expected to seriously consider sponsoring a candidate in 2012 against President Mills.

The former President can be inspired by his own estimation of the support he enjoys among the grassroots of the party and he has cleverly crafted his outbursts with the kind of populism that resonates with the foot-soldiers of the party.

Yet, the NDC founder is likely to face a dilemma similar to what he faced in 2006. He did not see Prof Mills then as necessarily the best man to lead the NDC. But President Rawlings was checked by sheer ground reality: Prof Mills had ridden on the popularity horse of President Rawlings to have become mightily popular and well-marketed; to attempt to mount a public challenge against him could seriously compromise your own hallowed standing in the party you created. So, Rawlings obediently dropped his two hands in his damerifa.

On the face of it, it seems even more difficult now to mount any credible challenge against Mills, surely? But, there are strong hints that Rawlings may be joining up with the man who came second to Mills in the 2006 flagbearership race to mount an all-out war to get Mills out. In his hard-hitting article in the September 18 and Wednesday 23 September, 2009 editions of the Daily Graphic, Ekwow Spio Garbrah spoke boldly as if to say he has pitched camp with Rawlings. Spio accuses the President being too slow and putting the party's fortunes in 2012 at risk barely 9 months after taking over. Like Rawlings' criticisms of Mills, Spio crafted his piece to appeal to the ordinary members of the party, who are still queuing up for their modest ration of the better Ghana. They are also crying out for some Mabeys (free cash), if not jobs. His warning that leading NDC members would not sit by and watch Mills return the NDC into opposition cannot be ignored.

“Should leading NDC members stay quietly on the sidelines even if we can see that if matters continue as they are [NDC] would lose power in 2012? Are we the kind of passengers who sit passively in a bus until we die in an accident even when we realise that the bus is not being driven well?” he says. Spio concludes that Mills is driving the NDC juggernaut into an electoral accident in 2012. Spio has not been able to come to terms with Mills vindictiveness against him as much as Mills has never come to terms with what he sees as Spio's betrayal on the issue of Mills' health. If Spio cannot convince coach Mills to select him then he's going straight to the party's shareholders to convince them to change the coach for 2012 and hopefully make him the coach.

But, should Rawlings and Spio team up to contest Mills, that would be an all-out war. The NDC should do all that it can to avoid that. Could the party recover from that kind of intra-political brawl in time to face the NPP in 2012? I doubt it. It is not that Rawlings and Spio would win such a fight. Highly unlikely. Even if Rawlings and Spio are really serious about meeting Mills head to head together Mills is likely to triumph because the sensible people in the party would want to stick to driver Mills, even if he's accident prone. However, Mills would only refuse to run and use his health as an excuse if his popularity were to dip so low even beneath the radar of self-deceit. Performing anywhere near fair is enough to get him to believe he has done mightily well and can do more and so continue, regardless of any objective advice he's likely to get.

Again, waiting in the wings is Vice President John Mahama. John is cleverly building his support base and, one can expect, his war chest, as well. But, only as a standby strategy. He's not one to rock the boat so long as the leakage may be deceptively minor. There is already talk of the Ahwois preparing their brother Kwesi Ahwoi as a probable candidate. His work as Minister of Agriculture, with the biggest budget increase this year, allows him to go down on the ground and do some real work for nation, party and ambition. But, the Ahwois know too well that their best bet is to keep Mills well and on for a second term. And, even if it means keeping Mills' popularity on a life-support machine they would do so to make him run and therefore maintain their power base. If Spio was in any doubt about that then Ato Ahwoi's reply should have done some excellent valeting on Spio's mind.

John Mahama will only run should his boss not. Mills would not have done enough in 2012 to be contend with his legacy and is likely to be persuaded by post-2012 oil prospects to want to have another go at a better Ghana. The best way the NDC can patch up internal cracks and create a semblance of party unity is to maintain Mills. President Mills running effectively stops any serious challenge or acrimonious succession contest among the three or so power camps within the party. Unlike the NPP, the NDC would have less than 12 months to patch up before the 2012 general elections.

One of the biggest Hollywood movie hits in 2008 was the 'Curious Case of Benjamin Button'. It was about a person who was born already as an old man in his 80s and grew backward, getting younger until his aged wife had to carry him as a baby in her arms 'til death did them part. For those who think the better Ghana is just a bitter Ghana and have soon given up hope, they should just take a look at President John Evans Atta Mills. He is looking a lot healthier than he did just 9 months ago. He is getting better. The better Ghana has started with him and we all hope it may soon trickle down to the rest of Ghanaians.

For those who think President Mills is just a one term head of state, they should begin to revise their notes. Well, it is said that he managed to convince John Mahama, who was having daydreams about moving to South Africa, that the younger and healthier looking man should join the Mills 2008 ticket and that Mills would pass the baton on to him after just one term. It is also said that John Mahama then convinced Hannah Tetteh to retire from her early retirement from active politics to join him and maybe the two of them could form a north-south, man-woman dream ticket for 2012. For those who feared the health of candidate Mills Not only is President Mills looking every bit a President in good shape, what candidates promise and what presidents think once they get hit by the power bug are as compatible as power and hunger. To reiterate, beyond that President Mills is likely to find out at the end of his four-year term that he has not delivered anything near what he promised.

The economic indicators and forecasts are not helpful to his wishful legacy. It is predicted that at least 10 million Ghanaians will get poorer in the next two years than they were in December 2008, with inflation depleting their purchasing power. This is expected, according to World Bank figures, to push half a million more Ghanaians below the poverty line of $1.25 per day. President Mills knows he can't do much to turn the tide of economic stagnation in four years. He needs more than what the IMF and World Bank are offering yet he has signed up to the kind of conditionalities that seriously limits his fiscal manoeuvrability. The IMF may not even allow him to raise oil bonds next year on the capital market, since that would be considered non-concessionary. There are even nonconcessionary issues today about moves by Ecobank and Stanchart to raise money for the Tema Oil Refinery to pay off some of the debt owed to Ghana Commercial Bank.

With no serious revenue from oil expected to trickle into state coffers before 2013, President Mills is bound to feel another four years should do the trick. The question is, would JJ and Spio share that position enough not to upset Mills' position?



quot-img-1Patience doesn't perhaps an art of hoping but within hope to be found patience, patience therefore is an art of living humbly and simply

By: Abel quot-img-1