NDC: A Democracy Or towards Gerontocracy
I must say that I am not old enough to have joined the party during its formative stages or neither could I have played any role in its PNDC or Revolutionary antecedents. This is no fault of mine and like the millions of the youth who have joined and continue to join the party today cannot be held liable for not joining the party in those formative days. Whilst I salute the founding members and all Cadres including my own father who played various roles in the formation of the party, the contributions of several who by natural design joined the Train are as equally important. I must say that I have no regrets rising through the ranks of the party from TEIN-KNUST days, as branch secretary, Constituency Youth Organizer and as a Regional Secretary and still believes the NDC is the only party that truly reflects the aspirations of the ordinary Ghanaian.
After our 2016 loss, several commentary and sentiments, I believe genuinely, are being shared towards the reorganization of the NDC to have a stronger and effective machinery ready to take power in any future election. The Commemoration of the June 4th which this year coincided with our 25th anniversary with a progressive theme offered fair and objective, though limited platform for us as a party to do an introspection of where the party has come from, where we are now, and what lessons could be drawn to move us into the future.
This was aptly captured by the theme “25 years of NDC: Mirroring the Past into the Future”. This theme has been tossed around severally and might have been misinterpreted by some members to mean “25 years of NDC: Bringing the old people (past) into future” hence the introduction of interesting concepts like *"Party Ownership”*, *“True Party People”* and an emerging *Generational clash* of *"old guards”* against *“exuberant contemporaries”* often referred to as the *“strangers”*. I have attempted here to look at these concepts in the context of our history, our constitution, and the natural instinct of the NDC to remain a true Democratic congress made up of people of diverse background and not to be replaced by a *Gerontocracy* where leadership of the party and decision making is left to a few old class of people.
I respect all views that suggest that a political party is owned by some people even though by law political parties are public entities and are not owned by individuals. I however differ on who the “owners” of the NDC as suggested by some members. People have argued that the NDC today is owned by some group of people and at every material time such group of people should be in charge of decision making in the party. Such a notion is unfortunately retrogressive and lysosomal that leads to self-destruct. The notion of “Owners” versus “workers” of the party only leads to commitment by few whilst the many workers become onlookers. There is no ownership concept neither in the party’s constitution. At best, the party belongs to all registered members of the party in good standing. Such a notion of collective ownership leverage on the energies and commitment of all party members for growth. It is the notion of some “Owners” versus some “workers” of the party that led to a total disregard and disrespect for party structures from the Branches to National levels.
The words of Byron Price often associated with a former Speaker of the US House of Representatives Tip O’Neil is that “All Politics is local” and political parties are not built and organized in the skies. These truisms point to the fact that the branches must and indeed own the party and hence must be respected and actively engaged in decision making. The members of the party at the various branches make their elected executives custodians of the party at the various branches and this escalates up to Constituencies, Regions and National. All these ideas were aptly captured by the framers of the party constitution. No parallel Assembly of old guards or “Owners” have a legitimate locus in our democratic party.
The party has a Founder (Not founders) just like all the modern political parties trace their formation to a founder from which ideological inspirations are drawn from. It doesn’t make them owners of the party. The 1992 constitution and the Political parties Law also puts obligation on all political parties to have one member sign as a founding member at the time of registration of the party. That also do not bestow ownership rights on such persons who were privileged to sign for our party.
If we bestow “Ownership” to a certain group of people in the party, what happens if they leave the party or pass away naturally? Will they be gone with their property or the party institute an “inheritance” system for their descendants to assume new ownership? We have sadly lost a number of our founding members (only 6 left in the Eastern Region) and none of them were replaced as it was not required by law or appropriate. The only people who will continue to remain are the party members and hence the default owners of the party if we indeed want to adopt an ownership concept.
*"True Party People”*
This phrase is also getting some undue attention in our reorganization discourse and often used by people who should be the custodian of the party’s constitution. It is time proponents of such concepts clarify its meaning. It is usually contrasted with another strange concept called “Strangers”.
The NDC is historically a relatively contemporary Congress made up of people who traced their roots in relatively older existing political parties like the UP and the CPP and the cadres who were recruited and trained during the days of the revolution and the PNDC. Like any organism, political parties grow through continuous recruitment and voluntary subscription by members through a formal structure guided by law.
In the NDC membership of the party is defined in Chapter 3 (article 8) that talks about membership and affiliations and I reproduce verbatim here:
(1) Membership of the Party shall be open to every citizen of Ghana irrespective of ethnic origin, religion, place of birth, social or economic status.
(2)A citizen of Ghana may be registered as a member of the party provided that such a citizen:
a. has attained the age 18 years:
b. accepts the constitution, aims, objectives policies and programmes of the Party;
c. is accepted for membership by (the Branch);
d. accepts the discipline and rules of conduct of the Party
e. pays the subscription fee and annual dues as required;
f. is not a member of any other political party.
(3)Membership of the Party shall be open to any organization which satisfies the conditions in sub-clause
2(b), (d) and (f) and which is accepted as a member by the National Executive Committee given that its members shall be individually registered with a branch.
(4)A person wishing to join the Party shall apply to a Branch and filling out a membership form.
(5) The Branch Executive at its next meeting shall either accept or reject the application.
(6) Upon acceptance, the member will be issued a membership card by the Constituency Executive Committee under which such Branch falls.
(7)A subscription fee and annual dues as determined from time to time by the National Congress shall be payable by all members.
(8)No person shall qualify as a member of the Party unless he is a member of a Branch.
(9)A member may resign his membership by formally notifying the Branch of which he is a member (Note these provisions did not change at our last Congress)
A close observation of section one indicates that the party intends to be an open one as opposed to closed where some are labelled as “strangers” and continuously hounded. The party in line with its egalitarian principles does not categorise or discriminate individual membership and hence has no room for discriminants like “True” or “Strange” hence there should be no oxygen for such ideas to prevail in our reorganization discourse. Only Branches can determine whether a person is a member of the party or not as stated in sections 5, 8 and 9.
All members of the party enjoy privileges equally and are eligible to take up leadership. They must not necessary be an old guard or a contemporary. Once their contributions are found useful and the particular electing bodies get them elected, they must be respected and allowed to work for the party.
*Generational Clash: Old guards versus Young Contemporary*
At the basics, I have demonstrated through our articles that these group of persons have equal membership. Each of them are eligible to contest any election at any level and we have a tried and tested system for electing our leaders. Once elections are over, the constitution allows for co-option that allows the structure to take care of minority but critical groups that were not taken care of by the election. Once that is done, there should be no room for a parallel structure made up of a brigade of “old guards” who often usurp the powers of the constitutional recognized structures through the formation of amorphous caucuses. The rule must be that, if you want to make a decision at any level, go through the establishment. It is true that at some levels, some experience and special knowledge is required and are often outside the regular elected structures. It is for these reason why the last congress amended the structure to include Council of Elders at all levels which can be populated with these so called “old guards”.
It is also important that young leaders go through mentorship that is why some of us supported what came to be known as the “ebola” clause where members seeking to be elected at any level must have gone through the lower levels. If this clause was properly fixed, a number of National and regional executives today may not have been eligible to hold the positions they hold today.
That System of structured mentorship was supposed to compliment the much awaited Party School. If party structures are being respected and allowed to function, the perceived emerging generational clash wouldn’t have had space in our reorganizational discourse. People (old and young) must be encouraged to take positions for which they have the power to make certain kinds of decision.
The party has struggled through its democratization efforts and has grown a natural instinct to continuously democratize. You may not like the current General Secretary but he must be saluted for taking some very bold decisions towards expanding the democratic frontiers of the party. As human as he is, he may have his lapses and style that may not be appealing but we can’t take away his personal efforts in making the NDC the most democratized party in West Africa today. It is only in NDC that we have the highest number of members participating in any internal elections.
These gains cannot be eroded and replaced by a *Gerontocracy* where leadership position of the party is reserved for only a few old people. The NDC today has grown beyond any individual in the party and in one of the most sarcastic words of the General Secretary, It is not a sunsumsore (one man church). Both the old and the young members of the party must coexist within the framework of our own established constitution and guidelines for managing our party.
We wish every member of the NDC a happy 25th anniversary and a successful reorganization journey!!
Eye Zu, Eye Za
May God bless us all
*Eastern Regional Secretary*