23.08.2017 Features

The Botchwey Report, the Dzirasah Approach, and new developments in the NDC Perspective

The Botchwey Report, the Dzirasah Approach, and new developments in the NDC Perspective
23.08.2017 LISTEN

While this exercise is neither to rehash some of the difficulties that confronted the NDC in the past nor highlight its current difficulties, it is important to place certain practices within the party into perspective dispassionately. It is only through this dispassionate evaluation of the status quo that the true state of the party can be appreciated by all and sundry. This is in the hope the NDC will be able to salvage what is salvageable and to nip in the bud those undemocratic practices that are rearing their ugly heads again. Failure to respond to the growing undemocratic practices in the party will slowly eat its grassroots away and push the 18-year old new political entrant away to other opposition parties, particularly the NPP.

It must be noted that it is from the perspective of organizational change that many NDC enthusiasts, including the grassroots and the voiceless, were elated that the Kwesi Botchwey Committee was set up to examine, scientifically, what led to the defeat of the NDC in the 2016 general elections. Many at the grassroots had hoped that their opinions, however, varied would be diligently collected, collated, and analyzed, scientifically; giving them the opportunity to be part of something much larger than themselves, so they could own its product and its implementation collectively. One can only assume that it was that hope—the hope that the report would serve as the basis for the needed organizational transformation to make the NDC viable and competitive both as a party in opposition and as a vehicle for an eventual return to office to serve the people of Ghana—that generated the enthusiasm that enveloped the Botchwey town halls across the country.

Unfortunately, against this expectation among party enthusiasts, the so-called final report of the Kwesi Botchwey Committee has been placed under lock and key and made accessible to the elite group of the party (that is if the report exists). Attempts to seek an explanation for this turn of events elicited an informal response from a member of the Kwesi Botchwey Committee, Dr. William Ahadzi, the NDC Research Committee chairman, as follows:

  1. This was a commissioned study and the client retained the discretionary authority to disclose details to the public.
  2. The investigation had clearly spelt out objectives which basically directed the study team on specifics.
  3. Some level of confidentiality and protection of respondents is allowed in social science research particularly where disclosure can pose threats to some groups of respondents.
  4. In a competitive political environment, it is imprudent to make public a report that contains material that can serve as a propaganda tool and hand an advantage to political opponents.
  5. Let’s be circumspect as individuals in putting up arguments on matters that an institution of authority has already ruled on. We may be inciting disaffection towards a team of researchers who did diligent work rather than promoting healing in a party that is working to reposition itself to recapture political power.

This informal response only helps to explain the state of affairs in the NDC and the thinking of its leadership even in opposition, which leads to the following observations:

  1. The decision to place the Prof. Kwesi Botchwey Committee Report under lock and key and make it available to a select few of the party leadership smacks of elitism. This is against the grassroots ethos of the party and must be questioned and challenged, particularly when it is at the behest of the very leadership that has led the party into opposition through its questionable management practices.
  2. Propriety over a piece of work/study cannot be interpreted to mean that the researcher(s) has/have an absolute right to the final product of research and can, at will, deny access to those who volunteered information for the writing of such report. If the goal is to not make the report public, that must be expressly made known to informants from whom information was solicited. To the extent that that was not made known to interviewees expressly before collecting information from them, the informants have been ambushed by the Kwesi Botchwey Committee. This is gross ethical violation of the informed consent principle.[1]
  3. On confidentiality, researchers have always used pseudonyms to protect the identity of those from whom they elicit information. There are two ways of doing this. This may be at the behest of the informant or the researcher(s) may choose to protect the identity of the informant by using a pseudonym if attributing certain assertions or information to such individuals will place them at risk. To this end, confidentiality cannot be a tenable excuse for the Botchwey Committee for not releasing such an important document which should serve as the foundation for healing and uniting the NDC.
  4. On the issue of the report becoming a propaganda tool for the opposition, two question arise:
  1. Is it better to place the report under lock and key and to make it available to the elite group in the party, creating the opportunity for political opponents to contort and fabricate their own stories and classify them as leaked versions of the same report or is it better to release the report to serve as a foundation for healing, uniting, and reforming the party?
  2. Are we saying that once people have voted for the NPP they cannot be persuaded by superior organizational culture, politics of transparency, and knowledge of what is needed to move the nation forward to vote for the NDC?
  1. When informants, participants, respondents, and subjects are ambushed, it pollutes the research environment—whether in political research, including opinion polls, or in social science research and the humanities—with the effects of informant and participant apathy in future research.
  2. How can informants’ right to verification or member-check be guaranteed?
  3. Does being an NDC member deprives a research participant of all the above privileges?

How different is the decision to place the Kwesi Botchwey Report under lock and key from the constitutional change process that was initiated during the Tamale Congress in 2010 that took only ONE PERSON (and perhaps in consultation with his elite associates in the NDC) to implement? During the 2010 NDC congress in Tamale, Ken Dzirasah held some documents in his hand on a podium and read something like…“With respect to Article 1, Section 2(b), the proposal is to insert the following paragraph after the word “constraints.” No one else at the Congress had a copy of what Ken Dzirasah was reading in order to understand, question, or even disagree with whatever the suggested amendment was going to be. Instead, Congress was expected to shout loud “ayes” or “nay” after every such reading, and hardly any “nays” were heard after each reading. In the end, Congress was told the “ayes” had won and constitutional amendments were to be effected. Even months after the amendments, the changes could not even be published for party members to read and know exactly what the amendments were.

As it were, one would have expected that a research conducted to understand the causes of the NDC’s woeful performance would serve as a scientific basis for the reorganization of the party, but just like past events, the research has been placed under lock and key, only to be made available to a select few of the NDC’s elite group members. If past developments in the NDC are anything to go by, what this means is that those who needed the report most—the rank and file—do not actually have access to the report that should help in healing their wounds and reorganizing the party. This is top-down and runs contrary to the organizational philosophy of the NDC.

From organizational management perspective, would it not have been reasonable that the suggested amendments were clearly written and floated among party members for weeks, if not months, before Congress, so party members could evaluate the suggested amendments, discuss them, and make their decisions known via their delegates who would then vote to implement their decisions at Congress? As it were, this time-tested management principle was overlooked, consciously or unconsciously, because the party leadership is uninterested in opening up the political space for democratic principles to work effectively in the party. While their resistance to change is understandable—as they benefit from the status quo, whether in opposition or in government—this is gradually killing the NDC as the 2016 results have indicated. If information is the blood of democracy, then the decision to place the Botchwey Report under lock and key and the Ken Dzirasah examples as provided above only go to underscore the point that important party leadership decisions are being taken recklessly without the necessary inputs from the grassroots.

The bigger picture questions then are:

  1. On what basis is the Kwesi Botchwey Committee calling for party transformation, particularly when the grassroots and those who contributed to the report have no knowledge of the conclusions of the report and how their contributions were featured in the so-called report, if the report exists?
  2. Is it not elitist to choose to release the report to a select few of party leadership and then ask the grassroots to join in healing and uniting the party when they do not actually know what the report prescribes as the healing balm?
  3. Why should the party elites whose actions and inactions brought the party to opposition be considered the repositories of knowledge in dealing with the problems they created?
  4. Are the recommendations of the Kwesi Botchwey Committee Report truly representative of the needed transformations that would reposition the party as a viable and competent party in opposition and as a vehicle for recapturing political power in the future?
  5. Are the findings of the committee indictments on the current national leadership of the party hence the attempt to shield themselves? Or it is an attempt of maintaining the NDC status quo of giving favorable advantage to a particular candidate in the upcoming presidential primaries?

The enormity of the task of the Kwesi Botchwey Committee to help the NDC’s electoral fortunes in the 2020 and beyond cannot be overemphasized. How could this overarching responsibility have been lost on the astute Scholar-Politian, Professor Kwesi Botchwey?

Below, in Table 4, is the outcome of the various opinion polls in predicting the 2016 elections. The best efforts of these polls were all wrong. The 2016 election was an election in which the loser least expected to lose and the winner least expected to win with such a margin. The results of the polls only underscore the performance change theory—that polls and research reports subordinate election results.

Table 4: Ghana 2016 Presidential Elections Opinion Polls

Poll source Date Sample size Un-decided Mahama NDC Akufo-Addo NPP Nduom PPP Green-street CPP Notes
Restart Inter-national 5 Dec 2016 2,000 54.7% 43.7%
Ben Ephson 28 Nov 2016 N/A 52.4% 45.9% 1.7% 2% Err
Ben Ephson Oct 2016 N/A 50.8% 47.5% 1.7% 2% Err
Goodman AMC Aug 2016 2,184 N/A 48% 45% 7% 0% 2.1% Err
Goodman AMC June 2016 1,644 N/A 44% 49% 6% 1% 2.3% Err
Goodman AMC April 2016 1,216 N/A 32% 65% 3% 0%

Source: Ghanaweb
The Bible states in Mathew 5:15 that “neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.” The reasons adduced by the Kwesi Botchwey Committee for keeping their work secret cannot douse the unfavorable perception their decision is receiving among the grassroots of the party and the generality of Ghanaians.

Recently, two letters signed and circulated widely on social media attest to the determination of the national executives of the party to continue a choke hold on the NDC. The letters, which were addressed to all regional and constituency chairpersons, were signed by the Deputy General Secretary Mr. Koku Anyidoho for the General Secretary and were dated July 15 2017. One letter seeks to suspend the registration of party members and the other to suspend “all work or cooperation with individuals or groups who come to their regions and or constituencies to do research work on or for the party” (See Appendix). While there were no sanctions for the violations of these injunctions, the intent of the authors was clear—to choke hold once again the change process of the party by using the existing structures of the party.

All these are supposed to be emanating from the National Executive Committee, which begat the Functional Executive Committee, which in turn begat the Kwesi Botchwey Committee and the implementation Committee which has just began cutting the tracks for another single-horse-race. The National Executive Committee must respond to the following questions:

  1. Why would anyone think that the membership of a party must be held at the whims and caprices of a few officers who cannot see that the plurality of party membership—the pool of its human resource and by fair extension its material resource—is the anchor for its success at the elections?
  2. If people turn 18 years old and qualify under the Constitution of Ghana to be politically active, should their choice of party or party membership be subjected to the manipulations of a few individuals who are only interested in maintaining their positions within the party?
  3. Why would anyone close their doors to academic or intellectual scrutiny if such space is clean?[2]
  4. At this point in time, there may be students, academics, and researchers whose work, through critical appraisals, as competitive knowledge does, may enrich the party and shape its future. What on earth might be the reason for the NDC to deny itself this opportunity by instructing leadership at all levels not to cooperate with any researcher?

Prosper Yao Tsikata, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Communication
PS: Please follow the link to the conceptualization of the NDC transformational agenda here:

[1] There are two important issues here worth our consideration. Ownership of research product and confidentiality. First, in regard to ownership of research data/product, Loshin (2002) identifies a list of parties that can lay claim to research data/product and the subject of research forms part of the list of those who can lay claim to research data/product—the participant has a right to know what is written about him or how his contribution adds to the narrative. Second, in seeking consent of the participants, the participants must be expressly informed about how the data would be used before and must as well be informed of his/her right to opt out of the process at any stage of the process (Smith, 2003).

[2] Fienberg et al. (1985) point out that sharing data reinforces open scientific inquiry, encourages diversity of analysis, and allows for reanalysis of results, verification of results, refutation of results, and provides conduits for alternative analysis to refine and enrich the results. Thus, the decision by the Kwesi Botchwey Committee to withhold the report, if it exists, does not help in anyway in injecting transparency in our body politics and in advancing the national discourse.