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02.09.2005 Press Review

Editorial: Odododiodio Drubbing Needn’t Be Bad For NPP

Statesman

THE Editor of the Daily Dispatch newspaper and election analyst, Ben Ephson, told Citi FM this week that the Odododiodio by-election victory by the National Democratic Congress should serve as a warning signal to the ruling New Patriotic Party in the run up to the 2008 general elections.

Whilst we do not disagree with the above view, we believe the outcome of this by-election, if it is in anyway a reflection of the preponderance of political feelings on the ground nationwide, then losing was rather good news for the NPP. It should help the party sharpen its delivery, verbally and physically, and time is on its side.

“People are suffering!” cried jubilant NDC activists, suggesting why the NPP lost. The lead story of yesterday's Daily Dispatch could not have captured the mood better. It began with a quote from the August 2005 Country Report on Ghana by a leading British-based think tank, The Economist Intelligence Unit: “Recent by-elections have shown that the electorate is becoming more focused on economic issues. With this in mind, the opposition National Democratic Congress is increasingly focused on efforts to try and discredit the NPP's performance on managing the economy. The NPP's difficulty in raising living standards quickly could well swing the next election… The NDC is also aware that focusing on the economy may not be sufficient to win the next elections, and will be looking for ways to discredit Mr Kufuor.”

Ben Ephson in his radio interview added that the doubling of the margin of the NDC victory to over 8000 at Odododiodio has given the opposition party a big propaganda tool for the future.

In our considered view, the keyword in this week's by-election results was “Propaganda.” And the main weapon in the opposition arsenal is Propaganda. An article in this paper on Monday would argue that NPP lost because the party did not have a strategy and message that took care of the youth in the area. Already, analysts have said that the imposition of Mankattah, a man who allegedly joined NDC youths in 2004 to intimidate NPP supporters, was a sting of a slap in the face of NPP party loyalists in the area.

The fact that the turn-out was under 50% and worse in the NPP strongholds suggests that NPP activists simply refused to exercise their ballot. Yet, in our view, it would be difficult to stretch this argument to say that two by-election wins by the NDC means come 2008 NPP activists would stay at home in protest and apathy, and, also, that NDC is on the ascendancy.

Significantly, this week's result does not change the constitution of the legislature after the December polls. It only affects the constitution of party psychology and allows the parties involved to assess and perhaps re-design strategies.

Why would NPP candidates choose to stay at home? In our view, Mankattah's unpopular candidacy alone was not enough to overturn party loyalty. After the 2004 primaries, several party activists were unhappy with the choice of candidates but that did not stop them from coming out to render a one-touch victory to Kufuor in December.

What is eating away sympathy and enthusiasm for the NPP is the Kufuor administration's low showing on the perception table. NDC nauseatingly accuse the NPP of corruption. Yet, the NPP does not even see wisdom in using that very TI perception index to show that Ghana is perceived the least corrupt country south of the Sahara! The NDC is winning the propaganda game. But, signs are that that is unlikely to translate into an overwhelming warming up to the Rawlings-led group.

When discerning voters and your own supporters choose to stay at home, it opens the way for your opponents to have a clean, clear run. But, NPP must change that quickly for their own sake and that of enhancing the quality of Ghanaian politics.

People are choosing to stay at home because they are obtrusive victims of NDC propaganda. That is bad for democracy.

The NDC propaganda is winning because the NPP is yet to design an effective counter attack. That counter in our view does not mean fighting propaganda with propaganda. It means fighting propaganda with facts, commonsense explanation of the reality. From 2001 to 2008, we are confident that the NPP would have enough on its checklist of achievements to bury NDC propaganda in the grave of PNDC/NDC under-achievements.

Yesterday's sod-cutting for the construction of 1,000 units of really affordable homes in Accra and plans to replicate that across the country, is just one of several examples that propaganda cannot defeat. The signs are good but need deepening.

The issue is to locate your achievements community-specific and actively remind the locals of what is being done for them. Oh, and you should help them compare. NPP has no excuse not to keep the NDC out after 2008. The results of the Odododiodio by-election are probably a good omen for the ruling party, exposing its weaknesses and the NDC's strengths. They should counter the NDC propaganda, and let the people of Ghana see whose policies and programmes are best suited to the accelerated development of the nation - ie their own lives.

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