THE National Chairman of the New Patriotic Party, Harona Esseku, yesterday launched his media campaign for re-election with a blistering attack on one of his challengers, Stephen Ayesu Ntim. Speaking to Accra-based radio stations, Mr Esseku said those, including contestants for the chairmanship, who criticise the current state of the ruling party should be mindful of the principle of collective responsibility in their criticism. He picked on Stephen Ntim for particular criticism, accusing the current First National Vice Chairman of not submitting “a single proposal” in the last four years on how to move the party forward.
Mr Ntim is widely seen as having prosecuted the most effective campaign so far for the chairmanship, perhaps accounting for the intensity of Mr Esseku's attack.
His promise that he would set up a think tank or research centre for the party was dismissed by the chairman, who stressed that the party already has one headed by Prof Ofosu Amaah. The other contender for the position is the Western Regional Chairman of the party, Peter Mac Manu.
Yesterday, the incumbent National Chairman sought to justify his bid with an impressive record of his long history with the ruling party.
In an interview with Joy FM, Mr Esseku, 71, traced his strong ties as a leading member of the Danquah-Busia tradition back in 1969 when Prime Minister K A Busia picked him as Minister of Transport & Communications.
Mr Esseku has been accused variedly of ineffective leadership. The perceived deterioration of party structures under his chairmanship has been cited as evidence of his failure. But, yesterday, he threw the allegation back at some of his accusers by insisting that he does not run the party as a dictator and the others, especially those challenging him must concede that it is an issue of “collective responsibility.” In the morning, he continued his campaign on another Accra-based radio station, Citi FM.
Below is a transcript of what transpired:
Bernard Avle, Citi FM: Whose camp are you in?
Harona Esseku: I am in Harona Esseku camp.
Q: But you are not going for president, are you?
Q: But there are camps, aren't there?
A: No, there are individuals contesting.
Q: And they have their affiliations?
A: That is why I want to be National Chairman to be able to play fair to all those who are interested in becoming the presidential candidate. The presidential candidate must be selected with fairness, somebody who knows the party, the inner feelings of the party, who can sort of manage this large numbers of party faithful who want to become our next president. Q: But there are constituency elections going on and the reports we've heard from our correspondents are that if the… each of the presidential aspirants have their own delegates. They would say Osafo Maafo has taken 10, this guy has taken 4. Are you aware that this is happening?
A: I have been told that there is something like that going on, but my own observation shows that it is too much ex aggerated.
Q: Really, but it's happening but not on that scale that people are saying?
A: They are all candidates. They want to win and therefore naturally they would want to show interest in the constituency elections. After all, those to attend the Electoral College to vote for presidential candidate would come mainly from the constituencies. So it is in our interest if for nothing at all, to at least note down the names of those who are winning.
Q: The reason I am pushing this is that, we have also heard that the general secretaryship position, every candidate has who he thinks must be the presidential candidate for the party, so it stands to reason that among yourself, Mr Ntim, Mr Mac Manu, you probably also have your favourites and that's why I wanted to know who yours was.
A: Oh, I have worked with all of them and I know them very well. I have been invited regularly to cabinet meetings so I know their contributions. The party's duty is to assess party members who are also ministers, so they first of all can be sure if only they are performing well as ministers. In that capacity, I would say that I have a very good knowledge.
Q: So who do you support?
A: No, National Chairman must remain neutral. He must be able. That is one of the reasons I am contesting. We must not leave this in the hands of the young people who are so enthusiastic. To show that old credential that instead of having keener eyes to look at these people impartially, they would have made up their minds already that I am supporting this man. Nobody in a campaign team, presidential campaign slot will say Harona Esseku is for me. Either all of them will say Harona Esseku is for me or they will not say it at all.
Q: You entered national politics in 1968 as the representative of Awutu Effutu in the Consultative Assembly. Now, this is 2005, 37 years after, what else do you want in politics?
A: To leave NPP in such a position that they will stay in power long after I have retired from politics in the year 2009.
Q: But you have had 8 years to do that, you have been the chairman for 4 years, haven't you done that? Or, you don't feel that if you leave today, the party will not win power?
A: There is a crucial election ahead of us. President Kufuor as you know is not contesting in the year 2008 elections and many you have just mentioned are interested. We must make sure that the period is so managed that first of all, when you select the presidential candidate, there will not be any fall-out. There will be no disunity in the party. The party will be stronger from the day we take on any presidential candidate. That is why I am saying that the man with experience, the man with the maturity, the man with the tolerance, the man who knows the history of the party, should be the one to manage between now and 2008, when we shall select a presidential candidate and thence to elect a president.
Q: So you are the best candidate?
A: I am.
Q: But why did you tell the Ghanaian Times that “now he emphasised that, the two other aspirants did not have what it took to become the national chairman at this critical point in NPP's history.” Are you saying that Mr Stephen Ntim, First National Vice Chairman of NPP doesn't have what it takes to be chairman?
Q: That is a serious observation?
A: At this time yes
A: Yes I said so because even the way he is carrying out his campaign; you are my First Vice Chairman, if am not around you are there. We were elected into office to operate as one team. Now you are the First Vice you go out campaigning that the best thing you will do or one of the major faults is that there is very little research going on and there is virtually no PR going on. Now as First Vice sitting there with the Chairman for four years what did you do to resolve this? Must you become a National Chairman before you resolve those issues? Now these are serious drawbacks on his part. You are saying as soon as I come, I will revamp, I will introduce, I will do this research, effective PR system. If the PR system we have is not effective what did you do about it? It can only be explained in one term or in one answer. He joined the party, contested and became the First Vice not to ensure that the party has the best of people, plans, the best of office, best of strategy to move the part forward but he came in only to sit down and wait until you your self you become the National Chairman before you help resolve party problem. this is a very serious setback.
Q: What about the Western Regional chairman? He is the man who delivered Western Region to the NPP?
A: Compare that to my region I had sixteen seats out of the nineteen. He had twelve out of twenty-two, who has delivered his region?
Q: What about the Central Regional Chairman of the NPP? Are you taking all the credit?
A: Because every politician must first have a constituency and show your importance in the constituency then you must come from a region and then you make sure that your region delivers to your party and on top of all that you ensure that the nation as a whole [is delivered]. That is the responsibility of the National Chairman. I delivered the national elections.
Q: You delivered the general election? I thought it was the General Secretary, he is the one who moves up and down?
A: He moves up and down but it is the National Chairman who brings out the ideas. He is the one planning all the actions.
Q: With a team?
A: Yes with a team but you have already criticised the National Chairman that he is old, now you say with a team? So those people who are with the team everybody must work for the success but when you find somebody saying that I am waiting to become national chair before I work for the party that is very bad. I just pointed it out to you.
Q: So you are saying because you are from the Central Region and the NPP had 16 out of the 19 it shows that you have delivered the region? A: Yes because you just said MacManu delivered the Western Region. MacManu had a Regional Secretary just as I had.
Q: But he is the Regional Chairman.
A: Yes, but the Regional Chairman comes under the National.
Q: Ntim also delivered the Brong Ahafo if you want to look at it that way.
A: What did he get? He had 14 out of 24. He lost 10 seats. We're doing comparison.
Q: But that comparison must be based on what happened in the past.
A: What happened in the past? Either we talk of election results or something else. You've picked 2004 elections and you're talking about delivery so let's look at the figures. You have to ask me what I've been able to achieve in 2004. There are several things. Well after all, what does a political party do? A political party has only one reason to be in existence which is to ensure that it is elected to power.
Q: Really? I wonder what the NPP people will say about that.
A: They know what I'm saying because if you form a political party, your objective is to be able to be given the power to run a country and to usher that country into prosperity; give it development; give it direction. The political party is there to sort of ensure that if you say Ghana, now everywhere you go in Africa, in the world people are talking about Ghana …Ghana. That is what a political party should do. You come into power, you're given power and you govern in such a way that you would be remembered. That is the most important job of a political party. So, if you're a political party and you don't ensure that you get power, you are doing nothing. And then Harona Esseku came on when we had won the 2001 election, look at his record in the party:
Member of National Executive.
Deputy Campaign Manager in 1996.
Deputy Campaign Manager in 2000.
Member of IPAC for 5 years.
Member Secretary of National Disciplinary Committee.
All these would contribute to winning the election and whiles you are winning at the national level, you pay attention also to your regional and constituency.
Q: Which forces in NPP are encouraging you to stand?
A: Harona Esseku is encouraging himself. If I didn't decide to contest, nobody can force me to stand.
Q: Are other people encouraging you to contest?
A: The question should be, are other people supporting me?
Q: I used the word “encourage” knowingly.
A: Why did you use encourage? Let me answer your question. But I interpret encourage to mean support. I've a lot of support because in the year 2004, those who voted for me are still there.
Q: In the 10 regions, can you give me an idea of where your support base comes from?
A: All the 10 regions.
Ques: But I'm sure you had a power base?
Ans: What is power base?
Ques: Because you're first mentioned.
A: Regions and constituencies. The fact that you have regional and constituencies, if you don't work hard, you'll not win your own region or constituency.
Q: I agree but you're stronger in some regions than others.
A: Where I won, I considered them as my strong base.
Q: So where did you win? A: All the 10 regions. I contested with Addai Dua and Issah Mohammed.
Q: I wanted to find out because the first constituency elections are going on and you're saying that you delivered the Central Region. I presume that...
A: But I've also told you that I also delivered the whole country.
Q: But Peter Mac Manu would claim he delivered Western Region.
A: By what percentage.
Q: I'm not into the actual.
A: No, because we're comparing three things. Our performance in elections and if you look at the national, because I'm at the national level, I can claim I won it, the First Vice can claim. Mac Manu can claim his region. He can claim he contributed because he was the Chairman of the Organising Committee. Now, when it comes to the regions Mac Manu would say he delivered, Stephen would also say he delivered and I, Central Region, and you compared that also. Then we come to the constituencies, what did you do in the constituency? In my constituency, Awutu Senya, we had the biggest margin in the Central Region.
Q: Really, you attribute that partly to your influence?
A: Not partly, mostly to my influence.
Q: You're very popular there?
A: Very much.
Q: They like you?
A: Very much.
Q: A political analyst said to me that November 19 is the first or the opening whistle for 2008. He says that when NPP holds its congress to elect its executive, it would start putting in place who really would rule the country in 2008 because, once the National Chairman, the General Secretary have been selected it falls in place that they have an influence to some extent as what happens in the presidential primaries. Do you agree with him that what happens in November 19 sets the tone for 2008?
A: Yes, just as what happened in September 2001, set the tone for 2004 results.
Q: OK, in 2001, did you support Kufuor? Of course, absolutely he was incumbent, so did you support him?
A: Yes, just as everybody said he supported me, which I don' deny. But he was the President and he had to support all of us.
Q: Does he support you?
A: Why shouldn't he support me? As President, any one who is contesting will have his support.
Q: Oh no! But he has preferences.
A: He alone will know that preference.
Q: Has he told you he prefers you?
A: Why should he tell me that, my gentleman?
Q: But if he prefers you, he will tell you.
A: No no, no. It's not a question of preferring. Put yourself in his position, that you have three people contesting and you call one person to tell him, that I prefer you.
Q: But you said in 2001, he supported you.
A: That is what everybody says and he supported all the others.
Q: Oh are you sure? With the same passion?
A: I wouldn't know, he would know. The sort of attention, the sort of how he divided his support, that one he alone knows, but everybody who contested the seat would say he supported him. Example now, Mac Manu would say the President is supporting him, Ntim would say the president is supporting him, I would say the President is supporting me. None of us at this stage would know the degree of his support, but you would know he supports you, because he calls you, you talk together, there is no reason or you don't have any evidence to say, that by the way he is chatting with you shows that he supports you.
Q: Is it bad for the party if he openly says he supports one candidate for the National Chairman?
A: I would say it is not very suitable but it's not bad. It's not suitable for the party as a whole. They would say you are being discriminatory. You should be seen to be neutral but as I say, in your heart of heart, you'll support one person. And when you are talking to that one, he knows you are supporting him, but at the same time you'll talk to another one and he will say you are supporting him. The question is that, in the open the President would not show bias, but on the quiet, he may like one to win over another because it is not possible that you'll like all the three to win at the same time. My first choice would be A, B, or C but however, if any of them wins he would be good enough for me to work with. That is the attitude.
Q: What kind of influence do the National Executives have on say who becomes a presidential candidate?
A: National Executive would put out the notices inviting applications from those who are interested. When they have all applied, it would be the National Executives that would set up a committee to vet them. When the vetting is over, the reports would come to the National Executive Committee of which the Chairman would sit as the President of the Committee. And then the final person is selected, so the National Executives have a very serious influence over the selection of the candidate.
Q: The NEC also ensures that the constitution is adhered to.
A: Yes because when they are doing vetting, what are they doing? They are looking at whether you qualify in terms of the Constitution. They can only vet you in reference to the Constitution.
Q: We've been told that, when you want to be President you have to resign your position one and half years before. What does the constitution say about people resigning who want to be President?
A: The constitution says three months to January 2008, those, that is from the time the NEC would put out notices for applicants, so it is at that time that officially we would know who is who in the Presidential race; at the moment there are about ten names but it may happen that, when the application is out the number may be only two or three. At that stage, it may be necessary for him to resign, but even then it is not put in the constitution. It is when the time for the election of the Presidential candidate which would be somewhere in January 2008 that those who have applied can actually withdraw or go in. But once they finally decide to offer themselves they will have to resign. Q: You are going to launch your campaign today; what will you do?
A: The launching and the form will be very simple. I am only issuing a press release. Going with the press release will be the distribution of my manifesto. I was supposed to take delivery of my manifesto yesterday from the printer but there has been a bit of a delay. If I get them today the release will come tomorrow. The release will be a day after I get my manifesto.
Q: Haven't the two taken a lead on you? I have even seen TV commercials
A: No there are different ways of elections, conducting your campaign, work, let me give you a typical example. In 1968, the whole of the Agona, the Efutus, the Gomoas, the Senyas, four big traditional areas were given the opportunity to select one person to go into the constituent assembly by the NLC. Now the voters were the members of the urban and local councils then in existence and the military regime. We had 84 councillors to vote and if you want to campaign, we don't go on TV. We sit down and debate why you want to be elected and they will tell you in the face what they think of you. You argue with them, you plead, persuade them so at the end of the day you would know who would win. I did that and I won. Nobody saw me campaigning.
Q: But that was '68, this is 2005?
A: The principle is the same. This is an election where you know who are coming. There are 1,400 people who are coming to vote. Each one of them has an identity. So you project yours in such a way that the campaign is directed at the 1,400 people. Directing a message to 1400 people does not need you to put an advert on the air like that. Every activity must be directed at those 1400 people. If you want to campaign, you target the polling chairman to elect the people who you think support you.
Final Message: This is a race about retaining power in 2008 or not. That power to retain resides in us as NPP. The first thing to do is to unite so I am appealing to everybody in the party to get together to avoid petty squabbles. If you are campaigning and you are competing do it fairly and decently just as I am doing. I am not insulting my opponents, only bringing out the facts. They should not do anything which will give a bad name to the party for people to believe that the party is split. No. the party is intact.