ABEEKU Dickson (pictured right), 47, a leading contender for the General Secretary position of the New Patriotic Party has warned his party not to risk throwing away power by handing over the leadership of the Party to people who have no “proven party track record of commitment, loyalty, trust and hard work.”
Next month, the NPP will hold elections for national executive positions. The two keenly contested and crucial positions are National Chairman and General Secretary.
In the exclusive interview with The Statesman yesterday, the former National Youth Organiser of NPP dismissed his main contender, Nana Ohene Ntow, as a party member who is “still on probation.”
Ohene Ntow, who joined the NPP shortly before the 2000 elections, is seen as the clear favourite. But the prospect of an Ohene Ntow win is making some very nervous. Two ministers he worked under at both the Information and Finance Ministries have accused him of being “lazy.”
Yet, like Stephen Ntim for the chairmanship, the Government Spokesperson on Finance and Economic Planning is widely seen as the preferred candidate of President Kufuor. The President is said to have appealed to Peter Mac Manu to step down for Ntim. He has also met Stephen Asamoah Boateng and Ferdinand Ayim and was said not to have exactly encouraged them to run for the General Secretary job.
However, with Mr Asamoah-Boateng withdrawing from the race, the other strong party loyalist, Mr Ayim, is being pressurised to revive his campaign.
For many of the die-hard loyalists, a combination of Stephen Ntim and Ohene Ntow as Chairman and General Secretary would be too risky for the party. Like Ohene Ntow, Mr Ntim came to prominence in the party in 2000.
Mr Dickson sees the 2008 election as most crucial for the party and the country and believes delegates at the November 19 Congress should vote for a General Secretary who can achieve victory for the party and continue the good work of President Kufuor.
“The NPP is the only party with the capacity to break the cycle of poverty, underdevelopment and bad governance. The only way to do that is to ensure that what has been achieved by President Kufuor is not only protected, but built-upon massively by the only party with the agenda for Ghana. To make that possible, we need to entrust leadership of the party to people who can deliver.”
The former National Chairman of the NPP Youth Wing stresses his intention to work towards establishing an NPP that will present itself as a veritable and attractive party for many more Ghanaians in our country if he becomes General Secretary of the Party.
Mr Dickson says the perception of the Party as an Akan or Ashanti-based party still persists in the southern part of the Volta Region, the three Northern Regions and within the Zongo communities. He said he would work hard to alter this perception to improve the Party's appeal in those areas.
Mr Dickson believes that the party leadership especially at the grassroots level must engage more with community and opinion leaders to sell the party philosophy and ideas to them. He is unhappy with the situation where in certain constituencies, meetings are held in constituency chairmen's bedrooms, a development he believes keeps the Party closeted and removed from the communities in which it exists.
The poor image of the NPP amongst women is one thing Mr Dickson promises to work hard to erase if the Party's delegates vote him to become their General Secretary. He is appalled that there are no female chairs in any of the Party's 230 constituencies, even though women constitute 51 percent of the nation's electorate. He however expressed delight that a woman has filed to contest the chair of one of the constituencies in the Eastern Region. Mr Dickson believes that the NPP has to do more to encourage its women to contest for positions within the Party.
Abeeku Dickson sees the current state of the Party as challenged and believes the Party must work towards meeting the aspirations of its members and the country as a whole so it can present a positive image of itself to Ghanaians. Like some of the other candidates fighting for party office, Mr Dickson believes the relationship between the ruling party and the Government must be better defined. He has called for the Party to “have a much bigger influence in the general policy framework of the government” and some of the major decisions.
“Since taking over the mantle of the nation in January 2001, the truth is that the relationship between the Party and the Government has been unclear, undefined and ineffectual. The result is that there are many areas in which the impact of the Party has been negligible.
“The Government is the baby of the Party but it appears now that the Party has handed over complete control to the Government,” he said. He believes the Party should have an input even in the appointment of individuals to political positions.
In articulating his vision of a modern, effective and expanding political party, Mr Dickson identifies training as the biggest problem facing the Party and promises to tackle it headlong when he becomes General Secretary. He is appalled that some ministers of state are sometimes unable to respond to policy issues emanating from their own ministries while some party office holders lack a clear understanding of the functions of their positions.
He plans to hold a training workshop for office holders at all levels of the NPP on the Party's constitution because he reckons that the many writs that are issued at the law courts by some party members during party elections arise out of a lack of knowledge or understanding of the Party constitution.
Mr Dickson further notes that one of the problems facing the Party which has not been dealt with and needs serious attention is the inadequate flow of information. He has suggested the development of a functional party website that would improve interaction between national, regional and constituency executives. He said as a party, the National Secretariat should know what is happening in other parts of the region right down from the polling stations and enforce provisions of the Party's constitution to secure party discipline. He also plans to immediately re-launch the NPP News, which used to be the Party's mouthpiece, if he becomes General Secretary. He believes the Party in the long-term must have its own radio and television station.
The aspiring General Secretary is calling for the establishment of “performance-oriented mechanisms” at all levels of the Party. He says the mechanisms would ensure that office holders know what their duties are and outline the ways to achieve party goals.
Mr Abeeku Dickson sees the current structure of the Party at the national executive level as narrow and proposes modifications. He believes that the position of Communications Director should be replaced with a complete department with well-equipped personnel to manage the Party's Public Relations, its mouthpiece and its presence in the media. Similarly, he also proposes the dissolution of the current position of Treasurer and the creation of a Fund Raising department in its stead.
The former Chairman of the Youth Wing of the Party, like other candidates for the General Secretaryship of the Party, recognises the enormous challenges the Party faces in its fundraising efforts. Mr Dickson promises to create a database of the NPP's national membership to enable the Party to diligently collect dues from members. He believes that no effort should be spared in this endeavour and proposes the use of the services of professional fundraisers for party fundraising events.
Mr Dickson believes that on the back of greater interaction between the Party and its members, the Party can find personnel who would go to party members to collect their contributions, little as they may be, to enable it to fund its activities without having to look to Government. He also believes that the Party's mouthpiece could be a veritable source of party funding, given that The NPP News, before its closure, was a very profitable newspaper. To be continued...