“WE are have today in Sunyani, capital of Brong-Ahafo, birthplace of Kofi Busia, of most blessed memory to sign a pact with Destiny. Destiny demands that we choose here not only the man who will be our flagbearer in the great electoral battle of 2000, but also the next President of the 4th Republic. The masses of our people seek deliverance from mismanagement of the Rawlings administration, and see in our Party the peaceful instrument of their deliverance.
“Can we in the NPP rise to the challenge and serve their needs? Can we then put behind us the era of defeats and disappointments, the era of dejections and frustrations, the era of excuses and explanations for failures of leadership, and become winners for a change? For my part, I am confident that we can say a firm yes, yes we can rise to the challenge and yes we can become winners this time.”
The NPP delegates agreed with the above opening lines of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo's party conference speech in 1998. Notwithstanding, the delegates voted not for the messenger but John Agyekum Kufuor. He, in turn, returned the vote of confidence by winning two consecutives victories for the NPP – 2000, 2004. Clearly Kufuor, whose second and final term ends in 2008, has, in the words of his main contender in 1998, proven to be the most successful leader of the Danquah-Busia political tribe - two victories and a superior good governance platform for his successor to build upon.
But, looking at the current state of the ruling party – weak structures, dispirited activists - it would be difficult to argue that the Party heeded to Nana Akufo-Addo's very next message in that leadership contest speech: “I have been in the last 4 months to see all of you in your homes whether in Garu, or Sandema, Kaleo or Lambussie, Chereponi or Damango, Nkoranza or Dormaahenkro, Mampong or Obuasi, Oda or Akropong, Enchi or Wiawso, Elmina or Dunkwa, Ada or Odorkor, Nkwanta or Akatsi, and all through the 200 constituencies of the land. And to each of you I brought the same message, and from each of you I heard the same lament. We have the goodwill, but we do not have the means to convert it into solid electoral capital.
“An army is as good as its front-line soldiers. If they are ill-prepared, ill-fed, and ill-supplied, they cannot do a good job and bring victory, no matter how brilliant their general. You assembled here, - constituency executives, electoral area executives, ward executives, polling station executives, Party activists; you are the front-line soldiers of the NPP's army. A political party worthy of its name does not live in its national or regional headquarters – it lives in the constituencies, electoral areas, wards, and polling stations. “If the party is strong there, the party is strong. If the party is weak there, the party is weak. We can no longer hide the truth or pretend otherwise – our organisational machinery is weak and in many places non-existent. That is the conclusion of the physical audit we conducted during my campaign in the constituencies. The constituency organisations simply do not have the means to engage in serious political combat. It is therefore not surprising that despite the enthusiasm of the populace for our cause, we are unable to mount a credible challenge to the formidable NDC electoral machine, which is fully and shamelessly supported by the apparatus of the State…”
At least, going by the manifestoes of all the candidates vying for executive positions in the NPP, the Party structures remain weak and, worse, the enthusiasm of party activists for the cause has also waned. Moreover, several devoted party members feel neglected. This has not been helped by the frustrating failure of the ruling party to contain and attack opposition propaganda, which, among other 'revelations,' create a perception that a small class of people (some with little history of sacrifice to the cause) are 'chopping.'
“The time has come for us in the NPP to help ourselves,” Nana Akufo-Addo said, “We cannot continue to leave ourselves open as we have been doing… We need as a matter of urgency to strengthen our machinery at the polling station, where the election is won and lost… Let me be clear here. We do not seek any confrontation; we seek no violence, but we know from history that appeasement leads to war, and that weakness begets bullying. Let us strengthen ourselves so that the bully will think twice before he attempts to intimidate us. We are also fully paid-up citizens of this great Republic, with rights and privileges. These executives will also serve as a vehicle for getting our message to the grassroots, and be in a position to counter any adverse propaganda.”
He reminded delegates, “…The unity of our Party is the bedrock of the unity of the Nation... Much as this generation is impatient with the failures and defeats of the past, it nevertheless recognises the immense contribution that the pioneers and their successors by their sacrifices and martyrdom have made towards the development of democracy in our Republic. Their work shall not be in vain.”
The NPP can begin this serious exercise of rejuvenation, consolidation and motivation of party structures and activists by choosing the right people next month. Otherwise the work of the pioneers, their successors and President Kufuor risk being in vain.