AS argued in today's Statesman, the current wind of seeming uncertainty within the ruling New Patriotic Party may not be as vote-losing as some would like to believe. Indeed, it could be a blessing in disguise, though an expensive one as that.
We have no reason to doubt, if Mr Esseku did say the things he is purported to have said, that the National Chairman was exploiting for his own political survival the general feeling of discontent that has engulfed the foot soldiers of the NPP. The general complaint among the party's faithful is that the NPP, after winning power, has failed to 'take care' of its foot soldiers. Linked to this is the more structural charge that the party has been mismanaged and is too weak and branches too poor for a party in power.
But we believe the blame for this should be placed firmly at the doorstep of the current executive under the leadership of the National Chairman. A party chairman who has to carry a budget to another leading member of the party – albeit the president of the republic – for funds for party functions is nothing short of a disgrace to the party. Going by his own words, what Mr Esseku seems to have done is to pass on his authority as chairman to the Castle.
We believe Mr Esseku has not lived up to his role as the most important member of the party. True, the President is the highest profile member of the party, but right after his election it was Mr Esseku's job to ensure that the party redefined itself in light of the fact that the party was then elected a government into office. We believe he has spectacularly failed to do this. The alleged statement made to Raymond Archer, Editor-in-Chief of The Enquirer, shows that the current leadership of the NPP has not been able to properly define the role of government and the party, and has not drawn the proper distinction between the two. Blame does need to be apportioned for the problems Mr Esseku has highlighted: but this blame ought to be laid firmly where it belongs: at the feet of the National Chairman himself.
For the complaint of neglect is a reflection of Mr Esseku's stewardship. Otherwise, why would rebuilding the party's structures be a rallying cry for those seeking national office in the NPP? Why would the national chairman of the ruling party of any country allow the purse strings of the party to be controlled by a government official, as reported to be alleged on the tape, when there are elected national officers specifically mandated to do the same? Arguably, the Castle would only do so if it felt there was a necessary lacunae to fill.
The so-called scandal engulfing the party is evidence of the NPP's failure to make conscious efforts to strengthen the party structures; and more specifically, the 'scandal' Esseku has let loose is testament to the failure of Esseku himself. The NDC did the same, and are now out of office. Rawlings suppressed the party when the NDC was in office. The NPP, under Esseku, appears to have suffered a similar fate.
But, all is not lost. The blowing up of this so-called scandal at this time is perhaps timely for the future of the NPP. With barely three weeks to go until the NPP's National Delegates' Congress, delegates will now have the opportunity to assess the calibre of candidates seeking to pilot the NPP into the 2008 elections and beyond. A fair, dispassionate appraisal of the abilities of the various contestants, not one based on inducements, should make the decision as to who to vote for a much easier one. It would be in the interest of the new executives to take on the task of properly redefining the relationship between Government and the ruling party. Structures to insulate the Presidency from this kind of embarrassment would definitely be a step in the right direction. The Presidency would do well not to endorse the candidature of any persons seeking national office. Endorsing praise singers, rather than competent men and women, would spell the demise of the NPP. If such an endorsement is made, The Statesman would counsel extreme caution: this country does not need more yes-men, more weak 'leaders' who can only follow. We need sensible and capable thinkers, who can direct this party and this nation – not just sit back and allow 'scandals' to unfold. Esseku's failure has even placed some legitimate question marks on Kufuor's choices. And, the President ought to be careful about extending such open endorsements on who becomes the next chairman. The Statesman endorses Nana Ohene Ntow's admonishment that Government officials ought to be reminded that they draw their strength from the party and should therefore do everything in their power to ensure the sustenance of the party. Donations are bound to be made through the President to the party, but it is up to the president's men to ensure such monies are transferred to the appropriate quarters on time to avoid any future 'scandals.' It is not the duty of the Chief of Staff to serve as the Budget Officer of the NPP, as often charged by Esseku, allegedly.
The December congress offers the NPP a unique opportunity to sort things out. The problem is not fatal. It is part of the learning process of democracy. We blame ourselves a little but move on. The Castle has a crucial role to play in charting the future path. The party elders must also stand up and be counted.