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Monday, July 26, 2010

Arthur K: Unity and victory in the 2012 elections

Dr Arthur Kennedy
Dr Arthur Kennedy
Since the 2008 elections, there have been a lot of discussions about how divided Ghana is politically. This follows the narrow margin of the NDC's victory - less than a percent and considered perhaps the closest elections in Africa's history. While the divisions within our country are real, there is another serious problem - the divisions within our parties. I broach this topic knowing very well the passions it excites. However, it is a topic that needs to be discussed because these lingering divisions, just like our ethnic and political divisions, undermine our political stability and national cohesion.

Furthermore, it is obvious that the ability of the major parties - the NDC and the NPP to overcome their internal divisions will determine in large part, who wins the 2012 elections.
Some months ago, the Asantehene, Otumfour Osei Tutu II, urged NPP leaders to put their differences aside and unite for the good of the party. This occurred during a visit to the palace by the 2008 NPP Presidential Candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo. He indicated that he had raised the same concerns with both Mr. Kyerematen and Party Chairman Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey in separate visits. Since the beginning of the Presidential Nominating Campaign, there have been heated exchanges between supporters of different candidates. There have even been allegations of assaults and intimidation. Despite occasional protestations to the effect that the elephant family is united, that is questionable. To candid observers, it appears that the divisions that existed even before the 2007 primaries are still present and strong.

Within the governing NDC, the situation is worse. Barely a week goes by without an attack on President Mills by former President Rawlings. President Mills has been described as slow, dull and worse, by his former mentor. President Mills, on his part, has deemed it fit to remind all of us that Ghanaians voted for only one President--- him. There is widespread speculation that aside from the Mills and Rawlings factions, there is the John Mahama faction, looking to take over from President Mills and frustrated by his new-found interest in re-election.

Last week, the 2008 CPP Presidential candidate, Dr. Nduom, warned that he would not be involved in the CPP's 2012 Campaign if it does not merge with the PNC. Speaking in an interview with the "GHANAIAN TIMES", Dr. Nduom said "For me, it is a make or break affair as far as politics is concerned. If it works out, fine. It is these mediocre and selfish interests who are not ready to sacrifice for this to happen." Continued Dr. Nduom, "Individually, they say we are good but they say you either get well prepared or don't bother us. If you know this then why do I waste my time, energy and resources when people are not ready to move on with the unity agenda?"

From this, regardless of the exact details, it appears that most of our parties have unity challenges. Ghanaians will and should wonder how President Mills can unite the country when he cannot unite the NDC and how the NPP can unite Ghana when it cannot unite.
Unity is a crucial ingredient in the success of many enterprises.
In politics, its role has been revealed repeatedly.
In 1968, facing a divided party and a primary challenge, President Lyndon Johnson chose not to seek re-election and Vice-President Hubert Humphrey took the DIVIDED DEMOCRATIC PARTY to defeat against Richard Nixon.

In 1976, President Ford barely survived a primary challenge by Ronald Reagan and led a DIVIDED REPUBLICAN PARTY to defeat against Jimmy Carter.
In 1980, President Carter beat off a primary challenge from Ted Kennedy and took a DIVIDED DEMOCRATIC PARTY to defeat against Ronald Reagan.

In South Korea in 1987, with a chance to defeat Roh Tae-Woo, the military candidate, the pro-democracy forces divided between the two KIMS and handed victory to Roh by a plurality.

In our own country, in 1979, the Danquah-Busia forces, with victory virtually guaranteed in both Parliamentary and Presidential elections, splintered into the PFP and the UNC and managed to snatch defeat right out of the jaws of victory.

The vital role that unity plays in victory is not just limited to politics. In sports, united teams are frequently winning teams.
In basketball, Michael Jordan and Scotty Pippen led the Chicago Bulls to six championships without being friends. It is a well-known fact that after the Black Stars teams that won Cups in 63 and 65 and 78 and 82 respectively, the most talented team we had was the Abedi Pele-Tony Yeboah squads. Despite the abundant talents, however, they never won a Cup of Nations and never went to the World cup.
If it is well known that divisions breed defeat, why is unity so elusive in our parties?

There are a number of reasons.

The first is that our parties lack, for the most part, uniting ideological clarity. When parties unite behind clear ideas, the focus on what they can DO instead of who can BE WHAT helps unite parties. As things stand now, there is too much focus on the spoils of victory and this leads to people, even within the same party seeing one another as rivals rather than allies.

The second is the lack of transparency in our parties. More often than not contests and decision-making in our parties become susceptible to who has money and/or control of the party machinery instead of who has the best ideas and the best efforts. These lead to disgruntlement on the part of losers. Losing is never easy but it is even harder to take when one feels that they lost unfairly.
The third reason is the "winner-take-all" attitude within most of our parties. Generally, we talk about this only between parties but it exists strongly within our parties. Thus those on the losing side of party primaries are ostracized because they did not support the winner. This leads to bitterness and the nurturing of grudges which can last a long, long time.

The fourth reason, tied to the third is nepotism and an absence of equity. In many instances, people who have worked very hard for the success of a party but do not have powerful patrons , do not come from the right families or go to the right schools are side-lined. This of course, also leads to bitterness.

Indeed, in both the NPP and the NDC, wounds inflicted for any of these reasons years ago, still linger and fester, making it difficult for parties to unite and to move forward.

How can we improve unity in our parties?

First, we must encourage them to find their intellectual and ideological roots. Every great party must clarify what it exists to do and aggressively educate its members about these. When parties are fighting about what they can DO for Ghana instead of what positions PEOPLE can occupy, they will be more united.

Second, we must build stronger, more transparent parties. Parties that are weak and lack strong processes become the possessions of cabals who use them to advance their narrow interests to the detriment of members and Ghana and this leads to divisions.
Third, we must discourage, both in our parties and nationally, the winner-take-all mentality. The winner of a primary must not become the owner of the party. To ensure this, serious consideration must be given to public financing so that parties do not become too dependent on a few individuals for their sustenance. It is well-know that he who pays the piper will call the tune.

Fourth, our parties must strive to be meritocracies. Parties fail in their duty to be forward-looking institutions when the talents and hard work of members are not as important as who their fathers or grandfathers are or were. Every party member must be judged by his or her own contributions.

Ultimately though, unity is smart. As I indicated in my controversial book, "CHASING THE ELEPHANT INTO THE BUSH" while discussing the NPP, there are not enough of us to win elections on our own. And for good measure, there are not enough of the NDC or any other party to win elections. For years to come, our elections will be determined by floating voters and floating regions. From this premise, it is not enough to have 95% of one's party. Every successful candidate needs 100% of his or her party and then a healthy slice floating voters. Candidates and parties that do not appreciate these realities are doomed to defeat.

Finally, one can predict that whichever party does better on unity stands a very good chance of winning in 2012.

Let every party leader remember Genesis 11:6 "Behold, they are one people and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they propose to do will be impossible for them." Whichever party can have this said of them in truth, shall be victorious. The first contest in the 2012 elections will be the unity contest. Uniting one's own party must and will be a necessary precondition to winning.
Let us move forward, together.

Arthur Kobina Kennedy

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