Source:Ghanaweb.com Columnist Agboka, Godwin Y.
It is normal for the New Patriotic Party (NPP) to appear confused about what to do next after its recent losses at the polls and in court. It’s tough enough to lose an election that close, but it’s even tougher to lose a case as momentous as the recent one at the Supreme Court. That verdict could have gone either way—in my opinion. But, I think the NPP should move on and rebuild for 2016. It’s as simple as that.
There are indications, albeit puny, that the NPP might go for a review of the Supreme Court’s decision on the election petition, but that might have negative implications on the party’s plans to rebuild—unless, of course, they win. While testing the country’s laws may bode well for our legal system, and for our democracy, this review process has the potential to take the attention off the other important reasons which led to the NPP’s defeat in 2012. The longer the party focuses on the election petition, the longer it takes the party to examine the primary reasons it lost the elections. To paraphrase what Dr. Arthur Kennedy said in one of his articles, if a political party, which contests an election, depends on the annulment of over 4 million votes for a shot at the presidency, then that party lost the election, some way, somehow.
I have always argued that there were some significant problems with the 2012 elections—by way of malpractices and violations. Unfortunately, it’s this same flawed electoral system that benefited the NPP in 2000 and 2004. In essence, the problem with our electoral system did not start from 2012, but has been fundamental to many of the previous elections. Our electoral system, however well other African countries speak of it, has not seen a major reform for so many years, which is why it appeared during the election petition that Dr. Afari-Gyan is the electoral law. Dr. Afari-Gyan, himself, appeared confused about the electoral processes and some of the decisions he took, during the elections. But, should the status quo remain? No! What the NPP’s election petition did, if any, was to expose years of indiscriminate decision making, incontinence on the part of presiding officers, and recklessness on the part of polling agents, among others.
Generally, I understand the NPP’s decision to harp on the verdict by the Supreme Court. Part of it is practical and part, political. Practically, many people who suffer defeat will find something to complain about, and this is part of the healing process. Politically, the NPP wants to use this misfortune to turn its electoral fortunes around by highlighting how unfair the judges have been to their cause. So, this talk about a “corrupt” decision or a “moral victory” is consistent with these strategies.
In my opinion, the NPP’s focus should be on three cardinal issues, going forward. The party must lead a reform of the electoral system, which its leaders have so spoken ill of; it must refocus its microscope on why it lost the elections—not the election petition; and the party must rebuild for 2016, if it is still interested in coming back to power. Let me highlight a number of issues that might impact the NPP’s fortunes in 2016.
So far, the party’s continued negative reaction to the verdict of the Supreme Court has created the impression that, for the party, election 2012 is the most important, which should not be the case. For two consecutive elections, the NPP has lost an election by a close margin, and all—or the most important thing—the party thinks it should do is to go about perpetually blaming and criticizing the Supreme Court judges for their misfortunes? Why are leaders of the party going on tours claiming a moral victory from a Supreme Court verdict that is not the main reason that led to the party’s defeat?
The fact that the NPP, for two consecutive elections, has won only two (2) out of ten (10) regions is significantly worrying, and that, in itself, should provide enough material for its research team. The good news, though, is that there are signs that if the party can broaden its base to other regions of and groups in the country, it may be an important force in future elections. It is surprising that in the past two elections the party has been able to garner more than 47% of votes from only two regions, and yet the party doesn’t appear to be in any hurry to reach out to the other regions. Yet the leaders find it more appealing to go back to the Supreme Court for a review of a decision, which is not the cause of its defeat in 2012.
For me, these are important questions that the leadership of the party must engage. The party has huge potentials in the Brong Ahafo, Northern, Western, and Central regions, yet poor decision making and internal tribal politics have stalled any potential progress on these issues and in these sites. The party will be well served if it genuinely opened its doors to other minority, ethnic, and unenfranchised groups, and also if it rolled out specific programs and policies that will attract these groups. This will obviously mean sponsoring and supporting these groups to take up leadership positions as well.
Talking about the 2012 elections, it was obvious during the election petition itself that the NPP did not understand the nitty-gritty of elections in Ghana. It was obvious that its star witness did not even understand the electoral process and the role of some officers who are central to our elections. Was it not surprising, however, that Mr. Asiedu Nketiah (a “village palm-wine tapper” as he calls himself) was able to display such skillful knowledge of our electoral processes? Shouldn’t the performance of the NPP’s polling agents also be a source of concern to the party?
The NPP will have more to gain from focusing on building party structures and examining the reasons behind its defeat than latching onto a Supreme Court decision. It will be significant for the party to not repeat the mistakes of the past two elections in terms of election of its leaders at the national and regional levels; preparation for elections and training of its electoral staff; and vigilance on election day. Also important, the NPP needs a better message for the 2016 campaign. Definitely a message that makes the case that the party won the 2012 elections, but was denied victory by the court is an unconvincing and unappealing one. Seriously!
Dr. Godwin Y. Agboka