It is said that if you hate the duiker, one thing you must not fail to acknowledge is its swiftness. In other words, you may not be proud to have Sam George as your lawmaker, but you must not fail to applaud his daring spirit that saw him dethrone the Ningo-Prampram Methuselah, Enoch Teye Mensah.
No matter how badly one hates somebody or something, there is often something about them that deserves commendation. Over the weekend, the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) did something, which even their staunchest critics ought to applaud. Their main opponents, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) should not only applaud; they should consider emulating.
On Saturday and Sunday, the party’s faithful went to the polls to elect their parliamentary candidates and to endorse their presidential candidate, President John Dramani Mahama. For the first time in the history of this country, all registered members of a political party were given the opportunity to decide who represents the party in the general elections. It has been said that this is the first of its kind in Sub-Saharan Africa. But I don’t think it is limited to Africa. The NDC has taken a step that will be the envy of some of the most mature and advanced democracies around the world.
Indeed, there were some incidents of violence that marred the process in some constituencies. Some of them turned nasty. Some ballot boxes were smashed. There were also attempted snatching of ballot boxes. In the Nanton Constituency, a story was told of a ballot box snatcher who was betrayed by the deity of foolhardiness. Abdul Rahaman Alhassan went to snatch the ballot box with another colleague, who was riding a motorbike.
The plan was that he would snatch the ballot box, jump on the motorbike so that the rider would speed off. He succeeded in snatching the ballot box, but unfortunately he could not sit on the motorbike before rider sped off. Opana was left stranded, with the ballot box in his hands. He decided to run but his legs betrayed him. A number of soldiers were at the polling station. Come and see beatings. It was a spectacular instance of a foot solider meeting real soldiers.
Given what was at stake, the unprecedented number of delegates involved and the fact that not everyone is enlightened enough to adhere to the rules of the democratic game, such issues were expected. On a whole it was an impressive show of a party that is maturing. Other political parties may consider adopting this approach.
I agree with the NDC’s General Secretary, Johnson Asiedu Nketia, who said that the process is expensive and that the state should consider supporting political parties to abolish the electoral college system. This is a genuine call and the much talked about state funding of political parties should be considered seriously now that this appears to be a good reason for such support.
One of the biggest problems in our politics is the monetization of same. Delegates are often bribed. Their votes go to the highest bidder. This practice has often led to the election of INCOMPETENT candidates who are able to pay. The ethnic, regional and other forms of loyalties to political parties have often ensured that once such candidates are elected, they go on to win the general elections and go to parliament. If an incompetent NDC parliamentary candidate is elected in the Volta Region, one can bet their manhood on the fact that they will almost surely get to parliament. In the same way, an incompetent NPP parliamentary candidate elected by their party in the Ashanti Region has very little or no resistance in their journey to the legislature.
Over the years, non-performing politicians do not seem to care about their people. They wait and when it is time for primaries, they go to buy the mandate of the delegates and go back to parliament. The NPP widened its electoral college but reports from the previous election of their parliamentary candidates showed that they could not do away with vote buying completely.
With the system currently being used by the NDC it is practically impossible to bribe the thousands of voters in the constituency. This was easy when a few hundred delegates decided the fate of the candidates. The NDC’s process also makes it truly democratic because every individual member of the party has a say in who hoists the party’s flag in the constituency during elections.
This not to say that the “monecracy” has been eliminated totally. In fact, some candidates had very grandiose campaigns that led to their victory. What has been eliminated is vote buying. Before the elections, candidates were undertaking development projects in their communities. Some bought ambulances to enhance healthcare delivery. In the past what would not have come as a benefit to the entire community would have ended up in the pockets of a few.
The NDC primaries, like the NPP’s one, resulted in the election of some questionable candidates. The outcome could have been worse if the vote-buying system was allowed to continue.
Whoever suggested that the electoral college approach should be abolished and those who accepted such suggestion have done the greatest thing for the party. It is the NDC’s best decision ever. For me it is the NDC’s greatest achievement since a certain military Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) decided to knock off its provisional status and metamorphosed into a democratic NDC.
The Writer, Manasseh Azure Awuni, is a journalist with Joy 99.7FM. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.