|Feature Article of Thursday, 30 May 2002|
Leaders without constituencies – the sorry state of the party….
….that was once supreme.
I am not an apostate, I still believe in the Nkrumahist vision, but I get nightmares when I hear about all these attempts to reinvent the CPP. I am also worried about the contenders and pretenders who aspire to take on the mantle of the greatest leader Ghana has ever had, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah. My concern is that these leaders do not seem to have any constituencies or have left them behind.
I am happier though, that the CPP is thinking about meeting with its ward and constituency leaders to reexamine the message and the strategy for getting its natural constituency fired up to fight the next election. News about talks to set up more merger and unification talks at the national level is not what the people of Ghana need. Those talks about talks do not inspire confidence of the voters. The party must be holding its discussions at the grassroots local level if it is to assume its status as a supreme Party again.
After having fought for the right to use the name CPP, a powerful brand name, it would seem that the leaders want to resort to the same gimmick that is used to sell soap powder and toothpaste. Adding the adjective “new” to an already successful brand may cheapen it. It also smacks of blatant copying. The fact that this gimmick has worked for the NPP, who had borrowed it from New Labour in Britain, does not mean that will work for the CPP. But it may just because the present pretenders do not know the value of a brand even when it hits them in the face.
A new group has suddenly entered the fray – the National Reform Party. What I have heard about these Reform people on the national scene does not bode well for the CPP. These are young people, I am told who as students during the Aluta days against Acheampong helped to bring down a military regime through strikes and protests. A few years after that event, however, they were prepared to help subvert a democratically elected and replace it with another type of military regime. Their reward was to getting senior posts and positions at the national level under a military regime.
So what are they doing back in a political party that has always adhered to democracy? Must those who claim the mantle of Nkrumah not at least have known the man? Must they not have examined his political philosophies? Is the CPP so desperate that they will welcome anyone into the fold as leaders even when they bring nothing to the table? Why must the Supreme Party be interested in accepting the rejects of other parties?
I am told by a CPP activist in London that when a party is being recreated there is a need to open up to all, but it is not clear what the Reform Party brings to the table. Are they bringing along a constituency and how do they demonstrate that they even have one. The last elections showed that despite all the brilliant showing at the national level, there was nothing at the constituency level that could be translated into votes. Or are they coming to help the CPP steal the elections as they claimed they helped the NDC do in 1996? If so why could they not steal the votes in the 2000 elections? Political parties thrive when they evolve and go through their own traumas, they do not do well when they become hybrids of differing philosophies and actions. They thrive better when their roots are firmly embedded in local constituencies not when the noise at the national level cannot be translated into votes at the local constituency level. Creating a broad church does not mean that you have to invite unbelievers in your cause to the leadership table.
The principles of the coming together of parties must be based on coming together of ideas on how to continue the sterling work undertaken by Nkrumah several years ago on developing Ghana, something that has eluded all the leaders that have come after him. But these are not pre-independence days; these are post millennium days that require a different type of appeal and a stronger commitment from membership to give the party better credibility.
In those good old days, centralist control was important to make the party Supreme. The modern day supremacy can only be achieved by direct involvement of the voters and not the leaders, the merger should therefore happen at the local level. But what is the point of having leaders who have no constituency at the local level at the table.
The problems surrounding the talks to bring the Nkrumah factions together will remain so for as long as they assume the cloak of leadership talks and not merger talks. Of all the Nkrumahist parties, the PNC is the only one that has demonstrated that it has constituents and can win elections at the local level. Since politics is about the number of people that a party can convince and persuade to vote for it, the PNC has more than demonstrated that they should be accorded the leadership role, at least for now, till the factions start performing at the local level.
Giving the leadership to Dr Mahama will solve all these problems, it will persuade the present crop of leaders to first BECOME assemblymen, then parliamentarians before they even aspire to leadership of a political party. What is important in a modern democracy is not who manages the country but how the voice of the people can be articulated in a legitimate way. Cohabitation, where one party wins the presidency and another has a majority in Parliament may be desirable for our democracy in Ghana. The number of members in parliament will in a large measure determine whether the CPP can become firstly the third or second largest party in parliament. This will take time to achieve. It is only then that the CPP can serious start considering whether they are up to competing for the Presidency. In my opinion, this will require a different type of leadership than the present crop of leaders some of whom are already decamping to the Kufour camp as in one of the candidates who after not being able to win his constituency has become a minister in the NPP The reformists may be good at revolutions but what the CPP needs is an evolutionary process that will take time. My advice to the CPP is that they must dispatch the Reformists back to the fold that they came from, though it is doubtful that the NDC will have them back now that it has shown that it is capable of reform without the Reformists.
The main task ahead for the party is to get on the road and sell its vision of what Ghana should be to the electorate. The opportunity to do so cannot be missed at present with the floundering NPP that is yet to find its feet in ruling Ghana.
The people of Ghana now know that the NPP do not have a plan that can transform the country, the people see them fumbling and bumbling along much in the same way that the NDC were led on a wild goose chase to nowhere by the foreign institutions and paymasters.
The sorry sight of our President and ministers going cap in hand from donor talks to donor meetings suggests that our present leaders believe that our salvation can only come from foreign investment and that the people of Ghana really have nothing to do with it. The CPP knows that it is unlikely that the foreigners will donate and that we will compromise our sovereignty even if they decide to donate.
What the NPP is doing is continuing to contract debt on behalf of the country, they are bent on implementing policies that can only benefit foreign countries and institutions that provide us with loans. Management contracts for utilities have not worked very well in the advanced countries and it is doubtful whether they can work in developing countries where we have greater problems with maintenance.
The CPP must capitalize on the opportunities this lack of clear policy by the ruling party presents and take a better message to the people in the constituencies. This means hard work. It also means reconstituting at the local level and it will certainly require the leaders to have emerged from the local level and not the other way round.
The message from the CPP must demonstrate that it is the voice of the people. The party must realize that we are still a developing country and there are no quick fixes or easy wins. There is no land of milk and honey that the socialism of the 50s and 60s promised to take us to. What the country needs is hard work by all the people. However there is a need for a vision that all can share in.
The difficulty is that the message must be one that is relevant and this is the best time to start developing that message.
These talks about mergers and formation of new acronyms for the party are distracting to the natural constituency, the masses, it also detracts from the message and image the party needs to project.
The present crop of leaders has not demonstrated that they are capable of formulating a message that is appealing and relevant to the times, they are nowhere near taking us to the stage that they sound credible. They do not exude the confidence to make us believe that they can make the part supreme again.
The present PRETENDERS must vacate the scene.