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Rafiq Salam’s Den: The rise and fall of NDC in Upper West- a worm in a rose?

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The elders have asserted that it is only upon the death of the frog that the real length of it is well established. This adage could well pass for the Upper West Regional branch of the National Democratic Congress (NDC).That is cut and dried!

There have been talks, blames and counter blames about what could have possibly led to the painful defeat of the NDC at both regional and national levels. For some of us who were touchline watchers of events, the reason for the defeat of the NDC so far as the NDC is concerned in the Upper West Region could not be farfetched.

There are claims by some that the outgoing President, John Dramani Mahama should be entirely blamed for the defeat of the NDC. Stretching the matter too far, that may be an aspect of the entire issue.

But as an independent observer, there was something quite deleterious that led to the painful defeat of the NDC as a party in government which many if not all are overlooking which must be brought to the attention of the public.

It is a worm in good smelling rose! But permit me to go down the memory lane to make a case for the eventual defeat of the NDC with the Upper West Region as a case study.

Electoral gods have not been kind to the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in the Upper West Region when the various parliamentary candidates filed their nomination to the Electoral Commission for the December 2016 parliamentary polls.

President John Dramani Mahama’s charges in the Upper West Region whichever way you look at it were formidable as compared to some of the NPP candidates could pass as rookies

But they stood up to the challenge and operating with a zero deficit they moved from there and secured five seats out of the 11 in the region. This spectacular performance by a party which has its roots in the region and yet majority of her people for reasons best known to them do not want to associate with the NPP as happened in the days of yore.

Names like Chief Dombo, Abayifaa Karbo, Mumuni Dimbie and Jatoe Kaleo were part and parcel of the political struggles that played a central role in the liberation struggle and laid the foundation stone of the Northern Peoples Party (NPP) which at various stages of its development, assuming different names before finally settling on its current name New Patriotic Party (NPP) when it was formed in 1992 with the coming of the fourth republican constitution.

The New Patriotic Party (NPP) since the start of the fourth republic has suffered the wrath of the Upper West voter despite serious campaigns from the party for the restoration of the lost heritage of the party.

Between 1992- and 2000 the highest percentage mark chalked by the NPP was 15.5%. It increased it further to 32.4 percent in 2004 in addition to winning one seat from the newly created Wa Eat constituency won by Godfrey Bayong Tangu who was the then Wa District Chief Executive and later elevated to the Municipal Chief Executive.

Due to the tremendous work done by the party in the region, it attracted many especially the youth to join the NPP which catapulted the NPP to regain 37.7% of the popular of popular votes in the 2008 general elections. This electoral gains however declined to 29.3% and rose up again in 2016 with 35.85%.

The success of the NDC over the years in the Upper West Region can largely be attributed to the creation of the Upper West Region in 1983 by its antecedent military, the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC).

Even though views are varied in the region by the exact role played by the former president Jerry John Rawlings and the PNDC and many argue that the Rawlings factor may have taken the wind out of the sail of General Kutu Acheampong who was credited to have laid the foundation stone for the creation of the region by spreading several infrastructural project(s) across the region in readiness for the creation of the region. Take it or leave it, the blunt truth is that the PNDC created the Upper West Region! 

Another significant thing the NDC in the Upper West Region has always been riding on for their electoral successes has to do with the amount of infrastructural development projects dotted across the length and breadth of the region.

About three decades ago, the people especially women used to compete with their animals for water, sometimes they end up sleeping in the open under the vagaries of the harmattan and around dugouts and wells for nonexistent water.

One of them was emphatic when she painfully recalled the past ‘‘We couldn’t even become pregnant let alone deliver babies because we spent the time meant for making babies in search of water,’’ dye-in-a-wool woman supporter of the party argued.

The selection of people to take up the mantle of leadership in the Upper West Region was one key thing the NDC relied over the years for their success politically. The NDC opted for prominent people in society who were already established and had their teeth already cut politically speaking.

Most of these people picked by the NDC were mostly from the Danquah-Busia- Dombo and Nkrumaist traditions in the region. The other political parties had fewer or no option but to rely and finally had to settle on people most of whom can best be described as 'political riffraffs’.

The NPP party upon winning power in the year 2000 and as a party in government was embraced and joined by teeming and exuberant youth. Fearing that the large army of supporters that joined and are still joining the party every passing day could have led or caused displacement for them to be voted out.

The attitude of the old NPP regional executives was not in the least one of the best as it was common to hear some of the leaders remark “We don’t need new people in our party. We want to be small and anytime President Kufuor sends anything we will be able to share it equally”one former executive of the party remarked.

The NPP leadership in the region then started putting on impediments on the way of new supporters from joining the party which created deep seated division in the party in the region leading to the creation of some factions such as Talibans and non-Talibans.

They virtually disagreed on everything the party brought on board and raised their voices against each other, fought and party vans burnt onto ashes in the full glare of the public.

Note must however be taken that this is not the purpose of this piece but from my observation it has been shown that the NPP in the Upper West Region over the years has operated as an underdog and a weak party at both the regional and constituency levels when paired with the strength of the NDC in the region.

People who on their own volition wanted to join the NPP as a functional party had to go through hassles, got frustrated and abandoned the entire plan of joining the NPP in the Upper West Region.

University graduates were the most challenged and despised by the leadership of the party in the region because the leadership of the party at that time felt threatened of their presence within the rank and file of the party.

They had fears that their positions could be taken away from them since the core of the then active leaders were either illiterates or semi-illiterates and so deliberate attempts were made to prevent literates especially graduates from joining the party in the Upper West Region. So spanners were kept in their wheels to prevent them from moving.

Despite the frustrations, name calling, rejection and physical violence some of them just wouldn’t budge and they remained within the fold of the NPP. It is therefore not surprising that even in their numbers assisted in the current feat they have chalked by scooping 5 of the 11 seats from the grip of the NDC in the region.

Even though the party was defeated in the 2008 polls, they managed to increase the number of parliamentary seats from one to three and increased their popular votes 37% popular votes. However, the gains of the party were eroded in the 2012 elections when they ceded all 11 parliamentary seats to the NDC including the three won in the previous elections.

The NPP then went to work, strategize and like the military, improvised, engaged in recognizance (Recce work) and did not blink an eye in monitoring the 2016 general elections results and the resounding success of the NPP in the 2016 general elections is a cynosure for all.

The NDC on the hand in the region were awakened with a rude shock with the results of the 2016 elections as they went in to deep slumber with sedating powder all over their faces and eyes basking in that illusion of powder and glory of power. Little did they know that they were bidding with time and little will know that election time will soon come again.

The mastermind of the electoral victories in the camp of the Upper West NDC, Alhaji Malik Issahaku was meanwhile defeated in an NDC regional executives elections by a lesser known personality; Mathew Sung-aabu aka. MATCO Mr. Sung-aabu in his victory message promised to retain the eleven constituencies in the region and increased the percentage of win of the president to 79% of the popular votes in the 2016 general elections.

On that score I thought for once the current NDC regional chairman, Mathew Sung-aabu must be a joker and somebody engaged in daydreaming. Judging from his background as an economist, he may be in love with figures and loves to churn them out but it was completely out of place and smacks of crass political ignorance to have pegged his margin of win for President Mahama and the NDC in the Upper West Region to the 79% figure.  I believe that amounted to voodoo mathematics.

He simply had bitten more than he could chew. Mr. Sung-aabu should go back in history and find out for himself the electoral figures for even the more popular and charismatic Jerry John Rawlings could not achieve that feat in a region he has created and the people were in love with him till he left the corridors of power.

From the onset, they was no scintilla of doubts about the academic qualification of the little known Mathew Sung-Aabu, but there were doubts about his party management, strategy and skills which I can say without batting an eye, it is something similar to the behavior of the NPP in the Upper West Region in the 90s which made the party unattractive to people to join much less becoming card-bearing members.

Mr. Mathew Sung-aabu failed woefully to take charge of the NDC as a regional chairman of the party unlike his predecessor Alhaji Issahaku Malik. He completely lost touch with the present day political reality and has become a beleaguered regional NDC chairman. This is simple and pure and a common knowledge in the region noted for its unflinching support for the NDC.

 It would be suicidal and an amateurish political act to make any comparison between the then regional chairman, Alhaji Issahaku Malik and the current chairman Mathew Sung-aabu. It is like comparing apples with oranges. The two are poles apart in every sphere of human endeavor.

Former Upper West Regional Alhaji Issahaku Malik
Former Upper West Regional Alhaji Issahaku Malik
To get what I am saying here, an ardent former NDC constituency secretary in the region succinctly captured to the hearing of yours truly;  “Alhaji Malik is a philanthropist par excellence. He is too generous to a fault. He is considered as the mastermind of the party’s electoral victories since the return to constitutional rule in 1992 till he lost the regional chairmanship position in the region.

Even when the party lost power in the year 2000, he was still relevant after that and served as the rallying point for the party in the 8 years that they were in opposition. Can that be said of Mathew Sung-aabu?” You never know the importance of a buttock unless it develops a boil”, he added.

In my preamble I have I have already made it clear that the success of the NDC over the past 24 years in the region has largely been due the weakness of the NPP at both the regional and constituency levels.

But following the exit of Alhaji Malik and his entire executives, the regional chairman of the NPP, Alhaji Abdul Rahman Abubakar ALHAJI SHORT took political advantage of the vacuum created by the absence of the immediate past chairman of the NDC who also doubles as his uncle, Alhaji Issahaku Malik.
Alhaji Abdul Rahman Abubakar ALHAJI SHORT with Akufo-Addo
Alhaji Abdul Rahman Abubakar ALHAJI SHORT with Akufo-Addo
The performance of the NPP executives at both the regional and constituency levels dismembered their political rivals in real numbers. Instead of campaigning seriously for President Mahama to be retained, they were busily over each other’s throats over trivial issues.

If one wanted to cause confusion in the camp of the Upper West NDC regional executives before the December polls, all you one needed to do was just to throw an amount of two thousand Ghana Cedis (GHC2000) and the regional executives like hounds will draw blood over it. This is the assertion of a former Trustee of the party in the region and it is very serious.

Another blue party member rhetorically asked: “How do you expect the party to win power when you cannot freely go to your party chairman or you have one of your executives who will stay at one place during the day time and hops to a different place in the evening just to look for cheap food to eat and passes the night in a different community. We are just not serious. So we went in the 2016 elections holding onto nothing”.

Even though former executives of the party led by Alhaji Malik later joined the campaign wagon to try and salvage the party from imminent defeat which somehow brought a lease of life in the campaign strategy in the region in the 2016 general elections but the writing was already clearly written on the wall with the NDC hell bent to face that ignominious defeat.

An aggrieved constituency secretary during the campaign once noted ‘‘How do you expect to win an elections when you have your own party big wigs not only supporting opponents of the NDC but funding candidates against your own”, continuing he said ‘How do you win elections when your MPs are busily slapping party chairmen and how do you win an elections when your communicators for a year were always on strike because what was due them was not forthcoming’’.

They have been several instances where the Communication Director had altercations with his subordinates over money meant for them to make phone calls and yet he was alleged to have been greedily keeping the largess close to his chest. Anybody who dares to challenge him is excommunicated from the communication group.

Accusing fingers are being pointed to the Upper West Regional Minister, Alhaji Amin Amidu Sulemani for the defeat of the party. Remember as a critical observer in the region, anytime he Alhaji Hamidu Sulemani wins, the party wins.
                                                          
Alhaji Hamidu Sulemani

Alhaji Sulemani I may agree to some extent should have a portion of the blame but for me I believe that they couldn’t have been a better regional minister for the region during this period other Alhaji Hamidu Sulemani.

I supported the idea because I saw that as the answer to the lies, hypocrisy, indiscipline and crass idiocy displayed by party executives and foot soldiers in the region. The party needed somebody who needed to be blunt and he did exactly that.

Municipal and District Chief Executives led by their Dean, Issahaku Nuhu Putiaha should also share part of the blame. For me I thought most of them were square pegs in round holes. They knew nothing apart from the buying starch spray for the ironing of their linen shirts.

As for the regional campaign team, the least said about them the better. They virtually did nothing and were only visible during the launch of the campaigns for the various parliamentary aspirants. At this juncture I would like to commend the District Chief Executive for Jirapa, Cletus Seidu Dapilaa otherwise nicknamed grassroots man for the enormous work done in the constituency to enable Dr. Francis Bawaana to defeat the incumbent independent candidate, Paul Dery Gobaa. 

As I moved round the launch of the various constituency campaigns launched by the NDC in the region, Jirapa was exceptionally and the best organized. I am not really surprised about the results.

 As for the candidate who were victors in the parliamentary elections, most of them did that bypassing the party structures (knowing that they could not help them in anyway) to win on their own. However for some of them there is a danger ahead of them if they don’t change their ways as they only won by whisker.

It must also be stated unequivocally that the foundation block of the success of the NDC in the Upper West Region over the past 24 years has been with the unity that existed in the party. The party cares not about which ethnic or religion background one comes from. The common agenda was for the development of the Upper West Region. However the past couple of years have seen some few people trying to introduce negative ethnocentric and religious bigotry for one to be elected in to political positions.

The truth must be told that ethnocentrism and religious bigotry has no place in the political space occupied by the party. I have always maintained that there is nobody in the Upper West Region who could be considered as an ‘‘island’’. Everybody who hails from the region is a relation to the other. You remember the Tejaabunyeni factor ( We are all one).

 As my friend, colleague and MP-Elect for Tamale North Alhassan Suhiyini put it somewhere; “The blame of the defeat of the party in the 2016 elections is enough for everybody in the party to share and there is no time to single out people to blame but the truth must be told that in certain cases the defeat could have been prevented”. 

I will like to end the piece with what our elders have told us. ‘‘Don’t divorce your wife because she is not bathing. You leave her and go and marry a woman who bathes often, the former will go and buy an iron sponge and scrub herself like a sauce pan’’.  But that is the soup the NDC has found themselves in the region now.

The NDC must have risen from 2008 after the final decider at Tain. For those who worked against the interest of the NDC party forcing an incumbent president to concede defeat from a less formidable opposition party it may sound very bizarre. I am part of those who are calling or searching after the defeat of the NDC in the 2016 general elections.

The blame must be squarely laid at the doorsteps of the NDC as outlined in my piece. The lack of concentration of regional executives coupled with their nonchalant behavior which precariously pushed the NDC in to opposition must be well noted.

The conclusion is that those calling for the head of President Mahama must begin to revise their notes and look from within since what has happened if not checked will still remain as something very deleterious-worm in a rose.   

PS.-Kudos to Alhaji Abdul Rahman Abubakar (AKA) Short and your team for a feat well chalked and wish you the best of Upper West luck.

 

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