I had been itching for cold beer all day last Wednesday, but I decided to hold on to my cravings until the Electoral Commission’s (EC) Chair’s declaration of the presidential election outcome. I hoped it would not be a long fast.
One could literally cut through the sense of palpable tension as the nation waited. Family, friends and acquaintances kept calling and sending me messages to enquire whether I had any knowledge of what was going on, or who was winning.
Of course, I had no idea, but some would not have it. Maybe they assumed I was buried deep in the EC’s strong room. I think they overrate me simply because I have a big mouth.
As soon as Mrs Jean Mensa mentioned the President’s percentage points in the election, I beckoned the waiter at the lounge of the Golden Tulip Hotel in Kumasi, where I was meeting a friend, ordered what my throat had been yearning for and savoured the golden liquid as it meandered its way down to my considerable belly. Then I checked social media platforms, where the buzz was simply incredible.
I smiled and said a ‘thank you’ prayer to my Maker. I then said a quick prayer for my National Democratic Congress (NDC) friends and the considerable pain they would no doubt be going through.
I saved the teasing for later, gathered myself and headed straight for Bantama High Street.
The spontaneous street carnival was already in session when I got there, and crowd, that seemed to stretch into eternity, partied as if their lives depended on it. Draped in party flags and other paraphernalia, they danced, blew their vuvuzelas, took swigs from bottles of drink, and literally hanged out of slow-moving vehicles that honked unceasingly.
Other parts of Kumasi erupted and miniature fireworks pierced the night skies.
Carnage in Parliament
Like many New Patriotic Party (NPP) supporters, my delight at the President’s win was tinged with some disappointment that on the parliamentary side of things, the party had not performed well, to put it mildly.
Indeed, as I write, it is not even clear who has a majority in the house, wafer thin though it may be. But for the NPP to move from 169 seats in the house to under 140 is nothing short of a carnage, and there is no other way to put this.
In many of the constituencies that the NPP either lost or retained, the President’s vote tally exceeded that of the incumbent parliamentary candidate by a significant margin.
I think this tells us quite clearly that while many NPP voters have affection for the President, they are far less impressed with their Member of Parliament (MP).
Perhaps it is too early to attempt a parliamentary post-mortem exercise, but I think what is evident to many people is that each constituency that the NPP lost to the NDC had its own peculiar dynamics.
In some cases, there were claims that an unpopular incumbent or candidate had been protected or imposed by powerful constituency or regional executives, thereby leading to grass-roots apathy and anger.
In some cases, a rift between a candidate and the constituency chairman had led to the defeat, while in yet others, the MPs’ personal relations with their constituents were said to be problematic.
Others pointed to poor lobbying skills of their MP in respect of development projects, while in some mining areas, the government’s anti-galamsey stance was said to have contributed to the defeat.
Of course, some seats that were not traditionally NPP seats to begin with, but had been won in 2016, were snatched back by the NDC. There are other claimed factors which I suppose will receive full treatment in due course.
Reform of primaries
In all of this, my personal angst is that in too many instances, the structure of the NPP’s parliamentary primaries as it stands almost always leads to a lot of difficulties going into the main elections.
The truth is that there is too much money at play with the delegates system, where a few people select a parliamentary candidate on behalf of the party.
In a number of cases the delegates get it wrong because either they do not feel the pulse of the people in respect of who they want as their MP, or they choose to ignore that pulse, because they are driven by other considerations, notably financial.
This has often led to rancour and ultimately, the careless, avoidable loss of a seat. We should all, not only aspirants, have heeded the late Sir John's warning to "fear delegates".
I think it is time to reform the primaries system by considering the expansion of the electoral college, so that every registered card-bearing member in the constituency is able to vote in parliamentary primaries. It will come with the risk of infiltration of the party by members of other parties, but that is no excuse — it is not rocket science, after all.
I think that just as with the expansion of the electoral college of the NPP presidential primaries, opening up the system for the parliamentary primaries would ensure that candidates who emerge victorious are truly those that the grass roots want.
While the margin between the President and Mr Mahama dropped from almost one million votes in 2016 to over 500,000 this year, I think that is fairly understandable in a second term bid by an incumbent.
This is because while in opposition, it is easier to inspire hope and expectations during a campaign and thereby harvest voting numbers. But realities do set in upon assumption of office that make it impossible to meet those hopes and expectations and therefore increase or even sustain the vote margins.
A drop is more likely, and in the case of the President, it was a rather comfortable drop.
That said, the NPP government will need to do a lot of introspection over issues that could have been avoided, if it is to have a successful second term. This means the party must listen more and correct its mistakes.
If the election has taught one thing, it is that in spite of its catastrophic loss in 2016, the NDC has done well, especially in the parliamentary election. It remains a formidable political opponent and must never be underestimated or taken for granted.
After eight years in opposition, a power-hungry NDC will be roaring in 2024, taking inspiration from the fact that since 1992, every political party in government has been booted out after two terms in office.
If the NPP government wants to buck that trend, it has to hit the ground running, and run so fast and so hard all the way to 2024, because the NDC will be in hot pursuit, guns blazing, with smoke and fire emanating from its ears, mouth and nostrils.
The NPP asked for four more to do more. The people obliged. Now they will be watching with eagle eyes and making notes. Enough said.