Breaking the 8…
It is usually said that this country is always in election mode. I agree, largely. At any point in the four-year term of a government, elections beckon on the horizon, whether they are at district assembly level or at any level of political parties – polling station, constituency, regional and national executives, not to talk of the constituency parliamentary primaries and finally, the flagbearership race of parties.
The reality is that all these smaller elections do have an impact on who ultimately is selected as parliamentary and presidential candidate, and ultimately who gets to govern this country.
For both the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP), the dust had barely settled on the results of the 2020 election, with all its drama and spillovers, than speculation began in both parties about the 2024 election.
For the NDC, the question was whether the party would field former President John Dramani Mahama in the election after his second defeat, while who would lead the NPP into the election became the subject of intense speculation, given that President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, by the dictates of the Constitution, is no longer eligible to stand after two terms.
Most people believe, as I do, that Mr Mahama will lead the NDC into 2024. I am not sure I can see any strong challenger should the former President decide to run.
On the NPP side, the loud jockeying for visibility by supporters of the two frontrunners, Vice-President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia and Trade Minister Mr Alan Kyerematen is quite interesting.
Of course, every politician worth his salt with such ambitions would have to pretend that he has not heard the noise being made on his behalf in the public space, and subsequently will announce what everyone knows is a matter of course — that he will stand for the position, as if in response to the clamour by the rank and file of the party.
Former President Mahama did this in style ahead of the 2020 election and I have no doubt in my mind that the Vice-President and the Trade minister, along with others, will formally throw their hats in the ring when the time is due.
Ghana’s Fourth Republic has seen a number of trends that seem in many minds entrenched, to the extent that many believe they are set in stone, and precedents can be quite a strong force in our politics and shape voting decisions.
For instance, no presidential candidate has come from opposition to win the top job on their first try. Further, the party that wins Parliament has always won the presidency as well.
Again, no party has ever won more than two consecutive terms in office and until the 2016 election, no incumbent President had ever lost their bid for re-election, even though as fate would have it, while Mr Mahama was seeking a second term in office, his party, the NDC, was making a bid for a third term in government.
Again, until 2020, whenever the Democrats in the US won the presidency in November, the NDC won the December presidential election, whilst a Republican win was followed by a December win for the NPP. At a point, the conventional wisdom was that you could not be President if you were not called John.
The NPP, from a ‘Four More to do More!’ slogan during the 2020 campaign, has latched unto a ‘Breaking the 8’ slogan ahead in its quest to throw a spanner in the works of the two-term tradition and clinch a third term.
Truth be told, the NDC in 2000, the NPP in 2008 and the NDC in 2016 all mounted spirited campaigns to ‘Break the 8’, as it were, so on that score, the idea behind the NPP slogan is really nothing particularly special.
But whilst the NPP may feel that their unprecedented defeat of an incumbent President and an NPP win following a Democrat win in the US presidential elections may give them the spring in the step to go on and demolish yet another ‘tradition’ in 2024, it cannot have escaped the party that the NDC would be smelling blood as the NPP goes through its second term in office and would thus be energised to ensure that the two-term tradition is respected by seeing the NPP out, especially with the knife-edge parliamentary seat arrangements.
This is very legitimate position for the NDC to take.
This government has suffered quite some negative press this year, starting from the dramatic scenes in Parliament that we all witnessed.
In a way, this is not on its own necessarily fatal to the NPP’s chances in 2024, the two-term ‘tradition’ notwithstanding, because a week, they say, is a long time in politics.
But what it means is that the NPP must work hard to claw its way out of the negativity that it has been suffering from. That in turn ramping up its communication strategy.
I believe this government has done a decent job on all of the major fronts. On economic indicators, in education, agriculture, industrialisation, roads and other infrastructure, I believe the evidence is clear that this government has performed better, notwithstanding the clear challenges that must be acknowledged.
But here is the rub; all the wonderful achievements are not enough to secure electoral victory in this country, strange as it may seem. If that were the case, the NPP would have easily secured a third term in the 2008 election.
Beyond working hard to improve people’s lives, what I think is equally important is the soft underbelly of emotional intelligence and empathy.
This means docking into the party base and taking feedback in good faith, being disciplined and eschewing acts or comments that may be conceived as flamboyance, ostentatious or arrogance.
It means genuinely acknowledging the fact that notwithstanding this government’s achievements, many of our citizens are in great distress.
A listening ear goes a long way.
I believe it is possible for the NPP to ‘break the 8’ because there should be no sacred cows in our republic.
But it involves a lot of hard work that goes beyond mere sloganeering and basking in achievements. A word to the wise…