Here comes the Butterphant: Alan on a Lonely Journey
Last Tuesday, September 25, 2023, my friend and colleague Ajoa Yeboah-Afari sent me a crisp message that said she rated the front page headline of the Chronicle the best of the day.
The headline in question, in block letters, said: ALAN DUMPS ELEPHANT FOR BUTTERFLY. I had my suspicions about who crafted that purposeful line, but I will keep that to myself. Ajoa was right. The newspaper headlines of the day all had the word Alan in them.
They all referred to the resignation of Mr Alan Kyerematen from the governing New Patriotic Party the previous day.
The news media and its irreverent cousin, social media, had a field day. Editorials, commentaries and photos, including AI-generated illustrations, run from the mundane to the ridiculous.
There were different shades and takes on the news. Some thought Mr Kyerematen had just jumped off a sinking ship; others thought he was a spoilt child crying when he loses a game, while his supporters, including NDC commentators, praised him for his courage.
No matter the interpretation, there was no denying the gravity of the news.
A few minutes before Mr Kyerematen’s press conference, at which he announced his resignation, another friend shared an alert on WhatsApp that warned that the impending announcement would “shake the foundations of the NPP”.
Indeed, Alan’s resignation, no matter its eventual outcome, was a seismic moment in the political firmament at the time it occurred, and its aftershocks are still being felt in the figurative public square.
Think about it. Alan and NPP have been inseparable since the party was born, except for a brief moment in 2007 when he resigned under almost similar circumstances, of which more soon.
At the resignation press conference, which turned into a rally, he proudly recited his impressive political CV. He was a founding member of the Young Executives Forum, which was formed under his chairmanship in 1992 and became “the financial backbone of the party and provided significant financial resources to support the party in all its endeavours”.
He was nominated by the YEF to contest for the presidential candidate slot but chose to “sacrifice the opportunity” and instead support his “senior colleague aspirants.”
He recounts the leading role he played from 1996 to 2000 in support of Mr Kufuor’s eventual presidential victory. “After refusing appointment as a Cabinet Minister in the aftermath of the elections, the President persuaded me to become the NPP’s first Ambassador to the United States'', after which he was appointed in 2003 as Minister for Trade and Industry and Presidential Special Initiatives to implement a new economic paradigm “which I had introduced in 2001, on the assumption of office by President Kufuor. Between 2003 and 2007, I led the government’s programme for enhancing private sector development and ushering in a Golden Age of Business in Ghana.''
Mr Kyerematen’s problems appear to have started when he “joined a distinguished group of seventeen (17) presidential aspirants to contest in the presidential primaries of the NPP”.
He recounts circumstances that, though different, produced a similar outcome. He resigned from the party but changed his mind and rejoined the fold. He said that despite dropping out of a possible run-off against Nana Akufo-Addo, he sacrificed that privilege “to unite the party”.
This noble gesture notwithstanding, he said, “There were very serious post-primary attacks on my supporters all over the country, and an open show of hostility.”
Last Monday, some commentators thought the NPP brass would once again entice him back with mediation, but the statement by the party the following day seemed to seal his way back with steadfast determination.
So, this is where we are. Mr Alan Kyerematen, described by all as a stalwart of the NPP has left the elephant family. That was not the shock.
Mr Kyerematen did not leave anyone guessing about his future. He immediately announced two important developments. One was that he was going to stand in the 2024 presidential elections as an independent candidate, and secondly, he was starting a “Movement for Change”. In arriving at these declarations, he set the tone with more recounting of his achievements and of his grievances against the party. In that moment, he crossed the Rubicon into uncharted territory.
Ghana’s political history has been unkind to independent candidates in Ghana’s long history of two-party domination, and “third parties” have only played marginal, if strategic roles, such as in the 1979 elections when many people believed that Paa Willie’s United National Convention (UNC) allowed Limann and the People’s National Party the victory over Victor Owusu and the Popular Front Party. The 17 per cent won by the UNC is the highest a third party has ever garnered in a national election.
Now, pundits are watching and wondering whether Alan, whose symbol is the butterfly, has the compass to navigate his solo flight into 2024. He faces heavy weather. Unlike other third party efforts, Mr Kyerematen is not forming a new political party but instead starting a movement.
What makes the whole enterprise strange and daunting is that he does not disavow his former party completely; he still believes in its ideals. He is only against the alleged hijacking by some people “behind the curtains”. That there are factions in the party would not surprise anyone.
Alan has called on NPP supporters to vote for NPP parliamentary candidates and vote for him in the presidential poll. This kind of split ballot is known in Ghana as skirt-and-blouse, which parties frown upon because they violate and undermine party discipline.
It is this call for rebellion in the ranks of the NPP that has led some wags to label Alan’s movement as the Butterphant – a combination of the butterfly and the elephant, the symbol of the NPP.
It has not escaped anyone that in the unlikely event of Alan Kyerematen winning the 2024 elections, he won’t have any MPs directly committed to him, so he will have to engineer the biggest political shakeup in the House just to form a government.
In that unlikely scenario, any NPP MP who joins him would lose the NPP whip in Parliament.
So, what exactly does the Butterphant want to achieve? In his resignation press conference-turned-rally, he read out a manifesto which, in good Butterphant tradition, includes every good idea from every sensible manifesto.
Is Alan just in it as a spoiler for his former party or a serious contender for the highest office of the land? We are in for interesting times, but the Alan factor clearly enables managers of the opposition NDC’s election effort to kick off their shoes, lean back on the sofa and start dreaming. Or maybe not. Who knows?
Alan’s gamble may prove to be either the smartest or daftest political move, but for now, his strategy is as strange in politics as a Butterphant is in the animal kingdom.