I wasn’t in Sunyani but I followed almost every minute of the NDC congress over the weekend. I had to. I followed it not only as a Ghanaian with a keen interest in national politics but also as one of the producers for Joy FM and Multi TV’s coverage of the event. From the TV screens and what I’ve heard from reporters on the ground, I must say that I have been very impressed with the level of planning and organisation that went into the event.
The choice of the Coronation Park was great and the fact that they decided to allow only delegates, observers and the media into the park was the stuff of masterful organisation. It meant that there was more than ample space for everyone to move around freely, making the event stress-free for those who attended and quite pleasing to the eye – for those of us who watched on TV. The only one who complained about the arrangement was the woman whose naivety and lack of vision earned her a meagre 3.1% of the valid votes cast.
Restricting the inner-perimeter of the stadium to the party’s leadership and those who had to be in there for a purpose also ensured that the congress was spared the chaos that has characterised political party congresses in this country in the past.
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The exquisite organisation of the congress also ensured that there was no violence – contrary to what most of us had expected. What’s an NDC congress without a few blows being thrown here and there, right? Wrong!
The leaders of the party went all out to break with the past and they achieved their objective in stellar fashion. They should be commended for ensuring that the most acrimonious contest in the party’s history didn’t end up in a liberal, chaotic exchange of blows.
Finally, I was so happy that the by 7pm or a little thereafter, we knew the result of the contest. When I woke up at 4am to prepare for work on Saturday morning, I thought it was going to be one of those long days when voting will drag on for hours for the ballots to be counted the next morning. So I prepared my mind for the possibility that I may have to stay on my feet for long hours, possibly without catching any sleep until the results were declared on Sunday morning. When the results were declared so early on Saturday evening, I felt that was one of the best gifts I would ever get from the NDC. For that I am grateful and I have no doubt that similar sentiments are shared by all the journalists who covered the event, from those on the ground to those in the operational ‘command’ centres outside Sunyani.
For all of that, I say that whoever led the organisation of the congress deserves tonnes of commendation, a fat pay-check and, possibly, a bigger role in government. The organisers have shown that they are people who can be trusted to deliver quality.
Having said all of that, however, I have a few suggestions.
I don’t think it was wise for the organisers to ask journalists to submit their details to Accra for accreditation only for one man to carry the accreditation cards with him to Sunyani. That man was involved in an accident on his way to Brong Ahafo. I don’t think it was the sheer weight of the accreditation that caused the accident but if for any reason the cards had been lost in transit, there would have been chaos. Also what sense does it make for people in Tamale, for example, to come to Accra for accreditation when the event is taking place in Sunyani? The point I want to make is that next time, accreditation should be at the venue of the event, starting a couple of days before proceedings get underway.
Most importantly, I think the NDC should seriously consider building a wider electoral college like the NPP has done. It’s more democratic and it demands less strenuous organisation. Congresses to select presidents are so old-school and it’s about time for the NDC and the other parties to get with the programme and widen their electoral colleges.
As the NPP has shown a bigger electoral college energises the grassroots and enhances the legitimacy of those who win. Atta Mills’ landslide in Sunyani, as historic as it is, could be tainted because a lot of people are asking how he managed to win by such a wide margin if the delegates were not bribed or intimidated. That’s not to take anything from his emphatic trashing of Nana Konadu, which gladdened my heart so. But victory would have been sweeter with a much larger electoral college and it would have provided us with a better indicator of the president’s popularity on the ground. Now all we know is that he is extremely popular among the party’s most senior apparatchiks but we will never know how the grassroots actually feel about him. Hopefully in the coming months, the NDC will take some good decisions to expand its electoral college. It’s a decision best taken sooner rather than later.