If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I would have dismissed it as politically- motivated deceit. But I saw it for myself and I tell you it was a refreshing sight. Can you believe it? The Convention People’s Party drew (quite) a large crowd to the Holy Gardens in Accra to launch its campaign for the December elections. The occasion also marked what would have been the 99th birthday of the party’s founder and Ghana’s founding president, Kwame Nkrumah. That guy has been turning in his grave over all sorts of issues for a long time but I am in no doubt that with what happened on Sunday, he could – at long last – afford to rest easy, at least for a short while.
Four years ago, the CPP was the acronym for the Confused People’s Party. The party which won independence for Ghana had become a political laughing stock. Its presidential candidate was an apology to the office he was running for. At one point, he was asked about the role women would have in his administration and he very proudly proclaimed that women are only good for “comfort”. Even the chauvinists were embarrassed.
When the votes were cast, ‘Comfort’ Aggudey, polled a miserly one percent and the party managed to win just three parliamentary seats. Kwame Nkrumah’s cockerel had its head almost severed. But it just wouldn’t die and it kept running around in all directions, blind, mindless and, obviously, almost dead. It could have been worse.
Somehow, Aggudey’s disgraceful run in the 2004 elections marked a turning point for the party. Nkrumahist loyalists were annoyed that their party and its iconic cockerel had been so disgraced by such an air-head. So they started plotting and scheming. These included people like Lardi Nylander, Bright Akwetey, Prof. A.B. Akosah, Ivor Greenstreet and Kwesi Nduom (aka Uncle ‘Mfemfem’). Don’t forget Freddy Blay. Many might think he’s the black sheep of the CPP family, but he helped to keep the CPP afloat – at least with his presence in parliament as the first deputy speaker of the house.
Things wouldn’t have gone so bad if these guys had just focussed on building their party. Along the way, I think, they became jaded and, to some extent, were compromised by the NDC-NPP duopoly. They felt that the country had been ushered into a new era where you belonged either to the NPP or the NDC or nothing else. Nduom went into Kufuor’s inner circle, Akosah delightfully accepted an offer from the administration to work as head of the Ghana Health Service and Blay literally jumped into bed with the elephant. That is why it was easy for someone like Aggudey to use his money to breeze through the party’s primaries and become its presidential candidate. I don’t see myself ever losing an election to Aggudey and no one can convince me that he would have been the party’s candidate if people like Nduom, Akosah and Akwetey had contested in the party’s primaries in 2004.
But after that year, most of the Nkrumahist loyalists who had been ‘laying low’ for various reasons decided to act – partly because of the Aggudey embarrassment but mostly because they felt, and rightly so, they shared in the sentiment that Ghanaians were sick and tired of the NDC-NPP politics.
To cut a long story short, a new breed of forward-looking, savvy men (and women) decided to take charge of the CPP. They offered money and devoted their time to help resuscitate the dying (or almost dead) cockerel. The result is what we saw on Sunday at the Holy Gardens.
For the first time in a long while, the CPP drew a crowd. It wasn’t as large as the NPP’s at Kasoa. But it was a crowd all the same. We are told no supporters were ‘bussed” and that they came to Accra on their own volition from different parts of the country (at their own expense) to show that the Nduom-led CPP of 2008 deserves to be taken more seriously than the Aggudey-led confused bunch of 2004.
I am convinced that it’s a new CPP, indeed. I am not so sure if it’s a party that is ready to win power and govern. The Nduom-Sakara ticket adds to the quality of electoral choice in the coming elections. But it will take a lot more than a crowd of card-waving supporters to convince Ghanaians to start thinking of the CPP as an alternative to the NDC and NPP.
One of the CPP’s major difficulties is that it has people who claim to be party members but delightfully and actively defend (and propagate) the ruling party’s policies at every turn. These people need to be told to make up their minds. Their conduct feeds the perception that the CPP is a confused bunch. In politics, a man has to be exclusively devoted to one party – either you are here or you are there. People like Malik Kweku Baako and Freddy Blay have to make up their minds and realise that they can’t be “here and there” at the same time. This won’t happen anytime soon, I’m sure.
But one thing is for sure: Nduom and his pals who have helped revive the CPP should take great pride in the certainty that their party will perform much better in this election than it did in the last. They have shown that the CPP is as much a party of the past as it is a party for the future. That is a victory in itself – not just for the party, but for a fledgling democracy like ours.