Dela Coffie writes: The Prof Opoku-Agyemang Conundrum & NDC’s Crisis of Electoral Strategy

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Oh yes, I’m suffering bereavement, and I’ve been wanting to crawl into a hole somewhere – I’m simply overwhelmed by the passing of the family matriarch a few days ago.

But then, life has to continue and I still need to have my say on the issue of the political conundrum that Prof Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang represent and the apparent crisis of electoral strategy that’s conspiring to scuttle the chances of the National Democratic Congress(NDC) in the forthcoming general elections.

I’m speaking out because the stakes for the National Democratic Congress(NDC) and Ghana for that matter are too high to stay silent.

Of course, as the nomination nears, and the movers and shakers of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) continue to claw at each other over the viability of Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang on the 2024 ticket, it will come as no surprise that the New Patriotic Party (NPP) has been watching this slow motion political car crash with glee.

Even a degenerated NPP with the lowest ratings in our recent history is resurging gleefully with the thought of a likely return of the venerable Professor on the NDC ticket.

So, there you have it, every aspect of the Jane Opoku-Agyemang preposition spells tragedy for the NDC.

In fact, politics rarely works that neatly. Supposedly cautious strategies can face unexpected challenges, but given that many of NDC’s more radical support base live in safe seats, there is the need for Mahama to be strategic with his running-mate selection so as not to weaken the NDC’s almost impregnable urban strongholds, while making the party more attractive to voters who dislike the party and live in crucial marginals.

As far as I can tell, the old certainties of Ghana politics has been scrambled by the changing demographics, and indeed there’s a huge amounts of vote-switching and volatility for the NDC.

In fact, it’s not too much of a leap in imagination to see that the political dynamics in Ashanti Region is very diverse and complex, and that the Ashanti Region is the battleground for Ghana’s elections.

If you’re in doubt, look at the numbers. The NDC in recent times has done way below average in the Ashanti Region – The party’s votes dwindled from 32.87% in 1992 to 26.08% in 2020.

In practical terms, the NPP votes in the Ashanti region alone can wipe out all of NDC’s gains in its traditional strongholds – Volta, Northern, Savanna, Upper East and Upper West Regions.

And while the Ashanti Region plus one or two other small region could win the presidency for the NPP, the NDC needs to win its traditional strongholds plus the swing regions of Central and Greater Accra to win the presidency.

This is where the NDC desperately need to remove the blocks now and win over voters who voted for the party in the past but have turned away from the party in the last two elections. The NDC needs to zero in on the Ashanti Region and give the Ashantis reason to believe that the NDC is actually their saving grace.

To put it bluntly, the NDC needs to break the back of the elephant in its own backyard and field an Ashanti running-mate with the potential to help the party secure at least 30% of the Ashanti votes. Believe it or not, there’s no way the Ashantis will reject the NDC when there’s an Ashanti on the NDC ticket.

In the Rawlings era, the NDC made marginal gains in the Ashanti Region both in 1992 and 1996 simply because, Rawlings saw the need to surround himself with prominent Ashantis like Nana KonaduAgyeman-Rawlings, P.V. Obeng, Daniel OheneAgyekum, Nana AkwasiAgyeman, Nana AkuakuSarpong, and etcetera.

It has to be pointed out that apart from Rawlings, no other NDC presidential candidate has crossed the 30% mark in the Ashanti Region. And so yes, we can all conclude here that when the NDC had prominent Ashantis in the frontline with Rawlings, the party fared well in the Ashanti Region. Which is why it is important for the NDC to take a cold, clear-eyed look at its failings in 2016 and 2020, and then look over the voter demographics, and renew itself. The party needs to rethink its outreach and, to an extent, bring in a more politically savvy face, hopefully an Ashanti, in order to appeal to a fast-changing and steadily slipping away electorate.

In many ways, voters in places the NDC calls its traditional strongholds no longer identify with the party as much as they never identified with the NPP.

More to the point, the NDC is losing grounds across the northern heartlands, and even the Volta Region, where the party previously hold sway and boast of as its traditional strongholds.

My maternal grandmother’s home town of Hohoe in the Volta Region last elected an NPP as its member of Parliament in 2020. This would have been unthinkable few years ago. Now the NPP is likely to make historic gains in the national elections in the northern heartlands simply because there’s a certain Bawumia on the ticket. Indeed, if that happens, it will be a testament to the rise of identity and reginal driving force in Ghana politics in the modern era. And this could mean rough waters ahead for the believers in social democracy and open societies.

As things stand, the NDC has already seen its once stable coalition of northern voters and ethnic minorities begin to fracture. As these voters seep away, the party looks more and more like a party alienating a traditional vote basket from its tent.

Certainly, we do need to have an honest debate about this, and we need the facts to become clear. It’s time to look each other in the eye and tell the home truth.

And the truth here is that if 2020 proved anything, it would be that the NDC made a huge mistake with the good professor – In fact, she was a monumental flop on the ticket, and added practically nothing to the fortunes of the National Democratic Congress(NDC) – To be precise, Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang lost her constituency, home-region and Central Region for that matter.

More correctly, the idea being sponsored that Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang’s choice will gunner the vote of women is a contrived falsehood exposed by the 2020 general elections.

And again, I’m concerned that rather than being progressive about this conversation in order to give the NDC a fighting chance, we have folks parroting this jaundiced narrative that the professor will feel betrayed if she’s by-passed for a more viable option.

Well, If you have a penchant for a relatively recent historical comparison, rewind twenty years – Professor Mills replaced Martin Amidu with MahammedMumuni in 2004 and subsequently ditched Mumuni for John Mahama in 2008, and it worked out perfectly for the NDC.

The point is most people are all too aware of the fact that Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang cannot cover the widening cracks in NDC’s electoral appeal. She’s not the answer and will never be. She was a bad choice in 2020 and will be a terrible and suicidal choice in 2024.

In this context, the NDC needs someone who can partner Mahama to appeal to the floating voter and the dominant ethnic grouping in the country – Someone with a broader appeal and a record of socialist accomplishments.

Too often those who ought to know better in the NDC don’t look, they don’t see or don’t hear. The party for two conservative elections treated its electoral viability with carelessness and absolute disregard for consensus politics.

Let’s also remember that the poverty of strategic thinking enabled the NDC to dig itself into a hole in 2020, and allowed the NPP to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

The critical matter here is that the 2024 election will be a duel of a magnitude unseen in the history of mass elections in Ghana. And the NPP like all neofascist and center right parties has the skill and determination to employ state resources and the patronage of business leaders to enforce its will.

So, the pressure is truly on, but there’s silver lining; the NDC has a clear choice. Stick with Professor Opoku-Agyemang, take the inevitable electoral consequences, and give the NPP a blank cheque to run this country as they deem fit. Or the NDC can bring in a would-be veep that would offer the party political stability required to ensure victory in election 2024.

And oh yes, being a party without much media support, or the ancient tribal loyalties enjoyed by the NPP to attract a big vote, the NDC needs to create a bandwagon with its choice of a presidential running mate to get more and more sections of the electorate enthused at the prospect of an NDC government.

Let’s get it right for once.

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