Imagining a new path: A case against the NPP-NDC duopoly



Mr Kofi Bentil’s decision to throw his weight behind the Vice President and flagbearer of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in the upcoming elections has generated heated conversations.

Mr Bentil, a Vice President of IMANI Africa, asserts that Dr Mahamudu Bawumia should be given, at least, a “fair hearing”. Given executive power, which he doesn’t have now, Mr Bentil thinks the Veep would be a better president than former president John Mahama. He believes strongly that choosing John Mahama, who is the flagbearer of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), again, will be a “mistake.”

In all these, the lawyer has also been an ardent critic of the current government. Even as he chooses Dr Bawumia over the candidates in the December elections, he doesn’t totally agree with the Veep on several issues.

Mr Bentil’s ability to articulate this seemingly unpopular position is commendable. It is bold. And although he is sympathetic to the NPP, he seems very independent-minded. That, I think, speaks to the essence of democracy. We need to get to a point where we may disagree but still work together seamlessly. We need diverse views, especially unpopular but important perspectives, in our national discourse. At the moment, we are far from this important democratic ideal.

Moreover, Mr Bentil’s decision to endorse Dr Bawumia over John Mahama, examined closely, actually comes out of a thorough analysis. Although this government has been utterly abysmal, John Mahama’s record was not any better. Mahama’s time at the helm of national affairs was characterised by major power cuts that led to the collapse of small businesses and stagnated the output of manufacturers. Ghana lost nearly one billion cedis because of the power crisis in 2014. The cost of living spiked. There were major corruption scandals. The cedi started depreciating under his watch.

However, inherent in Mr Bentil’s decision to choose Dr Bawumia over John Mahama is an admittance that the duopoly of the NPP and the NDC has failed us.

Saying that he wished there was a viable candidate aside from the NDC and the NPP, also means that he probably pines for this duopoly to be toppled.

But he makes the case that we have to be practical. To him, either the NPP or the NDC will be in the Jubilee House after the December elections. His practicality, or realism, may trump any idealism. But, in a very crude way, his view prevents us from using our imagination to chart a new path. Mr Bentil is influential. His perspective reinforces the credibility of this duopoly. It comes at a time both parties have run down their trustworthiness. And at a time, I think, we should be looking for a totally different path.

Imagining a new path: A case against the NPP-NDC duopoly

“Imagination” as has been described by Albert Einstein, “is more important than knowledge.” It is a powerful force. Imagination is not bounded by what we know. It catapults us into unexplored realms. We need and must imagine a new system or group of people if we agree that this duopoly has failed us. We must forge a new path if we agree that the one we have been on for more than three decades has been wrong.

Regardless of the deficiencies in Benin’s democracy, the country has elected independent presidential candidates since 1991. The West African country’s economy is stronger than Ghana’s. If Beninois have chosen to vote for independent candidates and not the major opposition parties since 1991, what stops Ghana from doing same?

We have not been dealt this duopoly by fate as Mr Bentil makes it seem. We have chosen to vote for either the NPP or the NDC in the last eight elections. We can choose otherwise. In fact, we can only get what we fight for. But if we lose sight of what we can become by settling for crumbs, that is exactly what we will get.

Mr Bentil’s practicality makes it seem as if we are shackled to this duopoly. But that only suffices if we, the people, really believe that there is no way out of the clenched teeth of this duopoly. We have the advantage now to change the course of our history. The system, as it is now, is working perfectly for the two political parties. They have used divisive ethnic, gender, and religious rhetoric to destroy any potent political movement that can challenge their duopoly.

Accepting that our democracy has been condemned to this duopoly may seem practical but it is tragic. It is unfortunate and defeats the whole concept of democracy. It seems to me that that perspective is the mother of historical determinism. I don’t believe our future is predestined. If we cannot determine or create our future by rejecting this duopoly then we may as well return to monarchy or, respectfully, the caves, because this duopoly presents a very narrow path to nothingness. Both parties will continue to take us for granted if we alternate them unthinkingly.

Research by US-based Ghanaian economist, Professor Dennis Nsafoah, has emphasised that there is no difference between how the NDC and the NPP have managed the economy since 1992.

Putting my impracticality aside, giving the NPP a historic third term will be disastrous. It will give them the opportunity to run us over completely. The impunity exhibited by the Akufo-Addo-led government would only be exacerbated.

Mr Bentil’s claim that he has advised Dr Bawumia not to appoint any member of this government in his administration if he wins the December elections is quite naïve.

After trying to detach himself from the misgovernance of a government he has been a part of, Dr Bawumia has appointed President Akufo-Addo as an advisor to his campaign.

Apart from former president John A. Kufuor, who was not appointed by President Akufo-Addo, everyone in Dr Bawumia’s advisory committee has played some crucial role in the Akufo-Addo government. Knowing how our politics work, how can anyone believe Dr Bawumia will not use the core of the NPP, who have participated in decimating the fortunes of this country in his government, if he wins?

A Mahama government will also not be a complete departure from the system as it is now.  Although he may try to use his last term to cleanse his soiled image, the reality, as I see it, is that a vote for the former president is a vote for him to use his second term to determine, not only the one who will lead the NDC, but also who becomes the next president of Ghana after him. Nobody fights for power to lose it.

This is exactly what President Akufo-Addo is doing with Dr Bawumia. And that is the more reason Dr Bawumia should be rejected for someone whose vision departs from the current status quo. Giving him executive power, is an opportunity, not only for the NPP, but for Akufo-Addo and his family to reign and rein in our progress.

Although the alternatives to this duopoly are limited and the most viable ones do not have the structures and resources to sell themselves adequately to Ghanaians, I strongly believe it will be in the interest of not only our present, but our future, to jettison both the NPP and the NDC in the December elections.

There are several political parties and independent candidates going to contest this year’s elections. I think we should focus on electing an independent presidential candidate in the upcoming elections.

Two independent candidates stand out for me in the upcoming elections. Not only their wealth of experience, but their ability to stick their necks out, in a country like ours, is impressive. If we agree that we need to reboot, to put some inspiration and vigour in the Ghanaian again, then both Dr Samuel Ankrah and the former Trade Minister, Alan Kyerematen, must also be given a fair hearing.

Dr Ankrah’s Alternative Force for Action Movement propagates a radical shift in the mindset of Ghanaians. Among other things, he insists that we reject the populist policies the established political parties have consistently presented to us. He says we should look at a movement that understands that hard choices need to be made now in order to save us from where we are heading. That is exactly what we need to do – a drastic shift from how things are being done now.

A lot of people may take Mr Kyerematen’s words with a pinch of salt because of his past bromance with the NPP. Although his public denouncement and admittance that the system he has been part of for so long cannot help us out of the quagmire is hard to take, his pronouncements alienate him from that system. Giving the opportunity, he can be more resolute with his decisions. Emmanuel Macron of France left a government he served in as finance minister; ran for the presidency and won. I think Mr Kyerematen stands a better chance to lead us out of the socio-political and economic mess we are in. I think giving him the opportunity to implement his Great Transformational Plan would be more beneficial than wasting another tenure with the NPP or the NDC.

I don’t proffer these options oblivious of the nature of our democracy. In fact, the knowledge base of the mass of our population makes it difficult for this radical shift to be made. Democracy with an unthinking and poorly-informed electorate only ends up in kakistocracy, which we are being shoved into, if we are not already being ruled by the least competent among us. The choices available to us are limited but we must chart a different path if we want the Black Star to shine again.


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