We have a chance to develop the Convention Peoples Party (CPP) to become a truly new, well-strengthened, competitive political party worthy of support from Ghanaians young and old.
That is what is at stake at this next Congress of the Party. It will not come easily. It will take a lot of hard work and sacrifice. It will require withstanding ridicule from some members of the public, the media and opposing political parties.
Worse, it will take a real battle between those who want to go back to pre-1966 days and the ones who want a forward march into the 21st Century with confidence. It is a battle worth fighting. Ghana needs a political party that is truly for giving advantage to Ghanaians in all fields of endeavour - economic, social, etc.; and one that will promote equal opportunity for all of our people without regard to ethnic, religious, geographic or social standing considerations. In order for Ghanaians to trust and vote for the CPP, the Party must transform itself away from what it has been perceived to be so far in the Fourth Republic.
For the CPP to transform itself, it must exhibit an uncompromising adherence to the principles of social justice, self-determination and pan-Africanism. It must be an activist party of the positive type and not join the insulting negative politics brigade. It must show that it is right for the times by presenting visionary leadership that is vibrant and one that connects positively with all of the people.
The Party must come away from Congress, a real, tangible change in attitude, commitment and a strong competitive spirit. Yeresesamu must apply within the ranks of the CPP in order to build a 21st Century political party that is willing to use the full weight and authority of the state to liberate Ghanaians in an unapologetic manner. It must champion the cause of yen ara asaase ni. This means making formal education a right for all and not a privilege; giving the Ghanaian entrepreneur advantages by the use of the states purchasing power and giving power back to the people through the right to elect those who govern them in their local communities. It means the state making it possible for Ghanaians to live in an environment that is clean, hygienic and free from preventable diseases like malaria and cholera.
A Return to the Elder CPP is not a Feasible Option
There are those who would like a return to the earlier days of the Party and who can blame them? The elder CPP remains the most successful political party in the history of the country. It did not lose an election.
It was able to enforce party unity and commitment to the discipline of, the party is supreme. The Party had in its founder and leader, someone willing and prepared to crisscross the country, work hard and organize the party. He was able to convince women and the youth particularly the ordinary people to follow him with enthusiasm. He was able to inspire others such as Kojo Botsio, K. A. Gbedemah, Krobo Edusei, N. A. Welbeck and others to make sacrifices to help build the Party.
That teamwork which enabled Kwame Nkrumah to contest a seat in Accra far away from his native Nzemaland and win was infectious. It made it possible for an Ewe man to win a seat in Swedru and for a Fante man to win a seat in Kumasi. It is this Party that pioneered affirmative action to put women in Parliament and give them places in government. It is understandable for people to want to go back to those days when the CPP was not only unbeatable but had big dreams it was actually implementing. The dreams that brought the planned Tema harbour and township, the Volta River Project and related industries remain evergreen in the minds of many people.
But then the 1966 coup happened. It scattered the Partys leaders across the globe, emasculated its key people by banning them form holding political office and seizing its tangible assets. The Partys people regrouped in 1979 as PNP only to be shut down again by another military coup, this time with support from people some of whom have been considered to be Nkrumaists. This has fueled confusion over the years. Who is a true Nkrumaist? Can one be true to Nkrumaist principles and become a card-carrying member or supporter of either PNDC/NDC or UP/NPP? Should a CPP member be defined by how he/she thinks about NDC or NPP? Instead of fighting hard for political space to influence public policy, some CPP members have engaged in the unproductive internal battle of who is truer than the other. This in part accounts for why we have seen many political parties claiming succession to the original CPP in the Fourth Republic.
The answer is not a wishful return to pre-1966 politics. Those times provide the CPP with a proud tradition and an unquenchable spirit of nationalism, being there for all Ghanaians. But to become a strong, winning party again needs men and women who will stand on their own sacrifice, contribution, energies and resources and work with others without conditions.
It is distressing experiencing the persistent attempt by those who have joined parties other than the CPP to wash away their guilt by rubbishing those who lead the CPP today as not being Nkrumaist enough. Some have tried to turn the CPP into a supermarket where depending on the day of the week, they can pick the items they want to take home and leave others behind.
There are those who know that the parties they belong to will not be successful if the CPP is strong. For them, rubbishing the CPP and its leadership is their way of gaining strength for their parties. It is true today that we cannot equate being Nkrumaist with being a member/supporter of the CPP. It is common for some leading members of the Party itself to call those elected by the Congress as not being true, genuine or proper enough which leads ordinary members to ask what happened to the discipline of the Party is supreme?
The voice of the people at Congress this time must not be disputed by those seized with a sense of entitlement to leadership positions in the Party.
Perception of the CPP Vehicle
The CPP can energise itself by understanding that many Ghanaians in the Fourth Republic by their voting pattern so far have considered the Party not strong enough to win an election. Many Ghanaians unfortunately think that it is the Party that will run government forgetting that what we have is an executive Presidency that gives the right to an individual to select people he/she considers qualified from within and outside Parliament to be ministers of state. These ministers do not even have to be members of the ruling party as is the case with the Mills Administration. Ghanaians like the CPPs principles and consider it a party of ideas.
So we must use the positives to our advantage. Too much talking and doing nothing to prove to the people that we have men and women who can do a better job of running the country than has happened so far in the Fourth Republic will continue to bring us poor results come election time. We must use this Congress to trade in the broken CPP vehicle for a new model that is fit, strong and able to enter a race and win. What I want is a truly radical party that puts the Ghanaian in front of everything that happens in this country and parochial interests.
Choice to be made at Congress
To me, the upcoming Congress of the CPP is not just to go and elect a few people to run the affairs of the Party. We have done that before. It is a battle for the heart and soul of the Party. It will determine if a new generation of leaders has come of age to finally take over from the first generation elders. This Congress will decide whether we go backward or forward. A forward march will recognize that a critical ingredient that has been missing in the Fourth Republic within the CPP is the ability to organize itself at the polling station level. With the right executives, a new party can emerge through polling station organization, a crucial task that has been started by ordinary members of the Party in many places and needs to be completed before the end of 2011. This Congress can lead to the building of a real, formidable Third Force in Ghanaian politics whose policies will make a positive difference in the lives of our people for years to come. For that to happen, delegates need to elect people who are prepared to work as a TEAM playing on the same side. We need executives who believe in building a mass party in which positions are earned, not given.
What I Want
I want a party that is different, forward-looking with people who are willing to work and make sacrifices and with a single purpose vision of making Ghanaians proud and prosperous in their own country. I do not want to be encumbered by 20th Century UP/CPP or PNDC-NDC/CPP politics. I want to help in building a unique 21st Century CPP brand focused on eliminating poverty, preventable diseases, educating all children and promoting Ghanaian enterprises to create well-paying jobs at home.
I want a new party that is proud of the heritage obtained from the First Republic but one that is ready to develop new leaders and stand on its own positive record of success. This means no automatic members, leading members, etc. The members of the Party going forward must be card-carrying, dues paying, loyal, active participants of its activities and supporters of its presidential and parliamentary candidates. I want a Party that after Congress defines who is considered to be leading members, spokespersons and potential office holders. I want a Party that will insist on sending people to speak on its behalf on radio and TV who want the CPP to succeed.
I want a Party that will train the youth to fill positions of responsibility and encourage them to become executive members, parliamentary candidates and prepare them to be future district chief executives, ministers of state and presidents.
I do not want a party that is tied to any other party but one that is confident and secure enough to work with other parties to promote the national interest. I want an Independent New CPP.
What we Need
What we need is youthful enthusiasm and a strong commitment to discipline, the type that forges unity within our ranks and a positive perception with the public as a serious party ready to run the affairs of the country. We need to develop as a broad, mass party, one that connects with traders, farmers, fishermen, workers of all type, professionals and business owners. We need to build a broad mass of support by welcoming into our fold young men and women, workers, professionals who today want opportunity to be guaranteed to all. The principles of social justice well articulated will make a huge difference with independent and floating voters who have had to endure the politics of catering for foot soldiers.
There are many reasons why the NDC and the NPP both compete to win support from the CPP. Talent abounds in the CPP. The leadership skills of CPP-inclined people are great. Now what this new Party needs is just to welcome our own, be proud of our leaders and put to use in our own Party enthusiasm for organizing people in the supreme interest of the CPP.
For the CPP to win in 2012 and beyond, it must renew itself, broaden its base and build a competitive mass party that is activist in nature and in which positions are earned. Our elders left a great, winning, proud tradition but we cannot rest on their efforts if we want to win power in the 21st Century. Change must come to the CPP. This must begin from the Congress that is planned to happen in a few days. We need a national executive that is prepared to lead a Party primed for the 21st Century with appropriate vision and discipline. Should this happen on Congress day, a new CPP will rise and one way or the other we will be a winning Party in 2012.
Source: Papa Kwesi Nduom, PhD, CMC
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