from MASAHUDU KUNATEH in Accra, Ghana
ACCRA, (CAJ News) – GHANA’S official opposition is in disarray exactly a year before the country holds its eighth Presidential elections.
The state of affairs in the West African country has tilted the scales in favour of the ruling Democratic Congress (NDC) retain power ahead of the opposition, which until recent ructions had appeared in good stead to wrestle power from President John Dramani Mahama.
Seen as the biggest threat to the NDC grip on power, the New Patriotic Party, twice the ruling party previously, has been beset by crippling divisions that threaten its very existence.
Its leader, Nana Akufo-Addo, is a veteran contestant who narrowly lost to the late John Mills and the incumbent in 2008 and 2012 respectively but if recent chaos within the party is anything to go by, he faces an uphill task on November 7 next year.
His party has suspended its National Chairman, Paul Afoko, as infighting boiled over within the party, not until rampaging party members ran riot at the party’s Accra Headquarters destroying property.
His indefinite suspension followed a petition by the Council of Elders of the NPP to the Committee amid allegations of misconduct and other charges including breaches of the party’s constitution.
Afoko was also accused of trading internal party affairs in the media, contrary to laid down procedures of the NPP.
The suspension of the chairman has further weakened the opposition party.
Currently, more than 10 executives of the party in Ashanti to the Upper West regions have been suspended.
Among influential members suspended include Akwasi Nti Asamoah, Okai Kwanim, Isaac Brenya, Asawasi and Joseph Agyapong Dapaah.
The four are alleged to have mobilised supporters to demonstrate against the decision of the National Executive Council (NEC) to indefinitely suspend Afoko.
Most prominent casualties include Asawasi Youth Organiser, Osman Issah; the Deputy Women’s Organiser, Osilla Gariba, and the Youth Organiser for Fomena, Sasu Apaa.
In the Upper West Region, the Wa West Constituency Chairman, Alhaji Abudi Seidu has also been suspended for showing solidity with Afoko.
The future of NPP’s Second Vice Chairman, Sammy Crabbe, is in doubt amid hints he could resign as he did not recognize Freddie Blay as Acting the Chairman of the party.
The fate of the General Secretary, Kwabena Agyepong, is meanwhile not in his hands after some members recently petitioned the party’s disciplinary committee demanding his suspension over alleged links to Afoko.
The internal wrangling in NPP has analysts projecting a walkover for the NDC in the next poll.
A Political Science lecturer at the University of Ghana, Dr Evans Aggrey Darko, attributed infighting within the NPC the exercise of ‘naked power’ within the party.
This is in reference to party members recently showing interest in their personal gains than the overall interest of the party where officials treat each other with suspicion.
“What we have seen at least the last one year is accusations and the exercise of what I call naked power within the party, where there is so much suspicion, there is so much mistrust, not operating within the principle of reciprocity.
“I think there are some people who are more interested in their own personal position in the party than the overall interest of the party,” said Darko.
He believed failure to address the party’s growing internal wrangling spelt doom for the opposition party in the upcoming 2016 elections.
“The incumbent has an advantage,” said Darko.
Veteran Ghana political journalist, Kwesi Pratt, argued the future looked bleak for the NPP with elders seen as unifying figures either compromised or smeared.
“Not even the former President John Kufuor can help. He tried his best to solve the political crisis in the party but to no avail,” said Pratt.
NDC and NPP have been dominant players in Ghanaian politics since their formation in 1992 during the return to multi-party democracy.
NDC won the 1992 and 1996 plebiscite, only to slip to opposition party politics in 2000 and 2004 when NPP ruled, before retaining power in 2008.
The chaos within the opposition party has changed the political outlook ahead of the polls.
Only recently, Mahama, and his governing NDC were seemingly feeling the pressure over a declining economy, disgruntlement among the country’s youth population and unfulfilled promises made ahead of the previous poll.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted the country’s economic growth would fall to as low as 3,5 percent this year.
Ghana Statistical Service’s (GSS) first quarter GDP report for the year indicated the economy dropped from $48,6 billion in 2013 to $38,3 billion last year owing to the exchange rate depreciation, which saw the Cedi decline by more than 30 percent against the United States currency.
Youth unemployment is cause for concern.
There is also the issue of incessant power outages, which has left industry on its knees.
Ghana’s ballooning debt is the biggest issue.
The country, West Africa’s biggest economy, is now officially classified as a highly-indebted country (HIC).
Bank of Ghana data indicates the country’s debt is now about 71 percent of the economy’s total value.
According to World Bank parameters, a country is classified HIC if its debt-to-GDP ratio crosses the 70 percent debt mark.
Ghana’s public debt has gone up from about GH 89 billion in May to GH 95 billion.
Amid all the downturns, tensions have been simmering lately. Workers have taken to the streets in some cities in protest of the rising cost of living.
“Under such conditions prevailing in Ghana, it is improbable for the incumbent to win. However, recent upheavals in the opposition suggest NDC will have their victory on a silver platter,” said Accra-based analyst, Phillip Lamptey.
– CAJ News