Since the inception of the 4th republic, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) has had the chance of leading the country for 16 years cumulatively, the Effutu Constituency had been one of its strongholds until recently. The party enjoyed some good electoral monopoly in the Effutu constituency from 1992 till 2004 when the constituency became an orphan constituency because the NDC had lost the presidential elections to the New Patriotic Party (NPP) largely due to incumbency advantage and other factors I will divulge in this article. The Party again won back the constituency after 4 years and gave it up to the New Patriotic party again in 2012, since then, the once stronghold of the NDC has not been the same again, its chance at reclaiming the parliamentary seat is almost becoming like a snowball’s chance in hell.
The current predicaments of the party in the constituency have been the accumulation of myriad factors since the party was established, but this article would dwell on a few by looking at the party’s roots, the present, and the future.
The Effutu constituency has traditionally been an NDC seat largely due to the founding members of the party in the constituency, the charisma of Chairman Rawlings, and the development projects that the constituency enjoys when the NDC is in power. The constituency executives of the party were grassroots workers, these were not intellectuals but people who understood the dynamics of Effutu politics and understood that victory can only be won by being a lamb for the electorates. The Sewalakabi-led administration had Mr. Afedzi (Sewalakabi) as Chairman, Mr. Adjei (Pee Cola) as Secretary, Mr. Amankwa as Organiser, Madam Elizabeth Yarboi as Women Organiser, Mr. Baiden as Youth Organiser, etc were deliberately chosen to represent the various facets and groupings in the constituency. These executives represented certain “constituencies” within the constituency, the Chairman for instance, was a traditional leader deeply involved in the chieftaincy and Asafo issues in the constituency and had a network amongst the fishing communities, the Secretary represent the intellectuals (UEW wasn’t big and prominent as it is now) and the “foreigners” from surrounding and business community, the Organiser was a true grassroots person who could marshal the votes in all the villages in and around Effutu, the woman organizer had a grip on the market women, and was deeply involved in matters of religion and was part of various women organisations that existed then, the youth organiser was part of different youth groups from fancy dress to Asafo companies these grassroots workers led the charge and were very open minded-people who acknowledged that the only reason they are occupying those positions was to win elections and they fervently committed to doing just that. The finesse with which they executed their mandate gave the NDC a firm grip on the constituency but the same cannot be said about today’s executives.
The true root of the NDC in the constituency has been an all-inclusive leadership with a clear understanding of how to mobilize the grassroots for power. There’s something wrong with the constitution of the current executives but not unsurmountable.
After losing the constituency elections for the 3rd consecutive time since 2012, it is becoming apparent that the party in the Effutu constituency thinks the antidote is to get a rich person like the current NPP MP for the constituency, Hon. Alexander Afenyo Markin as the candidate even if the fellow is not a grassroots person, but the elephant in the room is the strategy and there are sufficient facts to arrive at this conclusion.
The first Member of Parliament was Dr. Ato Ayirebi-Acquah, a medical practitioner who comes from the Tumpa Anona Royal House, one of the claimants to the Effutu stool. He was not richer than Charles Acquaah, KB Annan, Aboagye, etc. But he had the loyalist and supporters of the Dentsifo Asafo No.2 Company on his side. He was elected in 1992 and served his term till 1996 when he lost the parliamentary primaries to Mr. Mike Allen Hammah, a modest young man then who was an architect but did not have a particular “constituency” in the constituency but rather had the political machinery manned by the first Sewalakabi-led executives. He managed to build his constituency in a manner that awed many, I remember how Chairman Rawlings as a guest of honour at a political rally in Effutu had to proclaim that “Micky Wo Ye Ogya Hallelujah” to wit “Mike is fire”, Chairman Rawlings didn’t believe that Mike Hammah could marshal such a turnout. Mike did so by building bridges when there were none, he endeared to the hearts of the constituents and led the party to win the seat from 1996 to 2000 but lost the 2004 and staged a comeback in 2008 until his overthrow in 2012 with a margin of about 2000 by Afenyo- Markin a young Lawyer who did not have the resources that the then cabinet minister had. But the defeat was self-inflicted, it is believed that he instigated the replacement of the executives he met, he did not have a succession plan or deliberately build anyone to take after him, and also found ways to avoid contest at the party’s primaries making it almost impossible for any new face to be popularized to take his stead in the event of his absence.
In 2016, the NDC had one of the most acrimonious parliamentary primaries because the executives were divided over who the best candidate was. Some of the executives believed that Eric Don-Arthur a Media and Communications expert had not served the party enough in the constituency to become its Parliamentary Candidate, they preferred Mr. Ambrose Entsiwah, a Lawyer who had worked with the Party since its inception, others preferred Kwaku Bortsie (dependable) who had defected from the CPP to join the NDC in 2010 but he was disqualified because it was believed he hadn’t attained 4 years to qualify to contest for that position so eventually, Eric Don-Arthur won the primaries to the displeasure of the party chairman, Paa Nii Lamptey and his side of the constituency executives who preferred Mr. Entsiwah and they did everything to make sure Eric does not win the general elections. But political watchers believed Eric Don-Arthur was in the position to win that election looking at the charisma, the resources, and the branding that he had, his nickname “Telemo” -became a household name in 2 years he showed up to contest but when the electoral machine is not grass-rooted and focused on delivering victory, defeat is unavoidable. In fact, from my observation, he has been the most resourceful NDC candidate ever in the constituency and from a grapevine Afenyo Markin could not believe he won over him with about a 1000 votes margin.
In the lead-up to the 2020 elections, it was rumoured that 3 candidates were interested in leading the party, Henry Kweku Borstie Ghartey (Dependable), an educationist who was the CEO of Dependable Academy a preparatory school in Effutu, Emmanuel Biaden an IT Analyst and a former constituency secretary and Lawyer Victor Yankson who just as Dependable had also defected from the New Patriotic Party to join the NDC. But before the contest, we are told the party leadership impressed upon Mr. Baiden to rescind his decision to contest and support Lawyer Yankson which he did to the displeasure of his supporters. Mr. Yankson, however, managed to win the keenly contested elections marginally.
In what political watchers would describe as a coup, he was frustrated by the constituency executives to step down because according to them he didn’t have the money as they expected which he painfully obliged. Then comes in James Kofi Annan a philanthropist and the CEO of the Non-Governmental Organisation called Challenging Heights, he had broken away from the NPP in the constituency with a few disgruntled and suspended members with the excuse that Hon. Afenyo-Markin is dictatorial and would not allow anyone to contest him. He formed the Winneba Is King movement which ostensibly was organizing to contest the elections with the help of his breakaway team and some disgruntled members of the NDC who had also lost the constituency executive election and had become ruinous. He strangely had the full support of the constituency executives because it was believed he had the resources and can attract some votes from the main contender. But before he would join the NDC he had been hauled before the law court over an allegation that he had used GHC 100, 000 which was wrongfully deposited in his bank account, this the party had to assemble lawyers to go to his defense and party supporters on a weekly basis had to troop to the court to offer solidarity. He had offended the TEIN Patrons with an article he published in support of Prof. Afful Broni who was then litigating with Prof. Avoke over who had the right to be Vice Chancellor of the University of Education Winneba, so the group of lecturers demanded an apology from him before they would work with him to secure votes in the university community but he refused. The general elections were held and he lost by a margin of 14000 to Afenyo-Markin. His resources could not save him. Before the elections Kwamina Dancun, the then NPP regional minister had told a young NDC executive to help carry out the coup that will see to the overthrow of Lawyer Yankson the elected Parliamentary Candidate of the party and make Mr. Annan the NDC’s candidate so that between the two main candidates whoever wins the general elections will serve the interest of the NPP.
Fast-forward to 2023, James Kofi Annan has burnt almost every bridge in the constituency, he does not talk with most of the members of the council of elders of the party except the businessman, Alhaji Labaran. He has taken back a school he donated to the Methodist Church in the constituency and gone ahead to instigate a smear campaign against its leadership, he has an issue with the Police Service in town and has taken sides in the misunderstandings within the Fancy Dress groups to the displeasure of other party members. How can any serious person who would want to win an election in Effutu be involved in all these?
Today, the constituency executives are overlooking the rules that once disqualified Kweku Borstie for not attaining the constitutionally mandatory 4years for one to qualify to contest for parliamentary primaries and strongly advocating that James Kofi Annan should go unopposed in the upcoming parliamentary primaries. Even though one must attain 4 years as a member of a branch in the NDC to be eligible to contest and we are not talking about any ordinary person but one who has publicly claimed he funded Afenyo- Markin’s campaign in the past and even played a role to bring people to register and vote in Effutu all in the name of overthrowing and winning against NDC candidates, how ironic can they be? Today people who have genuinely served the party are not respected and recognized, some party faithful’s have decided to sit on the fence because the party is veering off its principles.
I am reliably informed that James Kofi Annan has been holding secret meetings with some of the constituency executives and instigating them to influence the branch executives to sign a petition that will advocate for him to go unopposed. It is also alleged that he has paid some regional and constituency executives to make sure he is qualified to contest against the party’s constitution and even the recently issued parliamentary guidelines.
As a political watcher, I understand the position taken by some of the constituency executives, they shirked their responsibility of managing the constituency, they were overly dependent on James Kofi Annan even for their personal benefits and needs unlike previous executives who were innovative in raising resources to manage the party.
The Way Forward
For me and floating voter in Effutu, the National Democratic Congress made a mistake in the first place by making someone who does not believe in the party’s ideology, and has not served the party in any way but rather worked assiduously against the party their candidate in the 2020 general elections. But we believe that was determined by the exigencies and intricacies of the time. The scenario is different this time, the elders of the party in the constituency and the regional executives must sit down and analyse the situation with all the facts about previous elections guided by the spirit and letter of the NDC constitution to arrive at a decision that would be in the interest of the party a stitch in time saves nine!
The fact remains that money plays a major role in politics but there cannot be any candidate in the EFFutu constituency who can marshal the kind of resources at the disposal of Afenyo-Markin now, the only way the NDC can win is to have a long-term strategy, one that is based on scientific analyses devoid of emotions and sentiments. One cannot make an omelet without breaking eggs, the decisions might be painful but the party is supreme and the determination to win the elections must be paramount.
- I would recommend first, that James Kofi Annan must be made to step aside and assured of some appointment or assistance when the party wins’ power. It must be made known to him that he does not qualify by the party’s guidelines and constitution and made to team up with Alhaji Labran to support the party in the region, it would be a disaster if the NDC presents him again.
- Again, the constituency executives must be made to step aside, they have, based on their actions and inactions shown that they cannot be neutral. They must be made to pledge their support for any candidate that would emerge victorious at the primaries. An interim team made of National and Regional reps together with some constituency elders should be made to take over the management of the party at the constituency and also going into the general election. Again from a grapevine some of them have been compromised by Afenyo-Markin and are not interested in winning the Effutu seat but rather doing business with the party.
- The braches must be made to understand that the wrong precedence that occasioned the endorsement of James as a candidate cannot be perpetuated, because it will haunt the party in the future and affect them when it’s their turn to also lead the party.
The Effutu NDC at this point, as said earlier on, needs a long-term strategy. One that takes into account who best can build bridges, understand the ideology and structures of the party, is a grassroots politician, appeals to the various “constituencies” within the constituency; can easily be sold, and is willing to do anything possible to recapture the Effutu seat.
He who has ears should listen!
Joseph Kweikum Sakyi (Deers Eye)
Political Watcher, Effutu Constituency