…From the Archives of United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP): Why the United Party (UP) Traditions had been a failure in winning democratic elections to rule Ghana
The main opposition NPP; traces its political and ideological roots to- Dankwa-Grant-Dombo-Busia traditions, and to be precise, to the UGCC- a nationalist political forum conceived among others by Paa Alfred Grant (aka Paa Grant) and Dr Joseph Boakye Dankwa (aka JB Dankwa). According to the Ghana National Reconciliation Commission report of 2004, the UGCC was formed at Saltpond in August 1947 under the chairmanship and financial sponsorship of George Grant, better known as Paa Grant- a wealthy businessman, with an idealist slogan of “Self-Government within the shortest possible time”. The UGCC attracted a large following, particularly chiefs, farmers and among the educated persons such as Obetsebi Lamptey, Ako Adjei, not forgetting young Kwame Nkrumah, who arrived at the end of 1947 as its General-Secretary, establishing structures through which UGCC could function effectively. By 12th June 1949, Nkrumah had broken away from the UGCC and formed the Convention People’s Party (CPP), due to personality and of course ideological conflicts and strategy on how self-rule, could be achieved for Gold Coast. Accordingly, Nkrumah left, taking with him most of the young people he had so successfully mobilised. From then on, CPP became a façade of election winning machine, while UGCC looked not only like a broken tiles but also, like a settling dust, bedevilled with leadership crisis.
To understand the politics of the NPP of today, you might neither restrict your political binoculars to the seemingly J.A. Kufuor-Akufo-Addo diplomacy, undercurrent arms-twisting of the 21st century nor the proxy wars of Dr Mahamudu Bawumia and John Alan Kwadwo Kyerematen. It might even be wrong to simply tag the ongoing leadership struggles within the NPP on political fault-lines of 1979, where UP traditionalists: William Ofori-Atta and Victor Owusu- once a CPP enthusiast, agreed to break-tracks on the question of who was more able and capable of leading the Popular Front Party (PFP) to victory in the 1979 general elections, where Jones Ofori-Atta of PFP and General Akwasi Amankwa-Afrifa (rtd) of Paa Wille’s United National Convention (UNC), had been the prominent faces in that fierce struggles.
It is speculated that the UP tradition could have won the general elections of the Third Republic if Paa Willie and Victor Owusu had put their acts together by pushing party interest ahead of their personal quest to become a president. I had never been persuaded by this argument. If the Akyem-Asante counter accusations and suspicions were to have any relevance on electoral fortunes, then one could comfortably predict an advent of a one party state in Ghana if the ruling P[NDC] were to be reminded of its core values- a political force born out of visionless leadership, economic frustrations and uncertainties. Indeed the UP traditions had had or should we say prides itself of men of women of dedication and valor, it is being said that but for National Liberation Council (NLC) supervised elections of 1969 and the disbandment of the CPP, UP had always struggled to win elections on its own beliefs and standings.
Of the fourth republics, totaling some 33 years, the UP tradition can boast of only 10 years 3 months in government [Dr Kofi Abrefa Busia- 1 October 1969 to 13 January 1972; and Mr John Agyekum Kufuor- 7 January 2001 to 6 January 2009]. Whereas democratically, CPP accounts for 4 years [Dr Kwame Nkrumah- 1 July 1960 to 1964], excluding the period of one party state, by 07 December 2016, the ruling National Democratic Congress might have chalked 16 years of governance to its credit [Mr Jerry John Rawlings- 07 January 1993 to 06 January 2001; Professor John Evans Atta-Mills/Mr John Dramani Mahama- 07 January 2009 to ??6 January 2017]. Dr Hilla Limann’s People’s National Party (PNP) of the Third Republic of Ghana, ruled from 24 September 1979 to 31 December 1981 [2 years 9 months].
Having checked the political and elections history of well-established conservative political parties such as the Republican Party of the United States of America, the Tories of Great Britain, not forgetting the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian-based sister party Christian Socialist Union (CSU), in the Federal Republic of Germany, it could be argued that the UP tradition is the only conservative party that appears to lose public elections by narrow margin due to its perceived personality contests and democratic pomposities. The answer might lie in the Tribute to Justice N.Y.B. Adade [EXCERPTS], culled below from statesman Akenten Appiah Menka [Daily Graphic, Friday, 16 August 2013]:
…For my part, I cannot say anything more than how I perceived and wrote about N.Y.B. Adade in my autobiography, “The River in the Sea,” published in June 2010 almost three years before the demise of N.Y.B.
“I remember my law practice days not because of the “I put it to you”, “I put it to you” or the “Objection, my Lord”, “Objection, my Lord” but most importantly for the experiences of life gathered in the course of these active ten years.
“Primarily, the training I had during my law pupilage and practice days from my boss, Nicolas Yaw Boafo Adade of Yaanom Chambers, Kumasi, and the impact on my lifestyle, not only in my own law days, but most importantly, my subsequent years in politics, business and society, still remain solid in the foundation structures of my walk through life. N.Y.B., as he is popularly called, rose to become in his later years not only the Attorney General and Minister of Justice but also followed it up by his appointment as a Judge of the Supreme Court and acting Chief Justice of Ghana.
“In October 1960, N.Y.B. Adade admitted me as a pupil, yet to be called to the Bar at his Yaanom Chambers in Kumasi. From Part Six – “Ghana Politics – 1960-2000”. Chapter 24 “The Roadmap to the Third Republic” entitled “A House Divided against Itself” – “Victor Owusu vrs. N.Y.B. Adade and others” are the following:-
“Primarily, the breakup of the Second Republic of the Progress Party frontline was regrettably the uncompromising offspring of the professional clashes between Victor Owusu on the one side against N.Y.B. Adade. This originated from their Kumasi law practice years in the late 1950s to the mid 1960s. Along the line through politics Adade was joined by R.R. Amponsah, Yaw Manu and William Ofori Atta (Paa Willie).
The clash between the two legal luminaries existed when I joined the Yaanom Chambers of Adade in the late 1960s but it kept escalating over the years and out of the court houses into the public and political arenas.
Victor Owusu originated his law firm and named it the Okomfo Anokye Chambers. The Yaanom Chambers had its roots from Sir Edward Asafo Agyei, the first Kumasi law practitioner in the mid 1930s. He later became Ghana’s first High Commissioner to the United Kingdom after the nation attained her sovereignty in 1957 and handed over the Chambers to Siriboe. N.Y.B. Adade joined Siriboe in 1957 till the latter was appointed a Senior Magistrate in 1958. Adade renamed the office Yaanom Chambers.
In a matter of three years Adade had a renowned and reputable law chamber in Kumasi/Ashanti, putting him in professional competition nationwide with all the brilliant legal practitioners of the land, notably the Akuffo Addos, F.K. Apaloos, J.B. Danquahs, the Koi Larbis, all of Accra, the Blays of Sekondi, the Victor Owusus, the Henry Prempehs, the Effah and Totoes, all of Kumasi.
Intellectually, there was not much difference between them. The only difference of substance between the two was one of ideology and attitude.
N.Y.B. Adade was a red hot Marxist socialist who had even some connection and training at the Communist Pravda Publication Office in Moscow, Russia, in the early 1950s. He could laugh out cheerfully, crack jokes and was easily accessible. He had many nicknames with every acquaintance, and was vocal against corruption of any sort. He was also a playboy who, notwithstanding his social traits, had a nightclub, “The Jamboree”, at Asafo Kumasi and also formed his own highlife band, “The Globemasters”, which soon became one of the leading bands of the 1960s in Ghana.
Victor Owusu, on the other hand, was arch capitalist and blue ice cold Conservative. He believed in class regimentation and made it appear even a privilege to stretch his hand to shake anybody outside his circle. His lawyers, politicians, golfers and lodge mason friends could be counted on the fingers of the left hand. There was nobody one could count on as Victors’s real and trusted confidant except maybe, “Afro” Gbedemah and F.K. Apaloo.
While between 1960 and 1965 the two were probably the best lawyers in Ashanti, Brong Ahafo and the northern sector of the country, it appeared their courtroom clashes were carried outside the court precint.
The internal conflicts between them started to peak from 1962 after the famous Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s “Dawn Broadcast” in which he castigated the Judicial Service of corruption and other unacceptable practices.
Adade, as I knew him as a practising lawyer and member of the judiciary in latter years, had always held the view that judges were not per se corrupt, but in most cases are led into that temptation by members of the Bar in return for undeserved judgments.
Stop these lawyers who flirt with the judges for advantage and this seemingly negative perception will die away, as ordinary litigants under normal circumstances lack the courage to approach a Judge for such judicial favours”. “This was a view not shared by Victor who resented Adade’s general views on the private lives and moralities of the judiciary”
“In 1966 Victor Owusu was appointed the Attorney General by the National Liberation Council (N.L.C.) after the overthrow of Kwame Nkrumah’s First Republic. Barely 18 months later, for some unexplained reasons, Victor was replaced by N.Y.B. The latter was made to hold this office after he became the Progress Party’s parliamentarian for Konongo/Juaso Asante Akim in the Second Republic. Victor Owusu, who had been the only Member of Parliament to have won his Agona Ashanti seat unopposed by any other party, was made the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
At this critical period, two unfortunate incidents befell the Government of Dr Busia. First was the Salah case of wrongful dismissal against the Government before the High Court, Accra, presided over by Justice Apaloo.
The Government was completely dissatisfied with the judges’ insistence on handling the case, after the Attorney General, N.Y.B. Adade, had raised objection to the trial Judge’s jurisdiction over the case based on bias or close intimacy of the judge and the plaintiff. While the Prime Minister, a devout Methodist Christian and sociologist, saw everything wrong with the judge’s conduct, this was a view not shared by Victor”.
“Before any Cabinet reshuffle could be made, there was the need for a lawyer to be posted as deputy to assist Adade and this is how I found myself transferred from the Trade, Industry and Tourism Ministry to be Deputy Attorney General and Deputy Minister of Justice.
The need for Cabinet reshuffle became inevitable. Adade was transferred to the Ministry of Interior, Victor and Paa Willie were moved to the Attorney General’s office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs respectively. While Victor blamed Adade and Paa Willie for engineering his transfer, Adade also pointed the same fingers at Victor”.
“They were both very good listeners and commanded respectable business practice of supervision and delegation to achieve the concerted result. In one aspect, however, there was a vast difference and this was timing. Adade was very particular about timing, while Victor, perhaps with his Agona Royal upbringing, had no respect for time but expected everybody to wait for him and sometimes, would offer no tangible explanation for his lateness. He would simply say: “I am sorry for being late”.
In the ensuing confusion, the “Pro Broad Base” group started to walk out led by Osei Duah, followed by Yaw Manu, R.R. Amponsah, N.Y.B. Adade and Darkwa Dwamena. At this juncture, da Rocha gave up his chairmanship of the meeting in favour of Mr. William Ofori Atta, who declined it on some strange religious grounds. After a lengthy oration bordering on religion and politics, Paa Willie decided to walk away amidst protestation and pleadings from particularly Dr. Jones Ofori Atta, da Rocha, Victor Owusu and myself, but to no avail.
After his departure, only four Senior Ministers of Dr. Busia’s were left behind. They were Kwasi Lamptey, R.A. Quarshie, J.H. Mensah and Victor Owusu. The latter was offered the chair, only for the meeting, which eventually decided to revive the Progress Party with a different name and symbol, yet to be decided.
Soon after we came out with the name and symbol of our party, the so- called “Broad Based Party” also inaugurated theirs under the name of “United National Convention”- U.N.C. and surprisingly with Paa Willie as their presidential Candidate. Their party symbol of open hand was an innuendo of openness, transparent and cleanliness as against the uncleared and seemingly dirty Victor Owusu.
The Popular Front Party at the time had not elected its Party Leader. Here Paa Willie had disabled his admirers in the party from pursing their clamours for him.
The U.N.C.was essentially a combination of the Progress Party “Walk Outs” from da Rocha’s law office and most of the Gbedemah’s N.A.L. Party members notably Okudjeto, Osei Nyame, Dr. Obed Asamoah, Dr. Agama and few outsiders including Peter Ala Adjetey, Prof Adu Boahen, Harry Sawyerr and unbelievably General Afrifa. The battle for the dirty mud slinging had begun between P.F.P. and U.N.C.
The result was the second round Presidential election between Hilla Limann’s P.N.P and Victor Owusu’s P.F.P. As the U.N.C. came third with their political stalwarts of Paa Willie, N.Y.B. Adade, Prof. Adu Boahen, Afrifa, R.R. Amponsah,Yaw Manu, Ala Adjetey, Dr. Agama, Sam Okudjeto, Obed Asamoah and Harry Sawyerr, ignored their political roots of the Danquah/ Busia/ Dombo tradition and opted for the P.N.P. of the C.P.P. ancestry.
This enabled Limann Win the Land slide victory over the PFP victor Owusu in Round Two. Thus the Danquah/Busia/Dombo houses divided against itself fell in 1979 and the builder had to wait for over twenty years to put it back in 2001.” Fortunately, Victor and N.Y.B, for the 20 years in the wilderness had learned to come together before J.A.K was sworn in as the President of Ghana in 2001, a lesson not to be repeated by any member of the Danquah, Busia, Dombo Tradition. Fare thee well N.Y.B.
Alan coined a political name for himself when in his attempt to lead NPP in 2007, captured 32.30% of votes cast as against Nana Addo-Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s 47.96% but for party loyalty and time-and-resource wasting, Alan honouably, conceded defeat to avoid a re-run. In their 2010 encounter, Alan settled at a distant 20.40% of to his fierce contestant- Nana Akuffo Addo, who swept some 77.92%.
Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia- the twice presidential candidate of the NPP, made a strong case and repute for himself when he mounted the witness box at the Supreme Court of Ghana to unseat the president-elect John Dramani Mahama, on allegation of presidential election fraud and irregularities in 2012. He was nearly killed in a car accident at the time John Alan Kwadwo Kyerematen, was seeking the support of the president-elect, in his bid to become World Trade Organisation (WTO) Director General. How, then, could this, together with Bawumia’s persistent economic fireworks on the NDC, not be a worry to Alan?
We could foresee a trend or emergence of one party which ought to be managed at-all fronts but also a political and of course, personality replay and arguments that if not well addressed, will sharply pole Alan Bawumia apart even long after J.A. Kufuor and Nana Akufo-Addo, had reunited with their makers.
Asante Fordjour authored this compilation and commentary.
Available on Request