The Campaign Is On… Change Is Coming – Gabby

Nana Akufo-Addo on Saturday, December 19, introduced the New Patriotic Party’s 2016 National Campaign Team to the National Delegates’ Conference, the highest decision making body of the party.

The team comprises of an intelligent, inclusive mix of experience, energy, youth, gender and heads of various important structures of the NPP.

Below the National Advisory Committee of the campaign, chaired by President J A Kufuor, which we understand will include some notable women of experience, four women, three of them young, hold key positions in the main campaign team, including Spokeswoman for the Presidential Candidate.

The Flagbearer made it clear in Sunyani that Ghana’s main opposition party intends to win the general elections with the activists on the ground being the main drivers of the Change Campaign in 2016. He said, the “campaign will be a fully decentralized one, with the grassroots structures of our party, at the polling station, electoral area, constituency and regional levels in the forefront.”

For the 2016 NPP Campaign, there is, as always, a Campaign Manager, who is more or less the CEO of the entire #CHANGE2016 project. At the regional level, the 10 Regional Chairmen are the Campaign Managers for their respective Regions. This removes all doubt as to who is in charge of the Region.

This means that, really, the job of the centre will be, primarily and expressly, to work out with the leadership on the ground what their needs are and what the game plan must be, for the centre to find the resources, for the ground to work with, and for the centre to monitor to see that the work is, in fact, being done according to the agreed formula.

The main decision making body, in the words of the Flagbearer, “responsible for directing the 2016 campaign of the NPP” is the National Campaign Coordinating Team. This body has been innovatively structured and personated to achieve just this purpose.

The Minority Leader is a member of the National Campaign Coordinating Team; so is the Chief Whip (who doubles as Director of Campaign Strategy, because of his wealth of experience in that field). The presence of the parliamentary leadership of the party helps to keep constantly in synchronised focus both presidential and parliamentary campaigns. It also helps relate the NPP campaign with the work of the Minority in Parliament, as much as possible.

The composition of the team also tackles the usual charge that affect every political campaign in this country, the nigh natural conflict between campaign team and party at the top. This time the active members of the national campaign team are, by and large, office holders of the party. All the National Officers and their deputies are in the campaign team—integral, and holders of most of the key positions.

It is worthy of note that the National Organiser of the party has been made for the first time the Director of Operations for the campaign. In effect the national organization of the party (including Women’s Organiser, Youth Organiser and Nasara Cooridnator), will be fully in charge of the ground operations for the campaign, working to support and guide their organisers on the ground.

Another important step is in the area of aligning disbursements and fundraising efforts of the party headquarters with that of the presidential campaign. The National Treasurer works directly with the Director of Fundraising, creating an important arena for fiscal cooperation, accountability and harmony.

The Director of Communications for the party is the Director of Communications for the campaign. It does not mean that the personnel of this critical area will not be beefed up and responsibilities better structured to sharpen the message and enhance message discipline, as well. Again, the Director of Electoral Affairs of the party is part of the campaign structure.

In recognition of the role of technology to modern campaigns, the NPP has created the specific position of Director of Technology. The party in the diaspora should be pleased with the fact that this new position has gone to one of their own, an experienced person in the IT field from the USA.

The position of Policy Advisor is an important one. The person becomes an important voice for the campaign in making sure the NPP manifests President Kufuor’s expressed wish that the NPP does more to tell what they can do differently and how.

The NPP never has much of a problem in coming out with ideas, though. Indeed, the 2012 election was remarkable for the fact that the issue revolved around the opposition party’s education manifesto more than the performance of the incumbent government.

The party must get the balance right this time. The first task is to convince the Ghanaian people why, after eight straight years of underperformance, voters cannot trust the NDC with another 4 years. Linked to that is the smaller job of showing why the NPP is a better alternative. Thankfully, Kufuor’s own 8-year record offers the advantage of underlining credibility to the 2016 NPP message as a superior brand to the NDC.

The party’s constitution in 2009 created the position of Director of Campaign Strategy. But, for the 2012 campaign, the role of the office holder was not clearly defined and could not, therefore, be optimized, despite the known prowess of the officeholder. For 2016, the Flagbearer has removed all ambiguity by making that a specific appointment for the campaign. It is expected that the long years of excellent personal and working relationships between the Campaign Strategist and Campaign Manager will ensure that the skills and knowledge of both men are brought to bear optimally for #Change2016.

The current structure of the national campaign leaves no space to insert the hackneyed charge of ‘parallel structures’. Once you come down from the top, it has always been the case that a presidential candidate riding on the ticket of a party has no choice but to rely on the structures of the party, especially all 275 in constituencies across the country. So the charge of ‘parallel structures’ is usually nothing more than a conflict between the Presidential Candidate’s team at the top and the party headquarters.

In previous elections, at the regional level the candidate may opt to induct a couple of others to support the work at the regional level. But, below that any real or imagined issue of parallel structure is really between the parliamentary candidate and his team and the constituency party. How to address this issue for effective and inclusive ground campaign is now the responsibility of the National Campaign Coordination Team.

When all is said, and the resources given, the issue becomes one of how to ensure that the work is done. The usual complaint that resources do not get to the ground can be a deceptively simplistic refrain that does not really tackle the actual concern.

The centre has no other means of getting the resources to the ground other than to channel them through the party leaders closer to the action, whether at the regional level (as done mainly in 2008) or the constituency level, as seen in 2012.

So, the concern should not be limited to resources getting stuck along the chain of distribution. The concern should extend to making sure that once the pick up truck or motorbike or any other campaign material gets to the party people on the ground, they are actually use the materials for the very job that they were sent to the ground to get done.

Finally, and regrettably, gender participation is one area that all the political parties in Ghana have not taken adequate proactive positive steps to promote. Our parties must do more. A lot, lot more.

It is hoped that, beyond the six or so who are likely to make it to the national campaign level of the NPP, at the regional and constituency levels we will see more women being empowered in the #Change2016 campaign. Women are not only good for the position of Women’s Organiser. Please, people! Find them, encourage them, empower them and watch them deliver!

The campaign is on… Changing is coming. Own it. Make it happen. Change we must!

By Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko

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