“Let us leave here a united party. There should be no bickering, no name calling, no divisive tendencies,” were the parting advice offered by newly-minted presidential candidate of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Prof John Evans Fiifi Atta Mills to delegates and members of the NDC at the end of the of the epoch-making National Delegates’ Congress held in the ancient town of Sunyani.
Perhaps as a warning not to change a winning horse when the race is not over, the more than 3,000 delegates of the NDC dealt a humiliating blow to the presidential ambitions of Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, handing her a 96.9% to 3.1% drubbing at the end of a contest marked by the emergence of more support groups with a variety of names than a normal boutique would carry labels.
President Mills won in all 10 regions with a total of 2771 votes; the former first lady received a measly 90 votes. Even her home region of Ashanti region offered her 9 votes, perhaps reflective of an earlier prediction by Deputy Finance Minister Fiifi Kwettey that she “wouldn’t be able to win a parliamentary seat in Ashanti.”
But rising above the crushing defeat handed to his wife, NDC Founder J. J. Rawlings drew tumultuous applause from a crowd that was hostile to him earlier in the day when he lifted the right hand of Prof Mills shortly after Deputy E.C. chief Kwadwo Safo Kantanka declared the former law lecturer candidate-elect.
In sharp contrast, Mrs Rawlings unceremoniously left the stage whilst congratulations were being expressed, without giving the traditional concession speech accompanied by the pledge to support the victor.
Giving the lie to their opponents’ claim of a party full of violence-minded members, the NDC served up a two day meal of great organizational skills, what Deputy Minister of Tourism James Agyenim Boateng called a family party, and gave the impression of a party determined to keep the opposition NPP in the wilderness for at least the next six years.
Delivering his acceptance speech President Mills expressed delight that the detractors of the NDC had been put to shame by the peaceful congress.
Emphasising that the clear mandate handed him was a reflection of the party’s sentiments, President Mills declared: “The only losers are the people who wished for a bruising fight for the NDC.” He went on to say having been elected again, “We have a duty to perform and we are being reminded of it”, in apparent reference to the concerns raised by grass root party members during the campaign.
He said the 2012 election campaign of the NDC had been duly launched with his election, and called for an all-hands-on-deck approach.
“Let’s work harder. The future for the NDC is bright. We need to engage the opposition in a strong contest. The battle has just started.”
At the end of the two-day congress, NDC delegates at the historic Sunyani Congress left the Coronation Park in a party mood, re-invigorated for the battle ahead – the plan to send the NPP’s Nana Akufo-Addo into political retirement in election 2012.