After the overthrow of Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia’s government on 13th January, 1972, the Danquah-Dombo-Busia tradition began to have its own internal problems: Two heavyweights – Victor Owusu and William Ofori-Atta (hereafter referred to as Paa Willie), high profile members of the Busia-led Progress Party (PP) of the 2nd Republic had difficulties in regrouping to launch a party to “fight” the 1979 presidential and parliamentary elections.
Differences emerged amongst them prior to the formation of a distinct political party to contest the election. Majority of the group led by Victor Owusu, a renowned lawyer and a former Attorney-General under Busia’s government formed the Popular Front Party (PFP) and became its flagbearer. (He garnered 70 votes as against his main contender, Alhaji Yakubu Tali’s 36 who became his running-mate in their internal election. Other aspirants in that contest were; Dr. Kwame Safo-Adu, J.H. Mensah (senior minister under Kufuor’s government), Kwesi Lamptey, Saki Schek, A Chinbua and B.D. Addae.)
Ironically, personalities such as Dr. Obed Asamoah, Sam Okudzeto (Council of State Member), E.R. Madjetey, etc who belonged to Komla Gbedemah’s National Alliance of Liberals (NAL) who were in opposition to the Progress Party in the 2nd Republican Parliament formed the United National Convention (UNC) and settled on Paa Willie who had almost retired from active politics as its flagbearer.
The UNC, apart from having some NAL elements as its core members, also had “new faces” like General Amankwaa Afrifa (a former military Head of State), Peter Ala-Adjetey (a former Speaker of Parliament under Kufuor), the venerable Harry Sawyerr (former Minister of Education under Rawlings), vintage Adu Boahen (first presidential candidate of the NPP) among others who were “not known or active members” of the Progress Party of the 2nd Republic. The animosity between the PFP and UNC kept widening by the day.
Alhaji Imoru Egala, founder of the People’s National Party (PNP), a chip of Kwame Nkrumah’s CPP block took advantage of the Danquah-Dombo-Busia tradition’s woes and sponsored the candidacy of Dr. Hilla Limann to contest the election. He (Egala) was then serving a 12-year ban imposed by the Supreme Court which prohibited all CPP appointees in the first Republic from holding public offices.
The stage became ripe for the conduct of the September 18, 1979 election: there were 140 Parliamentary seats and ten (10) presidential candidates on the ballot paper. At the end of voting, none of the presidential candidates met the constitutional requirement of fifty percent plus one vote (50%+1) pushing the election into a runoff. Below is the list of candidates and their percentage score of the total valid votes cast during the first round:
1. Hilla Limann- People’s National Party [PNP]=35%
2. Victor Owusu- Popular Front Party [PFP]=29%
3. William Ofori Atta- United National Convention [UNC]=17%
4. Frank Bernasko- Action Congress Party [ACP]=9%
5. Ibrahim Mahama- Social Democratic Front [SDF]=3.72%
6. John Bilson – [Third Force Party]=2.75%
7. R. P. Baffour -[Independent]= 0.49%
8. Kwame Nyanteh- [Independent]=0.47%
9. Mark Diamond Addy- [Independent]=0.33%
10. Imoru Ayarna- [Independent]=0.27%
As stated above, the election was forced into a runoff on 8th July, 1979 between the first two leading candidates – Dr. Hilla Limann of the People’s National Party (PNP) and Victor Owusu of the Popular Front Party (PFP).
In a dramatic and bizarre fashion, the UNC elements, under the leadership of Paa Willie threw their support behind Dr. Hilla Limann(an Nkrumahist) to win the second round election with a whooping 62% of the valid votes. All efforts by the PFP leadership to get their breakaway brothers to support them fell on death ears.
The Danquah-Dombo-Busia tradition, due to internal wrangling, at this stage had sold its “precious jewellery” to the PNP at a “wholesale price”. A simple arithmetic of the results in the first round between the PFP (29%) and UNC(17%) should help one to appreciate the drift. Victor, as the flagbearer of the Danquah-Busia front, would have garnered at least 46% and this would have made it easier for him to win in the second round. This explains why Victor Owusu is mostly described as “Ghana’s President Who Never Was.”
The results of the parliamentary election were quite interesting: Limann’s PNP secured 71 seats as against Victor’s PFP – 42, Paa Willie’s UNC-13, Col. Bernarsko’s ACP-10, Ibrahim Mahama’s SDF-3, Third Force Party-0, with 1 Independent. Near Hung Parliament, it was, akin to the 8th Parliament of the 4th Republic – no overwhelming majority seats in the august House. It’s also obvious from the forgoing figures that PFP was far popular than the UNC.
MORAL LESSON: even before president Akufo-Addo is done forming a government for his second and last term, there are already calls for his successor ahead of the 2024 election. Notable among the list of flagbearer aspirants are the sitting Vice President, H.E. Dr. Mahamoud Bawumia and Trade Minister, Alan Kwadwo Kyeremanteng.
Unfortunately, the campaign methodology adopted by ‘apologists’ of these two disguised politicians in the media, particularly on social media has regrettably been pernicious. Civility and decorousness appear to have been thrown to the wind. This should be a cause for worry to all true lovers of the party who want us to break the eight years cycle.
It’s against this backdrop that I appeal to the rank and file of the NPP to be guided by the past. Let’s remember the 1979 historical facts, juxtapose it to the 2007 Legon Conference with 17 flagbearer aspirants which led us into opposition in 2008 as we campaign for our preferred candidate/successor for H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
Let’s not lose sight of the fact that, our (NPP) ability to “Break The 8” depends on two things: the government’s performance in its second term and how we (rank and file) conduct ourselves during, before and after our internal elections. Circumspection, tolerance, respect and self-restraint are critical necessities at this stage. We can’t afford to compromise these virtues. Nothing more, nothing less! Have a good day.