Remarks by Guest Speaker, Comrade Brother Sylvester A Mensah, at the National Cadres Conference Held On Tuesday 16th May 2017 at the Jefkings Hotel (On The Dodowa Road)
Commemorating June 4 – Integrating Cadres Into The NDC, A Cadres Perspective
Distinguished Invited Guests;
Our media friends,
I deem it a great honour to be accorded the place of a Guest Speaker and asked to share a few words at an auspicious gathering of this kind. Gathered in this audience today are men and women of great valour whose tenacity, perseverance, and determination shaped the destiny of our beloved country and its modern fledgling democracy.
Many among us played crucial roles in the mobilization efforts that returned hope to the hearts and minds of our people across the country. I am therefore excited at this unique chance to interact, recount, share ideas and experience, and reignite new hopes to guide and usher our country into the blissful future we continue to work for.
Let me express my profound gratitude to the initiators and organizers of this conference, for asking me to speak at a gathering of what I consider the assembly of great Ghanaians with social conscience.
On an occasion like this, it is also important to thank you all for the many ways in which together as cadres we have selflessly used our talents, expertise, and experiences to shepherd our country out of the difficult times of the 1980s and early 1990s.
I consider this conference yet another step to illustrate our perseverance, persistence, determination, tenacity and drive to remain relevant is shaping the future course of socio-political and economic decisions that have implications for the wealth of our people.
Senior Colleagues, the National Democratic Congress as a political party remains our only natural home. As you will recall, it is a house built on the foundations of several social forces including in particular the Eagle Club, the Development Union of Progressive Revolutionary Cadres throughout the country, and the Rawlings Fan Club of Progressive Cadres and other Civilians – as well as functionaries, operatives, supporters, sympathizers and all those who believed and participated in the prosecution of the principles and ideals of the 1979 June 4 Uprising and the 1981 31st December Revolution.
Shall we observe a minute silence for the fallen hero-activists as well as those who were at the receiving end of excesses and avoidable errors? We salute all those who have remained steadfast despite emotionally disturbing life changing circumstances. Indeed social progress comes with its inherent hiccups and coke-ups. While we regret the needless and avoidable, we find solace in how far we have come as a people.
Fellow comrades, permit me to begin with a historical backdrop. I guess this serves our course and the interest of students of Ghana’s democratic history to take a snapshot view of some of the past events. As you recall, in July 1990, the then Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC), established the National Commission for Democracy (NCD) to hold seminars in all ten regional centres to gather public opinion on the future democratic pathway for the country.
The NCD submitted its report on 1st April 1991, advocating a multi-party system of democratic governance. The PNDC then appointed a nine-member committee of constitutional experts charged with developing proposals for a draft constitution. The prepared draft was then deliberated upon, reviewed and voted on by a larger 258-member Consultative Assembly. The Consultative Assembly concluded its work on March 30, 1992.
After the PNDC received the Assembly’s final draft, it put the draft to a public referendum on April 28, 1992. Though only a simple majority was needed to approve the Constitution, the referendum passed with 92% of voters in approval. This immediately culminated in lifting the ban on political party activity on the 18th of May 1992, which paved way for the emergence of new political parties and the revival of some previously existing ones. With the approval of the 1992 Constitution, the stage was set for Presidential and Parliamentary elections in November and December 1992 respectively; with the Constitution billed to come into force on January 7, 1993, to usher in Ghana’s Fourth Republic.
The above narrative is important because every step along the way, cadres worked as conveyor belts to carry the intent and purpose of the PNDC from the urban centres to every part of the country, making sure that every Ghanaians is given an opportunity to be part of the processes. I remember the 5 member Prompting Committee constituted in the Greater Accra Region of which I was a member, tasked with the responsibility of creating awareness on the formation of a new political party – the NDC. Comrades and friends, it was seated here and others who went round every district virtually begging individual to become founding members of our dear party. We again had a historical duty to scout for the first set of Parliamentary Candidates, most of whom became Hon. MPs in the 1st Parliament of the 4th Republic.
Comrades and friends, despite the remarkable achievements, Cadre yielded to the caution to cede front line activities to fresh faces in order to attract greater patronage. This singular act of understanding and commitment to the collective good has had a frustratingly difficult effect on cadres in general, in the bid to effectively integrate into the structures of the party. In hindsight I guess we appreciate that cadres were not well positioned for the transition to multiparty democracy. Nevertheless, Cadre loyalty and commitment has remained undiminished and continues unabated.
Comrades and friends, irrespective of our individual or collective circumstances, the demands of the time impose on us a historical responsibility to close our ranks and unite like never before with all who believe and share in the desire to wrestle political power from the inhumane NPP government, currently dismissing properly appointed civil and public servants to create space for employing unemployed foot soldiers of the NPP. Comrades this is not only shameful but significantly elicits a needless cycle of equal or greater reprisals after each successive government going forward. A bad political culture that our dear late Professor Mill sought to nib in the bud with the concept of ‘Father For All’- but no more! Perhaps this can be a subject matter for another discussion.
Ladies and gentlemen, our challenges transcend bread and butter issues for today. Our common enemies are disease, ignorance, poverty, inequality and social exclusion, among others. Indeed our enemy is a bad political culture that invites reprisals of equal or greater magnitude. Our enemy is an ill-funded and suboptimal party apparatus. Our enemy is the friend and colleague within, with a dagger behind his or her back, dismembering, frustrating and eating-up its own from within. Our enemy is the lack of trust and sincerity in those we look up to, as well as those who look up to us.
We are in the people’s industry and our unique selling proposition must be anchored in trust. What leadership requires is principled loyalty as against gaping sycophancy, which is creeping up on us. Our enemy is unethical behaviour and the creeping culture of silence at all level of leadership. Our enemy is the tendency of remaining reluctantly subservient and quiet under unacceptable conduct by those we look up to.
It is no secret that many Cadres feel disenchanted and disillusioned about the turn of developments since the return to constitutional rule. But as the foundation upon which NDC was built, and the true soul of the party, we have no choice but to remain resolute and firmly committed to the forces of good over evil; and selfless dedication over selfish arrogance.
As cadres, we must remind ourselves that, the Founding Father of the NDC is Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings upon whose vision and leadership the Party was established. It is no secret that many people became members of our great party through the mobilization efforts of Cadre. We must be proud of our heritage and sacrifices for the collective achievements so far and resolve to be committed to the total reorganization of the Party as we prepare for the 2020 General Elections, an election beckoning the NDC for victory!
As former President John Mahama recently noted, if you ride a lame horse to battle and you encounter defeat, your first duty is to cure the lameness of the horse, irrespective of the cause of lameness (emphasis is mine). Our party obviously needs to be strengthened, and that enterprise needs your expertise, experience and skills. Let’s take the wise counsel of former President John Mahama to make our NDC party attractive again. Let us reconnect our values to the lived experiences of Ghanaians. Let us show that the idea of building a society of equal opportunities in Ghana is within our reach in the NDC.
Collectively, there is the need for cadres to rededicate to grassroots mobilization at the party branches, communities and workplaces to identify allies and sympathizers and galvanize their support and involvement for the reorganization of the party.
There is opportunity now like never before for cadres to re-locate in all the branches of the party across the country in the first instance and then assess further opportunities into higher structures of the party. Indeed the time has come for the party to create space in the party constitution for cadres as an integral wing. Today there are new corps of party cadres who have not been adequately oriented to appreciate the party’s antecedent, history and sacrifices of those who have come before them. Even past successive party leadership have had challenges with recognition and appreciation. We have a historical responsibility to integrate into the party as party cadres with shared values and nurture growth through new membership of party cadres if we’re not to become extinct.
We didn’t get where we are today by accident, or by chance, fate or coincidence, but by careful orchestration and navigation with sufficient consultation
As I prepare to take my seat, let me use this occasion to respectfully and humbly entreat all of us as Cadres to return to the branches, wards, constituencies, and the regional levels of the party, and offer ourselves to be elected to position of influence so that our wealth of knowledge and experience can truly become beneficial to the party. In an environment of competitive elections, we cannot stay outside the vital veins of the party and expect that the change we desire will take place.
Fellow comrades, on the commemoration of the 38th year of the historic June 4 popular uprising I commend all cadres assembled here as well as those whose circumstances could not allow them to be present. Indeed, your concern for the ordinary man, your selflessness, sacrifice and commitment to the abiding principles and values of probity and accountability, transparency and social justice remain the most enduring legacy of our past. You dedicated your youth to a cause we remain proud of. You laid the foundation and moulding blocs for a sustainable political edifice for generations yet to come. You defined the values and attitudes consistent with changing societal expectation and a platform for building our world outlook.
This is how far we have come, transforming into a formidable political party with our role diminishing after successive governments of our own party. Posterity would remember and acknowledge our individual and collective contribution and sacrifice.
At this juncture, fellow comrades, accept my sincere gratitude for the support, solidarity and confidence you expressed in me during the orchestrated public investigation by the BNI. Indeed we have maintained and lived by the principles and values of probity, accountability and transparency. I am happy the outcome of the investigations ordered by our own government had no adverse findings.
Let me take this opportunity to also commend the Elections Review Committee chaired by Prof Kwesi Botchwey for their work which has calmed tensions within the party. I urge all party members to desist from inflammatory statements such as sacking all party executives. Some of these executives led us in the 2008 and 2012 successful elections. These statements are divisive and unacceptable!
I commend the organizers of this forum, their collaborators and sponsors for keeping up the spirit.
Finally, as we all know, in less than a month from now, our great party will be celebrating 25 years since the sacrifices and selfless dedication culminated in its birth. Two years from now, we will be celebrating four decades of the June 4th Uprising, the first of the two Revolutions that ushered our new and stable democratic dispensation. Let us step forward forcefully not only to tell our story, but to provide leadership at all levels.
A bit of introspection can be helpful in our quest to pick ourselves up as a party.
How do we ensure that the party does not suffer a lack of motivation and neglect?
How do we ensure shared values and shared imperatives of our social democratic agenda?
How do we remain effective in opposition to regain the people’s mandate?
How do we interrogate and redefine the ‘Father-For-All’ philosophy consistent with our experiences in opposition?
How do we give true meaning to social democracy and deepen our social democratic credentials.
How long should it take the party to recognise the Cadre corps as an integral wing of the party with voting rights?
Comrades and friends, making cadres an integral part of the party is long overdue.
It’s been a pleasure accepting the invitation to speak.
It’s been a great pleasure sharing these thoughts with you.
And I know it would be a much greater pleasure working together with you and the party into the future to fulfil some of the thoughts we have shared.
My pleasure, my gratitude.