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Political Party Prostitution: Another Cycle Is Upon Us

Nothing smells more foul than an ardent advocate of a political party suddenly singing the praises of another political party he had spent years lambasting. But this is a likely situation in every political season.

Ghana goes to the polls on Dec 7, 2024, to elect a president and 275 members of parliament. A remarkable feature about Ghanaian elections since the institution of the Fourth Republic in 1993 is that no political party has gone beyond two consecutive four-year terms.

What seems to make the 2024 elections unique is the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) flagbearer, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia’s, avowed agenda to break the eight years jinx, and the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) flagbearer, Former President John Dramani Mahama, poised to deny the NPP that unprecedented feat.

With the stakes that high, the two leading political parties in the country, will pull out all tricks up their sleeves to ensure their electoral success. One such means is to entice high-profile political opponents to leave their parties and join forces with them.

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Political scientists describe the practice of political cross-carpeting as an act of swapping political parties, changing party allegiance, or moving from one party to another. The act is variously known as: party hopping, party switching, party crossover, party defection, party decamping, floor crossing, canoe-jumping, political party prostitution, and crossing the carpet.

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The act is ubiquitous: according to the Institute for Government, UK, “the 2017-2019 parliament had a high number of changes in party allegiance. In February 2019, eight Labour and three Conservative MPs defected in response to their parties’ stance on Brexit. They later set up Change UK”.

It continues, “A total of 39 MPs have left, or been removed from, their party in the current parliamentary term. The most recent were in April and May 2024, when Dan Poulter and then Natalie Elphicke resigned the Conservative whip to join the Labour Party”.

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In African countries, the act of cross-carpeting more often than not leads to serious political tensions, hostilities, and a source of worry to peace-loving citizens.

For instance, in Nigeria, Aliyu Shinkafi of Zamfara and Isa Yuguda of Bauchi, without consulting the people they represent, along with the entire members of their respective state houses of assembly, crossed the carpet from the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

Ghana has not been spared the political party prostitution – Dr. Kwame Nkrumah who led the country to independence, abandoned the United Gold Coast Convention

(UGCC) to form the Convention People’s Party (CPP) in 1949. And as the popular saying goes, the rest is history.

Another prominent politician to cross the carpet was Ekow Nkensen Arkaah. He was Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings’ Vice President in 1993, but he, together with his party, the People’s Convention Party (PCP) allied with the NPP to contest the 1996 elections. Nkensen Arkaah however, lost the flagbearer’s race to J. A. Kufuor in that election.

Mention can also be made of Lawyer Frederick Worsemao Armah Blay, aka, Freddie Blay, who left the CPP to join the NPP and became the NPP’s National Party Chairman. His joining the NPP was as a result of being criticized by CPP stalwarts for not campaigning for the CPP flagbearer Paa Kwesi Nduom, but rather endorsing NPP Presidential candidate Nana Akufo-Addo.

Another interesting case of political party prostitution in Ghana’s history was Emmanuel Yaw Baffoe’s transition from CPP to the National Liberation Movement (NLM).

Baffoe participated in the Positive Action campaign and was jailed in 1951 for his role in the CPP’s independence struggle. He later became the regional propaganda secretary for the CPP and was elected to the Cocoa Marketing Board.

He also served as the director of the Cocoa Purchasing Company (CPC). In 1954, however, he stood as a rebel candidate in Wenchi East in the general election and was, as a result, removed from his position at the CMB and expelled from the CPP. Baffoe then joined the NLM.

On October 9, 1954, Baffoe, the Propaganda Secretary of the NLM, was stabbed to death by CPP’s Regional Secretary, Twumasi Ankrah. Baffoe’s memory was immortalized by the knife that was used by Twumasi Ankrah to murder him – the German manufacturers called it OKAPI, but Ghanaians called it BAFFOE.

Almost a year ago, Alan Kwadwo Kyerematen left the NPP to form the Movement for Change, having unsuccessfully tried a couple of times to become the Flagbearer of the NPP. His decision to leave the NPP generated much tension within the party due to his popularity and stature, and also because it was feared that quite a number of stalwarts may join him. In the end, just a handful of NPP stalwarts who were equally disenchanted with the party because they felt their preferred candidate, Alan, had not been treated fairly in the flagbearer selection process, joined him in leaving the party.

Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia eventually won the NPP’s flagbearer race decisively. Alan’s resignation from the NPP was remarkable because it was the second time he had resigned from the NPP; he first resigned from the NPP in 2008.

Political prostitution is not the preserve of party bigwigs; anybody worth his political salt can engage in the act. Political party stalwarts like Hopeson Adorye, Koku Anyidoho, and Allotey Jacobs, have also turned their backs on the parties they previously adored and fervently defended.

Nana Agyeman Prempeh, a political commentator and education advocate, had this to say: “In the ever-shifting landscape of Ghanaian politics, loyalty is a currency often spent and exchanged at will, as recent events surrounding Hopeson Adorye, Koku Anyidoho, and Allotey Jacobs vividly illustrate”.

Nana Agyeman Prempeh believes the journey of Hopeson Adorye from a stalwart within the NPP to a vocal critic of his former party as a member of the Movement for Change, speaks volumes about the delicate balance of power and influence within political circles.

“Adorye’s criticisms of alleged shady deals and corruption within the NPP raise questions about the integrity of political motives and the pursuit of personal vendettas,” Nana Prempeh said.

The political commentator and education advocate is not amused at all about the transformation of Koku Anyidoho and Allotey Jacobs from loyal foot soldiers of the NDC to unexpected allies of the NPP which he reckons underscores the fluid nature of political loyalties.

“Despite their (Koku Anyidoho and Allotey Jacobs) past confrontations with key figures such as Nana Akufo-Addo and John Kufuor, both Anyidoho and Jacobs now find themselves singing praises of the very party they once vehemently opposed,” Agyeman Prempeh said.

Political party prostitution may seem right to those involved in the act and may come with some personal and material benefits, however, in reality, it impugns the integrity of those who indulge in it, especially in these parts of the world – nothing smells more foul than an ardent advocate of a political party suddenly singing the praises of another political party he had spent years lambasting.

To some political scientists, one way to address the issue is for every political party to institute ideologies, programmes, and policies that will serve as a compass to their members and discourage them from defecting to another party.

Though it can be described as a malaise with the capacity to spread its poison to all things political and decent, it is a right that cannot be denied anyone. Political actors reserve the right to abandon any political party that no longer serves their political interests or ambitions.

As we head into the 2024 general elections, we may experience more political party prostitution. The prayer though is to have free and fair elections devoid of any fatalities and thereby consolidate our democratic process and maintain an environment suitable for peace, security and economic growth.

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