If you ever needed a lesson in how to get ahead in politics, good old fashioned Ghanaian politics that is, then look at the just ended NPP parliamentary primary.

Meritocracy is overrated. Loyalty is king.

First, loyalty to a man who completely and absolutely dominates the NPP and then second, loyalty to the party itself. The sequence here is critical.

You can be as loyal as you could possibly be to the party, as most of those who were defeated will claim, but put loyalty to the NPP Alpha second, President Nana Akufo-Addo and you will still fall short.

In the lead up to the contest in the Offinso South Constituency in the Ashanti Region, the party had attempted to engineer a no-contest to allow the incumbent MP, Ben Abdallah run unopposed. It led to the invocation of curses by constituency party foot soldiers. The agitation forced the party to abandon the move. In the end Ben Abdallah became, for me the biggest shock in the entire primary when he lost his seat.

Clearly the party, at least at the national level was firmly behind him. They recognized his value and service. They wanted to save him. But what they failed to do is to call on the savior, President Akufo-Addo. There is only one question to ask. Did Mr. Abdallah himself have the President locked down in his corner? Majority of delegates would not have dared to touch him if the full force of Jubilee House had descended on his behalf.

That is not even the real story. The real story is how somebody as competent, efficient, effective and dedicated to his work as a member of parliament as Ben Abdallah could be knocked off his parliamentary perch.

It is rare to have one person chair two different critical committees in parliament. Mr. Abdallah chairs not only the Judiciary but also the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committees. This was the man who led the parliamentary process to fix the defects that made the Right to Information Bill sit on the parliamentary shelf for two decades. It is testament to his quality that the Bill was eventually passed into law. And yet he lost.

Delegates do not value parliamentary excellence. Do not show them the number of excellent bills you passed into law on their behalf. Rather, show them loyalty in cash and kind.  

Meritocracy is indeed overrated. If it is not, then why did the economist, Dr. Mark Assibey-Yeboah lose his seat? It was an open secret that his relationship with the Jubilee House had soured after the President ignored him when he appointed his 110 ministers in 2017. He has been quietly bitter for three years and Jubilee House simply did not care.

There were many times we had called him to defend government in his capacity as the Chairperson of the Finance Committee in parliament and he will tell us without equivocation that we should speak to those the president trusted and appointed as his ministers.

It is fatal for your loyalty to be questioned in politics. Dr. Assibey-Yeboah had been a dead man walking for three years. And not even his competence as a former Senior Economist at the Bank of Ghana and an academic could save him.

The only fly in the ointment for the NPP is that loyalty does not matter as much to the floating middle class voter who will once more decide the 2020 elections. For this group of critical voter, competence is king. The NPP risk sowing seeds of equivocation in the minds of these Ghanaian kind makers. We will know for sure in the poll of polls on December 7.

There are nearly 40 other incumbent MPs who lost their seat in the primaries. More than a dozen of them hold leadership positions as chairpersons or deputy chairpersons in parliament. 

For the next five months expect serious disruption to government business in parliament. Many of these NPP leaders in the house will down tools, feeling justifiably bitter that the system did not protect them.

The NPP anticipated this. It is the reason they waited this long to hold primaries in constituencies where they had sitting MPs. They had calculated that it was better to wait until all the serious government business for the first term is done before taking their MPs to the slaughter. But, government still needs to pass a supplementary budget, they will need their members when they present the 2021 budget before the elections.

They will have to call on the battered Dr. Mark Assibey-Yeboah, but will he answer the call? The truth is, if he still desires a political future within the NPP, then he must answer that call. He lost because of doubts over his loyalty but it is only loyalty now more than ever to the NPP alpha and to the party itself that will save him from annihilation. This also goes to the many other incumbents still licking their wounds.

In the end, the delegates have had their say, but the electorate, particularly the floating middle-class bunch will have their way, soon.