Kumasi, April 4, (Statesman) -- The rank and file of the Ashanti Regional branch of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) is mired in deep controversy following a religious furore sparked by comments attributed to the Ashanti Regional Chairman of the party, Emmanuel Nti Fordjour in Kumasi.
Mr. Nti Fordjour is reported to have raised religious hackles when he declared in a fit of political exuberance, that the New Patriotic Party (NPP) would still lose the Asawase and had it painted in NPP colours.
His comments, made on a local FM radio station in Kumasi, are threatening to cause the defeat of the NDC even before the people of Asawase go to the polls on April 21 to elect a new member of parliament to replace the late Dr. Mohammed Gibrine, who died two months after the 2004 general elections.
The predominantly Muslim community of Asawase, irked by the NDC Chairman's remarks, had vowed to 'punish' him by voting against the NDC candidate, Alhaji Mubarak Muntakar.
This has put the NDC on the defensive and the party is trying unsuccessfully to control the damage caused by their regional chairman's comments.
So far, explanations by Mr. Nti Fordjour that his comments were made in good faith and not intended to denigrate the religion of Islam, have ended on deaf ears, as Muslims in both the NDC and the NPP are not prepared to forgive him for the alleged derogatory remarks about their religion.
It was also learned that Muslim leaders are very much angered by the party chairman's comments, whilst the local airwaves have also been inundated with calls demanding an apology and retraction from the regional NDC chairman.
Some of the irate callers are even calling for an apology from the NDC National Executive.
The Asawase by-election is being keenly contested by the NPP and the NDC with the People's National Convention being the dark horses in the race.
The NDC won the seat in the last December's election, beating the NPP by some 4,000 votes but the NPP is bent on winning the seat to prove that is still popular in spite of the difficult economic decisions it has had to take at the beginning of its second term.
The NPP candidate, Alhaji Musa Shaibu Cheriff, popularly known as Baba Cheriff, Ghana's ambassador to Guinea, is widely tipped to win the elections.