Delegates claiming to hail from some constituencies in the Volta, Northern, Upper East, Ashanti and Greater Accra regions have expressed concern about safety measures for them, when they assemble to pick a flagbearer for the National Democratic Congress (NDC) on December 21st during the party's Congress.
According to the delegates, they have stumbled upon credible information to the effect that 'political opponents' have clandestinely planned to contaminate food and water with 'poisonous material' which is to be sold at the Congress grounds. Contesting for the top slot of the largest opposition party in the nation on December 21, 2006, are top favourite Professor Evans Atta Mills, business magnate Eddie Annan, communications expert Ekwow Spio Garbrah and former Defence Minister Alhaji Iddrisu Mahama.
The delegates, who requested anonymity, also called on Ghanain Observer (GO) to help carry their concerns to the general public and the party hierarchy especially, by ensuring that all food vendors at the Congress grounds are vetted to forestall any incidence of food poisoning because of `credible threats from some quarters that dissident voters will face the music.`
Meanwhile, GO has learnt that although the party has not officially settled on the exact figure of delegates to the congress because it is in the process of reviewing the list, thousands of delegates are expected from all the 230 constituencies and the 10 regions in the country. GO investigations have gathered that in order not to replicate the incident at the last acrimonious Koforidua Delegates Congress of the NDC last year, the main auditorium for this year`s congress at the University of Ghana, Legon, will be kept a distance away from other activities around.
This move, according to information gleaned from our sources, is to forestall any unfortunate incident which may occur outside the jurisdiction of the congress grounds. When GO called the party`s National Organiser, Samuel Ofosu Ampofo, to affirm plans put in place to make participants feel safe and secure, he disclosed that `the party is in the process of ensuring that adequate security is put in place to ensure safety of the delegates.`
Declining to disclose the detailed plans regarding food and water safety at the congress grounds, Mr. Ampofo said that the party will not prepare food for the delegates but has devised `its own ways of feeding delegates when the time comes`. Meanwhile, the General Secretary of the NDC, Mr. Johnson Aseidu Nketia, has told GO that various committees have been put in place to take care of accreditation of delegates, preparing the grounds, sitting arrangements, decoration of the hall etc., in order to `avert any unfortunate incident`.
Reacting to GO's story about the former Vice-President Prof. Mills few weeks ago which put him clearly ahead of the pack, the delegates, however, refused to openly identify with any of the candidates 'for security reasons.' According to one of the delegates, who intimated that a free atmosphere at the Congress must be one that would ensure that even vendors are selected based on a thorough security appraisal of the situation and the concerns of everyone, 'one area the threats are likely to emanate has to do with food served on the grounds, since beatings and intimidation as occurred at the last NDC national congress is out-dated and cannot be repeated because of the power balance among candidates.' 'But, we are still concerned because, in asmuch as the landscape has remarkably improved, subtle ways could still be found by some of the political bullies to achieve their agenda of getting everybody to fall in line with the thinking and wishes of particular candidates, 'a delegate from north Volta said.
'Spio is clearly out of the game, but the pressure to vote for or against one particular candidate is freshly emerging and some of us cannot take it…we can hope there will be no beatings and threats, but what about food poisoning, especially when the party machine has not come out to assure us of an arrangement that will ensure that vendors are scrutinised, just in case…' Another delegate from the Upper East region told GO.
Two other delegates from Odododiodio, who lamented that there are still elements in the NDC viewing the 2008 elections as a do-or-die affair, told GO he was studying the situation to advise himself by carrying his own food and water package to the Congress. 'I lose nothing taking my own food and water to the Congress grounds…If it is merely rumours from the front of intimidation politicians, fine…if it is genuine alarm…I would have protected myself and escaped any misfortune,' one delegate said, adding that 'the way things are going, it is difficult to tell a friend from an enemy.`