The National Organiser of the Convention People's Party (CPP), Mr Kwesi Akoto, yesterday demanded the immediate disqualification of one of its aspiring presidential candidates, Mr George Aggudey, from the race.
Drawing parallels between the party's current situation and what happened to the People's National Party (PNP) of the CPP tradition ahead of the national elections in 1979, Mr Akoto said a disaster could befall the party if the two-time presidential candidate was not disqualified.
Giving reasons for his radical proposal, the national organiser said since the outcome of the court action against Mr Aggudey on his alleged refusal to pay the social security contributions of his employees, amounting to ¢10.92 billion, was not known, it could be tragic to the party's fortunes if Mr Aggudey was allowed to contest and win the party's flag bearer position.
Mr Aggudey, who is the Chief Executive Officer of Gocrest Security Limited, is facing trial at an Accra circuit court on two counts of failing to pay the social security contributions of his employees between July 2006 and August 2007.
“It will be suicidal for the CPP to put up a candidate who can possibly win, only for him to be disqualified, as happened to Imoro Egala in 1979. In 1979, the elders of the party knew that Imoro Egala was going to be disqualified, yet they ignored all wise counsel and went to congress and endorsed him.
Right after congress, he was disqualified,” Mr Akoto told the Daily Graphic in Accra. He said that situation in 1979 made the leadership of the party to go back to congress to elect Dr Hilla Limann as the presidential candidate, adding that although the party won the national election, the CPP could not gamble with such a serious issue this time.
Mr Akoto said given the party's past experience, the CPP should enter the 2008 race with a candidate who was not tainted, especially with a court case of such huge magnitude hanging around his neck.
When this reporter drew his attention to the fact that in the CPP constitution it was only the party's congress that could disqualify a candidate, he replied that from past experiences, the CPP should enter the 2008 general election with a candidate who had a clean “bill of health” because it currently had the brightest chance of winning the general election and could not afford to toy with that chance.
“I am speaking as an experienced politician who was in Parliament in the Third Republic and businessman. Objectively, the matter in court is criminal and also it has not been settled. If he is able to settle it before Friday, prior to our congress, fine. Otherwise, he should be out of the race,” he said.
He stated that hypothetically, if Mr Aggudey won the election as the CPP flag bearer at the congress on Saturday and the court subsequently ruled against him about a month or two to the national elections, the CPP could not afford to look for a candidate at that crucial moment to contest and win the elections.
Mr Aggudey was not at the last sitting of the court last Monday but he was represented by an employee of his company.
The case has been adjourned to December 28, 2007.
Meanwhile, the Public Affairs Director of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), Mr Kwaku Osei-Bimpong, has denied reports that Mr Aggudey has struck a deal with SSNIT on the settlement of the outstanding social security contributions for his workers.
According to Mr Osei-Bimpong, a day before the last court sitting on the case, Mr Aggudey presented a proposal to SSNIT but indicated that management had not taken a decision on it yet.
He said the proposal was only announced to the court during proceedings. Therefore, it was wrong for anyone to suggest that the two parties had reached a compromise.
Mr Osei-Bimpong said earlier, a post-dated cheque for ¢800 million issued by Mr Aggudey to defray part of the outstanding debt had gone through, leaving him with a balance of about ¢10 billion to clear.
Story by Kofi Yeboah & Donald Ato Dapatem