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24.12.2007 General News

Afoko Calls For Probe

By Daily Graphic
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The man who was accused of sharing money to some delegates during the voting process to elect the flag bearer of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Mr Paul Afoko, has called for an independent probe into the incident.

He said he believed it was part of an orchestration to whip up anger of delegates against Mr Alan Kyerematen.
“I am shell-shocked by what happened and I cannot believe that people would go to that length to endanger people's lives,” he said.

Speaking to the Daily Graphic after the congress to explain his side of the story in a telephone interview, Mr Afoko, who sounded unhappy about the event, said for persons who did not have accreditation to be within the perimeters of the area he was accosted could only be an indication that it was orchestrated to create disaffection for Mr Kyerematen and endanger his (Afoko's) life.

He said the probe must establish the identity of those persons who granted them access to the area.
The congress was nearly marred following rumours during the voting session to elect a flag bearer for the party that money was allegedly being exchanged for favours from the delegates.

The confusion followed rumours that spread like wild fire through the grounds of the congress that Mr Afoko had been spotted giving out monies in dollar denomination to the delegates to vote in favour of a particular candidate.

Before then, the voting process which was being conducted on a region by region basis was running smoothly and was about a quarter way through when the uncertain situation cropped up, forcing Mr Lord Commey, the NPP National Organiser to jump onto the dais and draw attention to the alleged bribery scandal, thereby disrupting proceedings.

But Mr Commey has stated that as a national organiser, it was his responsibility to call for order and secure the integrity of the process.

Explaining what generated a hold-up during the congress, he stated that he realised people were flouting the rules governing the election and drew the attention of the EC, but denied accusing anyone of sharing money.

Mr Commey told the Daily Graphic that he neither mentioned anybody's name nor did he announce that money was being shared.

“During elections, if an agent, a voter or candidate realise that rules of the game were being violated, he or she can complain to the presiding officer for the right thing to be done, which was done,” he added.

Mr Commey added that as a process, all stakeholders in the election process must be vigilant, because a free and fair election was not the responsibility of the Electoral Commission (EC) alone.

The National Chairman of the party, Mr Peter Mac Manu, in an interview with the Daily Graphic described the incident as an unfortunate.

“While voting was going on, all of a sudden we saw Mr Lord Commey using the microphones and announcing that some people were allegedly dolling out money to delegates and that that was not the way election should be conducted.

This triggered a lot of reaction which made people to surge to where the ballot papers were,” he added. Explaining further, Mr Mac Manu said he personally prevented some of the people who had surged forward but fortunately the police intervened timely and law and order was restored.

He said he quickly held an impromptu meeting with all the aspirants and the matter was amicably resolved. He said he had personally lodged a complaint at the Legon Police Station on the allegation made by Mr Commey.

“So the police is now charged to undertake their investigation about who was paying what to whom, and by whom and for what purpose,” Mr Mac Manu added.

Giving a background to the whole incident, Mr Afoko, who was one of the delegates from Builsa North, said since the Upper East Region was to follow the Volta Region in the voting process, he decided to visit the washroom.

He said as soon as he got to the area where the Northern Region delegates were seated on his way from the washroom, two men and a woman walked to him and asked why he (Afoko) was sharing dollars to the delegates.

He said just as he was explaining to them that he did not have any money on him, a friend of his came to whisk him to a seat.

Mr Afoko said another group of 12 people came to where he was sitting and started shouting at him and accused him of distributing money.

“Fortunately, the police came in to protect me and later took me out to sit with them to forestall further trouble. Just imagine that anyone of those people who had a knife or any offensive weapon could have killed me for nothing,” he lamented.

He alleged that while he was seated with the police, Mr Kwabena Agyepong came and asked why he (Afoko) wanted to disrupt the congress by sharing money.

He said after explaining everything to Mr Agyepong, he (Agyepong) said whatever happened was not good. Mr Afoko said he wanted to go and vote when delegates from the Upper East were voting but was advised by the police to stay off to prevent any confusion and ensure his own safety.

He said when calm had been restored to the area, the police asked him to go and vote but he told them that delegates from the Upper East Region had finished voting.

He said although he later wanted to cast his vote, he was told by the electoral officials that he could not vote because delegates from Upper East had finished casting their votes.

Mr Afoko said he was angry with the National Organiser of the party, Mr Lord Commey, for trying to jeopardise his (Afoko's) life by going to announce to the congress that he (Afoko) was distributing money.

“I am a Christian and a Catholic. I know that if the will of God is twisted by man, man will certainly pay for it later,” he said.

“I believe that the disruption created by Mr Commey was meant to affect the results. People should ask him why he did that, since there were clear rules and regulations guiding the congress,” he stated.

Mr Afoko said he now understood why the electoral officials were warning Lord Commey and Rita Asobayire, the Women's Organiser of the party, not to interfere with the process just when voting was about to begin.

He said he might consider legal options because he had been maligned by Mr Commey and also endangered his life, asking, “What was his agenda?”

As to whether he accepted the outcome of the results, Mr Afoko said he was a lone voice, adding that “if I had my way, there should be a re-run. But it is not whether I accept it or not. The party has accepted it and it must be so. I hope we can learn some lessons from this”.

The Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mrs Oboshie Sai Cofie, said it looked as if the whole incident was hugely exaggerated by the local media.

She said the allegation of money changing hands had not been confirmed, yet it caused people to be agitated. She was confident that the NPP would continue to remain stronger and vibrant and hinted that the next year's election would be based on achievements and ideas.

Story by Albert K. Salia & Donald Ato Dapatem