The National Democratic Congress (NDC), the nation's largest opposition political party has been accused of instigating last Friday's fracas between its supporters and those of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), at the Chief Imam's house.
NDC thugs, allegedly led by Collins Dauda, MP for Asutifi South, and armed with stones and sticks, for no apparent reason confronted supporters of the ruling NPP, calling for the blood of their presidential candidate, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
Incidentally, the action was captured on video, with the combatant MP leading his 'artillery forces'.
All frantic efforts by some respectable personalities present at the forecourt of the house to persuade the MP to talk to his boys fell on deaf ears.
But for the resilience of the police, who whisked the NPP flagbearer away, the blood-thirsty NDC thugs would have created one of the nastiest scenarios in the country's political history.
Supporters of the two rival political parties, who had gone to the Chief Imam's residence to cheer on their leaders, got engaged in a conflict which was characterised by intense insults, heckling, threats, and a few modest slaps, pushes and jabs.
Reports said rioting continued into the latter part of the day, and just after sunset, episodes of sporadic skirmishes and bouts of fisticuffs between supporters of the two parties erupted in areas near the National Chief Imam's house.
Radio stations in Accra aired reports of a number of injured supporters who were temporarily hospitalized, treated and discharged.
Shouting 'Ye be kyire no nyansa', to wit 'We will teach him a lesson', the irate NDC youth cramped on cars and heckled everyone in their way, including even security personnel.
The pandemonium occurred when supporters of the two leading parties followed their flagbearers to the New Fadama house of the National Chief Imam, Sheikh Osman Nuhu Sharabutu.
Even though the NPP candidate was saved by the police, a number of youth were attacked and injured. The windscreen of Dr. Kofi Konadu Apraku's car was smashed.
A man who was bleeding profusely from the nose, following the attacks, was taken away by the police to the hospital.
The two flagbearers were at the National Chief Imam's house ahead of the observance of the birthday of Prophet Mohammed, the following day.
Speaking to DAILY GUIDE soon after the incident, Abu Jinapor, an NPP youth activist who was at the scene, described the incident as shameful, saying he was utterly shocked at the behaviour of the Asutifi South MP.
“Hon. Collins Dauda's behaviour that day was very shameful. I personally went over, and asked him to do something about the situation; more so when he was their leader, but he would not budge,” he said.
Mr. Jinapor lamented that in this age of civility, it was unthinkable that an MP worth his salt would be at the forefront of violent attacks on a political opponent.
“My brother, if the police and Nana's bodyguards had not acted swiftly, something else would have happened,” he noted.
Reacting to the allegations on Joy FM in Accra, Hon. Dauda denied that he led the thugs and said the NPP leadership had framed him up, challenging that they each swear on the Holy Koran over who was lying and who was not.
He could, however, not deny that a number of NDC youth, armed with stones and sticks, attacked the NPP presidential candidate.
Dr. Arthur Kobina Kennedy, Chairman of the Communications Committee of Nana Akufo-Addo's campaign team, in a press release accused the NDC of being responsible for the commotion and noted that the incident was not an isolated one.
He warned the party and its leaders to desist from fomenting further trouble in an election year.
“Right from the beginning of this election year, the NDC has embarked on a campaign, desecrating this country's electoral system, intimidating other parties, infusing fear into the hearts of the electorate and sowing doubts in the minds of the general public in relation to the 2008 elections.
“Their goal, though futile as we see it, is to scare Ghanaians into voting for them or failing that, to discredit the elections when they lose.
To this end, no less a person than the NDC Presidential Candidate has begun to question the legitimacy of this year's elections even before the ballot papers have been printed, and threatened violence if his party loses the December 2008 polls,” Dr Kennedy noted.
He continued: “As confirmed on radio Friday evening by Koku Anyidoho, Prof. Mills' Communication Director, the Prof. Mills convoy chose to disregard the advice of the police officers on duty to take a different route, since vehicles and supporters of the NPP were temporarily on the street immediately in front of the Chief Imam's office.
“After defying the orders of the law enforcement officers, a group of raging NDC thugs, led by Collins Dauda, the Member of Parliament for Asutifi South stormed the Chief Imam's building, charging towards Nana Akufo-Addo and his entourage, who were then making their way down the stairs after their meeting with the Holy Man.
“The unprovoked incident degenerated into the throwing of stones, water and sticks at the NPP members by the thugs accompanying the NDC leader and flag bearer, Prof. Mills.
“While the timely action by the security personnel and NPP members prevented the mob from harming Nana Akufo-Addo, other NPP members were not so fortunate; some were hit by stones, water bottles, flags and fists.
Several members were injured, amongst them women, who were later rushed to the Police Hospital for emergency treatment,” Dr Kennedy disclosed.
Meanwhile, Spokesperson for the National Chief Imam, Alhaji Gado Muhammed has told DAILY GUIDE that the incident was an unfortunate one and not deliberate.
He said originally, Nana Addo and his entourage were to have been at the palace on Saturday and not Friday but he had an engagement outside Accra over the weekend and had to travel on Friday, thus it was arranged for him to be at the Chief Imam's palace by 10:30am on Friday and for Prof. Mills to be there at 11:30am on the same day.
He said Prof. Mills was at the Palace on Friday a little after 11:30am and after he had left, Nana Addo and his delegation arrived, but supporters of the two political leaders found themselves at the same place at the time.
Alhaji Gado said the wrong information might have been relayed to Nana Addo's team and that the incident was purely accidental.
Supporters of both parties accused each other of storming the palace at the wrong time but real trouble started after Nana Addo had finished with his interaction with the Chief Imam and was on his way out of the palace.
Just at that time, the NDC supporters, who were on their way from a mini rally, converged near the staircase of the residence and attempted to prevent the NPP flagbearer from entering his car.
When the police would not allow them to get near, they took to name-calling such as 'cocaine', 'Nana Talk Tax' and 'Nana Presidential Jet'.
Responding, the teeming NPP supporters replied with 'Atta-Mills, AIDS patient', 'Atta-Mills, blind man' and 'Atta-Mills, Kenya'.
Alhaji Gado Mohammed, spokesperson for the Chief Imam, regretted the clash, saying it was due to misinformation.
Nana Akufo-Addo donated a cash amount of GH¢2,000 and 20 bags of rice to the Chief Imam.
He was accompanied by Peter Mac-Manu, NPP national chairman; Sheikh I.C. Quaye, Dr. K.K. Apraku, Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, Yaw Osafo Maafo, Kwabena Agyepong, some ministers of state and members of the Nasara Club.
The NDC had on a number of occasions promised a visitation of a Kenya-like situation in Ghana if the December elections do not go their way, prompting some people to name their flagbearer 'Atta-Mills, Kenya'.
The NDC has however denied claims that it was to blame for the confrontation between its supporters and those of the NPP at the Chief Imam's palace on Friday.
It said the charges leveled against it by the NPP were an attempt to portray the NDC as a violent party.
The flag bearer of the NDC, Prof. John Atta Mills' spokesperson, Mahama Ayarigah described the NPP's statement as unfortunate and irresponsible.
Mr. Ayariga who is also the Member of Parliament for Bawku Central said the NDC will “not go into the gutter with the NPP”.
According to him, supporters of the two parties conducted themselves well and displayed maturity in handling the matter.
He described as lies, reports that some supporters of the NPP were injured, noting that “there was absolutely no violence”.
Mr. Ayarigah stated that the NDC did not provoke anybody, stressing it was rather the NPP which provoked supporters of the NDC.