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22.08.2002 General News

Obed May Contest NDC Flagbearership

Obed May Contest NDC Flagbearership
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DR. OBED YAO Asamoah who, on his way to the National Chairmanship of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), promised not to contest for the presidential candidature may be on his way to revoking that decision.

Obed, as he is popularly called, in fact, says he may vie for the party's ticket.

"I wouldn't categorically say that Obed Asamoah is not interested in the flagbearership. I have not yet made up my mind" was the instructive answer the chairman gave Chronicle in an interview at Ho earlier this week.

Our question was "can it be safely said that Dr. Asamoah is not eyeing the presidential seat, come 2004?"

And the reason the 65-year-old politician gave was that a concession he had offered to pave the way for Prof. Evans Attah Mills and others to have a chance of standing had been blown away.

"I made a conciliatory gesture to them before the congress by virtually ruling myself out as a contestant for the flagbearership..." This, he said, he did especially because Mills is a "favourite son" and he wanted to assure his followers that he would not curtail their interest.

But the followers of Prof. Mills, notably the "Fante caucus" did not accept the olive branch, as Dr. Asamoah put it. "They rejected it with contempt.

Instead, they went out and fought feverishly against me." Re-emphasising his determination to review that reconciliatory move, the chairman said: "As it is now, we are back to square one."

In year 2000, Dr. Obed Asamoah was the Attorney-General and the National Treasurer of the NDC.

His hope of being called by Prof. Mills to be his running mate for the presidency on the NDC ticket was dashed when the then Vice-President by-passed him to pick the Deputy Attorney-General, Martin Hamidu.

That shocker only served to deepen latent cracks in the NDC in which the "Obed block" and the Mills block, otherwise called Fanti caucus drifted farther apart.

It was supposedly to bridge the gap that Dr. Asamoah says he decided to give up his presidential dreams and opt for the chairmanship of the party, a pursuit in which the Fanti caucus still gave him a run for his money.

With the virtual declaration of his intent, Dr. Asamoah becomes the third person the media have named will covet Prof. Mills' dream seat which is currently occupied by Mr. John Agyekum Kufuor.

The two other people mentioned as likely candidates are Nana Konadu, wife of the ex-President, and Dr. Kwesi Botchwey who joined Rawlings' December 31 Revolution as a Secretary and later Minister of Finance till he resigned in 1996.

Given the dominant influence Mr. Rawlings continues to have on the NDC and the fact that he can make or unmake the fortunes of members seeking the endorsement of the rank and file of the party, Chronicle quizzed Dr. Asamoah on the refusal of Rawlings to recognise his chairmanship.

Dr. Asamoah's answer was as acerbic as it was assertive: "whether he recognises me or not is neither here nor there. The party has taken a sovereign decision that this is the chairman. So I don't think it is an issue of his (Rawlings') recognition."

His recognition is not what completes the exercise because Rawlings does not have the power, Asamoah stressed.

As readers may have noticed, since Obed was elected to the highest office in the NDC, Rawlings who is the founder of the party has not in any way congratulated him.

At some functions, and recently the funeral of the late Chief of Ho, where Asamoah led a delegation to represent the party, Mr. Rawlings attended in the company of his own allies.

In fact, Dr. Asamoah tacitly confirmed that they were not on best terms, explaining that he and the Council of Elders had since the party congress been arranging to hold a meeting between him and Rawlings, but that has not been possible yet.

"So I have done what is possible or necessary in order to heal the wounds or division within the party," the chairman said, to exonerate himself, adding: "I believe, in due course, these problems will be taken care of."

He was also confronted with the charge that he is pulling the party apart and that his head is on the chopping block, as published by our sister paper, the Chronicle on Saturday of August 10, 2002 and he was pushed to comment.

He, however, pushed the blame of intra-party squabbles and insults onto his detractors, saying he has rather chosen to take all the insults quietly in the interest of party unity.

The closing stages of our interview with the former A-G who combined his office with that of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs provided some reprieve for his detractors in his own backyard, when he turned the heat on President Kufuor.

Commenting on Mr. Kufuor's 42 overseas travels in 18 months, Dr. Asamoah described them simply as too many.

"I mean he is a tourist. We demand from him to be a tourist in his own country."

He contended that the argument that Kufuor brings home investors from his overseas travels is neither here nor there.

If investors are the target, then the President should leave the attraction to be done by some of his ministers, Asamoah said, debunking the argument with "he is just escaping from problems because when you are abroad, you forget problems at home and the more you travel, the greater the relief."

Asked to address the prediction that the NPP will rule for 20 years, which was made by his counterpart in the government party, he dismissed it as "political talk."

He reminded Ghanaians of Rawlings' year 2000 provocative snub that if the NPP wanted the Castle seat they better looked for a carpenter to knock some stool together for them.

But "within a few months we were out," he said, warning that the indications are that the NPP will be out in 2004.

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