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26.02.2004 General News

NPP Shooting Itself in the Leg?

By Ghanaian Chronicle
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- As members warn: 'Don't impose candidates on us' A number of Polling Station chairmen and activists of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in the North Dayi Constituency have sounded a note of caution to the party's leadership at the headquarters that they would be committing a political suicide if they ventured to impose a candidate on them instead of holding free and fair primary elections in the constituency.

They accused some members of the national executive and certain influential people in government of having a hidden agenda and showing bias towards Miss Esther Ofori, Chief Executive of the Ghana Trade Fair Company (GTFC) and a contestant, which they said was unconstitutional and would have disastrous consequences for the party.

The concerns of delegates were made known when The Chronicle made a two-day fact finding tour of the constituency, following the abortive primaries some four weeks ago, in which one of the candidates, a professor, was disqualified.

The delegates jointly and severally agreed that the constituency was ripe to be plucked from the grips of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), but noted that it would take what they called 'a grassroots personality' to win the game.

In the Kpando zone, Mr. Godwin Asamani, polling station chairman for the Fesi electoral area, said it was improper for the Minister of Agriculture, Major (Rtd.) Courage Quarshigah, to have come there campaigning for Esther, as against the rest.

According to Asamani, in November last year, the minister made a couple of trips to Gbefi to campaign for the lady candidate, and wondered why a constituency affair as a primary election should give even ministers sleepless nights till they join the fray to the disadvantage of others.

The chairman said apart from the retired major, a security man from the castle, called 'Third World', had been coming to town with the same mission as Quarshigah. He said the district NADMO coordinator, Mr. Orlando has also been using government resources in a political campaign, an action he condemned.

"Cutlasses and other materials in the assembly are meant for disaster-stricken communities, and not to be shared to delegates ahead of primaries", he contended.

Another aggrieved polling station chairman, Mr. Vincent, Controller of Sovie Dzigbe, also listed Nfodzo Adza Yao, the constituency chairman as forcing his way to make the delegates swallow a pill against their will.

He asked Nfodzo to stop misusing the name of the president to cover his nefarious activities; such as he did recently when he (Kufuor) was in far away in Kigali for a conference.

"The primaries had been postponed five times since August last year for no apparent reason. Our album was the first in the region to be compiled, but whenever a date is set, someone calls from Accra to stop it. If Esther is Kufuor's only choice, as the chairman is claiming, why didn't he go ahead to declare him, instead of calling for and postponing the selection of the candidate every now and then?"

A third delegate, Daniel Bodza, of the Aveme Danyigba electoral area in the Anfoe zone said asking the GTFC boss to lead a sod-cutting ceremony this week on behalf of the government, to tar the Vakpo Township roads, was ill-timed because she had not yet been elected to represent the party as the parliamentary candidate.

"What happens if, after whipping up the interest of the people and tuning their minds, Esther does not win the primaries?", he enquired, and asked the executives to take lessons from the fall of the NDC from grace in the 2000 elections; which he said was due to the imposition syndrome at the time.

Some of the other interesting issues raised on the trip were that the lady did not register in the constituency, and that the last time, she voted at Tantra Hill in Accra, making her candidature illegal. Again, they drummed home their view that, asking people to step down for others would not be in anybody's interest.

But when contacted, Miss Ofori said the last postponement of the primaries was due to a communication breakdown between the national and regional executive, and should not be put at the doorstep of any candidate.

"I was ready for the game the last time around, and when it had to be called off, I took it as one of the plans of God", she stated.

Sounding more of a preacher than a politician, the firebrand parliamentary aspirant referred this reporter to the holy book (I Timothy Chapter 3,verses 1-6), which talked about maturity before vying for any leadership position, even in the house of the Lord.

She contended that the president, then a candidate, had to stay patiently in opposition for a long time for nature to prepare him for the mantle of leadership, and advised his opponents to wait for their turn.

"Yes I agree Quarshigah campaigned for me. What is wrong with that? Is there any law in the party against that? I am not ashamed he campaigned for me. Maybe he has seen the qualities of leadership in me, and he has every right to voice it out", she contended.

Asked whether it was a fair deal for a former national organizer as the retired major to do that, Esther said it was not strange because even at the national delegates congress, party members openly campaigned for candidates of their choice.

On the Vakpo roads sod-cutting, Esther found it strange that people could be so saucy with such petty issues, and asked her critics to look for something else to say. She also denied that she was being imposed on the delegates by the top hierarchy of the party, saying, "They don't know what they are talking about".

For his part, Mr. Cephas Jones Donkor, a business and management consultant, and Esther's sole competitor, told The Chronicle in a telephone interview that his main concern was the resources that were being wasted on in-fighting, ahead of the main 'fight' with the incumbent Member of Parliament, Hon. Akua Sena Dansua of the NDC.

"We have been on this since August last year, and now it is getting longer than the American presidential campaign", he lamented, and called on those circulating word around that he was an NDC infiltrator, to be mindful of the consequences of their actions.

Professor Gilbert Bluwey, a lecturer at the University of Ghana, Legon, was disqualified from the race at the last meeting grounds for allegedly flirting with the NDC. This zeroed down the race to a straight fight between Ofori and Donkor.

In the 2000 parliamentary elections, 32,785 people voted in the constituency, out of 57,745 in the register. The NDC's Dansua polled 23,962, while Seth Asorwoe Akwensivie of the NPP polled a woeful 1,161.

But the NPP says it is ready to overturn the scales this time.

It would be recalled that part of the reasons given by political analysts on the voting pattern of Ghanaians in the last elections revealed that protest voting played a significant role and caused the NDC dearly for imposing candidates on them.

The party is still licking its wounds in the Akan, Ashaiman and Anlo constituencies, while the 'Swedru Declaration', which brought in their presidential candidate virtually tore the party in shreds.

The North Dayi primary election is now slated tentatively for February 28 (Saturday), but considering the fact that it would coincide with the international trade fair, observers suspect it could be shifted once more, making it the sixth postponement.

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