... Over 'Disqualification' of Aspirants Delegates demand 'blood' of constituency executive
The uneasy calm that had persisted within the Lower Manya Krobo Constituency of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) nearly exploded with a volcanic force at the Liberty Hotel here last Sunday, when word reached the polling station chairmen gathered there that fresh nominations to pick parliamentary candidates for the December elections had opened in the constituency, eight long months after a similar one had been closed.
The chairpersons, furious at earlier pronouncements from the regional chairman, Nana Adi Ankama, and confirmed by a letter purportedly signed by Alex Agobo, regional secretary, flared up, and for the next half hour, what started as a meeting degenerated into a virtual mob action.
According to the letter dated April 21, 2004 and read to the audience by the constituency secretary, Peter Opata Paditey (alias Pop Darl), the national executive had directed that fresh nominations be opened.
'Pop Darl' did not give any reason for the directive, but added that the two aspirants who had filed for nominations and been vetted last year, Andrews Kwesi Teye and Henry Dema Narh, would not be allowed to run again because a steering committee had appealed to them to step down in the interest of the party.
He announced also that the fresh nominations would close in 48 hours from the time of announcement, which pointed to Tuesday, April 27, 2004.
Tempers flared up when the array of executive members that lined behind the 'high table' could not give any tangible explanation for the decision, except that 'it came from the top.'
This prompted 54 delegates, led by Joseph Tetteh Ahulu, chairman for Akwernor 'B' polling station, to protest and pass a vote of no confidence in the entire constituency executive.
Speaking to The Chronicle, Ahulu said the people had been disappointed by the local executive, and called for the removal of the entire 'crop' of party leadership in the area, saying 'the party is dying here.' He recollected that during the last registration exercise, many people failed to turn up to register because they had not been told who their candidate in the party was, and that it took them a hell of time and energy to explain to them that a primary election would come off immediately after the registration exercise.
"If our executive, for whom we voted to lead us say they were not given any explanation, then we consider the whole decision an imposition from the top, and for that matter, unacceptable," he contended.
The constituency youth organizer, Andrews Madjitey Kpabitey, said he saw some reasoning in the delegates' fury because, eight solid months after the simmering wrangling between Teye and Narh had been settled over a peace pipe smoked at the Tray Court Hotel, during which the two shook hands and embraced each other, wrong impressions were still being created that, tension still existed in the party.
"We have not told the people the truth. They have every cause to lose confidence in us. The steering committee in Koforidua asked us to unite the two, after which there would be a primary election. What are we waiting for?" the youth organizer charged amidst cheers of 'well done' from the crowd.
While the women organizer, Miss Agnes Baah pleaded for sanity to prevail, Mr. Joseph Awutor, organizer, reminded the audience that the Danquah/Busia tradition was based on ideology, not on individuals in the party.
He therefore called on the members to consider the larger interest of the party.
But it appeared the camels' back had already been broken, as the organizers of the meeting had no option than to hurriedly wrap up to avert a nastier spectacle.
Later in an interview, the constituency chairman, Mr. Paddy Asime said he had to end the meeting so that tempers could calm down. He however expressed the confidence that whatever problems there were would be put behind them once the issue of a candidate had been solved.
The second vice-chairman, William Kuleape, also said even though there existed problems, he was optimistic that the dust would settle soon for the party to forge ahead.
"Willy Cool", as he is affectionately called, however conceded that there had been an administrative error on the part of the secretary, whose letter of invitation showed a glaring bias against one of the personalities in the race.
He told this reporter that the secretary would bear whatever problems his letter might cause.
The letter was copied to the DCE, Mr. and Mrs. Oteng, and one Felicia Kofi. Conspicuously missing was the name of Mr. Dema Narh.
This prompted suspicion of foul play, but Asime said it was a mistake from the secretary.
Miss Margaret Kesewa, chairperson for the Agormanor West polling station, called on the national executive to come over and explain their standpoint on the matter to the locals, before taking any decision, saying any rash action would further split the party.
Another local women organizer, 'Double Dee' said asking the two to step down without any adverse findings against them was a gross violation of their human rights and a slur on the good image of the party, and demanded that the whole world be told the truth in the matter.
The Chronicle gathered that apart from the press statement by the regional chairman in Koforidua, the general-secretary of the party, Mr. Dan Botwe, then in far away Sunyani, had announced to some members there that fresh nominations had been opened in Lower Manya Krobo. The source said the general secretary had cited tension and misunderstanding between Teye and Narh as the reasons behind the decision.
The paper gathered also that another meeting for polling station chairpersons, to look into the matter, had been slated for next Monday, 3rd May, with the venue shifting to the residence of the DCE.
A reliable source hinted this reporter that the change in venue was for security reasons. The source further hinted that armed policemen would provide security at the next meeting, bringing into focus, the fact that since the last elections, many events relating to the NPP in the constituency had been performed under heavy police presence.
It would be recalled that in the middle of 2001, the swearing in of Teye as DCE was possible only with hundreds of policemen brought to town, some of whom fired volleys of teargas canisters and hundreds of warning shots from their automatic weapons.
Then in 2002, this reporter counted nearly 70 combat - ready policemen positioned at the VRA clubhouse at Akuse, where a constituency conference to elect executives was taking place.
Next Monday may be another busy day for the police from Odumase Krobo, Akuse and Akropong.
But in the midst of all these, Asime, the chairman said he was hopeful that old wounds in the party would heal fast and even predicted a first NPP victory in the constituency in December.
He said in order to appease the displeased members, the nomination process, which was to end on 27th April, would be extended for another two weeks - Monday 10th May. This, he said was to enable more interested members to collect forms and join the fray. He could, however, not tell how many people had filed their nomination so far.
As at the time of filing this story, one undeniable fact is that, the current split is not only among the membership. The division has eaten into the executive like the biblical cankerworm.
Apart from the need to take pragmatic steps to unite the party, whether this dream of snatching the parliamentary seat from 'the political Maradona' would be easily attained, according to commentators, would depend on the removal of armed policemen at party gatherings and the encouragement of free speech during deliberations.