27.09.2004 Politics

How Mills Ditched Mahama & Kamara

By ALFRED OGBAMEY for Gye Nyame Concord
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Blow by blow account of how the Rawlingses got their running mate FINALLY THE TRUTH CAME unstuck last week and ational Democratic Congress (NDC) flagbearer John Evans Atta-Mills had to make a choice within choices carefully crafted for him. His options had been whittled down through a well-choreographed scheme by the Founder of the Party, Jerry John Rawlings and the Madam of the NDC, the iron-willed former first lady Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings.

This is the secret behind last week's selection and Thursday's announcement of the very tough and articulate Kumbungu MP as the running mate of Atta-Mills for the December 7 poll; a truth little known to key party functionaries, including party Chairman Dr Obed Asamoah, who was informed of the final decision Wednesday night by a delegation led by Atta-Mills himself. The two other members of the delegation which informed him of the final decision at his Macarthy Hill residence were NDC Eastern Regional Chairman and former Energy Minister Ohene Kena, and former Parliamentary Majority Leader J. H. Owusu-Acheampong.

But what many insiders of the party do not know about the selection of Mumuni was that it was largely hinged on a pledge by Mrs. Konadu Rawlings to bankroll the Atta-Mills/Mumuni ticket.

Deep throat sources within the party say the pledge was also backed by evidence of some dollars in two briefcases being exhibited as a commitment to get the Double M (Mills/Mumuni) ticket going. The message was simple, but clear. Go with Mumuni and you'll have the support of Chairman Rawlings – he supported both Mumuni and John Mahama – as well as Konadu, or go with another person and risk losing either or both support base.

And the well-choreographed statement last week on radio by ex-President Rawlings suggesting that there were two front-liners in the race was part of the grand scheme. It was part of the scheme to edge out and explain beforehand the exclusion of the preferred candidate of the Obed faction of the party and their preferred candidate, Alhaji Baba Kamara.

BABA KAMARA Insiders of the top echelons of the NDC say a little over a week ago, Kamara, whose name had strongly emerged to the discomfort of the Rawlings camp had a call from a friendly business tycoon, Eddie Annan of Masai.

Over a dinner later on Wednesday, September 15, Eddie Annan, Gye Nyame Concord gathered, impressed on Kamara the need to pull out of the running mate race and instead support the promising Bole MP, John Dramani Mahama.

The information and appeal to him was packaged as coming from Eddie Annan's close pal, J. E. A. Mills.

But unsatisfied with the manner of being dealt with after having dealt directly with Mills all along, Kamara reportedly left the meeting unsatisfied, worried and with an emphatic no answer to be sent to 'whoever wanted that message delivered to him.'

What he didn't know was that the meeting was at the instigation of the Commander-in-Chief of the NDC and master schemer, ex-President Rawlings.

And before he could say jack, a report of his withdrawal in support of Mahama was announced via a report in The Heritage newspaper in its Friday September 17th, issue, citing credible sources in his own party.

Same time, a widely-aired press release from “a close associate” of Kamara, Alhaji Awal Jarakotoku, went out, stating his interest in the race and reiterating the fact that he had not pulled out. Neither had he thrown his support behind John Mahama.

The statement, signed by Jarakotoku said: “On the contrary, attempts were made on Wednesday, September 15th, 2004 to convey some such proposals to Alahaji Kamara by some reputedly close friends of the flagbearer but Alhaji Kamara rejected these.”

It continued: “Alhaji Kamara still remains a KEY AND STRATEGIC factor in this exercise and the sooner the faceless NDC top guns recognised that and leave the flagbearer to come out with his choice, the better for all of us. The story in The Heritage newspaper is a piece of mischievous thrash and must be ignored”.

But the denial was too little too late. The harm had been done and in the minds of a large section of the public, he had pulled out of the race.

Worse still, Rawlings, who does not see eye to eye with Obed and Kamara, granted an interview to a radio station later on and spoke of the emergence of two candidates for the running mate slot, deliberately omitting Kamara's name and focussing on the Kumbungu and Bole MPs.

For most NDC followers again, the Founder of the party, who many believe was in a position to know, had indicated that he was not in the race. In effect he was finished as far as the running mate slot was concerned.

JOHN MAHAMA Kamara out of the race then meant in the eyes of the public and NDC supporters that the only key candidate left – since Mumuni's name was earlier shot down over a number of issues - was John Mahama. Not exactly correct!

Truth was, getting Kamara out of the race was the difficult task, especially if one were not to incur the wrath of the Obed wing of the party. Getting John out was easy.

Despite his public utterances that he was not going to select a candidate based on religion, the Muslim faith had been established as a key requirement that a running mate must meet. And it was established a long ago at an executive meeting of the party at the launching of its manifesto in Kumasi, Ashanti Region, several weeks ago.

Though John Mahama also appeared to be the darling of the Rawlingses campaign, the ex-President and wife also shared a preference for the now running mate and Kumbungu MP, Alhaji Mohammed Mumuni.

In the pro-Rawlings camp itself, there were some sharp divisions as well over the two candidates. Whilst insiders such as Messrs Ato Ahwoi and Lee Ocran preferred John Mahama, others such as Kwamena Ahwoi were up in arms for Mumuni.

But once the name of Kamara was shot down, the selection of Mumuni was automatic. Any hope of John being selected at that point in time was merely academic and depended largely on God touching the heart of the Rawlingses, Atta Mills and supporters of the party who were insisting that the Muslim requirement was not negotiable.

The Rawlingses knew John's name was for cosmetic effect. Much as he was the favourite of the media and would possibly beat the other candidates down were the public to vote, his Christian faith had ruled him out by virtue of the party's demand. Nevertheless, the Rawlingses gave the impression that they were still in support of his candidature.

In private, they also backed Mumuni. So when Mills presented his two choices to the National Executive Council at their meeting at the Ravico Hotel, Accra, the choice was automatic. The only Muslim was Hon. Alhaji Mohammed Mumuni. Hon. John Dramani Mahama may have to wait another day.

MOHAMED MUMUNI Of course, though he edged John Mahama out largely because of the religious factor, the selection of the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Spokesman of the NDC was not solely based on religion. He is over-qualified, if anything, for the running mate slot.

But his name, which was one of the first to be thrown up by Rawlings as a possible running mate, was initially shot down because of his Andani-heritage.

He hails from the Dagbon conflict zone and many had argued that with the party likely to benefit from disaffection of Dagombas, his candidature could scare independent-minded Abudus from voting for the NDC. It would therefore be suicidal to select an Andani, since it could scare Abudus and force them to throw their support behind the NPP, others argued, pointing out that such a decision would galvanise Abudus to rally behind the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), which still has Veep Aliu Mahama, an Abudu, as its candidate.

Again, some argued that with the ¢20billion Auditor General-generated National Vocational Technical Institute report hanging on his head, it would derail the NDC's chances. Moreover, the ruling party would attempt to use that report to disrupt his focus.

Incidentally, these were the very same issues that added value to his ticket at the last hour, some say.

Dagbon needed to be a campaign issue. It won't go and should not go away, some believe.

As for the NVTI case, the hotter the NPP decides to make it, the better. The thinking was that it would be suicidal for the NPP to throw any charges connected to the much discredited audit report in. Mumuni, it was also thought, had done his own homework well by issuing a billion cedi suit against the Daily Guide newspaper, which reported the issue, as well as the Auditor-General, Dr Edward Prempeh, over allegations contained in the said report.

He had also sought a public showdown with the Auditor General on the issue without the challenge being met.

In any case, charging him on that issue would only up the political tension, which could whip up the support of NDC followers, some noted.

GILBERT SEIDU IDDI The little known former minister and now lecturer at the University of Development Studies (UDS), Tamale, saw his name unexpectedly coming up after Mills threw it in after he had reportedly been convinced of his 'winnability'.

Since ex-President Rawlings needed to win the running mate game and he suspected that the Muslim card was being played by the Obed side to their detriment at a time when Mumuni's name had been shot down, he quickly agreed to it.

But by the time Mills returned from his campaign tour of the Brong Ahafo Region to announce the choice almost five weeks ago, the credibility of the Seidu Iddi ticket had been torn apart. Rawlings, who had earlier supported that choice after a private meeting with Mills, quickly back-pedalled. He re-strategised, did a 'sankofa' and went for the person he originally supported, Mohammed Mumuni. But he did not also hide his seeming support for John Dramani Mahama.

DR MUSTAPHA AHMED ET AL Apart from the Iddi, Kamara, Mahama and Mumuni tickets, the other names, including that of the former military officer and Rawlings' personal dentist, Dr Mustapha Ahmed, did not fly beyond the realm of speculation, deep throat sources say.

They were part of the diversionary names that were seriously not considered.

Ahmed's name was however floated as a possible replacement for that of Kamara to pacify the Obed camp following fears that the Rawlingses would do everything to torpedo the Kamara ticket.

How the Rawlingses won In realty, the game was like this – Get Kamara to get himself out by appearing to have thrown his support for Mahama. John then falls out on the basis of the religious requirement, but opens the way for Mills to handpick the only one choice, the Rawlingses choice.

It was a game well played; it was a game meant to be a win-win situation for the Rawlingses no matter what. And they played it so well they won. The question now remains on whether they can really bring those they played the game on aboard the NDC ship.

Mills himself had a difficult time explaining his choreographed decision to some losers of the game the night before the NDC mammoth campaign launch Friday/Saturday.

But key party activist and think tank, Mr Ato Ahwoi, believes all is well with the NDC and that the party is poised for victory in December come what may.

“It is a fantastic ticket; a winnable ticket and the truth of the matter is that whoever had been selected would win. Unfortunately, only one person could be selected” he noted in a phone interview yesterday

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