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11.10.2004 Politics

2 Septuagenerians duel in the arena

By Chronicle
2 Septuagenerians duel in the arena

* Gladys Asmah in trouble as Abaatan goes for broke * Lily may slip through chasm Takoradi, Oct. 11, Chronicle -- It should have been a straight fight between 68-year-old grandmother and retired industrial clothier, Mrs. Gladys Asmah and her 51-year daughter and insurance professional, Esther Lily Nkansah, former Regional Minister for the Western Region in the battle for one of the most prestigious constituencies, Takoradi's Member of Parliament (MP) slot. But the dynamics altered sharply last week when 66-and-half year old granddad, Mr. Francis Kobina Eghan, popularly and affectionately called 'Abaatan' last week formally confirmed wild speculations that he would risk all and challenge the incumbent. The situation in the constituency looks like this.

In the voter-rich settlements, Lily Nkansah's NDC is active in Adakope and pockets of New Takoradi. Amanful is the other voter-rich settlement that is in the pocket of Abaatan Eghan, with Gladys Asmah strong in New Takoradi, which is now being buffeted by Abaatan's keep fit brigade. Takoradi central is free for all, with Asmah having a slight advantage, but it is so precarious that, any number could win.

“I have already gone for the parliamentary forms and filled them, awaiting the day the Electoral Commission will ask me to submit it,” Mr. Eghan told The Chronicle.

According to him, his decision to defy all warnings by NPP executives to contest Mrs. Asmah was premised on the fact that the incumbent MP had lost touch with the people in the constituency and would therefore lead the NPP to slaughter, if he did not contest. “President Kufuor is meek and submissive but Gladys Asmah is too proud, a behaviour the people do not want. In fact, the voters are going to use this as a yard stick to vote massively against her,” Abaatan told this reporter.

He rubbished rumours that it was his intention to destroy the NPP, which he and the late Stephen Krakue struggled to nurture in the Western Region, contending that it was rather the current regional executives of the party who were destroying the NPP in Takoradi through their practices of nepotism and sidelining of those who lifted the flag of the party when they were struggling in opposition.

Abaatan further told this reporter that no amount of intimidation, threats of expulsion from the party and money enticement would compel him to renege on his decision to contest and win the Takoradi seat. He noted that at a point in time, he was even accused of betraying the party after he had gone on Skyy FM, a local FM station to express dissenting views about the petrol increase announced by the government.

According to Abaatan, 88% of NPP youth in the constituency who were solidly behind him had not wanted to vote but had now changed their decision after he had announced his intention to contest.

Eghan told The Chronicle that he would be disappointing the NPP supporters who were fed up with Mrs. Asmah and other party supporters who had promised to vote in a skirt and blouse style should he succumb to threats and intimidations to abandon his ambition. The deputy chairman of the party, last week told The Chronicle that officially, the party was not aware, but they were waiting to see whether indeed Eghan would file, and then they would apply the party's constitution and sack him.

The former NPP regional chairman noted that he had been an assemblyman for eight and half years where he served as chairman of the economic planning committee. He was also a union leader at the Ghana Railways Company (GRC) where he had worked several years before going on retirement.

Again, he contested Mrs. Asmah in the primaries in 1992, but on two occasions, it ended in a draw and he was asked to give way to his opponent because the party wanted female MPs at the time. To him, therefore, he had the experience to become an MP.

Information gathered from independent sources revealed that President Kufuor, about three months ago, invited Mr. Eghan to the regional administration in Sekondi where he pleaded with him to drop his decision to contest Mrs. Asmah in exchange for a position in government. Abaatan reportedly turned down the offer.

At the said meeting with the president, which was attended by Mrs. Asmah, the current regional chairman of the party, Peter Mac Manu, and a host of other ministers from the region, Abaatan reportedly raised a number of accusations against Asmah. Among the accusations, this reporter gathered, was the charge that she had blocked his appointment as the metropolitan chief executive for Sekondi-Takoradi. Another accusation, which was confirmed by Asmah's aide, Asante 'Marconi', was that the MP had blocked his imminent appointment as the chief executive of the Metro Mass Transport Company after he had suffered to bring the party to power.

The Chronicle learnt that when the president persisted with his demand for him to step down, Eghan reportedly replied that he would consult his advisers before he giving any definite response. As a result of this, the meeting ended in a deadlock with the president travelling back to Accra.

During the interview, Abaatan admitted that President Kufuor invited him to the regional administration in Sekondi when he visited the region recently. He, however, refused to disclose what they had discussed since to him, that would amount to a betrayal of trust.

He, however, said he still loved President Kufuor but his decision to contest Asmah was irreversible because he was sure of winning.

“Mrs. Asmah came to new Takoradi last Saturday and saw the large crowd that was following me on my campaign trail. In fact, she was shocked and could not get down from her car,” Abaatan said.

When the Takoradi constituency chairman of the NPP, Mr. Yaw Asante, popularly known as “Marconi”, was contacted, he said Mrs. Asmah did not deem Abaatan a threat because he had stood for assemblyman position for his area and lost despite all the support given to him by the party.

Marconi said Abaatan's aim and objective was to destroy the votes of Mrs. Asmah for other candidates to sail through but that would never work. According to him, Abaatan's supporters had allegedly been destroying posters of Mrs. Asmah, especially in the Amanful area but that would still not work. He, however, deferred to the elderly aspirant: “We all love and respect Abaatan because he was our former regional chairman.

He is also an opinion leader but we don't see his action as a threat at all,” he noted.

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