Come out to vote – Akufo-Addo urges NPP supporters
Tomorrow August 30, the people in the Odododiodio constituency will cast their ballots to determine who becomes the 5th occupant of the constituency's parliamentary seat in the Fourth Republic. While the contest is expected to be tight, sober analysts are betting on the National Democratic Congress candidate beating his closest rival but in a tape finish.
A leading member of the New Patriotic Party believes the ruling party can win back the seat if only it can get its supporters out tomorrow to cast their ballot.
Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo believes the NPP's greatest challenge may be voter apathy. After taking part in a house-to-house campaign in the constituency last Saturday, the Member for Abuakwa South told The Statesman, “While we should not seek to exaggerate the importance of this by-election outcome, I believe there is a good chance of our candidate swinging the votes back home if we can get our people to come out and show their support.”
He sees it as regrettable that the NDC “has chosen to redefine opposition politics, limiting it to opposing any policy by Government that offers hope for Ghanaians. That is not the telltale sign of a party with a credible alternative plan for the people. No. That is the hallmark of a professional spoiler – plain and simple.”
The Foreign Minister, who was born in Odododiodio, warns the electorate there against what he calls “the unnecessary mistake of giving the NDC, a party with no constructive agenda for nation building, any false hope that Ghanaians may be willing so soon to forgive and forget the pain of unrivalled economic hardships and the additional pain of callous and corrupt leadership which defined and continues to define that party's political relevance in the national scheme of things.”
With a tacit reference to last Thursday's violent street clash between supporters of the two main parties, Nana Akufo-Addo says, “People should ignore the attempt to re-inject violence into our politics. We know the political forces that benefit from creating an atmosphere of chaos, fear and insecurity. “This is another opportunity to drum home the point that the democratic train to the common destination of peace, unity and prosperity is well on course. And those feeling claustrophobic must not seek to cure their thing by plotting to derail the nation's progress. We should not and would not allow that. “Tomorrow, our supporters can let the thumbprint tell the NDC once again to sit back, relax, behave and enjoy the ride.”
Still appealing to the electorate, the Foreign Minister says, “People should focus on issues that will get Ghana going. And the group that has the plan, the compass and the capacity to drive the nation forward is the NPP.”
He makes a direct appeal to NPP activists and, those he calls, “sympathisers of good governance”, urging them to cast their votes tomorrow. “The only message left is that our people should come out and exercise their franchise. We are asking the majority of the people of Odododiodio to come out and vote for Asafoatse Mankatah so that their MP will be part of the winning team – the Majority in Parliament that is working hard and responsibly to improve the lives of every Ghanaian.”
The cabinet minister admits, however, “This by-election looks as if it's going to be close. This is the more reason why our people cannot refuse to show up and vote.”
Four young and not so young men, representing the DPP, CPP, NDC and the ruling NPP, have spent the better part of this month canvassing for the votes of their kinsmen and every other eligible voter in the constituency to facilitate their bid for the legislature. All four, Issaka Nii Amu Collison-Cofie, Christian Shanko Bruce, a veteran of the 1979 elections, Jonathan Nii Tackie Commey, and Lennox Sydney Kojo Asafoatse Mankatah, are very sure of victory.
However, following sporadic attacks on and by supporters of the various candidates, there is the real possibility that voters might decide to stay away from the polls. Voter apathy, while unlikely, may impact heavier on the NPP than on the NDC, whose candidate won in the 2004 election, some analysts argue. Already, some election monitors, such as the Institute of Economic Affairs, have predicted an NDC victory. Speaking on Citi FM, the Institute's Kwesi Jonah last Tuesday declared that information it has gathered through a survey puts the NDC in a very comfortable position to retain the seat.
Also, Ben Ephson, prominent election monitor and Editor of the Daily Dispatch, speaking on Accra's PeaceFM last week, said he would be “surprised” if the NPP won.
Kweku Baako Jnr, a CPP sympathiser and avid defender of the Kufuor administration sought to play down Tuesday's by-election results on Joy FM last Saturday. Observers are likely to interprete that as part of a psychological preparation for a probable NDC victory.
However, the NPP candidate has dismissed claims that the opposition NDC will win tomorrow's by-election.
According to him, the IEA's forecast is “baseless and has no merit of reality in it.”
Speaking to The Statesman shortly after addressing his followers at a mammoth rally at Kantamanto in Accra last Thursday, the NPP candidate said he was sure he will win tomorrow's race, which has become necessary following the demise of his father, Samuel Nii Ayikwei Mankatah, NDC MP, on July 4 this year. He told our reporter that considering the “serious preparation put up by the NPP” in the run up to the by-election, he “will record a landslide victory come Tuesday.”
Mr Asafoatse Mankatah told this paper that when elected, he would source for funds to support the fishing business of his constituents in an attempt to eradicate poverty in the area.
Parliamentary elections in this predominantly Ga populated constituency has always been most unpredictable. This fact is amply illustrated by the fact that no sitting MP has been able to retain the seat for his party. In 1996, although the NDC's Nii Okaija Adamafio retained the seat for his party, it had been won by a different candidate, Ishmael Ayitey, in 1992, when all the opposition parties boycotted the parliamentary election. The former Interior Minister polled 29,142, representing 49.7% of the total number of valid votes cast, defeating the then National Chairman of the NPP, Samuel Odoi-Sykes.
However, in 2000, the NDC lost the seat to the NPP. The NPP's Niibi Ayi Bonte emerged the victor after bagging 28,270(51.4%) of the total number of valid votes cast, with the incumbent, Okaija Adamafio, trailing behind with 24,132 votes, representing 43.9% of the valid votes cast.
But, in 2004, the seat returned to the opposition NDC. Niibi Ayi Bonte lost to NDC's Samuel Nii Ayikwei Mankatah, who had broken ranks with the NPP. Nii Ayikwei Mankatah polled 35,634 votes, representing 52.4% of the total number of valid votes. The incumbent NPP MP, Niibi Ayi Bonte, received 31,546 votes, representing 46.4% of the valid votes cast whiles CPP's Isaac Nii Annan Mettle-Ofei got 1.2% of the votes.
There are over 81,000 voters in the constituency formerly known as Ashiedu Keteke. In the 2004 election, it recorded a 75% voter turnout. Six candidates initially filed their papers to run for the vacant seat. The number, however, was cut to four after the only two independent candidates pulled out of the race.
Walid Laryea, former Constituency Organiser of the NDC, who broke ranks with the party to run independent, was first to withdraw his candidature under heavy pressure from the party's top hierarchy. He subsequently threw his weight behind the NDC candidate.
A week later, Alex Nii Ayitey Wiseman, the other remaining independent candidate, bowed out. This was after he received assurances from President Kufour that certain specific development projects, including the provision of street lights, would be undertaken in the constituency. He has since thrown his support behind the ruling NPP.