RELIABLE information reaching The Statesman has it that Obed Yao Asamoah, the embattled National Chairman of the opposition National Democratic Congress, will not after all seek re-election as the NDC's number one man. The reason, according to impeccable sources close to the 69-year-old former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, is simple: “His age and deteriorating health can no longer take the abrasive nature of the unproductive hate politics within the party.”
But The Statesman is reliably informed by insiders that even though he will not seek re-election, Dr Asamoah is “adamant that he still cares for the party's future” and will therefore put up a good fight from the sidelines to ensure the NDC is not “hijacked” by founder Jerry Rawlings and “its electoral appeal narrowed by the Rawlings factor.”
The former General Secretary of the Danquah-Busia UNC and APP in the Third Republic is very convinced that the Party, whose formation he led, has a bleak future with Mr Rawlings anywhere near the driving seat.
Indeed, there are suggestions that the NDC Chairman may actually quit the Party altogether and lead a formidable exodus with several others uncomfortable about staying in a party that is progressively defining and limiting its relevance and existence to the so-called 'Rawlings Factor'.
Another anti-Rawlings office holder set to quit is France “Hurricane” Assiam. The NDC's National Women Organiser, like Dr Asamoah, may find it difficult to stay in the Party after December.
The news of Dr Asamoah's intention not to seek re-election may come as a welcome surprise for his enemies within the NDC, whose strategy for the December congress appears defined by a “Keep Obed Out” pre-occupation. They may now have to re-define their strategy and search within themselves for candidates who may be Obed plants.
In support of this new concern, sources close to the NDC Chairman claim he has put in place an elaborate and highly confidential plan to beat back moves from Mr Rawlings to swamp the Party's national executive with pro-Rawlings people. Dr Asamoah's protracted 'war' with the NDC founder started soon after he defeated Rawlings-sponsored Huudu Yahaya to become Party Chairman, after he had lobbied for the defeat of the, again, Rawlings-sponsored proposal for Joint Chairmanship.
Our latest information follows our publication in last Monday's edition of The Statesman which blew the blanket over former President Rawlings' hit list with which he hopes to clip the wings of the embattled National Chairman of his party.
Recently, Huudu Yahaya temporarily fell out with the Rawlings camp over attempts to turn the national congress of the party initially planned for Tamale into an Abudu/Andaani battle, labelling the Obed side as Abudu. However, Alhaji Yahaya, an Abudu fought against that.
Yesterday on Radio Gold's Sixty Minutes programme, former Foreign Minister, James Victor Gbeho, and a close Rawlings' associate, launched a rather unusual verbal attack on the incumbent Chairman, virtually declaring him as the main source of divisions and other problems afflicting the NDC.
Telling radio listeners that the NDC has become “shakier and shakier” ever since Dr Asamoah assumed the Chairmanship position of the Party, the former Independent Member of Parliament for Anlo, who is also in the race to unseat the incumbent Chairman, accused the former of forming “cliques” in the NDC and using these “cliques” to advance his agenda of undermining both the founder, Jerry John Rawlings and two-time flagbearer, John Evans Atta Mills from the party.
But the career diplomat thinks Dr Asamoah's war against the Rawlingses is misdirected and will not succeed: “I don't think anybody is fooled by his intention to throw out the founder and the flagbearer of the party.” Condemning Dr Asmoah's style of leadership as “abrasive,” Mr Gbeho went as far as telling radio listeners why Dr Asamoah lacks the needed qualities to continue to lead the NDC: “Obed is one of the best lawyers in Ghana but when it comes to dealing with people he is not.”
Mr Gbeho is not the only aspirant hitting at the man who, hitherto, was the man to beat in the chairmanship. In an interview with this paper yesterday, Fred Ohene Kena, former Mines and Energy Minister and currently Eastern Regional Chairman of the Party, who is also in the race for the NDC Chairmanship, emphasised that the exit of Dr Asamoah as the National Chairman of the NDC remains the only roadmap to peace in the troubled immediate past ruling party. Mr Kena told this paper that the long running dispute between the Chairman and the founder of the party as well as the flagbearer of the Party was enough reason for Dr Asmoah to have honourably “resigned” his position to pave way for peace in the Party. But, he said, since Dr Asamoah has “refused to resign, I have decided to enter the race to get rid of him.”
With this in mind, Mr Kena says he is going into the December 17 National Delegates Congress with only one motive: “To get rid of Dr Obed Asamoah, and to foster unity at the topmost level of the NDC.”
Now that credible information indicates that the incumbent plans to step down after his current tenure, it remains to be seen if so far the only Akan in the race for the chairmanship of the NDC would step down.
Mr Kena sees Dr Asamoah's departure as a prelude to realising the Party's ambition of grabbing the keys to the Castle, after eight years in opposition. Asked how he plans to embark on his intended reconciliation campaign between the two feuding factions in the NDC, Mr Kena's response was: “I don't need any extra energy to foster unity in the NDC,” after Chairman Dr Asamoah's exit. He told The Statesman that the NDC needs to “present a united front during elections,” a crucial factor which he said was seriously missing during the Party's campaign towards the last general elections in 2004.
“You don't expect to win an election when the Chairman is at war with both the flag bearer and the founder of the party,” Mr Kena said.
He denied rumours that he is being sponsored by the Rawlingses against the incumbent Chairman, insisting that his motive for entering the race is to re-unite the NDC and make the party more appealing to the electorate come December 2008.
In last Monday's publication, The Statesman revealed why Dr Asamoah, may be in for more trouble than he currently realises in his bid to ensure the growth of the NDC but not in the founder's image.
The article stated: “The Statesman can reveal that former President Jerry Rawlings has compiled a list of his favourites for each national executive position in the party, and is bent on seeing them elected into those key positions. Their task is to beat the current Chairman into oblivion and then serve as Mr Rawlings' campaign hit squad to win power from the New Patriotic Party in December 2008.”
“The most important task so far, as far as Mr Rawlings is concerned, is to remove Dr Obed Asamoah from a position where he could even be faintly seen as remotely controlling the affairs of the NDC.” A source close to Dr Obed sees this as a “political paranoia.”