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07.12.2005 General News

Who dunnit?

By Statesman
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IN the heat of the indiscreet pronouncements made by the National Chairman of the New Patriotic Party, Harona Esseku, at a meeting with party delegates, there are whispers in the corridors of the ruling party that key people in the party, probably one or both of the other contenders for the national chairmanship, sponsored the recording of the speeches at the event.

According to this line of thinking, the recording could have been part of a wider strategy to ensure the electoral loss of the incumbent Chairman, while furthering the electoral fortunes of the sponsor(s). It was then passed on to a newspaper that could be trusted to happily receive and use it.

But speaking to The Statesman yesterday, Raymond Archer, Editor of The Enquirer maintained that his paper did not use a middle source to secure the recording. He refused to confirm that the recording took place at Asamankese in the Eastern Region.

That meeting took place on Thursday November 3, the day after Harona Esseku launched a similar attack at a similar forum in Koforidua accusing the Castle of hijacking funds meant for the party.

At the Asamankese meeting were 55 delegates from eleven constituencies in the Eastern Region, including Akuapem South, Suhum, Upper West Akyem and Oda. On the high table were eleven party officials, including the National Chairman, National Organiser Lord Commey, aspiring General Secretary Kojo Smith, Eastern Regional Secretary Alex Agobo, the 2nd Regional Vice Chairman Umal Babs Bodinga and the Regional Youth Organiser, Ahmed Usif Yonah.

The meeting took place at the premises of the Vocational School in Asamankese on the Oda Road.

“What we failed to do,” admitted Lord Commey, “was to identify everybody there and exclude those who were not invited.”

Also sitting close to the high table, on the left side of it were the chairpersons for Suhum and Nsawam (Akuapem South).

The Accra bi-weekly has in recent weeks alleged in a series of publications that the National Chairman, speaking to some party faithful and later two journalists from the paper, leveled accusations of malfeasance, including the reception and keeping of “kickbacks” from winners of government contracts, against the Presidency.

The 'revelations' were secretly recorded at the two meetings. The Statesman has secured copies of what was captured on tape.

The Enquirer appears to have inadvertently admitted in another taped conversation with Mr Esseku that the topic of discussion was about “the Castle hijacking party funds.”

But while suspicion has fallen on a number of key party functionaries, including the two men gunning for his seat, as the originators of the idea to perhaps 'silence' Mr Esseku, the general thinking in large sections of the party is that it was an inside job, perhaps sponsored by key persons in the party.

The contents of the tape are said to be so clear the person who did the recording must have been sitting very close to Mr Esseku, or the recording device was sited very close to where he sat during the meeting.

Speaking to The Statesman yesterday, Peter Mac Manu denied categorically that he had a hand in the organisation of the recording.

“Why would I want to do something so diabolical? This is a party I have worked all these years to build up. Why would I want to do something that would bring the party's name into disrepute?” he told The Statesman from Yapei Kusorgu in the Northern Region, where he is meeting constituency executives to seek support for his candidature.

“I have never met those two journalists, if indeed they are the ones who recorded him. I have always maintained that this campaign should be fought on the basis of facts and the ability to deliver. After all, we are all members of the same party. Why would I do something to rock the boat, especially at this stage of the campaign?”

Also reached for comment, Stephen Ayesu Ntim indicated that he had no hand in the said recording.

Reached for his comments last night, Mr Esseku said he had also heard of a “so-called plot, but those who say it haven't been able to back it up with facts.” He has therefore dismissed it.

The Castle and Mr Esseku have both denied that the President is the recipient of kickbacks, but have both asserted that the President has a right to raise funds for the party, being the most high profile member.

Although there is a thin line between funds donated by individuals and companies to help run a party and a deliberate attempt to get winners of government contracts to contribute to the running of the party whose government gave them the said contract, the law as it currently stands does not prevent a ruling party approaching award winners of government contracts to contribute towards the party.

The true identity of the person who made the recordings is yet to be discovered. But, it appears very unlikely that it was directly secured by the Enquirer.