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11.01.2006 General News

Exposed: Faces behind new political force

By The Statesman
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... Obed, Nduom, Antwi-Danso, Jonah ... In recent weeks newspapers such as The Statesman, Harunna Atta's Accra Daily Mail, Ben Ephson's Daily Dispatch, Gina Blay's Daily Guide and the Palaver, have alluded to the emergence of a third or more political parties to challenge the dominance of the National Democratic Congress on the left and the New Patriotic Party on the right.

Despite spirited denials from some of the personalities involved, The Statesman can report that in the last few days an urgent process of consolidation has been set in motion.

The purpose is simple. To form a new single, formidable, credible centre-left political party, to give Ghanaians an alternative to the two main political parties, whose dislike for each other is seen as most unhealthy for the positive growth of Ghana's democracy.

The new impetus was presented by last week's resignation of Obed Yao Asamoah from the NDC. Before that, Minister for Public Sector Reform, Paa Kwesi Nduom was, as disclosed by The Statesman (Monday 12 – Tuesday 13 December 2005), canvassing support for a new party (code-named the Freedom Party) which aimed “to gather like-minded people from all parts of Ghanaian society, activists from the existing political parties and others who are looking for a credible alternative that will be competitive in the 2008 elections.” Supporting the CPP MP in this venture is Mike Eghan, who recently resigned from the CPP executive.

Another group, as disclosed by the Daily Dispatch, included Vladimir Antwi-Danso, a university don; Kow Ansah, owner of TV Africa; Agyeman Badu Akosah, head of the Ghana Health Service; and Bright Akwetey, a lawyer.

Dr Asamoah, according to our investigations, is working with some exiting constituency chairpersons and other regional executives of the NDC to join forces with the Reform Party. Crucial to these negotiations, our sources disclose, is former security capo, Capt Kojo Tsikata (retired).

Our checks further indicate that former P/NDC Finance Minister Kwesi Botchwey is a persuasive voice in getting the Obed group and the Reform Party to join forces with the others to form one formidable centre-left party.

Sam Jonah, former President of mining giant Anglogold Ashanti (who holds an honourary British knighthood), is suspected to be a major force encouraging the creation of a decent competitive political force to the ruling NPP. Sources say he has held a series of discussions with Dr Nduom over the matter.

Supporting such a formation is the CEO of Star Assurance and publisher of the Heritage newspaper, Kwabena Duffuor. The former Governor of the Bank of Ghana is typical of many of the big names behind the proposed new force. They are mainly capitalist practitioners who entertain a soft romantic spot for socialism.

Such a new party, with such a long roll call of respectable personalities in Ghana, is bound to win a lot of sympathy and support from the media and present a sexy political appeal to the electorate and feed into the pool of floating votes.

Ben Ephson told The Statesman that he believes about 40 to 50 percent of the voter base is floating. He argues that Rawlings controls about 15 percent of the general electorate, with a smaller percentage sympathetic to the NDC yet opposed to the violent image associated with the Rawlings factor.

“If you talk about Rawlings' core support I don't think it would exceed 15 percent. The other 10 percent are those who prefer the non-violence side of the NDC.”

A sizeable chunk of this 15 percent the election analyst believes may be lost to the NDC if the third force plays its cards right.

He believes the exodus from the party is only beginning. “There are lot of people, like NDC MPs, who would also jump at the right time.”

Besides, Mr Ephson believes the NPP's core support is between 25 and 30 percent. Likely to have a name woven around the words Social and Democratic, the preponderance of names that have come up as leaders of the new party are mostly sons of Kwame Nkrumah's Convention Peoples Party. It includes such names as Vladimir Antwi-Danso, former Dean of Students of the University of Ghana and the CPP Member of Parliament for Komenda-Edina-Eguafo-Abrem; and Paa Kwesi Nduom, Minister for Public Sector Reform in President Kufuor's all-inclusive government.

Dr Nduom has consistently denied his involvement in the formation of a new political party, most recently in the Daily Graphic of Monday January 9, 2005. Just as consistently, however, he has been cited as leading the charge to form a new party, following his public expression of a loss of confidence in his party's leadership.

But, perhaps the greatest surprises are Dr Asamoah and Dr Botchwey, former golden haired sons of the NDC.

Dr Botchwey, after failing to win the flagbearership of the NDC for the 2004 election, quietly left the scene and sat in the shadows until he resurfaced after the NDC's National Delegates' Congress held at the Eredec Hotel at Koforidua, the Eastern Regional capital.

Dr Asamoah, who last week renounced his membership of the National Democratic Congress for fear of losing his life if he remained in the largest opposition party, after being intimidated into losing his bid to retain his chairmanship of the party, was expected to remain on the quiet after his resignation. However, he did indicate in his resignation statement that he intended to “remain engaged in the politics of Ghana” after his resignation.

Perhaps this is his way of being actively engaged in the politics of Ghana. Other former members of the NDC who have resigned in recent weeks, such as Frances Assiam, former Women's Organiser – whose whipping by thugs at the Koforidua Congress was described as “rewarding” by Ato Ahwoi in the Monday January 9 issue of The Vanguard – and Kwaku Baah, former National Vice Chairman, are tipped to join the party.

Although she has not resigned, Faustina Nelson, a former leading member of the Verandah Boys and Girls Club of the NDC, is also rumoured to be contemplating a switch of camps.

Deep throat voices within the leadership of the proposed new party have told this paper that the leaders of the new party intend to position it as the middle ground in the political tug-of-war currently being waged by the two leading parties, and campaign on the platform of newness, ala Goosie Tanoh's Reform Party. They will appeal to the masses who, although not necessarily members of the Danquah-Busia tradition, voted for it as the only credible alternative to the NDC.

According to calculations of the new party's founders, it will be hard to criticise or pigeonhole it because, although it will have seasoned politicians to lead it, it has no previous record to be judged against – conversely, it's Achilles' heel, since it has little political reference points.