Snubs Defiant Paul Afoko, Kennedy Agyapong and Sammie Awuku, Angry Supporters Storm Headquarters
A decision by the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) to make itself attractive to the electorates ahead of the 2016 Presidential and Parliamentary elections by passing some sweeping executive fiats, has left the party with deeper cracks than before.
Many in the party, are feeling the NPP leadership for imposing parliamentary aspirants on them. They also feel the party is becoming undemocratic. The changes are also seen as attempt to monetize the Parliamentary contest.
Insiders have told The Herald that Nana Akufo-Addo at last Monday’s National Executive Committee meeting, vehemently pushed the undemocratic ideas on the party, despite stiff opposition from officers such as the National Chairman, Paul Afoko, and National Youth Organizer, Sammie Awuku, and Member of Parliament (MP) for Assin Central, Kennedy Agyapong.
The key changes are that, 16 female incumbent MPs, must only be contested by females but not males. Secondly, that all the coastal areas in the Greater Accra Region, must be contested by only indigenous Gas and no other tribe.
Finally, the shielding of incumbent MPs, who have financially supported the cash-strapped party since 2009, by raising the filing fee for those who want to unseat them.
It was said that Nana Addo, was very adamant on the unpopular issue of the female MPs for the simple reason of keeping Ablekuma West MP, Ursula Owusu Ekuful, MP for Tema West, Irene Naa Torshie Addo and Gifty Klenam of Lower West Akyim Constituency in the House, despite their popularity having waned catastrophically.
At last Monday meeting, the only person who is said to have supported the NPP flagbearer was the General Secretary, Kwabena Agyei Agyapong.
The female MPs, particularly Ursula Owusu Ekuful and Irene Naa Torshie Addo, stormed the Asylum Down NPP headquarters two weeks ago, demanding that the National Chairman, allowed them and 14 other female MPs, contest unopposed the party’s parliamentary primaries, scheduled for May 24.
Mr. Afoko, had earlier rejected the suggestion, saying it was going to stir up trouble in the party; a stance he was yesterday vindicated on as hundreds of party supporters besieged the party’s headquarters in Accra, asking the NEC to rescind its decision to allow men contest Constituencies with women sitting MPs.
Meanwhile, Central Regional Chairman of the governing National Democratic Congress (NDC), Bernard Allotey Jacobs, has described the NPP’s decision to allow indigenous Gas to contest in fishing communities as “face saving”, while former Attorney General, Nii Ayikoi Otoo, has supported the decision of his party to reserve some seats in the Greater Accra Region for his tribesmen.
“I think that it is a good idea to bring the Gas on board to let them know that the NPP is not anti-Ga,” Mr. Ayikoi Otoo told Starr News yesterday.
Some of the seats being considered to be reserved for Gas include, Ngleshie Amanfrom, Ledzokuku, Krowor and Odododiodoo. Currently, Ledzokuku, Odododiodoo and Krowor seats are being occupied by members of the governing NDC. They are Mrs. Benita Sena Okity-Duah, Nii Lantey Vanderpuije, and Dr. Nii Oakley Quaye-Kumah, respectively.
Bernard Allotey Jacobs, said it was a strategy introduced by the NPP to gain favour from the Gas after their ethnocentric comments as far as leadership of the country was concerned.
“Has the NPP forgotten their tribal comments they made to the lovely people of the Gas, telling them that in as much as most of the lands and leadership in the country are [for] Gas, they should not always be allowed to take positions in the country. Such comments to me did not go down well for the Gas”.
He was reacting to the recent proposal by the NPP to allow candidates from the Greater Accra region contest in predominantly Ga-speaking areas in the Region.
This is part of the party’s strategy to win more seats in the Greater Accra Region ahead of the 2016 general elections. But in an interview with Adom FM, yesterday, Allotey Jacobs, opined that though the policy introduced by the NPP was a good strategy, it would take some time for the Ga people to forget about their ethnocentric comments.
“That policy by the NPP will really take many years to be fulfilled or better still it won’t even work at all if they refuse to work at it.
Mr Ayikoi Otoo–a Ga, who contested the Krowor seat in 2008 and 2012 but lost, said reserving some strategic seats for Gas would help give true meaning to a Ga caucus in parliament.
The former Minister for Justice and Attorney General, said he knows of only four Gas who are currently occupying seats in the Greater Accra Region, a situation which he noted is uncomplimentary of the indigenous people.
But at the NPP’s headquarters yesterday, were buses loaded with party supporters to protest the decision, which bars men from contesting female incumbent MPs.
“They have presented a petition to the party leadership to rescind such decision…they believe this particular rule is discriminatory and there is nothing like that in their constitution,” one reporter said.
In the Eastern Region, some NPP members also stormed the Lower West Akyim party office yesterday, over the same decision. They believe the decision to prevent men from contesting incumbent female MPs is not in the best interest of the party, while threatening to excuse themselves from the party if the “decision is allowed to stay.”
It appears Gifty Klenam, the incumbent MP of Lower West Akyim Constituency is on her way out of parliament.
The leadership of the NPP was forced to ask the party supporters to calm down, while they forward their petition to the appropriate quarters for redress.
But in what appears to be a U-turn on the decision barring male aspirants from contesting female MPs, the Communications Director of the NPP, Nana Akomea, has said that the party would only encourage male aspirants not to contest 16 seats held by female MPs, insisting their affirmative action policy will not be forced down anybody’s throat.
In a major U-turn barely 18 hours after the party announced that no male will challenge female incumbents in the party’s parliamentary primaries, the NPP said, this policy would rely on a “moral force”, not a binding fiat.
“The important point is that, nobody will be barred from contesting a sitting female MP… Nobody will be barred on the basis of gender,” Nana Akomea stressed yesterday.
In a watered-down defense, Nana Akomea, claims the policy was a “proposal”, but was “adopted” by the National Executive Council which will “try and make compromises” with aspirants bent on contesting female sitting MPs.
Akomea insisted that the policy was only to implement affirmative action plans “generally accepted” all over the world, including Ghana.
He referred to the inability of the governing NDC to adhere to its own plans to reserve 40 percent of political appointments for women.
Nonetheless, Nana Akomea, noted that there was an element of political “risk” to reserve the 16 seats for the women.
The decision by the NEC, was announced yesterday after a meeting involving the 2016 flagbearer, Nana Akufo-Addo, former NPP chairmen and General Secretaries, and a host of other MPs.
But it has ruffled feathers in and outside the party with political pollster Ben Ephson criticizing the policy as a “total disaster” and “recipe for defeat”.
Although former CEO of Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly Kofi Jumah has praised the decision and resigned himself not to contest the Asokwa seat in the Ashanti region, Abdullah Bonsu in the Awutu-Senya constituency in the Central region has kicked against the plan.
But arguments are also that about 60 years ago, the people living in then Accra Central Constituency decided to vote for Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah from the Western Region as their MP against Obetsebi-Lamptey, an indigenous Ga.
“Nkrumah did not come from Greater Accra nor was he a Ga but the Ga people voted for him overwhelmingly. After over 60 years, the NPP wants to take us back to that era when we were identified by our ethnicity rather than our key competences and skills. The Ga people are the most politically discerning people you can have” one observer said.