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Come Saturday, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) will enjoy that leap-year-gap attention again, as it happened four years ago, when delegates— the party’s kingmakers— shall gather in the Upper East regional capital to elect regional executives ahead of the 2020 general elections.
About 300 delegates drawn from the region’s three zones— the east, the central and the west— have their names on the electoral roll to determine the fate of 52 contenders in a race featuring only 7 women.
The contestants have their campaign pictures glued to all manner of vehicles in town, buildings everywhere, the party’s branch offices in all 15 constituencies, trees across the region and marketplaces in every village.
The alarm about the soon-to-be-conducted polls is not just the number of aspirants observers have described as notably high, but desperation and competition for visibility having reached a depth where some campaign stickers have been spotted on even chamber pots and public places of convenience!
The topmost chairmanship slot has five heavyweights (including the incumbent) who are deploying resources unsparingly, as the ‘judgement day clock’ ticks closer to the last hour, to feed up their chances.
The eastern zone consists of six constituencies— Tempane, Garu, Pusiga, Bawku Central, Binduri and Zebilla. The central bloc has five: Bolgatanga Central, Bolgatanga East, Nabdam, Talensi and Bongo. The western league comprises four— Navrongo Central, Chiana-Paga, Builsa North and Builsa South.
Just a quick look at the chances, threats, promises and contributions the five chairmanship aspirants have got could offer some clue as to which side may have the last swing of the pendulum.
“Late Adams gave us an assignment when he was dying”— Lawyer Anthony Namoo
Arguably the most popular candidate on radio waves in the region, Lawyer Anthony Namoo also occupies the coveted number-one slot on the ballot paper.
He is a man whose physical structure is who he is: well-built and courageous. Whilst his party was in opposition, he used his physique and bravery, as soldiers and police officers stood with arms, to non-violently remove scores of police trainees believed to be ineligible from a queue at a special voting polling station in Bolgatanga in 2016.
Although he is from the central zone, as a lawyer who has spent 14 years of his life so far in the courtroom and has defended some of the delegates or their relatives and friends in crucial cases across the zonal divides, he is likely to attract a good number of thank-you votes from the other zones in addition to the fraternity votes that naturally will come from his bloc. And that could be enough to put him through.
Some of the delegates, who are also aware that the Nabdam-born Regional Financial Secretary of the party is also a member of the Ghana Immigration Service Council, may also want to associate themselves with him only as they enter the polling booth one after the other this Saturday because he reportedly supports the party’s regional office to pay its rental and utility bills and he is helping the party currently to prepare some acquisition and registration documents for a piece of land where he has pledged to build a regional office complex for the party.
Lawyer Namoo has at least three ‘hurdles’ that constitute a threat to his chairmanship bid. Among his fellow aspirants are two stout candidates who also hail from the central zone— Filson Awankua and Joseph Agongo. It is more likely than not that these three (Lawyer Namoo included) would share among themselves the 85 votes coming from the central side, narrowing each other’s winning paths.
Again, whilst Lawyer Namoo is telling delegates what he has in store for them, his opponents seem to be telling the delegates to expect nothing from an itinerant lawyer who is going to be too busy to sit in the party office as he shuttles between his chambers in Accra and Bolgatanga over court cases.
The aspirant is the lawyer who speaks for the family of the late NPP Regional Chairman, Adams Mahama, against Gregory Afoko, one of the suspects charged with killing the philanthropist with acid.
Lawyering for the grieving family of the late chairman since 2015 logically would also set the teeth of Gregory’s famous brother and suspended National Chairman of the NPP, Paul Afoko, on edge. Starr News asked Lawyer Namoo if he feared the financially robust Paul Afoko would campaign underground against him and resource his rivals to cut him out in the chairmanship race.
“I can’t answer that question directly,” he replied. “But what I can say is that I expect the worst. I would not be surprised if they would do that. People are not able to distinguish between your profession and your political life. I’m following Adams’s case because at the time he was dying, he gave us an assignment. He mentioned two people’s names. One has been arrested and he’s standing trial. I have attended court more than anybody else— except, of course, the judge, the prosecutor and the accused himself— just to ensure that justice is served [in favour of] Adams.”
Would incumbent Murtala survive the ‘Eastern Curse’ this Saturday?
Mohammed Murtala Ibrahim was the party’s First Vice Chairman at the time Adams Mahama was poisoned with acid (the chemical found its way through his mouth to his internal organs) by assailants who also left his body partly burnt with the corrosive substance.
The tragedy struck a week after Adams reportedly had led a group of his devotees in chasing Paul Afoko and the then National Secretary, Kwabena Agyepong, in the most graceless of fashions out of the region when they arrived in the regional capital in May, 2015, to have a meeting with party supporters.
Some of the party’s key regional executives, said to have opposed what Adams did to Afoko and Agyepong, fled into hiding in the wake of Adams’s death for fear of attack from inconsolable supporters of the slain chairman. The party’s structures in the region were plunged into disarray less than 17 months to the 2016 general elections.
After Mr. Ibrahim took over as chairman, the feud gradually faded away. But the scars remained. Under his chairmanship, the party that went into the general elections with only one parliamentary seat gained two more from two former Interior Ministers— Cletus Apul Avoka in the east and Mark Owen Woyongo in the west. The party, which had never crossed a 30% mark in the region since 1992, bagged 38.99% for the first time at the 2016 polls.
Some delegates may vote for him because of those achievements among other feats. They may also consider his new pledge to increase the seats to 7 and to lead the party to scoring 50% in 2020. A number of the kingmakers may say he now deserves his own term of another four years after only completing the previous term for his late boss to their satisfaction.
One thing that makes him a very happy man is the fact that he is the only chairmanship aspirant from an eastern zone that has the biggest number of constituencies and, for that matter, the most number of delegates. He hopes to win most of the votes from the ‘populous east’ and to attract a considerable amount of thumbprints from the others, to be retained.
But he is not the only candidate to have emerged alone from a bloc. Alhaji Abdallah Otito Achuliwor, from the west, is vying for same position. And he (Alhaji Achuliwor) surely would be working alike for same result— to get most of the votes from the west and to capture a good number from the east and the central— to win.
Besides, the open rift between Mr. Ibrahim and the Upper East Regional Minister, Rockson Bukari, is not a threat to ignore. The minister may have some delegates so loyal to him as to want to disappoint the reelection-seeking chairman, no matter what he promises them, to please the minister. It is similar to what some observers think Joseph Kofi Adda, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Navrongo Central, could do underground and aboveground to Alhaji Achuliwor, his till-death-do-us-part parliamentary-primaries archrival, in this election.
Now, this could be the biggest worry for Mr. Ibrahim. It is reported that since the advent of the NPP in the region, whenever a first vice chairman from the east takes over as regional chairman and he contests the next election to be retained, he does not win. Alhaji Bawa Abdulai, popularly known as Alhaji TUC, was a Regional Chairman at the time of the Kufuor Administration. He died in 2006 and was replaced by his deputy, Ahmed Tahiru Issahaku from Zebilla in the eastern zone. Mr. Issahaku contested the subsequent election. He lost.
When Agnes Chigabatia resigned somewhere in 2011 as Regional Chairperson to contest the 2012 parliamentary elections in the Builsa North Constituency, her deputy from the eastern zone, Gabriel Asana, took over as Regional Chairman. Gabriel contested the 2014 elections. He lost to Adams Mahama. Adams, from the central zone, left the chair also prematurely for Murtala, from the east. Would Murtala break that ‘eastern curse’ this Saturday?
One of the candidates, Filson Awankua, has a strong following. The party’s structures Murtala says he has brought together Filson strongly argues the chairman has only succeeded in putting asunder.
His message— to reunite the party, to restore compromised checks and balances and to win more seats in 2020— has been well received. But observers say he had spent most of his working years in Accra and, for that matter, the delegates may award him a mark as low on their all-important familiarity score-sheet as what will reflect this Saturday in the transparent ballot box.
Some also have said Joseph Agongo, another candidate, only became known to the majority of the elephant relatives last year when he expressed interest in the position of the Bolgatanga Municipal Chief Executive, which eluded him. But he is popular because he gave substantial financial aid to countless aspirants who contested the constituency elections held in February, this year, and has supported the party’s activities with funds for some time now. Pundits believe the constituency aspirants he supported, some of whom are delegates or have links to some of the delegates, will reciprocate that gesture in 72 hours’ time from now.
Saturday is heading so near towards the region, holding a bouquet of surprises behind its back. Those who are too sure of victory may end up stunned, like a barefaced warrior in a sudden contact with the head of Medusa, when the returning officer begins to declare the results.
In the contest also is a popular miner, Charles Taleog Ndanbon, who says he will win more seats for the NPP if voted as the Regional Organiser. His airborne popularity is, if not more than, equal to that of Lawyer Namoo. He beats everybody on social media thanks to one Emmanuel Baare, a former activist of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) who used to be an iron thorn in the flesh of the NPP. He has turned his Facebook wall into a campaign field, showcasing pictures and messages from Mr. Ndanbon’s everyday tour of the region.
The NDC sees Emmanuel Baare as Judas Iscariot, whose betrayal plot rocked Jesus’ ministry. But the NPP, on the other side, has received him as Saul of Tarsus, who initially persecuted the followers of Christ but later became Paul the Apostle. Some aspirants who are less popular on air look unfazed by the media hype their rivals appear to be enjoying. They seem to have tapped some inspiration from an unsubstantiated statement made by some constituents when the NDC was about to conduct its parliamentary primaries in Bongo in 2015, which Edward Bawa (now MP for Bongo) eventually won. They said, “Dr. Avea is popular on the ground, but Edward Bawa is popular on the register.”
Agana Bawa Rashid, Chief Executive Officer of Tanga Multimedia Group, owners of Tanga Radio, says he is one of the surprises to watch out for this weekend as he is set, with a confident smile, to become the first media mogul or practitioner in the region to become the Regional Organiser of a party. He got 13 votes on June 13 when he disastrously contested the parliamentary primaries in 2015. He is more than poised, in a God-forbid posture, to block an ugly history from repeating itself this Saturday— obtaining 21 votes on April 21.
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