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Former President John Mahama has explained that the Chairman of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Mr Samuel Ofosu-Ampofo did not say the Chairman of the National Peace Council, Prof Emmanuel Asante, should be beaten up by the NDC but rather that he should be "criticised" for, according to the newly-elected flag bearer of the party, not condemning the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election violence before demanding an apology from him (Mr Mahama) over his 'match the NPP boot-for-boot' comment after the violence.
"... In the circumstances, I mean, of course, for our Chairman, who had witnessed the violence – the guy whose leg was shot, the bone had shattered and the bone fragments were lying on the ground – anybody who saw it will be traumatised. And, so, if a few days after he [Ofosu-Ampofo] was talking and said: 'we should attack the Peace Council Chairman', he didn’t mean we should go and beat the Peace Council Chairman, he meant that we should criticise him – verbally", Mr Mahama explained at the party's post-flag bearer election thanksgiving service at Perez Chapel International, Accra on Sunday, 3 March 2019.
Mr Mahama said the party had a problem with the Chairman of the National Peace Council for not condemning the violence first before turning his guns on him over his 'boot-for-boot' comment.
On 1 February 2019, Prof Asante called on former President Mahama to apologise to the nation for saying the opposition party will match the governing New Patriotic Party boot-for-boot with violence in the 2020 polls.
While addressing NDC delegates in the Adaklu Constituency of the Volta Region on Thursday, 31 January 2019, Mr Mahama said the NDC would in dishing out violence in the 2020 elections if the government attempts to intimidate and harass NDC supporters with violence.
The former president's comment followed the shooting incident which happened in the course of the by-election when National Security operatives fired at and injured 16 NDC supporters barely an hour into the by-poll around the private residence of the NDC's parliamentary candidate, Kwesi Delali Bbrempong, at La-Bawaleshie. The NDC accused the NPP of being behind the shooting.
Mr Mahama said on that day that: "We are not going to joke in 2020, and I’m sounding a warning to the NPP – we are going to match them boot for boot…"
"I want to sound a caution that NDC has a revolutionary root and when it comes to unleashing violence, no one can beat us to that. It is just that we are mindful of this country’s democracy and that is why we must be the first to respect it. That is why we are acting as a party that is docile and respecting the rule of law. But if we believe that the government cannot protect our people and we believe that the government is using its vigilante groups and illegal forces to intimidate and harass and injure our people, then we may have to advise ourselves."
He added: "We respect the Constitution of this country and the NDC is a democratic party and that's why we abide by the rules of the Constitution. But the same Constitution says that Ghanaians should resist anybody who attempts to subvert the Constitution. When you go rampaging with forces and intimidating people when they should come out and vote, you are subverting the Constitution. And we have a right to resist you."
Reacting to Mr Mahama's warning to the NPP, Rev Asante told Benjamin Akakpo on the Executive Breakfast Show (EBS) on Class91.3FM on Friday, 1 February 2019, that the former president ought to be circumspect in his speech.
Rev. Asante said: "If President John Mahama did say what he said, then it is very unfortunate because he has been a head of state, he has been the president of the nation, he is vying for his party to make him the presidential candidate, and if the people of Ghana want him again, he could become the president of this nation. And if it is going to be 'boot-for-boot' for the nation to be on fire, then there is no mercy for anybody. And I think it is unfortunate that in anger, such things should be said.
"I pray and I want to believe that he didn't mean it, he did it out of anger. We have to be very circumspect and under such circumstances watch the things that we say.
"If he said that, I would want to say that President Mahama, with all humility, I will plead with him to apologise to the nation. In making that statement, he has really created fear in the hearts of people and it’s not just President Mahama I will say this to, I want to say this to all our leaders, people we are looking up to in this nation; that under such circumstances one would expect that they will be the voice of wisdom, a voice that will calm tension, a voice that will help Ghanaians to be able to say: Indeed, we have leaders. So, please let's be very careful about these things that we say".
Before his condemnation of Mr Mahama's 'boot-for-boot' comment, Prof Asante, in the same interview with Benjamin Akakpo on the same day, condemned the violence that marred the by-election by saying: "It is the right of citizens to choose who to represent them in parliament, and it is for that reason that in a democratic era, we conduct elections and citizens have the right to go and select the person they want to select and nobody should intimidate them, and nobody should try to resist people from doing what they need to do.
"Therefore, it's very unfortunate and sad and I must condemn with no reservation what happened yesterday as a result of the by-election. I'm told it didn't happen in a polling station but in an area, there were skirmishes that led to the firing of arms and about seven people got injured and some got beaten. Whatever the situation, whoever did that, whatever led to that, it is uncalled for, it is not necessary, it's unfortunate and it must be condemned."
Rev Prof Asante noted that: "It's about time we grow in our political culture, that we begin to know that we've got to live and let others also live and that we do things in a very peaceful manner."
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