It seems the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) presented the precious gift to former President John Mahama on his 60th birthday with the announcement that the party was setting GH¢400,000 as filing fees and GH¢20,000 for nomination forms for its upcoming presidential primaries.
The GH¢420,000, which has been described by political pundits as outrageous, seems to fall in line with the agenda of some top executives of the party to give John Mahama a befitting birthday present and kick out the other 12 aspirants from the flagbearership race.
Even though it appears a ‘good’ job done for the ex-president as he cruises to resounding victory, some contenders, especially Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Alban S.K. Bagbin, are visibly outraged over the astronomical fees they are being compelled to pay to contest in the election which apparently is being ‘cooked’ for Mr. Mahama.
The ‘killer’ fees are causing outrage in the party, with supporters of other aspirants and apolitical individuals expressing fear that the NDC race is for the highest bidder.
Mr. Bagbin has already kicked against the fees and is working hard to rally the other contestants to jointly fight against it.
He is quoted by Class FM as saying: “We have been able to get almost all [of the aspirants] but I can say that I personally have not been able to get the former president who is one of the aspirants. “I’m told that he is in the Ashanti Region campaigning, so I have not been able to get in touch with him. I’ve not heard from him [Mr Mahama] but the others have all returned the calls and indicated their willingness and preparedness to meet and discuss the issue because nobody consulted us [aspirants] and I’m not sure there was an extensive consultation.”
For the Second Deputy Speaker, the fees charged by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the NDC will sow the seeds for corruption in the party and government should the NDC win power in 2020.
He argued that the financiers of the aspirants would find corrupt ways of recouping their political investment.
Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, one of the leading contenders explained that “it is out of line for a social democratic party like the NDC to be charging such huge amount of money.”
Not only have the other contestants been complaining about the GH¢420,000 fees since it was announced by the party on Thursday, November 29 at a press conference in Accra but their supporters have also been venting their frustrations with the party’s leadership on social and mainstream media, accusing them of selling the party to the highest bidder, regardless of whether such a bidder has what it takes to secure victory for the NDC in the 2020 elections.
The other aspirants, DAILY GUIDE gathered, are planning to petition former President Jerry John Rawlings, who is the founder of the party.
Ex-President Mahama marked his 60th birthday on Thursday, November 29, 2018 and kissed his darling wife, Lordina Mahama, passionately in public as though it was a new love story.
As Mr. Mahama was kissing and merrymaking, the party announced that it was fixing GH¢20,000 for nomination forms and GH¢400,000 for filing fees.
Many political pundits believe the former president can easily pay the money, but there are doubts as to whether some of the other candidates can conveniently pay to take part in the NDC’s primaries slated for January 2019.
The presidential primaries are scheduled for January 2019 and the party has further slapped a whopping GH¢200,000 on females, as well as persons with disabilities aspiring for the presidential job.
In 2015, whilst in power the NDC charged its aspirants GH¢50,000 at that time when ex-President John Mahama was the sole candidate.
Thus, the current GH¢420,000 for filing fees and nomination forms represent a GH¢370,000 increase, representing 700 percent.
It is becoming clear that only one out of the 13 aspirants, Stephen Atubiga, will not be able to meet the financial requirement of the party for the polls.
The other aspirants are former Rector of the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA) Joshua Alabi; former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Health Authority (NHIA), Sylvester Mensah; ex-Minister of Trade and Industry, Ekwow Spio-Garbrah and Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin, a banker and oil and gas consultant, Nurideen Iddrisu; Member of Parliament (MP) for Cape Coast South, George Kwaku Ricketts Hagan; a member of the NDC’s Communication Team, Lawyer Elikplim Agbemava, David Dotse Kwame Kuwadah and Goosie Tanoh, a cadre.
I can’t pay
Mr. Atubiga himself has clearly indicated that he cannot meet the financial demands of the party on the aspirants, calling on the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) to probe whoever pays the ‘killer’ fees.
In reaction to the new fees set by the party’s hierarchy, Atubiga observed that “My brother, let me tell you, I don’t even have GH¢100,000 with me, so how can I pay GH¢400,000 as filing fee?"
According to him, “Some of the aspirants had a conference call this afternoon, so we will meet tomorrow for a “secret meeting and kick against that.”
He has since called on EOCO to arrest any of the candidates who will pay the GH¢420,000 to contest the primaries.
“Any politician who will claim that he paid the amount of money, GH¢400,000 must be arrested, EOCO must arrest that politician, where did that person get that amount of money?”
Campaign spokesperson for Joshua Alabi, Richard Quarshigah, has described the amount as “mind-boggling.”
Making reference to the party’s ideology- social democracy, Mr. Quarshigah, MP for Keta, said the current fee is very “unNDC.”
He said the campaign team of Joshua Alabi will petition the authorities for a reduction of the fees, saying “We who support Joshua Alabi will make a case, we will petition, we will call for a downward review of this colossal amount being asked of flagbearer aspirants. We think that what the NDC needs at this time is a very competent person to turn around the fortunes of the party and not necessarily somebody who should be an effective fundraiser. I don’t think the NDC is being run on the back of monies from flagbearer aspirants. We must rethink some of these issues.”
But the party appears to be defending the amount being charged even though nearly all the aspirants are unhappy about it.
Speaking on Joy FM, NDC’s Deputy General Secretary, Barbara Serwaa Asamoah, insisted that despite the astronomical increment, “the NDC is not a money-making institution…it is an association and so it is members of the political party that contribute money to run the party.”
However, Leader of the Minority in Parliament and Member of Parliament (MP) for Tamale South, Haruna Iddrisu, has hinted that the amount could be reviewed by the party, thus calming the nerves of the aggrieved aspirants and their supporters.