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General News of Thursday, 10 June 2010

Source: Daily Guide

Bloody Clash In NDC

Internal bickering over the 2012 presidential bid of Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings got bloody yesterday when Herbert Mensah, a close associate of the Rawlingses, clashed with Ato Ahwoi, a leading member of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), over the veracity of whether President John Evans Atta Mills suffered delusions- seeing imaginary trees, human beings and losing his mental balance- before the last elections which brought him to power. According to Herbert Mensah, Ato Ahwoi, a close associate of the president, had told him “Mills was seeing trees, people, losing mental stability, confidence and consulting priests and did not want to go ahead.”

When Kwabena Andoh, a close pal of Herbert Mensah, who Herbert claimed to be a witness to the discussion on Mills’ state of health, was invited to speak, he corroborated the point, explaining that Ato Ahwoi did admit that Mills was in a poor state of health and disoriented.

“I said wow! It is still fresh on my mind,” he said, adding that Ato Ahwoi had said, “Mills was unwell, hallucinating and could not tell where he was.”

He said the statement was so gloomy that it is still fresh in his mind.

“This is not a fabrication. They discussed Plan A and B,” Kwabena Andoh, who was speaking to the issue on Radio Gold yesterday, said.

Ato Ahwoi, member of the Mills’ kitchen cabinet and Chairman of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), denied ever making such disclosures during the verbal clash on Radio Gold yesterday.

The internal power struggle in the NDC is becoming embarrassing to the party’s leadership, leading to the holding of a crisis meeting yesterday, with a team paying a solidarity visit to the President at the Castle.

The vitriolic engagement was prompted by the recently flown ‘Nana Konadu for president’ kite for the 2012 polls- which Ato Ahwoi describes as a sinister move being replayed after a previous failure when it was tried out by Herbert Mensah.

Mr. Ahwoi, while reacting to the unfolding Nana Konadu bid for the NDC presidential candidacy, noted that “knowing where Herbert Mensah was coming from, I am not surprised.”

He said sometime in 2007, he was told by ex-President Jerry John Rawlings to support a bid to remove then Candidate Mills as flagbearer of the NDC because he was not going to live to see the election- a situation which was going to mess up the NDC.

According to him, the ex-president asked him to substitute Candidate Mills and become the flagbearer, as Rawlings feared Mills might not last the strain of the rigorous presidential campaign.

“What is happening now, that is the bid by Nana Konadu, ex-first lady,” he said, “is a continuation of a grand design to make it impossible for President Mills to go for a second term.”

Mr. Ahwoi served notice however that he is ready to spill his blood and lay down his life to ensure that Mills goes for a second term, come what may.

“In 2007, Herbert Mensah told me to convince Prof Mills to step down for Spio-Garbrah since Mills was sick. It is the same scenario being played out,” he said, adding that ex-President Rawlings also requested same from him.

“In 2008, I was told by President Rawlings to go and contest Mills. I know where they are coming from. They said Mills was sick and that by June he would be a dead person and trying to get another candidate would create confusion,” Ahwoi said, explaining further that in February 2008, he was asked to dump Mills for a new person, to which he declined.

“I refused, we went and won and we are in power,” he said. What was not achievable in 2007, he noted, is being played out once more on the political turf.

On why Spio-Garbrah is not being presented since it was his name which was considered as a replacement for Mills, he explained, “The political game can be very confusing. If you put one person and he does not do it, you try another who could be very greedy.”

Ato Ahwoi claimed that he used to go to Herbert Mensah’s office once or twice a week in those days but stopped when the ‘dump Mills’ proposal was made.

He said he disagreed with the proposal to replace Mills with Spio because it did not make sense to put forth someone who garnered 14 percent of the votes during the party’s congress, adding that the NPP would have laughed at the NDC over the proposal.

Considering what Nana Akufo-Addo got, he asked, “How could we justify the choice of Spio-Garbrah?”

He said he proposed the invitation of others such as PV Obeng and Kwesi Botchwey for consideration if that was necessary at all.

“I insisted that Mills was not sick and would win and we all supported including others who thought like me,” he said.

“When my brothers (Ahwoi brothers) were contacted to convince Mills (to step down) they also refused,” he said.

When he took his turn, Herbert Mensah opened a can of worms about how he and others invested so much money to have Mills win the presidency, asking why Ato Ahwoi, now wielding so much power in the government, is antagonizing people under cover.

“Everybody is angry with Ato Ahwoi,” he charged.

He described what Ato Ahwoi said as “blatant lies”, stressing, “I have a recording of what happened when we met and have two witnesses.

Ato Ahwoi is wielding too much power. I expect the leaders of the party to use a platform to bring the party together instead of this.”

He recalled that when he engaged Ahwoi in his office, the discussion was about the health of Mills.

Describing his office as the nerve centre of the Mills campaign, he said he demanded the truth about the health status of the candidate, given the media reports of the day.

Herbert Mensah said the meeting was held in the presence of a certain Mercy, adding his search about the veracity of the ‘Mills is sick’ claim took him to Captain Kojo Tsikata who asked that there should be no panic and nothing should be done about the issue.

Mr. Ahwoi, he went on, said Rawlings would prefer a Spio replacement, however admitting that this would be in contravention of NDC rules and regulations.

“The lies and misrepresentation from the Ahwoi quarter must cease. He must stop this nonsense and stop victimizing people. If this is the opening salvo, let him stop it. If this is his radio station, let him stop it. People’s lives are being affected. A lot of us have invested to get this presidency.

He hides behind covers to victimize people. It’s a radio station. I hope the South African still has the tape. A lot of us have been victimized. I did not ask Mills to step down”.

Herbert Mensah recalled how Ato Ahwoi said Spio would only become an NDC candidate over his ‘dead body’.

When Ato Ahwoi took his turn to speak again, he said he was pleased that Herbert was agitated over their radio exchanges because he can reveal that it was Herbert who came up with the idea of a ‘Plan B’ which, he explained, is a practice in business circles since he is a businessman.

“I have a text message he sent me. Probably he has forgotten. At anytime, I would make it public. If Mills has blood in him, I would do everything to have him retain his seat and presidency of Ghana. I would spill my blood, lay down my life,” he said.

The South African, Ryan, who took part in the strategizing for the NDC, when he came on air from far away South Africa, recalled the meeting about Mills’ health, but could not remember all the details, adding that this was about the time that the candidate was in South Africa.

According to him, Ahwoi agreed that Mills had a challenge with his eye sight and by and large, the meeting was about replacing Mills, since it was they who were supporting the NDC campaign machinery with strategies.

Mr. Ato Ahwoi had previously clashed with Ekwow Spio-Garbrah when the latter wrote an essay on the challenges of the Mills government which was found distasteful to members of the pro-Mills camp.

This recent engagement is coming on the heels of the burgeoning Nana Konadu for 2012 bid, a development considered a plot to dump the incumbent as the party’s candidate for the forthcoming polls.

The engagement has deepened the schism which is playing out in the ruling party, leaving it divided along the lines of a pro-Rawlings and Mills camp.