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General News of Friday, 30 May 2008

Source: Peter Clottey for VOA

Decision to Award Mills Sparks Controversy ....

... Against President Kufuor
(VOA) -- In Ghana, President John Kufuor’s decision to award the presidential candidate of the main opposition National Democratic Congress ahead of this year’s general elections is generating controversy. The national women’s organization of President Kufuor’s ruling party is calling on the president to rescind his decision to grant John Atta-Mills the nation’s highest award for serving the nation. They contend that Kufuor’s move to honor the former vice president is not only right, but would give the opposition party bragging rights in this year’s election. But the opposition NDC party says their presidential candidate has served the nation with excellence and deserves to be honored, adding that Atta-Mills is poised to win the upcoming presidential vote. Rita Asobayire is the national women’s organizer of Ghana’s ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP). From the capital, Accra she tells reporter Peter Clottey that her organization will continue to protest until President Kufuor changes his mind.

“We read in the papers that he (John Atta-Mills) has been nominated. We don’t know who has nominated him, but we are only pleading with the president that he should have a second look at that nomination,” Asobayire pointed out.

She said the opposition leader would gain political capital ahead of general elections if President Kufuor goes ahead to present Atta-Mills with the award.

“Why we are saying so is that we are in an election year, and there are other flag bearers of other political parties. So, why should one presidential candidate be singled out and given an award, which gives him some advantage,” she said.

Asobayire denied President Kufuor made a mistake by nominating the presidential candidate of the opposition NDC party for an award ahead of the election.

“I don’t think President Kufuor has made a mistake because if we go by what is published. It is saying that it is a nomination, and I don’t know who has nominated professor Atta-Mills,” Asobayire noted.

She said her women’s group would continue to appeal President Kufuor’s decision to give an award to the opposition leader.

“There was a letter from the minister for presidential affairs saying that the president has not appended his signature to any award, and that it is only a nomination, which they are still looking into, and that there are over 100 people who have been nominated for various awards. So, it could be that they are still looking into it, and we are only appealing as women that the president should have a second look at that nomination,” she said.

Asobayire said if anyone deserves the award, it is former President Jerry Rawlings – not opposition leader Atta-Mills.

“I don’t think so because we have a former president (Rawlings), the only surviving former president of this country. So I think if there should be such an honor, it should go to the former president who has contested twice, and won elections, and he is the only surviving president of this country,” Asobayire pointed out.

She reiterated that the advantage an award would give the opposition leader would work to the detriment of the presidential candidate of the ruling party.

“Yeah, you see this is a third-world country. It is not like America, and most of these things done could go a long way in hurting us in the elections. You know, we have rural areas. We have people who cannot read or write. So if they should see the president standing with Atta-Mills and giving him the award, that alone speaks volumes. Already, the opposition party has started saying that the president has endorsed Atta-Mills, which is not true. I know the president would never do that against his own flag bearer of the New Patriotic Party (NPP). Yes, I’m talking about perception,” she said.

Asobayire said her organization would not give up urging President Kufuor to rescind the opposition leader’s award.

“The president has traveled. He would be coming back home, and I think when he comes, there would be a meeting. He has the prerogative, and we cannot force the president to do what he wishes to do, but we are only appealing to the president to have a second look at that award,” Asobayire noted.

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