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Opinions of Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Columnist: Agyei-Boateng, Benjamin

Hassan Ayariga and the 24,617 believers

( By Benjamin Agyei-Boateng )

On Sunday, December 9, 2012, some few hours before the Electoral Commission of Ghana had come out to declare the eventual winner of Ghana’s presidential election, the man who had put smiles on the faces of many Ghanaians on the political terrain; Hassan Ayariga, was seen on TV conceding defeat to the then obvious winner, John Mahama.

The three of us who had seen him on TV making the concession burst out with laughter. We laughed for no other reason, but for the simple fact that, on our screen stood Hassan Ayariga.

By some strange means, he had found a way to warm himself into the hearts of Ghanaians; not as an astute politician or a great motivational speaker, but as one person who by the words he spewed on both radio and TV and his mannerisms at different times had made many laugh out loud. After the December polls, the PNC Presidential candidate placed 5th pulling 24,617 votes; just 0.22% of the total votes cast. Hassan Ayariga beat the CPP’s Abu Sakara by some 4,294 votes to the chagrin of many political analyst who had placed Abu Sakara very high after displaying perspicacity and marvelous analysis of the challenges faced by the state during the Institute of Economic Affairs debating sessions.

What Hassan Ayariga brought to the table this political season was his openness and broad smile even in the face of obvious confusion during the debates. Aside the IEA debates, he had on several occasions pulled crowd to radio and TV sets as at one time, he had likened his political rivals to “class six pupils who go into exams room with notes.”

He had been on the political landscape throughout the year, breaking Dr. Mahama’s monopoly of the PNC’s presidential candidacy but he warmed himself into the thoughts of many Ghanaians later in November when series of IEA encounters were organized.

Even before the day of the election, Hassan Ayariga had to wrestle with people in his own party who did not see him as being competent enough for the Presidential slot. Earlier, some agitated youth in the party had wanted him out since they believed he had not done enough for the PNC, campaign-wise. He was not moved. He did not back down but kept his cool and looked forward to December 7, where he will win the elections “one touch,” to the marvel of many. Then after the IEA debates, the membership of the PNC, with particular mention of their policy analyst, Atik Mohammed, had accused him of going against the provisions in the party’s manifesto. It sounded genuine, as the PNC had stated in their manifesto that the famous “Free Education” mantra was possible and that the party will implement it. The Presidential candidate however, ironically stated that that policy was an impossibility on the IEA platform. Hassan Ayariga is an interesting politician. During the first IEA debate, he had become so famous on the platform that Ghanaians only waited for him to speak so they could find something to laugh about. He did provide the humour as on several occasions by answering the simple questions with complicated theories. He did not perform creditably but the man of that moment had his way and at a point trended worldwide on the social media platform, Twitter. His Presidential image had been tarnished and many critics had wondered how he had managed to win the primaries to become the leader of the PNC. Hassan Ayariga was not moved. He went about his business and waited for the next IEA debate to prove to the whole country why and how he was the best candidate in the race. Then the bombshell; just a day to the second debate, Hassan Ayariga had come out to state that he will not be part of the encounter. Many were disappointed as some wanted to make a clear case about his capabilities and others wanted to find some quotes to giggle about.

His reason for not being part of the encounter was simple. The former vice president of Ghana, Alhaji Aliu Mahama had passed away four days earlier and he did not deem it right to campaign for election on just five days after the demise of a former veep.

He also had a more genuine concern- he was sick. Hassan Ayariga was coughing and so wanted to be excused.

The immediate reaction to his excuse was anticipated. Many had assumed that his below par performance during the first IEA debate was the reason for his excuse. He had spoken on a number of radio stations the Monday before the ‘Debate-Tuesday’ and he made his case known to the whole of Ghana. Many had wondered why Ayariga was bent on killing the ‘fun’ that is associated with the debate with his cough. For the lot on especially social media platforms, they were not happy about the decision but Ayariga was ill and was not ready to risk his health for politics. The members of his party who had questioned his credibility from day one attacked him for such a decision when he had not told the executives of the party for his decision. One on an Accra based radio had said he “will drag him to the debate” if that is what it takes. It became another interesting talking point. Then before the dust settled on his going or not going to the debate, the IEA agreed to his plea and in a rush somehow indicated that there was space for him on the platform. It did not end there. The IEA pushed the debate a day ahead; a decision taken parallel to Hassan Ayariga’s U-turn to take part in the debate. Then the day of the debate approached and for those who doubted that the PNC flag bearer was ill, he proved to them that he was indeed not feeling well. He coughed without ceasing, apparently making it obvious to the doubters that “Look at me. You see how sick I am?” International pressmen and critics were following this very important final debate before the election and did not expect a presidential candidate to act the way Hassan Ayariga did.

He had asked for repetition of questions and laughed at times he did not need to. Then irritatingly and funny enough, he had coughed and coughed anytime the other presidential candidates were speaking.

Most noticeably, Hassan Ayariga chose to cough at times the NPP’s presidential candidate, Nana Akufo Addo was making his policies known to the people of Ghana. The man Ayariga had also taken a swipe at the NPP man occasionally to the chagrin of many NPP faithfuls. You could not help but laugh out loud if a neutral.

The man had not performed creditably as Abu Sakara, John Mahama or Nana Addo had performed but he made Ghanaians stay up for close to five hours monitoring the debate without blinking their eyes.

There were reports of Hassan Ayariga being attacked by armed robbers at Addaikrom after campaigning at Bonsu Nkwanta and returning to Juaboso in the Western Region.

His convoy was forced to move back to Bonsu Nkwanta to call for police escort before continuing to Juaboso. Though some linked this to politics, I found it difficult to tow that line. This followed an earlier report that he had been attacked somewhere in the Northern region of Ghana. Ayariga’s attack was becoming serial.

Even before that, he had stormed Kumasi, the capital of the Ashanti region on the 27th of November to take part in the Kumasi declaration for peace. Ayariga mounted the stage to huge applause and even before he got into the main message for peace, he crucified the name of the King of the land, Otumfuor Osei Tutu. “ I must congratulate His majesty Otumfuor Osei Tuffuor,” he said to rapturous response.

Fast forward to December 7 and Ghana goes to the polls. The obvious choice of Ghanaians was either the NPP or the NDC but for some political lenses, Hassan Ayariga’s result was of utmost importance.

Then the results after the elections were trickling in; ‘zero, one, zero, one’ in the polling stations, then ‘eleven, seven, eleven, seven’ in the collation centres.

At that point, there was no denial that Hassan Ayariga had flopped! His party had been around for a longer while in the political history of Ghana but he could not march the challenge of the PPP’s Papa Kwesi Nduom and the GCPP’s Henry Lartey.

Ayariga had 24,617 votes and placed fifth. On the positive side, he beat the more fancied Abu Sakara of the CPP and so could be commended for achieving such feat. But for an election process that had over 14 million voters, Hassan Ayariga could do better.

The man Ayariga might not have won the national elections, but one thing we cannot deny is that he sits in comfortably as one man who stood on the ticket of the PNC in 2012 for election and had some twenty-four thousand disciples in the end.

Who will forget the terms ‘Ayaricough,’ ‘Ayarigate,’ and ‘ Ayarigated’? The least said about them, the better.

As to whether the PNC will give him the nod to lead the party again, we live it to them and the politicians of the land to discuss again.

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