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General News of Thursday, 7 February 2008

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Mills' Health Wahala

FORMER PRESIDENT and Founder of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Jerry John Rawlings, has revealed his belief that every member of the party had the right to open discourse, and raise concerns about the health of the party leadership, including that of Professor John Evans Atta Mills.

He however cautioned that such a discourse ought to be done with utmost circumspect and decorum.

In a statement issued from his office and signed by his Special Assistant and Public Affairs Director, Victor Smith, Rawlings asserted that some personalities in the NDC have become intoxicated with the smell of personal power and hate for him and his wife.

The ex-president, who was responding to allegations about his alleged involvement in Prof. Mills' health fracas, lamented that some party members were unable to see how their selfishness and lust were becoming an obstacle to the party's intended victory in the December elections.

He said he viewed the media reports as 'very disturbing' because Prof. Mills has come out on two occasions to say he was well and undergoing routine medical check-ups in South Africa.

Rawlings' comments come in the wake of the controversy that greeted an opinion expressed by one of the party's Members of Parliament, Hon. Michael Teye Nyaunu of Lower Manya Krobo Constituency.

At a mini press conference in parliament house on Wednesday, January 30, 2008, the MP opined that the professor was not healthy enough for the rigorous presidential campaign, and suggested that he should be replaced before things got out of hand.

He told the world that the NDC stood every chance of losing the December elections if it presented Prof John Evans Fiifi Atta Mills as the flagbearer.

Not only did his statement shake the party to its very foundation, it also incurred the wrath of some of his colleagues in parliament, a number of who verbally attacked him and called him 'stupid'.

The multi-billion dollar questions since then are; (1) what did Hon. Nyaunu actually say to warrant those vitriolic attacks from his fellow MPs?

(2)Was his SOS call for a fresh congress a sincere concern or 'sponsored' as claimed by some party members? (3)Was he actually expressing the concerns of a silent majority in the party?

Your authoritative DAILY GUIDE brings to you an UNEDITED ringside account of the 7 minutes, 38 seconds interview he granted the media as captured by Citi 97.3 FM's Richard Sky (RS).

RS: Hon. could you please repeat what you have just told us? MP: I mean precisely what I have just said. I mean the NDC should be bold enough to accept the unpleasant situation that Professor Mills is very sick and will be incapable of contesting the December elections.

This is in respect of the fact that, Prof. Mills is a fine gentleman and has a lot of resources in respect of Ghana politics. He has a lot of positive attributes, but unfortunately he is not well. And I sincerely believe that we should be bold enough to say that we are calling for an emergency congress and look for somebody who will withstand the pressure for the December elections. I am still for Prof, but I think that will help the NDC.

We are going into the December election as wounded tigers. We are not going to joke and if your leader is not feeling fine and you try to cosmetize the whole thing, what are we trying to do?

RS: What is the basis of this call, especially as over the years Prof Mills has insisted that he is in good health?

MP: Youngman, you need not necessarily be a doctor before knowing that somebody is sick. Somebody need not really be diagnosed before you can say that he is sick. How do we even identify AIDS Patients? Your own brother in the house, there is a way you can see him and say there is something wrong with him because he is no more as he used to be, because at that time his attitude and everything changes. And that is what I am saying.

Our Prof. Look at our Prof, a very stout man as you knew him and now. Even though age will be telling on him, age will not be as drastic and so impatient and wicked as we are seeing it now. So I am really disturbed and as a member of the party, I really call that we must do something.

Let me tell you, if you have a herd of sheep going for battle, and you put a lion as their leader, there is the likelihood of them defeating a group of lions with a sheep as their leader. You get what I am driving at? This is the analogy.

What I am saying is that we must be bold enough to replace him. It is very unfortunate, it is very painful, it is very bitter, but there is no option than to accept this reality. It is no fault of his but it is nature. That is what I mean, and I am saying that we must call, er, an emergency congress so that we can look for somebody to take his place. Otherwise we will be waiting and all that is happening could be a game plan of other people.

What will happen if last minute, before we realize, a group just fosters somebody on us that he is good and should be allowed to go, in that cohesive situation? If we see it coming now, why don't we try to face it headlong? RS: What is your biggest fear?

MP: My biggest fear is that he cannot withstand the pressures of this campaign. Period. Because he is indisposed; because the man is sick. The man is seriously sick, and if our people don't want to say it, I detest it, I hate it, I abhor it. We must speak nothing but the truth. The man cannot withstand.

We are not joking for this 2008 election. Being in opposition for so many years like this, you think it is an easy thing? And then we will be going with a weak leader like that? No way. No way. We will have to change. That is what I mean.

RS: There are those who will say that perhaps somebody somewhere is pushing or a hand somewhere is pushing you to make the sort of comments you are making because Prof Mills had always maintained that he is good and healthy, and had gone on house-to-house campaign and several demonstrations.

MP: Youngman, I am over 50 years, and nobody can use me. Number two, I have been in Parliament House for 12 years. I am a member of the ECOWAS Parliament. I came from PDC, through CDR and I am now MP. I know what I am talking about, and I know a lot of NDC people will agree, but they will be afraid to say what I am saying because they will feel people will say "Ei! I spilled the beans". I am not that type.

I say all of us, our fate is in this one boat, and if we see something wrong with the captain and you refuse to say it, you will be in trouble.

RS: Are you the voice of the voiceless in the NDC? MP: I hope so, but I prefer not to believe so. And I want to tell you that nobody is pushing me anywhere. I know that after this news a lot of calls will begin to come to me. But I say, and they know, all those who will go against me know for sure that Prof Mills is not the Prof we know anymore.

RS: Mills has always enjoyed the massive support of the founder of the party. Are you ready to receive the flak that will follow the call that you are making?

MP: Well, whatever will come out of it, this is nothing but the truth. When you know you are speaking the truth you are not afraid of anything. If the flood just opens on me and sweeps me away, so be it, but I will be happy in my grave that I have said my mind, my piece of mind, and what is on my chest.

RS: What do you hope to achieve at the end of the day? MP: What I hope to achieve is to effect a correction in the system, and the correction is that we must look out for a good leader so that we will win.

I know my position will be vindicated when we win, and I know my position will also be vindicated if they don't know and they retain him and we are going and the pressure goes against us.

You are telling me he is doing house-to-house in the regions and in the districts. How many houses can you cover in the district and constituency; then you are talking about the region and the whole country. I am not pleased. I am getting scared. I am afraid.

If we really want to go and take power, if we don't want to disappoint Ghanaians, if we have to let the masses that are following us follow us with their whole hearts and vote for the NDC, then we must choose the new leader now.

RS: Let's say for now that Professor Mills is declared not qualified as per the conditions you are assigning to run for the presidency. Who are you looking at as the alternative in the NDC? MP: There is an array of people in the NDC who are capable alternatives. In much the same vein, assuming the man dies now, what do you do? Does it mean we will have no replacement? Nobody is indispensable, that's the basic fact that we must accept in life.

You see if the man should die now does it mean we cannot replace him? As I sit down now, representing my constituents, if I die now, I will be in the morgue, and there will be a bye-election in my area. So there are a lot of people in the NDC who are equally good and can take up the mantle.

I have nobody in mind, but this is my mind, my candid opinion that I want to spill out.

RS: Hon, before we go, have you thought of how to market whoever jumps aboard the NDC ticket, looking at the short time to the election?

MP: It's the party that does the job. And the party's structures are already on the ground. The branches, some of them don't even know Prof. Mills, but whoever comes, and the message goes down, the branches, constituencies, regions, national will take up the issue.

When people talk of marketability, it is important but it is not the core. What is core is taking the qualitative issue, taking the right person, taking somebody who is strong and healthy. That is what I mean.

This is the end of the 7 minutes, 38 seconds, heavily-loaded interview that took Ghana by storm.

Whether he will be vindicated or not will depend on two scenarios: One, if the NDC changes the professor and goes ahead to win the December elections, or two, the party snubs his call and fails to win power from the New Patriotic Party (NPP).

For now it is a matter of his word against those of the movers and shakers of the party. By Bennett Akuaku

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