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General News of Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Source: The Chronicle

Minister In Row With Delegates

In an attempt to convince the 81 polling station chairmen in Effiakwesimintsim to retain him as their legislator for the third term, the Minister of Trade, Joe Baidoo-Ansah, 44, last Wednesday invited them to Westline Hotel, along with their voters ID cards in tow, dispatched an advance team of officials from the Ghana export Promotion Council/ Ministry of Trade, and promised them ‘Kufuor loans’ to buy buses and tractors as a way of the President showing appreciation.

But the meeting went so terribly awry that the officials were taken aback by the torrent of abuse heaped on them by the delegates who were suspicious of the request to bring their voters cards. For hours, they were subjected to a torrent of abuse as they bore the brunt of the anger and apprehension of the 67 delegates who made it to the meeting, with questions over why they should have their pictures taken when they were not electoral officers.

The well attended meeting was greeted with suspicion right from the time the constituency chairman, Mr. P. Addo informed chairmen through the Youth organiser, Mr. A. Ghaniyu that they should carry their voter identity cards with them. And so at 4.30pm when the meeting began, Mr.Adu Mensah, an official of the Ministry of Trade was startled by the aggressive posture of the chairmen, especially when he asked them to have their pictures taken.

The chairmen had been nursing a grudge against the MP for some time over failed promises and partiality in the disbursement of the MASLOC loans in the constituency through one lady friend of the MP, Madam Serwah, instead of her conqueror Ms. Naana Amoa. Despite the fact that Nana Amoa is the elected women’s organiser of the constituency, she had been sidelined because she was loyal to Papa Owusu Ankomah in the Presidential primaries.

Abuses were freely aired on those who appeared to be partial to the MP, as the charged polling station chairmen demanded to know the real purpose of the meeting. ‘He wants to persuade the headquarters to make him unopposed in the parliamentary elections so he wants our pictures and endorsement…it is a lie’ said one member.

Mr. Adu Mensah explained the Rural Micro and Small scale enterprises cooperative scheme to them while facing a barrage of questions, before finally getting them to agree to have their pictures taken.They were to complete application forms for the Prudential bank and pay GC20.00 each as processing fee for loans to purchase buses or tractors without posting any collateral.

The chairman told this reporter that the MP rarely meets them and was only coming round now that election is in the air. They proceeded to give a laundry list of complaints against the MP, saying that he is always feigning meetings with the President. They accused him of banning constituency meetings at Top Ridge, Lagos Town, where they meet, and was in the habit of threatening any aspirant who dares raise his head to offer a challenge against him. They also claimed that he schemes to remove any constituency executive, who shows the slightest sign of independence and worse of all never seeks the interest of the constituency because he never speaks in parliament about Effikwesimintsim’s myriad of problems.

They gave as an example the access road from Assakae to Whindo which should have been repaired by Feeder roads and urban roads if the MP had exerted himself a little, creating needless pressure on the assembly woman for the area, Ms. Juliana Cudjoe to fix the road. Her efforts to get the metro mass transit bus to ply the Assakae to Whindo route are frustrated by the very bad nature of the road. In short they feel short-changed by those who proposed such a non-performing MP for them, and further made him a cabinet Minister when as a deputy Minister of Tourism, they knew he was not performing.

CHALLENGERS

Independently, this reporter learnt that a number of challengers are lurking, mounting guerrilla-style hunt for delegates’ votes. The former chairman of the constituency, Mr. William Adoko, a forceful businessman who has a couple of real estate businesses, including a 100-room hotel at Swedru which is nearing completion.

The other challenger, Chronicle has learnt is Mrs.Florence Ekua Eshun of the office of Accountability at the Castle. A recently retired education officer, Auntie Florence represented Takoradi at the constituent assembly when she defeated Mrs. Gladys Asmah. She is an experienced woman and also counts on her impressive cv, the fact that she had contested as a parliamentary candidate in 1996 against Mr. Quansah. The other candidate is the popular Hon Charles Davies, the chairman of the Effiakwesimintsim electoral area at the Shama Ahanta East Metropolitan Authority (SAEMA), who has represented Anaji for 10 years in the Effiakwesimintsim constituency.

MEETING

When the MP arrived nearly four hours late with his wife and children, the agenda for the meeting which was not clearly spelt out became another source of confusion including the legitimacy of the MP convening such a meeting. Mr. Addo, a soft-spoken elder of the local Presbyterian church in the centre of the chairmen’s agitation tried to explain himself away. The chairmen put various interpretations on the meeting including suggestions that the meeting was to get pictures for top guns of the NPP to identify them and lean on them to support the MP during the party’s primaries. Other suggestions were that the pictures were to be used as evidence of them endorsing the MP so that headquarters will consider him as the partys’ unopposed candidate in the 2008 elections.

CAR LOANS Substantial information Chronicle learnt was that the MP was taking the pictures to be used in processing commercial car loans for the chairmen, who are to be divided into groups of 20 each to acquire commercial cars for their own economic transformation. That turned out to be the ruse that the MP used. A white Nissan patrol car with registration number GR8700U, carrying some more officials arrived and set about explaining to the assembly the procedures and benefits of the programme and why their pictures were to be taken. Tempers cooled down a bit as the officials explained that the loan was not from the MP, but for the President who wants to assist them to stand on their feet.

The MP who was supposed to arrive at 4:00 pm, arrived at 7:18 pm in an ash Toyota Land cruiser with registration umber GE 4895V with his family. Despite his late arrival, his first word at the meeting to the executives was why some journalists including this reporter, Messrs Kwame Malcom, host of kyzz fm morning show and Ohene Gyan, a senior reporter at kyzz fm were around the venue. When he entered, he queried the chairmen why they should invite journalists to the meeting, (the Minister was himself a reporter at The Independent). As late as 9:40 pm when the few executives who were still hanging around with him finally left, he denied being the brain behind the meeting.

According to the MP, he was on his way to Ivory Coast with Kwadwo Baah Wiredu, the Finance and Economic Planning Minister to attend a meeting when he heard of the meeting and decided to participate. Mr. Joe Baidoo Ansah also denied categorically that he was unpopular in the constituency and bore a grudge with his constituents, particularly the executives. He explained that not every one would understand that after being elected as an MP “you have a responsibility and as a minister, your work will not only be to serve your constituency, but to work for the entire country”. His visit was meant to tell his constituents what he has been able to do after the trust they had reposed in him as the representative of Effiakwesimintsim.

Touching on competition in the constituency, he denied reports that he was afraid of some of the aspirants gunning for his seat. He said even when he already has one of his feet in the cold water (politics), people who are yet to have theirs in the water (politics) are saying he was afraid of ‘cold water”. True to speculations, Baidoo Ansah told the delegates that the Rumsec loan he was facilitating was Kufour’s way of helping them stand on their feet and appreciate them for their faithfulness. He therefore asked that they should gather in groups of 20 for the officials to help them access loans for them from the banks, and purchase buses for commercial use to improve their circumstances. He then chided them for inviting pressmen to the meeting saying that they were exposing the party.

GIMMICK

The delegates went away still in a daze as to whether the loan which turns out to be similar to the Alan Kyerematen loans from the Presidential special initiative stock which never quite took off. Majority of the delegates maintained that it was all a gimmick, and that the whole meeting was a water experiment which will not work because they are now wide awake.

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