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General News of Thursday, 10 January 2008

Source: Paul Afoko

Press Statement From Paul Afoko

An Account of irregular activities and incidents at the just ended NPP delegates congress as presented by Mr. Paul Afoko

On the 22nd December 2007, I came to congress as a delegate from Builsa North Constituency and in full support of flag bearer aspirant Alan John Kwadwo Kyerematen.

I went through the laid down procedure for entry into the congress hall which included electronic scanning and since we had been informed prior to the congress that no phones would be permitted in the congress room, I left my phone in my car. To my surprise, I found others using their mobile phones inside the hall so I immediately requested Kotomah to get me my phone from my car.

I had no money on me and this was buttressed by the fact that when I needed to buy ‘wache’, it was Kotomah who had to pay for me.

Voting began at about 2pm and the first indication of a problem was when Rita Asobayiri (the NPP national women’s organizer) and Lord Commey (the NPP national organizer were requested by the EC officials using the public address system to stop interfering in the voting process. They both complied and left the ballot area.

The next problem was when delegates were told to vote with their left thumbs. After protests by some delegates, we were told either thumb could be used.

The first indication I had of being targeted was when I noticed a particular young man wearing a blue polo type shirt with ‘OFFICIAL’ inscribed on it tailing me all over the place. At some point I asked him jovially whether he was my shadow. He laughed and responded ‘we’ve all been assigned our roles’.

The first incident was when I got some energy drinks given to me to replace lost energy due to lack of sleep for 36 hours. My friends who were also delegates asked me to share the drinks with them, which I obliged. A young man wearing a tag with the inscription ‘GUEST’ on it approached me and said I was breaching the rules by giving drinks to my friends since it was the responsibility of the party to do that. I remember one of my friends making a comment that ‘what sort of ‘GUEST’ comes in and is trying to control the host since it was a delegates’ conference (our conference). I told my friends to ignore it and told him I would not give out more drinks.

The next significant incident was when I realized that it was getting to the turn of my region to vote. I dashed down to the urinal and on my way back to where my region (upper east region) was seated, I walked through the vacated area where the northern region had been earlier. It was vacated because the northern region had already voted and been directed to the eating area.

As I walked through the empty area at about 7;50pm, a young woman and two men came screaming at me from the shadows to my left saying

‘ Mr. Afoko, why are you sharing money?’.

My response was ‘u must be mad to say I am sharing money. I have no money’.

Shut up was the response. ‘You have thousands of dollars on you’.

My response again was, ‘who am I sharing the money to since this is an empty area?’

By this time they had been joined by about ten to fifteen others, most of them in the blue polo type t-shirts with the inscription ‘OFFICIAL’. I tried to walk toward my region to seek the support of others against this clearly orchestrated attack but then again I realized that if I had walked to where my colleague delegates were, it would have caused a disruption. I immediately sat in one of the empty chairs in the Northern region zone and waited for someone to come to my aid. This mob was all the while screaming their heads off that I was sharing money and I constantly told them they were mad because I had no such money on me. In the end the police arrived, pushed back the mob, and helped me to the police position just outside the hall.

Whilst I was narrating my undeserved ordeal to the police, Kwabena Agyepong (a flag bearer aspirant) came to me apparently agitated and demanding from me in a loud voice

‘Paul, why are you trying to disrupt the congress?’

My response was ‘In what way am I disrupting the congress?

He said I was disrupting the congress by sharing dollars?’.

I then said to him ‘Kwabena, you are aspiring to be President of Ghana and you must be aware that every coin has two sides. Why do you listen to the mob, believe them and come at me this way’.

At this point Kwabena’s response was ‘what happened Paul?’.

I told him my version that I had been accused wrongly while standing in the middle of a completely vacated area by myself.

Kwabena then said ‘but Lord Commey has just announced to all of us that you were there sharing dollars.

I then said I was going to correct this falsehood but the police advised against it and said to me that the congress had been disrupted by Lord Commey’s announcement and it was not possible for me to address congress and the lie at that point in time. They suggested I wait till everybody had settled down. I waited with the police until I was told that my region had voted and the EC officials were announcing my name to come forward to vote. I then went with police escort to vote but the same mob whom I identified as the ones’ who had earlier attacked me and who were now positioned close to the ballot boxes, started screaming that I shouldn’t be allowed to vote. The EC officials said my region had finished voting and that I was late therefore I wouldn’t be allowed to vote. I thanked them and left the congress hall.

I wish to state very clearly for the record that at no point from the beginning of the incident till now was I arrested by the police or wanted by the police for any offence. I voluntarily searched myself for the police to see after they had taken me out of the hall, that I had no dollars or for that matter, money to share to delegates. I went into this congress being mindful of the stop press released in the Friday, 21st December 2007 edition of the Weekend Crusading Guide, which stated that there were plans to disrupt the congress by certain unnamed people.

My understanding is that a lot has been put out in the public domain via media since the incident, most of it though, malicious and untrue and I wish to set the records straight and to call once again for an independent forensic enquiry into the events surrounding this congress. Lessons have to be learnt and where necessary, the law must take its course.

Paul Afoko