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Opinions of Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Columnist: Abdulai, Mahama

A Smack on Justice - the case of Salaga North Constituency

When the National Democratic Congress (NDC) widened its electoral college for this year’s primaries, most observers were of the view that, the new move will put an end to the perennial acrimonies and in-house fighting that usually characterized primaries of the party. It was thought that parliamentary aspirants, especially the incumbents will no longer have access to the entire delegates to buy their way through the primaries. The previous system usually leads to dropping of candidates mostly appealing to the electorate which culminates to loss of seats at the constituency levels during general elections. The Tamale North Constituency, the Kumbungu Constituency, and the Tolon Constituency, all in the NR are clear examples of fielding candidates who were not appealing to the electorate leading to the loss of those seats to either NPP, CPP or independent candidates. There are several examples across the country that must serve as a guide to the party. It however appears the party does not learn from history.
The just ended vetting of parliamentary aspirants in the Northern Region proved that, the new system is not free of flaws. It is still easy for the incumbent to connive with constituency executives (and perhaps, the national executives) to gang up against other contestants. What they simple need to do is to unanimously agree that they “don’t know” a particular candidate or their opponents and that is enough to disqualify such an aspirant.
The disqualification of Mr. Hamid Mumuni as the parliamentary candidate for Salaga North constituency was a slap on the face of justice and therefore frivolous. The vetting was just one sided. After exchange of greetings, a question was asked by the General Secretary (GS) to the constituency executives present at the vetting whether they “know this candidate?” All the constituency executives vehemently denied ever knowing him; including the constituency secretary and chairman. The answer “no” by the constituency executives gave the GS a mandate to disqualify him.
After telling Mr. Hamid he was disqualified, the GS realized it was not proper not to hear from the candidate. He then asked him whether he knew the executives. He replied in affirmative and went ahead to mention all their names including the positions they are occupying in the constituency. It was clear from GS’s face that, he was disappointed for the answer given by the executives. But then, he had already disqualified the aspirant.
What was rather shocking was the reason given at the close of the vetting. For reasons best known to them, the vetting committee issued a statement to the effect that, Mr. Hamid Mumuni had stepped down voluntarily from the race. What a double standard? A palpable lie to throw dust into the eyes of the public. How could Mr, Hamid waste his resources to campaign and paid the filling fee of over GHc 10,000 only to come to the vetting ground to say he is stepping down. Under what condition did he step down? This does not make sense. The whole happenings surrounding the disqualification can therefore be summarized as the machination by the incumbent MP in the person of Alhassan Mumuni, the constituency executives and championed by the national vetting committee. If the action by the vetting committee was a protection mechanism for first term MPs, then they should rather be protecting well performing MPs and not nonperforming ones.
One could also argue that, because the incumbent disappointed his constituency and the massive support the people are giving to Mr. Hamid sent shivers down the spine of Hon. Alhassan Mumuni, making him uncomfortable to go to the polls with Mr. Hamid. Otherwise, what are they afraid of? If the incumbent knew he had perform to the admiration of his constituency, he wouldn’t put impediments on the way of another candidate. The delegates would have decided who should be their candidate. Now, if nothing is done, it goes to mean that the incumbent will go unopposed. This is an imposition of a candidate on the people; another Mugabe in the making. The resultant consequence could be a loss of the seat to either opposition party or an independent candidate. Because the people in the constituency are tired of him.
To put the disqualification of Mr. Hamid in perspective, it is important to interrogate the issue whether the executives know the aspirant or not. Even if some of the executives had said they don’t know Mr. Hamid that should not include the chairman and the secretary. During the filing of the forms to contest the incumbent, the chairman and the secretary were present in the new constituency office at Kpalbe to receive the forms. Mr. Shani Iddrisu, the constituency secretary received the forms on behalf of the executives and urged Mr. Hamid to do a clean campaign rather than engaging in politics of vilification. There are pictures available to support this argument. So, if you don’t know a candidate, how come you received his forms, examine it and declare it complete when he came to file his candidature?
According to the youth of the constituency, some of whom are ward level executives, the current constituency executives of Salaga North were actually appointed and not elected. The DCE in connivance with some others in the constituency at the time just hand-picked people they wanted to occupy various constituency positions in the party. A meeting was then called for the delegates to give approval. They did not open up the contest for interested party members to file.
The Way forward:
Politics is about numbers; a single vote can make a difference. It doesn’t speak well of a party to disqualify aspirants frivolously. It creates dissatisfaction, disgruntling and eventually, loss of votes. It is important for the GS and the entire National Executives to review their decision and give fair chance to not only Mr. Hamid but to all candidates disqualified on “we don’t know him/her” grounds. If NDC truly wants to recapture the lost constituencies and win more, they should allow the universal adult suffrage to determine who should be a candidate for a particular constituency rather than the machination by some people.
Already, the youth in the constituency are calling for Mr. Hamid to go independent should the vetting committee does not review their decision. The youth were so disappointed about the disqualification to the extent that, they quickly booked a 30 minutes air time with Zaa Radio (99.30 fm) on Saturday night, to discuss their grievance and to let the regional executives and indeed, the public know their next line of action. However, Mr. Hamid has not yet spoken about his plans. Will the vetting committee review their decision, will Mr. Hamid defy the odds and contest the seat as an independent candidate remains to be seen in the coming days.

By Mahama Abdulai

Note: the writer of this article is not a member of the constituency, neither was he asked by Mr. Hamid to write this article. He is simply an observer and wants to put issues in their right perspectives.