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Opinions of Sunday, 9 February 2020

Columnist: Ernest Okyere Mintah

A short history of parliamentary primaries in Kwesimintsim NPP

Once again, with the primaries in sight, Kwesimintsim is poised to display its rich tradition of democracy and competition. The incumbent Member of Parliament, Joseph Mensah, has been formally challenged by Dr Prince Hamid Armah, the Executive Secretary of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment and a long time party activist. As is typical with Kwesimintsim, we expect a free and open contest and for the best man to prevail. This is how it has always been.

Since the country’s return to constitutional rule, Kwesimintsim has always enabled and allowed competition. Not one of the MPs we have had has engineered to stifle competition or disallow a challenge. It is not in our nature. And this year will be no different.

In 1992, Lawyer S.K Acquah was our parliamentary candidate, duly selected when no one else came forward to contest him. Unfortunately, we boycotted that year’s parliamentary elections after the disputed presidential elections. Had anyone wanted to challenge him, he or she would have been allowed.

In 1996, Mr Ebenezer Quansah, Mrs Florence Eshun and Mr Takyi competed for the right to contest the general elections on the party’s ticket. Mr Quansah prevailed in an open contest in which all the aspirants were allowed to canvass their position without let or hindrance. As fate would have it, our party entered into the Great Alliance with the Nkrumahist Peoples Convention Party and we agreed that Lawyer Abakah represent the alliance in the then Effia-Kwesimintsim.

In the 2000 parliamentary primaries, Joe Baidoe-Ansah beat Joe Bonluuru in another open contest to win the nomination of the party. No one was prevented from contesting.

In 2004, there was no challenger to Mr Baidoe-Ansah. Nominations were opened as usual and any party member who wanted to could have gone ahead to contest. The party was ready to receive any challenger and the candidate did nothing to prevent one. There was just no one ready to do so.

A challenger arose in 2008, however. Mr Fred Adoko Williams filed and contested against Mr Baidoe-Ansah, then the Minister of Trade, without any hindrance. There could even have been two challengers, but Nana Kofi Coomson was deemed to have violated the party’s rules in an issue that even bordered on criminal conduct. After the due process was exhausted, he was disqualified. Mr Baidoe-Ansah went on to win the primary and elections.

In 2012, Mr Joseph Cudjoe was unopposed when the incumbent Joe Baidoe-Ansah declined to contest. However, after the Kwesimintsim seat was carved out from Effia, party elders and members as well as chiefs and opinion leaders prevailed on Mr Baidoe-Ansah to contest the new seat as the election was only three months away. Even then, he was challenged by four other aspirants – Yaa Pokuwaa Baiden, John E.Davis, Daniel Adjei Larbi and Ethel Eshun. Mr Baidoe-Ansah prevailed and went on to win the seat. Again, no one was impeded from running.

In 2016, the then incumbent was once again challenged, this time by Mr Joseph Mensah, who it appeared was not really a member of the party. Mr Mensah was not prevented from picking forms. He picked forms but disqualified by the regional vetting committee due to the controversy around his membership and eligibility. He was also disqualified in Accra by the National Appeals committee which found that his party card was fake. Joseph Mensah went to court for an injunction that restrained the NPP from conducting the Kwesimintsim primary for months. In the end, an Accra High Court ruled that he be allowed to contest in the primary and he was able to defeat the sitting MP. Mr Mensah was neither impeded nor his rights violated in any way. He had the full benefit of due process. Interestingly, the court ruled that he can contest because the party couldn’t have taken a filling fee from an unqualified person!

This is how we have always done it in Kwesimintsim. If you can prove that you are a party member and meet all the requirements, you can be on the ballot. This year will not be the first or the last time that democracy prevails. We have a proud tradition. Let us celebrate it and let us give credit to all the pioneers of this constituency party who have ensured that we live our democratic ideals. To do otherwise would be an insult to the party, to our tradition and the respected elders of Kwesimintsim NPP. We are better than that!