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Opinions of Sunday, 24 July 2011

Columnist: Amenga-Etego, SaCut

An apology of a Democratic Congress!

AN APOLOGY OF A DEMOCRATIC CONGRESS - A POLLING AGENT’S NARRATION

I will count myself privileged to have been given the opportunity by NANA KONADU AGYEMAN-RAWLINGS to represent her as official polling agent for the Ashanti region delegates during the just ended congress in Sunyani. This gave me the rare opportunity and chance of observing the entire electoral process from a closer range than many other observers who were outside the inner perimeter- even closer than the ‘GRAY HAIR MEN/WOMEN’ who occupied the dais. I went into the inner perimeter not only to watch and tally the vote casts but also to study the entire process and be a part of history in the making. What follows, therefore, is a portrait of a moment, no more in that Sunyani coronation park on that Saturday afternoon July 9 2011 when the NDC went to a congress to choose a flag bearer for election 2012. I did not go into that congress intending to write an article, or indeed to write at all; but my encounter with the place affected me so deeply and profoundly that in the end, I had no choice.

For me, the first thing that welcomed me into that park was intimidation. Arriving in Sunyani that late Thursday afternoon, I felt the town had been besieged by armed police and military men wielding machine guns in their legions among the people. I imagined if I were a delegate coming from rural Ghana, and unfamiliar with this large presence of security forces- obviously deployed by commander in-chief president Mills to put fear into us- thereby affecting our voting decision. The full effect of the heavy security presence was yet to be felt in full as I was later to experience. One thing for sure though; the supporters who had the responsibility for the posters and our candidate’s visibility in the town did an excellent job.

That Friday morning which was arrival day didn’t pass without undesirable incidences. As part of the advance team for my candidate who encountered the media, it would seem like a harmonious morning until a clique that was led by Hon. E. T Mensah attempted to deface posters of our candidate NANA KONADU AGYEMAN –RAWLINGS on the main gate of the coronation park venue for the congress. This was simply because; the president’s posters were less visible at the entrance which obviously irritated President Mills’ supporters who then attempted with the use of ZOOM LION to deface the posters without the consent of the NANA KONADU CAMPAIGN TEAM. This obviously did not go down with the director of operations for the campaign who vehemently protested- generating some heat and tension in the process- until we came to a sort of a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ to deface a certain portion of our posters. Later that morning, we met with Koku Anyidoho, director of communications at the presidency, Fiifi Kwetey, dep. Fin. Minister as well as Alex Segbefia, deputy chief of staff. Our conversations with them were very hearty and cordial. We even took pictures. Later that afternoon, as we sat on and among the many unoccupied chairs, I witnessed the sudden falling of a man on the pitch near the podium. He was walking among other people. Suddenly, he went down but was immediately held up and taken to a chair. I was later to find out that the man who had been conquered by fatigue is Ato Ahwoi the pseudo president of Ghana.

Later that Friday evening, information came in from different directions and especially from delegates about various forms of inducements and manipulative tactics G.A.M.E had adopted towards the delegates in order to win the congress by the hook or the crook. Various sums of money ranging between 500-2000 GH were mentioned as varying amounts given to delegates. Delegates also reported that DCE’s and MCE’s were the agents of promises of jobs, contracts, travel opportunities etc. for example, several delegates reported that they were promised by Mills’ agents to be taken to Switzerland for an ILO conference. Several hundred delegates were given this promise even though such a conference will normally have not more than fifteen (15) delegates from every country. Some delegates began to request the NANA KONADU campaign team to also come forth with our own inducements and bribes. Our principled candidate stood her grounds and refused to fall into their trap. After all, as she kept repeating, this contest is not about her. It is about the party, the ordinary people and the structures. Why must she pay to rescue the party?

Talking about delegates, some of us believe - and especially after this NDC congress in Sunyani- that these people who cast their vote to choose president Mills cannot be considered delegates in the true sense of the word. They cannot convince some of us that their decision to vote the way that they did, and the malpractices they engaged in during the voting process was primarily in the interest of their constituents. I will come to the voting process and the irregularities that we experienced and protested to no avail.

I don’t know about everyone else but I begun to be afraid of what Mills and his team had planned to do to win the congress when the national security coordinator Col. Larry Lartey suddenly appeared that Saturday morning at the NDC founder’s hotel ostensibly to determine itinerary. I had a bad feeling about it and it soon became a nightmare when eventually the NDC founder and our BOLD candidate NANA KONADU AGYEMAN- RAWLINGS arrived and entered through a ‘narrow gate’ unused by the rest of the dignitaries including the president and vice president. Interestingly, when the so-called MC for the congress Hon. Elvis Afriyie Ankrah announced the entrance of the founder and wife into the stadium, it didn’t occur to him to allow for them to arrive before making another announcement almost immediately for an opening prayer. At this point, it became clear to most of us that there was a projection and roll out of a grand scheme to try to give an ignoble treatment to the NDC founder and former president as well as his wife and our candidate NANA KONADU AGYEMAN-RAWLINGS and to short- change the entire mass following of the NDC party and Ghanaians at large. The carefully selected delegates and observers had been orchestrated to give the party founder a cold reception.

From the onset, things were wrong and tilted to favor president Mills. An MC selected by President Mills and his GAME team. A DJ also selected by them. Electoral committee of the party made up of only Mills supporters and only one NANA KONADU supporter. Accreditations fully controlled by GAME who ends up giving only a handful of observer tags to our team and producing far more than agreed numbers for their GAME supporters. No wonder that even the sound system was tampered with during speeches for malicious purposes.

I was one of the first few polling agents to enter the inner perimeter after the announcement had been made that the process was about to begin. By this time only the security men, EC officials, GAME officials as well as occupants of the dais were inside the inner perimeter. I decided to go in there to locate the position of the Ashanti region delegates where I would be superintending for my candidate. Here, I want to put it on record that the security services were used to intimidate not only the delegates into voting for president Mills, they also tried to intimidate identified supporters and agents of NANA KONADU AGYEMAN-RAWLINGS into submission. I had a personal experience whiles walking within the inner perimeter and checking the EC officials. I was approached by a Mills agent. He wanted to see my accreditation tag even though the security men had already seen it before allowing me entry into the place. I showed it to him. Unsatisfied, he wanted to know why I was not wearing my tag. I ignored him, noticing that his intention was to intimidate me. I refused to answer any more questions from him. My ‘boldness level’ was high by now thanks to the clarion call by my candidate in the slogan BE BOLD!

It did not end there. A few minutes after walking away from the GAME agent, I was approached by two uniformed police men. I knew they had prompting from that agent. They also demanded to see my tag. I showed it to them but instead of looking, they wanted to take it away from me. I resisted them with all the vehemence but was overpowered and the tag seized from me. It took Hon. Inussah Fuseini, NDC MP for TAMALE central and member of the electoral committee of the party to retrieve my tag for me. And this was even before voting had begun. I was unfazed by all these machinations and remained determined to ensure the sanctity of the ballot.

Voting time was finally here. I couldn’t believe what was going on. Being one of two official polling agents for my candidate, I had the responsibility of tallying the votes cast. My comrade Brogya Gyamfi checked the delegate’s register. On the other side for President Mills was a DCE standing beside me to tally votes. How did I know he was a DCE? The delegates- who obviously had a pact with him to do certain things- revealed his identity. They expressed surprise at seeing him and called out his title. This DCE was openly campaigning at the polling station against the regulations. He was preaching ‘double double’ to the delegates who saw him last before casting their vote. My conclusion is that these DCE’s and ministers who served as polling agents for Mills were put there to ensure delegates compliance with certain things they had been asked to do. For example, people talked to each other freely whiles casting their ballot. They had begun to show their cast ballot to each other behind the polling booths which stood very close to each other.

It is important to state here that unlike in previous congresses where the ballot boxes are placed close to the dais so that the party elders are able to witness at close range the electoral process thereby scaring people from engaging in voter irregularities, this time the ballot boxes were placed a gulf away from the podium to keep these planned and orchestrated irregularities out of sight. Some delegates were found to be untrustworthy to GAME and so were asked to take a picture of their vote to prove afterwards to merit what they had been promised. In the process of taking a picture of a cast ballot, the polling booth was brought down by one delegate before our very eyes. We began to protest- my colleague and me- against these irregularities. We got the EC officials to separate the polling booths wider apart. This didn’t end the irregularities. Bent on proving to the supervising DCE at the polling station, some delegates began waving openly their cast ballot to erase doubts about who they voted for. This we felt undermined the principle of a secret ballot. Again we protested. EC intervened and declared all such ballots that are exposed as invalid henceforth.

Nevertheless, the irregularities at the polling station persisted. I finally tried to physically prevent a delegate from putting into the ballot box, a ballot paper which had been openly displayed for the viewing of the rest of the queuing delegates. I was met with strong resistance from the GAME agents present at this polling station. They insisted on allowing the paper dropped into the box. That brought a scuffle- bringing the idling young and armed police men on duty up on their feet to prevent violence. Here again, it is important, even crucial to state that I met face to face with physical intimidation and threats at this point. NII Lantey Vandapuye, and aid to president Mills and his agent during the congress rushed to our polling station where he met us strongly protesting against the non-secret ballot. Unable to have his way despite being power drunk, he openly threatened to have me arrested for protesting against these irregularities. I couldn’t believe the level of his folly. He forgot he was not in his office in the Osu dungeons. I dared him but he sneaked away like the coward that he is.

At various stages during that afternoon, several of my friends said to me we have lost the election. I refused to believe them. I still had faith in the integrity of the delegates and hoped they will not breach the social contract with the people. Starting from when our party founder was ushered into a praying stadium, resulting in a cold reception, some comrades gave up the psychological war. Before the first vote was casts, my comrade and fellow polling agent gave up his mind also. I kept the attitude. The irregularities shook my faith. It was during counting that I was hit with the reality that it will be a disappointing result for us. The first fifteen (15) ballots picked out from the heap didn’t count my candidate. And this is the most populated polling station with 390 delegates from 39 constituencies plus ministers and functionaries from Ashanti. Not even the 40 delegates who endorsed the nomination forms for NANA KONADU AGYEMAN- RAWLINGS in the Ashanti region voted for her here. They had been overwhelmed by fear and corruption imposed by president Mills and his GAME, only nine (9) of them remained BOLD and preferred to remain with the truth. Of course, the fewer will always stand by the TRUTH.

In our disappointment, we signed to accept the results at our polling station. Interestingly, the DCE and regional youth organizer representing GAME were not joyous after the count. They were not jubilating. I don’t know why. Perhaps they already knew the outcome. My mind became occupied by what my candidate kept telling her supporters and team members that the contest is not about her. The contest is about the party, the grass roots people, and the structures. So: I told myself she didn’t lose, the party did. The party failed to be rescued, but the point of principle has been established. History has been made. Her clarion call BE BOLD has become a national slogan because, and to paraphrase the former president and NDC founder the morning after election, the boldness level of our party supporters is so low at the moment because of the inactions of the NDC government of president Mills that a clarion call on them to BE BOLD naturally resonates with the people. And that makes the tactics employed by the ‘gray hair men’- the psychological operations that used the ‘fear factor’ to emasculate party people- a factor that is detrimental for internal party operations especially in the wake of the clarion call by the opposition leader NANA AKUFFO ADDO to his supporters to go into the 2012 general election with an ‘all die be die’ attitude- that make these discredited tactics plus it’s results a self-inflicted wound. Timid party supporters cannot face their opponents in 2012. Who else would use intimidation, if not cowards? I’m not surprised therefore that the former president and NDC founder stated a day after congress that he will not go to WAR in 2012 with cowards behind him.

Returning from Sunyani, I have heard several people speak. In my long silence and observation, I noticed the unity team running through pretentiously. The cynics are also at it with some even venturing to suggest that the Rawlings’ are now politically irrelevant for the NDC because NANA KONADU AGYEMAN-RAWLINGS tried to rescue this party from losing its structures completely and eventually losing power. How can people in government be such simpletons? The party failed to be rescued because a hand full of delegates out of the MASS or POPULAR VOTE that will be required to win the general election chose to violate the social contract by voting against the collective conscience of the constituents. Every constituency for example has 25 executives- only 10 are delegates. More than half are not. The branch and ward are cut off. Wouldn’t they be tickling themselves and laughing? Even the naive mockers are having a good day. But let them wait and see who pays the price for this alien culture in our party. It certainly won’t be the NDC founder and NANA KONADU AGYEMAN- RAWLINGS to pay the price. In the words of the NDC founder, it is the delegates and the NDC government who will pay the price for their actions.

In my books, the NDC founder is even about to get more popular among the people of Ghana. For when the ordinary people (the masses) elevate one of their own such as Jerry John Rawlings to a noble position so that he will fight to protect their interest, no other group of people- be they nobles, power drunks, psychological warriors or whatever- can reduce his standing through the use of any form of tactics and ignoble treatment at a one day organized shambolic congress where so-called delegates put their personal interests first before the social contract with the masses- a sure recipe for a backlash with the mass supporters during election 2012. Please let’s wake up from this complacency before we’re back into opposition.

What was democratic about the congress that I witnessed in Sunyani barely two weeks ago? What is there to celebrate on the part of the so-called victors? Just like a student who cheats to get excellent results will be exposed on the job when hired on the basis of such fake results, so will the man who manufactures his own popularity and strength of 96.9 % among the masses suffer the consequences of such superficiality of his methods when the time comes to meet the real enemy- the NPP. The president Mills who now boast of wining that election by 96.9 % could not even fake a smile in celebration because he couldn’t afford to deceive himself. He is fully aware that that so-called victory was a vote against the TRUTH. And for me, judging from the just ended sham in Sunyani, the NDC is currently a pure apology of a democratic congress.

President Mills promised to unite the NDC for victory 2012. That is an admission on his part that without a united front, there can’t be victory. But even before he will walk his talk on unity, some of his supporters- perhaps with his approval- are speaking a different language. Dr. Kwabena Adjei the national chairman in an answer to a question on whether or not he thinks the Rawlings’ will break away from the NDC, sarcastically asked back ‘Do you break away with 3.1 %?’ as if to say that percentage of popularity is politically real. I sense some complacency here from the ‘cut hunter’, and am afraid for what his attitude can do to the NDC’s unity agenda. Putting him aside, other elements are leading a section of the media to sustain the campaign of lies. Ben Epson, editor of the daily dispatch whose credibility is now in doubt after it has been established that he demands money from politicians to generate so-called opinion polls in their favor is in the fore front of disunity agenda for the NDC. As if he is an amateur journalist, he has begun setting a dangerous agenda for the elements in the NDC who wish to continue to delude themselves about the demise of the Rawlings’ stature. He now claims in his newspaper that the NDC founder is making demands on president Mills and his team as conditions before joining in the campaign for 2012. He lamely quotes from a letter written by an unnamed MP to president Mills in protest of such demands. Even though spokes person for the Rawlings flatly deny this, Mr. Epson, who in 2006 primaries of the NDC demanded ten million (10m) from the Mills team to concoct a poll in their favor but was turned down still insists that Kofi Adams who speaks for the founder is less informed of these matters. Whose interest is Ben Epson pursuing? And what has been government response? Absolute silence! Let’s see how this will contribute to unity within the NDC.

Well, as they pretend they want unity and they work towards disunity, I know one thing for sure; even with founder Jerry Rawlings and the BE BOLD train on board the campaign trail, the NDC still have slim chances of winning the next general elections. Without him and NANA KONADU AGYEMAN- RAWLINGS, going into the 2012 general election in the first place would be a non-starter. There is hope though in raising the boldness level of the NDC mass followers for 2012 general election. That hope is coming from the clarion call of the former first lady; BE BOLD! For if the NPP and NANA AKUFFO ADDO is asking their supporters to wake up for an ‘all die be die’ election, there couldn’t be any more appropriate counter clarion call on a currently cowed and timid mass followers of the NDC than for them to BE BOLD! This make the NANA KONADU AGYEMAN- RAWLINGS factor the only hope for the NDC in 2012. Let the prudent pay heed.

SaCut Amenga-Etego

(Author was a polling agent for NANA KONADU AGYEMAN- RAWLINGS during the NDC 2011 congress and a member of FONKAR)