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Opinions of Friday, 10 September 2004

Columnist: Asamoah Yeboah

J. H. Mensah?s Tainted Victory

A Day of Shame for Democracy

The oft-postponed and the most manipulated primaries in Ghana?s history has finally come and gone and the so-called Senior Minster Joseph Henry Mensah has been declared the winner gaining the right to conteset the December 2004 elections on the ticket of the ruling NPP. But for those of us who live in the Sunyani East Constituency and have followed the primaries process closely, this was really a day of shame for democracy. And J.H. Mensah should not be smiling as he was seen doing after the results were announced. He should bow down his head in shame and should be crying even if in private. This is because he and the NPP national Executive Committee and all their top gurus know that J.H. Mensah did not win the contest. They bought it, manipulated the process, twisted people?s arms and disgraced themselves in the end.

For the benefit of the good people of Ghana, both at home and abroad, I wish to lay bare the facts as I know them and challenge J.H.Mensah and the NPP National Executive to put forward a denial of even one percent of the following: Firstly, it is a well-known fact known to every one who matters in the party up to President Kufour that J.H. Mensah is highly unpopular in the Sunyani East constituency. And the signs had been clear right from the beginning of last year, 2003, that the Sunyani East people do not want him anymore as their ?Honorable? Member of Parliament. It was for this very reason that the Party Executive both at the Regional and National levels postponed the primaries so many times to see whether some pressure could be mounted on the most stronger and serious candidates challenging J.H Mensah to withdraw from the contest. They felt, and it was openly discussed, that an open contest would be a disaster and the Senior Minister needed lots of help to save face.

I have it on authority that Mr. Mensah pleaded with the President to intercede on his behalf by appealing to two of the front-runners to withdraw. That was a first capital mistake. Why did J.H.Mensah go to cry before the President like a baby telling him that ?Mmofra no pese wogu manim ase? (the young people want to disgrace me?). But this was against the background of the fact that J.H. had been boasting that he will maintain the Sunyani East seat as long as he lives. On one occasion, I was among a group of people who had appealed to him to step down and let the youth carry the mantle. His arrogant retort was that ?parliamentary work is not about cutting wood or carrying loads to require the strength of young people?. He was so blinded by arrogance that he could not see beyond his own self-believed popularity.

His next stop after the failure of the Presidential intervention was to use the chiefs of the area to put pressure on the two leading candidates, Kwasi Ameyaw Kyeremeh and Nana Obiri Boahene to step down for him. That move also failed to produce any results. The two candidates kept going because the people in Sunyani municipality especially wanted them to go on. After all these moves failed, the Mensah camp resorted to planting lies to the effect that either one of the front-runners had been disqualified or had withdrawn. I personally had to intervene so many times at drinking spots and public places when the rumor started flying. But the source were all traced to the J.H. mensah Camp. Between July and mid-August I can count as many as thirty-five ?big men? from Accra and Sunyani that had tried to coerce Boahene and especially Ameyaw to ?step down?. The move became so frequent that anytime any one came calling at the law offices of Ameyaw or his brother, they were first asked whether they were also part of the ?step-down? group.

Then the NPP National Executive and senior members of the Cabinet decided to up the ante. They decided, against the party?s own electoral guidelines, to hold a ?mammoth? rally in Sunyani in favor of J.H.Mensah. This was wrong!!. How do you make the playing field level when you marshal your top guns in favor of one candidate when the primaries had not been held? But the Cabinet Ministers and the Party National Executive decided to train their guns on the front-runner, Ameyaw Kyeremeh to save their big brother. The following ?Big Guns? of the NPP showed up in Sunyani on August 22, 2004 to first campaign for J. H. Mensah but most importantly to try and twist the arms of Kyeremeh.: Haruna Esseku, National Chairman, Dan Botwe National Secretary, Hackman Owusu Agyeman, Interior Minister, Nana Akufo Addo, Foreign Minister, Prof. Ekumfi Ameyaw, Minister for Ports & Railways, Mrs. Elizabeth Ohene, Asamoah Boateng, Deputy Minister of Information and a host of others. After easily disposing of the weaker contendants, they waylaid Ameyaw Kyeremeh on his way to the rally and tried to bully him to step down. He refused!! They threatened not to let him speak at the rally if he did not announce that he was stepping down. And when he refused, he was prevented from speaking at the rally.

The rally was a disgraceful spectacle!!. All the party executive an d the Ministers trooped one after another to campaign for J. H. Mensah. They realized after the rally that, their efforts had amounted to nothing. They then cornered Ameyaw Kyeremeh again and conceded to him that they realized he was a ?very formidable candidate? but they were still pleading with him to ?step down?. This phase of the arm-twisting was led by Hackman and Akufo Addo. It failed!!

The next move by the J.H.Mensah camp was to try some very disgraceful and fraudulent moves. They invited about eighty of the constituency electors to a secret meeting ostensibly to discuss party issues and the development of the constituency. Before the meeting, they passed plain sheets of paper around and asked the meeting participants to write their names and sign to show that they came to that meeting. After collecting their signatures, the Mensah Camp then told the participants that they had prepared a petition to send to the National Office in Accra asking that no primaries should be held in Sunyani and that J.H. should be declared unopposed. They never showed them the wording of the petition. The meeting nearly turned into fist-fights when the participants realized that J.H. Mensah?s group had fraudulently got their signatures for a decision they were not part of. That move backfired and although they still sent the petition plus the fraudulently-obtained signatures to the party headquarters, they could not muster the courage to implement the demands in the petition.

All the signs by the end of August pointed to the fact that J.H. Mensah was going to lose a fairly held contest. The National Executive decided to try a few more frauds: They announced on radio and in the newspapers that the Sunyani East Primaries will come on on Saturday September 4 only to change the date at the lat minute to Tuesday September 7, 2004. And to add insult to injury, they decided that the voting will take place NOT in Sunyani, the Administrative capital which is home to more than seventy per cent of the electors but to a small village outside Sunyani called Antwikrom. At this time the people were clearly fed up with the intrigues and manipulations of J.H. Mensah.

But the worse was yet to come. On Monday September 6, a day before the primaries, the J.H. Mensah camp sent their goons and macho men around the city and rounded up about ninety-one of the ninety-nine electors and forcibly confined them in a secret location for the whole night before driving them off in a group to Antwikrom on Tuesday morning to vote for J.H. Mensah. Reports from the detainees speak of very despicable acts by the party executive and J.H. Mensah?s people. Huge sums of money changed hands. Those who were showing sturborness were threatened with fire if J.H. Mensah lost the vote. By the time they drove the electoral detainees to the voting location on Tuesday morning, they were totally drained emotionally and physically.

Just before the voting started, National Chairman Haruna Esseku stood on the podium and openly asked people to vote for J.H. Mensah. It was a despicable sight. This was a National Chairman supposed to show fairness and neutrality. The Regional Minister and officers of the Electoral Commission looked on helplessly.

In the end, J.H. Mensah was declared the winner. But he and all his party gurus know that he never won a free and fair fight. He stole the vote. He bought the vote. And where he could not buy, his gurus manipulated the process.

As a citizen of Sunyani and member of the NPP who has closely followed these primaries, I bow down my head in shame on a day when democracy was subjected to the most shameful rape by those who have sworn to defend it. And this is not going to be the end of the fight. The party will hear from the grassroots one way or the other. J.H. Mensah and his party chiefs have actually made a hero out of little known Ameyaw Kyeremeh. He is now a hero on the streets of Sunyani and he is admired for the way he carried himself majestically to the end. I doff my hat for him again for his graceful acceptance of the results although all of us there knew that he did not lose. It was democracy which lost.

J.H. Mensah should bow down his head in shame!!!!

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