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Opinions of Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Columnist: Yayra, A. A.

Paul Afoko: Bravest Ghanaian

-Resisted 31st Dec Coup

By A. A. Yayra

If there should be any award scheme to honor a brave Ghanaian soul who dutifully obeyed the constitution and stood against the fearful artillery of Jerry John Rawlings and his group during the December 31, 1982 coup d’état, Mr Paul Afoko, aspiring National Chairman of the opposition New Patriotic Party more than anyone deserves that honor.

History has it that whiles all the political heavyweights in the country in the early 1980s were cowed into submission as a result of the dreadful and scary December 31, 1981 coup then young Mr Paul Afoko, together with seven others were the only brave souls to openly resist Jerry Rawlings’ military take-over from Bolgatanga, the Upper Regional capital, and indeed, the whole country.

Narrating the events of that day to this reporter, Alhaji Bature Iddrisu, the Managing Editor of The Al-Hajj said, whereas the whole country went dead and or, were under coercion to support the 31st December coup, Mr Paul Afoko, then only 23 years or so and brave as he was seized a GBC community radio station in Bolgatanga, (URA-Radio) and called on people in his home Upper region (then including Upper West) to resist the coup and indeed dared the machinery of the military government with a massive demonstration on January 1st, 1982 in opposition to the coup.

According to Alhaji Bature Iddrisu, (who himself was a cadre of the Rawlings revolution and who together with cadre-colleagues also staged counter demonstrations in support of the coup) sensing the dangers in the activities of Mr. Afoko and his group and its possible spread to other parts of the country, the yet-to-be-stabled military government, led by Mr Rawlings quickly dispatched troops from the 6th battalion of infantry at Tamale to Bolgatanga to quell the unrest and arrest the leaders.

By the time the army arrived in Bolgatanga and following threats on his life from supporters of the Rawlings coup, the brave hero Afoko, together with other leaders of the rebellion including a Bolgatanga-based business tycoon and former journalist, Mr. Zira, Madam Hilda Bolco, immediate past NDC vice-chairperson and now executive member and Alhaji Aziz, now aspiring NDC constituency chairman, Ayawaso North fled to neighboring Burkina Faso.

Others include Mr. Alex, Accountant of Bolgatanga District Council, Mr. Goodman and Mr. Iddi, both businessmen.

However, not all the rebel leaders were that lucky, the late lawyer Larry Bimi, who was later to become Ghana’s envoy to Guinea, Gambia and Libya and former Chairman of the National Commission for Civic education with some few others were arrested and put behind bars at the Bolgatanga police station.

In Ougadougou, Burkina Faso capital, Mr Paul Afoko was few weeks later, to be lured back into the country with assurances from his father, Mr. Francis Afoko, himself another NPP stalwart only to be subsequently arrested and detained first at Bolgatanga police cells, then to Gondar barracks and thence at the Ussher Fort Prison in Accra, though, without any charge.

Whereas two of Mr Afoko’s ‘partners in crime’ the late Larry Bimi and Madam Bolco were to later joined the Rawlings government to escape the brunt of the military government, the aspiring NPP Chairman stood his grounds and rejected several offers, including a study in Cuba.

After spending several months at the Ussher Fort, Mr Afoko was to get respite in 1983 when renegade, Coporal Alidu Giwa’s attempted coup to topple the Rawlings regime resulted in the Ussher Fort been broken into and many detainees including Mr Afoko fled into exile, and have since lived in London until 2000 when the NPP won political power.

Upon his return to Ghana around the 2000, he remained one of NPP’s firebrands in the area of communication until his drafting into the National Council representing the Upper East region.

The business magnate has actively participated in the politics of NPP, especially during the 2007 congress of the party where he supported former president Kufuor’s favorite, Mr Alan Kwadwo Kyerematen against 16 other aspirant.

It was in the 2007 congress when he was alleged to be bribing delegates at the congress grounds out of which he was reported to have been slapped with slippers by Nana Addo’s supporter.

He has since put himself up for election as party Chairman with his “New Plan for Power” campaign slogan, which is said to be fast spreading like wild fire.

Just as all indications are pointing to a possible win for Mr Afoko, some unnamed persons are said to have petitioned the NPP’s vetting committee to disqualify him for an undisclosed allegations.

The NPP’s vetting Committee has since come out with its verdict disqualifying five aspirants for the various positions but said it was yet to decide on Mr Afoko’s candidature due to the impending petition.

A group calling itself Youth for Afoko has warned the NPP not to dare use any crude political tactics to get ‘the winning candidate’ out of the race as such as action “will only lynch hearts, raise emotions and block the unity we collectively seek which is the main insurance around victory 2016.”

Mr Afoko himself has described the charge as ‘frivolous’ that must not be given any needed attention especially at a time that the party was striving to put itself together to win power in 2016.

He said the party has too much at stake to be wasting time over unimportant issues, adding “what is facing us in 2016 is like a juggernaut. The opposition that is coming at us is a juggernaut. We cannot waste time on anything else other than get this party ready…if we wait now and we keep on spending more time on frivolous things like an anonymous petition, then what are we doing?”