Magazine article New African

Ghana: Why Kufuor Did Not Get His Man

Magazine article New African

Ghana: Why Kufuor Did Not Get His Man

Article excerpt

There were as many as 17 aspirants hoping to succeed President John Agyekum Kufuor as the ruling New Patriotic Party's presidential candidate for the December 2008 elections. In the end, not even bare-faced arm-twisting at the party's crucial congress could bring victory to "the blessed one" and Kufuor's favourite, Alan Kyeremateng. Stephen Gyasi Jnr reports from Accra.

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The crowded field of 17 aspiring presidential candidates had become a cause for concern for many supporters of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), but its leadership had amply assured all faithfuls that the party would come out of the "make-or-break" congress stronger and more united than ever.

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Concern had been expressed ahead of the congress about the "reckless" display of opulence and acrimonious campaigning by some of the aspirants, with the President John Kufuor's favourite candidate, Alan Kyeremateng (the former trade minister), coming in for a barrage of criticisms for his extraordinary display of financial clout.

During the selection of delegates for the congress at the 230 constituencies across the country, controversy, legal tussles, and rumours of "executive influence" were rife. It, therefore, came as no surprise when, during voting at the congress, the national organiser of the party, Lord Commey, walked to the podium and announced that one Paul Afoko, a member of the party's finance committee and a Kyeremateng supporter, was distributing foreign currency to some of the delegates to influence the voting process in favour of his candidate.

The police had to intervene to save Afoko from being lynched by some irate supporters of the other aspirants. But Commey's action was sharply criticised by high-ranking members of the party, including the national chairman, Peter Macmanu, who argued that Commey had used the wrong forum to make the announcement.

Not a man to take defeat lightly, Commey insisted that the decision to announce Afoko's action from the podium was necessitated by the refusal of the police to act when they were alerted. "I owe nobody an apology and given the same circumstances, I will repeat what I did'," he said.

Voting was suspended for more than an hour as security personnel and party executives made frantic efforts to restore sanity as Commey's announcement threw the congress into total confusion. In the heat of the chaos, local TV cameramen who were covering the event live were manhandled while others had their gadgets seized. Some radio journalists who were running live commentaries on the congress were also heckled.

It had then become clear that highhandedness and machinations were being employed to ensure the election of "the blessed one", but it had backfired as the delegates registered their disgust by voting en mass for Nana Akufo-Addo (the former foreign minister), one of the hot favourites anyway, thereby sending a strong message that the party was not for sale.

Until those unpalatable events, NPP leaders had patted themselves on the back for the party's so-called unrivalled democratic credentials and its ability to organise hitch-free events, but after being plunged into a credibility crisis brought on by the "make or break" congress, that claim has gone up in smoke. In the end, Nana Akufo-Addo, polled 1,096 of the 2,285 valid votes (representing 47.97%) to beat his closest rival, Alan Kyeremateng, to second place with 738 votes (representing 32.29%).

This necessitated a run-off, since, according to the party's constitution, a candidate must garner 50% + 1 of the votes to be declared winner in such a contest. But Kyeremateng conceded defeat, making Nana Akufo-Addo the winner, and thus, the party's presidential candidate for the December 2008 elections.

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While some NPP loyalists lauded Kyeremateng for his rare display of "sportsmanship", others said he conceded defeat to avoid an "electoral disgrace" in the event of a runoff. …

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