U/E: Chief overthrows Bishop in Council of State polls

The Paramount Chief of the Talensi Traditional Area has ended the ‘overlong’ reign of the Rt Rev. Dr. Jacob Kofi Ayeebo as the representative of the Upper East Region on the Council of State.

The disappointed 55-year-old Anglican Bishop, who until Thursday’s ouster had been a member of the Council of State for 8 years, has strongly disapproved the election that led to his defeat, saying it was “unfortunately” influenced by tribalism.

“The election, rather unfortunately, turned out to be on bloc basis- central bloc, eastern bloc [and] western bloc. That is very, very unfortunate for the region because if we want to look at the region in terms of tribal ground, it would undermine the development of the region because we are all one people and we need to look at things more objectively rather than looking at things on bloc basis.

“That is the trend of this year’s election. That is the way it went- on tribal ground or zonal basis. It is not the best. It is not good for the region. If it continues, it can generate tension and tension can lead to conflict,” he told Starr News with a heavy tone of dissatisfaction.

The Thursday’s Council of State Elections, held in the regional capital, Bolgatanga, saw the incumbent Anglican Bishop clinch 6 votes to finish in third position amongst five white-haired candidates who vied for the single membership slot on the council.

Tong-Rana Kubilsong Nalebiktang, a petrochemical engineer and known in private life as Robert Nachinab Doameng Mosore, polled 11 votes to emerge as the first traditional figure to become a Council of State member from the region in many years. Philip Babachuweh, a 74-year-old contractor widely tipped to win the election, finished behind the eventual winner with 7 votes. Sixty-year-old agriculturist, Moses Abaare Appiah, placed 4th with 2 votes whilst Francis Apam, a 70-year-old mechanical engineer, finished at the bottom without a vote.

I’ve done 8 years; some MPs are doing 24 years – Bishop replies critics

Many, before the election, had questioned the reason the bishop would want to go for another term, having served already for 8 years since 2009.

And some were of the opinion that it was just completely out of place for a figure widely perceived to be a strong sympathiser of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) and who was an adviser to John Evans Atta Mills and John Dramani Mahama governments to now also want to counsel President Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP).

Incumbent Rt Rev. Dr. Jacob Kofi Ayeebo blames his defeat on tribal politics.

After the election that saw what some observers say was a needless “shameful exit” for him with some describing his defeat as the fall of a “big oak tree”, the bishop replied his critics with some biting references.

“It is not about having served for two terms. We have MPs who have been in parliament for 24 years. What about that? It is the wish of the people. I am a man of God. I serve all people. I served in NPP government before even as a presiding member and in the NDC government as a Council of State member. I’m above any political party. Some people are advocating for inclusive government, not the winner-takes-all government, to strengthen our democracy; but, unfortunately, people are not accepting the same reality,” he said.

And asked if he would like to contest future elections for the Council of State membership slot, he said: “I have served for 8 years. Four years is still far away for one to be thinking of contesting an election. I’m not thinking of contesting. I don’t know what is going to happen between now and four years.”

Conflict puts election on hold

The conduct of the Council of State polls in the Upper East Region was not without a controversy- one that was serious enough to delay the exercise until the other regions had finished with theirs.

Twenty-six delegates were expected to take part in the election, two representatives from each of the region’s 3 municipal and 10 district assemblies. But as of the time voting should have been underway Thursday, there were only 24 delegates in the conference hall of the Upper East Regional House of Chiefs- venue for the election.

Two separate meetings, said to have been led independently at the Nabdam District Assembly by the coordinating director, Fawei Issifu, and the presiding member, Douglas Tohugto, had led to the nomination of four delegates (instead of two representatives) from that assembly alone for the election. The meeting said to have been led by the coordinating director reportedly produced the presiding member and one Edward Dag-bama as Nabdam representatives for the election. Then again, the other gathering, allegedly convened by the presiding member, saw the same presiding member chosen alongside one James Tenga as delegates from the assembly for the Council of State election.

But a supposed credible source at the assembly affirmed that the coordinating director did not organise any separate meeting for the nomination of delegates. He said a directive was issued by the central government on January 23, 2016, to all assemblies (Nabdam included) to organise a meeting to nominate two delegates for the Council of State polls and that the coordinating director had only incorporated the requested activity into a meeting members of the Nabdam Assembly already were scheduled to hold for budget approval on January 25, 2016.

“The nomination was done in that meeting, accepted by all assembly members, and it eventually was misconstrued as a separate meeting convened by the coordinating director. That’s not the case,” the source told Starr News.

An ensuing controversy over the twin nominations ended in court where it was reportedly ruled that the nominations overseen by the presiding member should be maintained. An aggrieved group sought an injunction on the exercise. From morning up to afternoon, there was no activity at the polling centre as everybody waited with sighs of grief on Nabdam to sort out the differences. A crowd, mainly supporters of political parties, security agencies and the media, filled the premises amid great expectations.

The Electoral Commission came under intense pressure as the crowd and the candidates waxed impatient and expected the commission go ahead to conduct the election with the 24 delegates present. The EC, fully aware of the future implications of conducting such an election without a clear order from the court, stood its ground and soaked the pressure as it continued to mount. The event, which was scheduled to start at 10:00am, finally got underway around 3:00pm. It lasted just two hours.

“They came to a consensus and decided to withdraw the case from the court. The matter was finally settled by the Regional Coordinating Council after the out-of-court settlement agreement had been reached by the parties involved in the conflict,” the Deputy Regional Director of the Electoral Commission, Oscar Baah Apemah, told Starr News moments after he had declared the results of the election.

Speaking to newsmen after he had been declared winner, the 63-year-old paramount chief and former legislator for the Talensi Constituency pledged to make use of his new status to lobby for infrastructure development, to facilitate the revamp of collapsed factories, to boost agribusiness and to improve educational standards in the region. Certainly, that will be a long-term vision to achieve. But in the short-term, his palace yard will remain opened to thousands of his well-wishers and to those who campaigned for him until they are all satisfied with partying over a pride that will last for a long time.