Fresh protests have emerged at Bawku over a candidate President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo is alleged to have chosen, pending a public announcement, as the next Municipal Chief Executive for the famous town.
Some inhabitants of the area, who say they are elders and opinion leaders of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) in the Bawku Central Constituency, registered a strong disapproval of the said nomination Monday.
Wearing red bands at a news conference to affirm their stance, they declared NPP doomed in Bawku until that reported selection is overturned. They claim the candidate, Ustarz Umar, did not take part in the campaign that brought the party back to power and that his loyalty to the party is questionable.
Another reason they cited at the news conference for their open rejection of Mr. Umar as an MCE nominee is that he was proposed to the President, without broad-based consultations with elders of the party, by the Bawku Central Constituency Chairman, Yussif Salifu, with the purported backing of a member of the Council of State who has his roots in Bawku, Alhaji Sule Yirimea.
The candidate, who is reported to be in the final race for the MCE position with two others after the number of aspirants was trimmed from 12 to 5 and further from 5 to 3, is said to be the Chairman of the NPP’s Finance Committee in the constituency.
“After conducting the final interviews of the candidates for the position of the Municipal Chief Executive, information reaching us indicates that there are some manipulations in favour of one particular candidate in the person of Mr. Ustarz Umar. This our firm belief is grounded on a meeting that was held on the 12th April, 2017, by the Constituency Chairman, Yussif Salifu (a.k.a Babga) with polling station executives and electoral area coordinators where he said, ‘In consultation with some party elders, the President has nominated one of the candidates as his choice for the position of the Municipal Chief Executive’, and went further to say that we have no other choice than to accept him.
“He did not end there. He had the latitude to issue threats to anybody who would raise any objection or protest against the nominee and that he would call for the arrest of any party member who attempts to demonstrate against that decision, as information reaching him indicates that such protests are likely to greet the President’s nominee. This we think is uncalled for and should be condemned in no uncertain terms,” spokesperson to the group, Abdulai Yahaya, told newsmen at the NPP’s stronghold of Natinga.
My house was burnt down for NPP- alleged MCE nominee
A cluster of women took part in the protests, chorusing, “He is not a true NPP member!”, as the elders took turns to respond to questions from the press. And an angered audience of young men and women, some of whom were in NPP-branded clothes, clapped emotionally each time a speaker punched a point home.
“He has worked with the National Health Insurance Authority for 16 years since President Kufuor’s time. That he was not sacked from office by the Mills Administration and survived the witch-hunting Mahama regime alone tells you he is an NDC man. And we know his family already to be NDC supporters,” a middle-aged woman, Ayishetu Jambeidu Wini, raved in front of news cameras.
But Mr. Umar, when contacted, told Starr News on the telephone the allegations were totally unfounded and only meant to dim his bright chances of reaping the fruits of his outstanding sacrifices for the party.
“These are false statements. We were 12 who applied for the position of the MCE. A directive came from John Boadu, the acting General Secretary, that they should slash the number to 5 in all the constituencies. They gave them a criteria. And 5 of us were selected, based on individual contributions to the party. The 5 of us were taken to Bolga for another screening. Three of us were selected and invited to Accra. We were interviewed in Accra. So, we’re waiting to hear the outcome.
“No one has called me from Accra to tell me that I’m the person to be given the position of the MCE. If I was not qualified, at least the very day they submitted our names to Bolga, they should have raised that issue up- that this man did not help the cause of the party; move him out. But the entire party executives, the entire elders of the party, all agreed that I contributed a lot to the development of NPP in Bawku,” Mr. Umar said.
He went further to mention the sacrifices, the suffering and the support he said he had borne over time for the love of the party at Bawku. He said he led the campaign that handed the NPP parliamentary victory at Bawku at the 2008 polls and that, following that victory, he suffered an attack from arsonists who set his house ablaze after for supporting the NPP.
“I can tell you for a fact, most of those who organised the press conference were not there in 2008 and 2012. They only joined the party recently. I was the campaign manager for Honourable Adamu Dramani. I campaigned vigorously in 2008 and we won the election. I built a house for more than Gh¢60,000. And because of my involvement in politics, they burnt the entire house to ashes. So, would you describe someone like this as not a party man? In 2012 elections, I was the only person who sponsored and financed the party from beginning of the campaign to end. Would you describe someone like this as not a member of the party?
“And in 2016 elections, there was a time Dr. Bawumia came to Bawku for campaign. I am the Finance Committee Chairman of the constituency. We appealed for support from them individually and all of them refused. So, I had to accommodate Dr. Bawumia, the national executives, the regional executives and the constituency executives in my house. We were invited to Accra for fundraising. We gave them letters and all of them said they don’t do NPP politics. I went there with one businessman, Alhaji Ali Yelkaye. We were the only two people who represented Bawku at the fundraising dinner in Accra. I raised money for campaign for the 2016 elections and up to now I’m still paying debts owed by the party. You can find out from the executives. They don’t have a single reason to discredit me,” he disclosed.
Mamprusis cannot take all the positions – party chairman
Responding to the claims made at the news conference, the constituency chairman confirmed he convened a meeting with polling station executives and electoral area coordinators. But he denied he issued threats of arrest in the meeting against anyone caught demonstrating against Mr. Umar if eventually nominated by the President.
The gathering, he said, became necessary after some people had registered their dislike for an Ustarz Umar nomination as MCE and reportedly threatened to fire guns at Bawku in protest against such nomination. The meeting, according to him, was only meant to pass a general caution to party leaders and members against any intended action that could amount to criminality and ultimately may cause public disaffection against the party.
Recounting what he said in that meeting, the chairman told Starr News: “I said, look, the chairman is Mamprusi. I am a pure Mamprusi man. The parliamentary candidate is Mamprusi. The Council of State member is Mamprusi. You say you want the Regional Minister to be a Mamprusi and you want the MCE to be a Mamprusi. I only proposed we give the Hausa or the Moshie people the MCE position. I told them Bawku is a Zongo town and we need more votes. The Mamprusis are few. It is not only Mamprusis that vote for the party. The Hausas, the Bissas, the Moshies- they are helping us. If we give every position to Mamprusis, these people will run to NDC.”
He dissociated himself in strong terms from the allegations that he had manipulated the MCE nomination process in favour of Mr. Umar, a Hausa man, and tagged “most of those who organised the press conference” as known members of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) bent on destroying the NPP in Bawku by peddling lies on air.
“The President said we should give him 5 names. We sent the 5 names to the region. The region reduced it to 3. Even my own son, Regional Research Officer, Karim, is there. They removed his name. The party secretary, Hamza, is there. They removed his name. There were 3 names left. They sent the 3 names to Accra. Up to now, I never went to the President or any party member, telling him take this one, don’t take this one. I said I was ready to work with anybody chosen. And you people said if not Mamprusi, you won’t allow. The three candidates are Moshie, Hausa and Mamprusi. How do you know that the President is not going to nominate the Mamprusi man? You are now doing press conferences.
“They are doing all these press conferences because of Mamprusis. Umar is a Hausa man. His father is a big mallam in Bawku here. Bawumia came to Bawku here and I wanted a place to fix Bawumia. Nobody wanted to give his house. This man (Umar) is a civil servant, yet he agreed to accommodate Bawumia in his house several times. Ask the regional executives. They know. Again, we made appeal for campaign funds. None of them gave us even Gh¢1. It was only the Hausas, the Bissas, the Busangas and the Moshies who contributed. Now, it’s time for food, you say they should give it to Mamprusis. But if it is time for work, Mamprusis cannot go and do it. I am a pure Mamprusi man and I am the Chairman. But I am telling you that if they want us to leave these groups- the Hausas and the Moshies- then they want kill our party in Bawku,” he stressed.