A debate ensued between Dr Edward Mahama and Mr Hassan Ayariga, both aspirants to the 2016 flagbearership of the People's National Convention (PNC) in Bolgatanga last Saturday over who was responsible for the dwindling fortunes of the party in previous elections and who between them was supposed to speak first or last at party functions.
The two aspirants defended their stance in separate interviews with media practitioners in Bolgatanga during the Upper East Regional Congress of the party to elect new officers to steer the affairs of the party in the next four years.
The interviews were occasioned by a misunderstanding that initially occurred between the two, as to who was supposed to speak first or last as the Master of Ceremonies called on them one after the other to speak.
Mr Ayariga argued that protocol was not observed and that since he was the incumbent flag bearer, he was supposed to speak after Dr Mahama had spoken.
But Dr Mahama, in a rebuttal, believed that this time around, he would also not be cowed into allowing Mr Ayariga to dictate to him as he did in 2012.
Dr Mahama further explained that he was law abiding and that anywhere he went, he followed the protocol presented to him by the organisers of the function and so in this case, Mr Ayariga should be the one to speak before him.
The National Delegates Congress to elect one of them as the flag bearer would be held in Wa in the Upper West Region later this month.
Mr Ayariga indicated that in the 2012 general election, the party faced problems of uniting which affected the party's fortunes.
According to him, it all started in Sunyani when the party was supposed to elect its flag bearer and national executive officers at a national congress and the disunity was carried into the 2012 general election, hence the party's poor performance.
"No matter how good you are individually, if you do not unite you would not be able to perform or succeed in any endeavour," he noted.
He explained that it was important for the rank and file of the party to maintain unity, commitment and loyalty to help turn around the fortunes of the party, saying "once unity is out we can forget about the 2016 elections."
Mr Ayariga indicated that in 2012, after the National Congress in Sunyani, he went to Dr Mahama’s house and pleaded with him to support him in his campaign but the latter said he had retired from politics.
"So if you have retired from politics and I begged you to join me in my campaign and you did not help me and now you have come back saying that some members of the PNC want you back, what does that mean?" he asked.
"He, Dr Mahama must blame himself for causing disunity in the party in the 2008 elections because when the party was at the crossroads to support either the New Patriotic Party (NPP) or the National Democratic Congress (NDC), he failed the people" Mr. Ayariga stressed.
He explained that at a National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party, voting took place and 19 voted for the NPP and another 19 for the NDC.
The 2012 flag bearer said when Dr Mahama was asked to vote to decide on which way the party should go, he (Dr Mahama) said he would not vote and that affected the party till date as members split into two with half supporting the NPP and another half supporting the NDC. "As I speak to you, there are allegations that half of PNC members are NPP people, while another half belong to the NDC; we must correct the mistakes of the past,"he observed.
"For 16 good years you have been the leader and flag bearer of the party but the party's fortunes continue to dwindle with every general election held. In 2008, the Convention People's Party flag bearer beat the PNC flag bearer but when I came into the picture, I overturned that and I have stabilised the fortunes of the PNC,"Mr Ayariga noted.
Mr Ayariga was of the opinion that Dr Mahama had set "a bad precedence that no flag bearer in the country has ever set." He noted that Dr Mahama had failed to groom the young ones to take over from him when he (Dr Mahama) was the leader and flag bearer of the party for 16 years.
The 2012 flag bearer also refuted allegations that he sold members of the PNC to the NDC, asking "How can you sell something that you do not have."
"I donated money in all the elections held and I have also donated about 30 motorbikes to all the regions for the purposes of improving on the party's political activities,"he stated.
Dr Mahama, for his part, stated that he was looking at the bigger picture and that Mr Ayariga was not his main focus and problem.
"Before I came back into the party I prayed to God to make me become the David to fight the Goliath of Ghana which is corruption and so I am focusing on leadership of integrity, honesty, sincerity and ideas just to get the PNC out of this predicament and Ghana out of poverty and dumsor,"he emphasised.
According to him, Mr Ayariga had promised the Upper East Region offices and other things but till date he (Mr Ayariga) has fulfilled none of those promises.
"In fact I do not want to be talking about individuals but how best to improve on the fortunes of the party,"he noted.
Dr Mahama was of the view that the party's performance would improve in the 2016 elections because Ghanaians now are discerning, adding "the PNC is going to do much better in the 2016 elections than ever before".
He said in the past, the kind of politicking that was going on did not allow the ordinary Ghanaian to listen and think through the issues before taking a decision because it was all about NDC and NPP but "now things have changed."
He indicated that there were about 15 to 20 parliamentary seats that the PNC could easily grab if the right measures and strategies were put in place and that would be his focus if he got the nod at the Wa National Congress to be the flag bearer of the party.
"Even if I do not get the nod at the Wa National Congress, I would have honoured the clarion call on me to come back and so I have come back; but having said that let me add that the party already has a succession plan and I will follow it," he further stated.
He, however, expressed optimism that after the National Congress in Wa, there would be unity in the party.
In all, 134 delegates at the PNC regional congress elected Mr Baba Mohammed as the Regional Chairman, while Mr Albert Adongo was elected as the Regional Secretary and Mr Haruna Tuyab,the Regional Organiser.The former Regional Secretary of the party,Mr Henry Fatchu, proposed an amendment to some portions of the party's constitution, including the expansion in the electoral college at the regional and national congresses.
The congress, which was on the theme: "Building the party through a strong parliamentary representation," was aimed at mobilising the party to win at least six parliamentary seats in the Upper East Region.
Also in attendance were the aspiring National Chairman of the party,Mr Bernard Mornah, and Dr Michael Wumbeogo,the PNC parliamentary candidate in the Talensi by-election that was held in July this year.