Eight of the 12 people aspiring for the flag bearer position of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) have decided to boycott the picking of nomination forms as the party opens its doors for the picking of nomination forms today and tomorrow.
They have also petitioned the National Council of Elders of the party, under the chairmanship of the Founder, former President Jerry John Rawlings, to intervene to prevent irreparable harm to the party.
The decision of the aspirants follows the setting of what they have described as ‘outrageous’ filing fee by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party.
In a document titled: “Guidelines for the conduct of the election of a presidential candidate of the NDC pursuant to articles 40 and 42 of the constitution”, the General Secretary of the party, Mr Johnson Asiedu Nketia, last Thursday announced that the filing fee for male aspirants had been pegged at GHȼ400,000, while female aspirants and persons with disabilities (PWDs) would pay GHȼ200,000 and GHȼ150,000, respectively.
The aspirants who signed the petition, a copy which is available to the Daily Graphic, are the Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Bagbin; a legal practitioner, Elikplim Agbemava; a former Minister of Trade, Ekow Spio-Garbrah; a former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Health Insurance Authority, Sylvester Mensah; a former Mayor of Kumasi, Kojo Bonsu; Nurudeen Iddrisu; Stephen Atubiga and Goosie Tanoh.
Former President John Dramani Mahama, a former Deputy Finance
Minister, Kweku Ricketts-Hagan; a former Vice-chancellor of the University of Professional Studies, Professor Joshua Alabi, and David Dotsey Kwami Kuwadah, who are all flag bearer aspirants, are not party to the petition.
According to the petitioners, specific issues they had with the guidelines were that the NEC did not meet the procedural requirements set out in Article 42 (1) (f) of the NDC constitution for publishing electoral guidelines.
The NEC, they said, had generally not met standards of stakeholder consultations acceptable in a social democratic party.
They also averred that NEC, in publishing the guidelines, exceeded its authority, to wit, imposed eligibility criteria not provided for in the party’s constitution.
“These make the guidelines ultra vires to the NDC party constitution and thus null and void,” the petitioners stated.
They stated that NEC’s proposed guidelines imposed filing fees on aspirants “that are unreasonable and that call into question our basic commitment as social democrats”.
They also said the guidelines did not provide adequate assurance of a level-playing field for the primary in the context of openly displayed bias on the part of some members of NEC.
The petitioners also objected to NEC’s proposal that the entire electoral process be completed within 45 days from December 5, 2018 to January 19, 2019.
According to the petitioners, there was ample reason to believe that key players in NEC were bias in favour of a particular aspirant and were intervening unlawfully in the primary campaign to achieve a favourable outcome for that candidate.
“In these circumstances, we do not believe that the NEC can be trusted to administer the primary fairly. We have resolved not to proceed under the proposed unlawful guidelines.
Accordingly, none of us will pick up nomination forms or otherwise comply with the unlawful guidelines until our petition is heard and the issues set out are fully resolved,” they said.
The petitioners, therefore, requested the Council of Elders to investigate the matter and request NEC to institute a process for preparing primary electoral guidelines, in consultation with the Council of Elders, the aspirants and other stakeholders.
Those, they said, must include a fee of GHȼ5,000 for the collection of forms, a filing fee of GHȼ100,000, an endorsement period of six weeks, as well as a polling date in the first week of March 2019.
Additionally, they requested the Council of Elders to procure the immediate suspension of the guidelines, among others.
Mahama’s camp upbeat
Meanwhile, the camp of former President John Dramani Mahama remains upbeat about his intention to pick the forms in view of a campaign fund that was set up following the announcement of the fees, into which his supporters across the country and in the Diaspora have been urged to make contributions towards the payment of the filing fees.
The Daily Graphic has spotted on Facebook that Professor Joshua Alabi’s team has also initiated a campaign fund and called on his supporters to make contributions to the fund to enable him to meet the eligibility criteria.
Recently, Mr Ekwow Spio-Garbrah advertised in the Daily Graphic and another newspaper for support from all and sundry for his campaign.
The decision by the NDC to peg the filing fee for its flag bearer aspirants at GH¢400,000 elicited sharp reactions from some of the aspirants.
They raised eyebrows over the fee, suggesting it was counter-productive and a disservice to a centre-left party.
Among them were Mr Ekwow Spio Garbrah, Mr Kojo Bonsu, Mr Alban Bagbin, Prof. Joshua Alabi and Mr Elikplim Agbemava.
The Daily Graphic tried contacting other aspirants, including Mr Goosie Tanoh, Mr Sylvester Mensah and Mr Kwaku Ricketts Hagan, by phone but the calls went unanswered.
From the camp of former President John Dramani Mahama, his spokesperson, Mr James Agyenim Boateng, said the former President had no views on the guidelines except to comply, while a former Metropolitan Chief Executive of Kumasi, Mr Kojo Bonsu, who is also in the race, said he needed time to reflect on the guidelines and would respond appropriately.
At a news conference in Accra last Thursday to outline the road map for the election of a presidential candidate for the party for the 2020 elections, the General Secretary of the party, Mr Johnson Asiedu Nketia, said female aspirants and persons with disabilities (PWDs) would, however, have a reduction in the filing fee.
While female aspirants will pay GHȼ200,000, PWDs will pay GHȼ150,000.
The cost of the forms itself for an aspirant is GHȼ20,000 and all fees paid are non-refundable.
Mr Asiedu Nketia said nomination would be opened for two working days of December 3 and 4, 2018 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
He added that nomination forms could be obtained from the General Secretary or an officer appointed by him, and that desirous and eligible contestants were expected to file their nominations between December 13 and 14, 2018.
He said the date for the election of the flag bearer had been set for January 19, 2019, to take place in all the 275 constituencies.
The national headquarters of the party would constitute an additional voting centre for all delegates from the external branches of the party, he said.
More than 260,000 delegates are expected to cast their ballot in the primary.