The suspended National Chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Mr Paul Awentami Afoko, has said NPP risks staying in opposition if it fails to abide by party’s constitution.
He has therefore called on all well-meaning members of the party and lovers of democracy to rise up and save the party from illegal acts that are alien to its tradition.
“Unless urgent action is taken to stop the gross illegalities and constitutional breaches of the party, the future of the party remains bleak,” he stated at a press conference in Accra yesterday.
He said the destiny of the party was threatened by “the flagrant disregard for the party’s constitution” adding that “this emerging trend of blatant constitutional breaches and illegalities is alarming.”
Addressing the conference to explain his decision to resort to the law courts to seek interpretation of the party’s constitution, Mr Afoko said having exhausted all avenues available to him in the party, he was left with no other option than to proceed to the court “before these series of illegalities affect our fortunes in the 2016 elections.”
The press conference was primarily to enable him to explain to the party delegates, members, supporters as well as the general public why he had to resort to the law courts.
Interest of the party
In doing that, Mr Afoko stressed that “this I seek to do not for Paul Awentami Afoko! This I seek to do in the interest of the party. This I seek to do for the protection of all party members and elected officers, including the presidential candidate. This I seek to do for the preservation of our party’s integrity and democratic credentials.”
He said if members allowed the constitution of the party to be ridiculed and bastardised the way some people sought to do, “we will have a party without a soul.”
Mr Afoko said he had watched the party slide down the slippery slope towards destruction and that it was in danger of shredding its democratic credentials.
“It started with intimidation, insults and abuse on air, physical attacks and now intolerance of freedom of speech and dissent and of late, killings,” he observed.
Mr Afoko said the processes adopted by the party in suspending him were illegal, explaining that per the party’s constitution, if members wished to remove an elected officer, they ought to get at least 40 per cent of the delegates that elected that officer to petition to remove that officer.
He explained that thereafter, the affected officer would be given the opportunity to appear before a committee set up by the national council.
“The national council may suspend the officer, before subsequently an extraordinary delegates conference is convened to deliberate and decide on the matter. This is the only time an officer of the party can be suspended. Even then, when suspension is invoked, it should not exceed one month. Therefore, an indefinite suspension of an elected officer is tantamount to a removal of that officer,” Mr Afoko explained.
Regrettably, he said, contrary to the constitutional requirements, a few members of the party who were bent on overturning the decision of the party in electing him as chairman sent baseless petitions to the national disciplinary committee by the council of elders and two others from individual members of the same council of elders.
He said the disciplinary committee, without any referral from the national council, illegally invoked its own jurisdiction, adding that “what makes this worse is that some members of the council of elders from which the complaint emanated against me are also members of the disciplinary committee.”
Under the rules of natural justice, he said, some of the members of the national disciplinary committee were precluded from determining the substantive complaint against the national chairman as those members would be both petitioners and judges in their own case.
The disciplinary committee, without ruling on his legal objections, he recounted, proceeded to recommend his suspension.
He said the decision to suspend him was unconstitutional and that the national disciplinary committee did not have jurisdiction to determine a matter with the effect of suspending indefinitely an elected party officer from office contrary to Article 10 of the party’s constitution.
“Emboldened by these unconstitutional actions, regional executive committees have subsequently suspended 21 constituency and regional officers who questioned the wisdom of a party built on democratic principles and the rule of law, taking such contrary actions,” he said.
Threats to party’s vision
He said all those unconstitutional acts were a substantive threat to the party’s vision of development in freedom and added that they were a threat to freedom of conscience, association and expression and constitute a clear and present danger to the party’s values.
For him, the outcome of the vote at the “illegal” national council meeting following his petition was not the least surprising since all those who voted at the council meeting worked against his candidature.
“Their opposition and machinations notwithstanding, the national delegates’ conference, the highest decision-making body of the party, bought into my message of ‘New Plan for Power’ and gave me their mandate to serve them as our party’s national chairman. I am eternally grateful for this courageous decision by the party delegates,” he said.
Mr Afoko charged all well-meaning members and lovers of the party, as well as lovers of democracy to rise up and save the party’s democracy from those illegal acts that were alien to the tradition of the party.