Ghana’s fledgling multiparty democracy would come under test and scrutiny on Saturday, July 9, when 3,125 delegates of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) from across the country would gather at the re-furbished Sunyani Coronation Park to elect the flagbearer for the 2012 general election.
The epoch-making event draws President Evans John Atta Mills, 67, face to face with 63-year-old Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, wife of ex-President Jerry John Rawlings in the contest. More than 400 local and foreign journalists are expected to cover the Sunyani event and most of them have arrived in the Brong Ahafo Regional capital and are poised for the event.
About 1,500 police personnel and other security operatives have been deployed to maintain law and order, ensure snap checks on vehicles and keep away miscreants and mischievous persons from the congress grounds. The Electoral Commission (EC), the body billed to supervise and monitor the election, faces the uphill task of protecting its reputation and ensure free, transparent and fair elections.
Nana Konadu’s message to delegates on her campaign trail had been th= at the economy was not in good shape, the NDC party was in an unhealthy position, with weak structures and demoralized grassroots and promised to rebuild these structures. President Mills promised to restore unity within the party, having gained experience serving as Vice-President and now President. The campaign teams of the two candidates have been up and doing as the= y try to out-do each other to win the confidence of delegates. With NDC flags fluttering on light poles along the principal streets o= f Sunyani, which are awash with the posters of the two candidates, the stage is deemed set for the historic event in the annals of NDC history. Sunyani is, however, experiencing heavy vehicular and human traffic, a rare spectacle and a clear departure from the regional capital’s usual quiet and serene disposition.
Nii Lante Vanderpuye, Director of Operations at the Office of the Presidency, at a press briefing on Thursday on security issues, urged journalists and media practitioners covering the congress to be circumspect, fair and objective in their reportage. He gave the assurance that the congress would be peaceful and successful. Lt. Colonel Paul Tanye=96Kulono, Presidential Security Coordinator, sa= id the meeting was to ensure that journalists carried out their duties 93in t= he proper manner” during the congress.
He appealed to the press to desist from spreading false rumours and creating unnecessary tension while covering the event. He indicated that all media personnel would enter through Gate Three o= f the Park and would undergo strict security checks through three brand new security scanners mounted at the entry points. Baba Jamal, Deputy Information Minister, urged all media personnel wit= h accreditation problems to proceed to the Catering Rest House in Sunyani where such problems would be sorted out.
He said more than 400 media accreditations had been issued out of a 1000 request made for coverage. Kofi Adams, Deputy=96General Secretary of the NDC, said the party would emerge victorious and stronger after the congress.
Speaking in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA) at the congress grounds on Friday, Mr. Enoch Teye Mensah, Minister of Employment and Social Welfare and a member of the Congress Planning Committee, described as 93fantastic and ready to start” the level of preparations s= o far made. He indicated that the congress would show how democratic the NDC is, adding 93this is because we have the wife of a former President contesting= an incumbent President”.
The Minister gave the assurance that the exercise would be transparent and fair and predicted an overwhelming victory for President Atta Mills as he deserves a second term. “The tradition must be allowed to follow. Former Presidents Kufour and Rawlings all went through second terms and there’s the need to ensure that solid building blocks are put at the foundation. This is what President Mills has done,” he added.
In another development, traders dealing in NDC paraphernalia have besieged the Brong Ahafo Regional capital from all over the country and hav= e displayed their items at the frontage and other parts of the Park. Security arrangements at the Congress have limited entry to the Coronation Park strictly to persons with accreditation cards. The traders have expressed disappointment with the situation as delegates and other accredited persons or observers may not patronize their goods.
Members of the general public could be seen in groups discussing the congress with some expressing worry about the heavy presence of security. Madam Veronica Asiedu, an office worker said the congress had brought “tension” in the town with a lot of security men and women around. She appealed to the NDC leadership to advise party supporters so that the congress would end peacefully.