When the New Patriotic Party (NPP) was declared the winner of the 2020 presidential election in Ghana, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) felt another four years in opposition was going to be like an eternity spent in grief.
The wounds of the 2020 polls defeat have kept millions of eyes in opposition very keen on the next general elections in 2024, like the anxious wait of the persecuted early church for the promised return of the Messiah.
Those wounds suddenly began to find a speedy healing when the NDC chose to conduct its presidential and parliamentary primary polls as early as May in 2023. The early conduct of the primaries brings the next year’s general elections closer, tuning weary minds to a new pitch of hope and switching them to a no-turning-back campaign mode for 2024.
The political atmosphere ahead of the primaries, particularly in NDC-dense constituencies, is tinged with euphoria. The party’s traditional fourfold colours which come with its trademark umbrella― black, red, white and green― have never been more visible in miniature flags and other paraphernalia nationwide since 2020 than they are now. The long wait is almost over.
But, in the midst of the general enthusiasm, some parliamentary aspirants are very unhappy. Their supporters are sad, too. The contest for the party’s parliamentary tickets in some constituencies, featuring a high number of lawyers nationwide as aspirants, has turned into a feud where some hopefuls are accusing some contenders of serious character assassination.
One of the aggrieved aspirants is Prof. Ephraim Avea Nsoh, Principal of the Ajumako Campus of the University of Education, Winneba.
Prof. Avea is in a race for the NDC parliamentary ticket in Bongo, an NDC-controlled constituency in the Upper East Region, against the current Member of Parliament (MP), Edward Bawa, and a legal practitioner, Charles Bawa-Dua. The aspirants were four in number from the beginning until Dr. Rainer Akumperigya, one of Ghana’s top lawyers, withdrew from the race for undisclosed reasons.
Plot and Break-up
Prof. Avea is not a new arrival in NDC parliamentary primaries in Bongo. He made his debut at the party’s 2015 primary election that saw Edward Bawa emerge winner.
He and Bawa-Dua are associated with the camp of the constituency’s longest-serving lawmaker, Albert Abongo, who voluntarily called it quits before the 2016 general elections after representing Bongo in parliament for 16 years.
Both Prof. Avea and Bawa-Dua reportedly joined forces in 2022 in one camp to oust Edward Bawa— who has been the constituency’s legislator from 2016 to date— at the upcoming primary election and reestablish the political supremacy of the Abongo Camp in the constituency.
But, as it stands, the Abongo Camp is divided. The camp, according to Prof. Avea, split up as a result of what he calls Bawa-Dua’s disregard for the camp’s succession structures.
He said Bawa-Dua, contrary to the camp’s standpoint, entered the primary contest against Albert Abongo in 2012. Prof. Avea said Bawa-Dua threw the internal rule to the wind again when he entered the race against him (Prof. Avea) for the 2024 parliamentary ticket.
“When Abongo stepped down finally, the Abongo Team agreed that I should be the person contesting. Charles (Bawa-Dua) said they shouldn’t allow me to contest. He said they should allow the Abongo Team to vote to decide who should be Abongo’s successor.
“When the Abongo Team voted, I won. But Charles still went ahead to file his nomination form to contest me. That is how the Abongo Team actually broke up,” Prof. Avea told Media Without Borders.
About 1,160 delegates are expected to choose a candidate among the three aspirants in Bongo on Saturday, May 13, 2023.
Prof. Avea says Bawa-Dua has made him a regular subject of a smear campaign as he travels from one polling station to another to market his manifesto to delegates.
“Since he refused to step down for me, and we had to contest together, he has decided to now go on a very negative tangent against me,” he stated.
Prof. Avea says Bawa-Dua has been telling the delegates, particularly his (Prof. Avea’s) loyal supporters among the delegates, five lies about him.
“He is telling them I don’t have money, I don’t have resources to match the MP, and so my people should abandon me and join him so that he can defeat the MP. He is also creating a false impression that he has enticed many of my supporters to his side, leaving me with a few devotees.
“Worst of all, he is telling them that the MP (Edward Bawa) has bribed and corrupted me to contest just to ruin his (Bawa-Dua’s) chances and to make it impossible for us— the Abongo Team— to win. This is a false accusation intended to damage the reputation I have built as a principled person. Another false information he is spreading is that those who are backing me have told me to step down but I have declined,” he said.
According to him, Bawa-Dua is also consciously misleading the delegates with a poll he (Prof. Avea) says is not only laughable but is also not credited to any source. The alleged poll is said to have been conducted into the chances of the aspirants in the constituency.
“He is telling them about a fictitious poll. He claims the poll says I have 9%, he has 44% and Edward Bawa has 47%,” Prof. Avea stated. “He is going round, telling the delegates that he needs only my 9% to catch up with Edward Bawa and defeat him. He is saying I don’t have the numbers and that I have only come into the race to spoil his chances.”
Prof. Avea’s response
In response to the things Bawa-Dua is said to have told the delegates, Prof. Avea said the statements were not only dubious but also damaging because “people are buying into them.”
“How would somebody know or think that I don’t have resources? I have filed. I picked the form for Gh¢5,000. I filed for Gh¢40,000. I also paid dues of about Gh¢3,500. I’m going round, buying fuel every day for my campaign and meeting delegates. How can somebody say I don’t have resources?
“Statistically and based on a research, about 90% of the polling stations are on my side. You cannot tell me that I don’t have supporters. I’ve been in this trade for a long time— from 1992. You can’t tell me I have 9%. It doesn’t make sense,” he said.
On the bribery and corruption allegations reportedly levelled against him, he replied: “I have been known to be a very incorruptible person. I have rather been accused of being too honest and too principled. I have demonstrated that I’m incorruptible, both in academia and in politics. How can I, the same person, be corrupted and take bribe to spoil someone’s chances as he claims?”
He also challenged Bawa-Dua to publicly cite one person who had advised him (Prof. Avea) to bow out of the parliamentary primary election as a contender.
“It’s a lie. Not a single person has asked me to step down. I challenge him to mention just one person who has spoken to me to step down for him. I rather have spoken to him to step down. Abongo, Prof. Akabzaa and others have spoken to him likewise. He said he wouldn’t step down. It’s like he’s so desperate that he’s become too dubious and too negative in order to get me out of the competition.
“You don’t have to say things that are damaging or false about me in order to get people behind you or to win. People are buying into his false statements. I have gained my reputation, and I have had my respect over time. I have stood against several ills in society and, then, suddenly somebody is now accusing me of taking bribe to spoil his chances,” Prof. Avea said.
He added: “He’s creating such false impressions and making it difficult for me to do my campaign. That is quite frustrating and annoying for someone like me. I should be allowed to do my campaign. And that so-called opinion poll that gives me 9% is dubious. We don’t know who did it. It’s pure propaganda. The source, the methodology and the results of the poll should be made public if it’s not pure propaganda.”
The claims coming from Prof. Avea are false, Bawa-Dua told Media Without Borders in a telephone interview.
“I do not want to engage the good professor in any banter. He’s somebody we all respect, given his role in society. I respect him so much. I have heard some of these things that he has raised. I’m not aware of any corruption against the professor. He’s somebody of substance. How can Edward Bawa corrupt him? Somebody of his stature?
“Maybe, somebody has misled him. You know politics. I have not said anything like that. It is a complete falsehood. If there is anywhere I have stood to say this about him, he should say it. There is nothing like that. On the second issue, I don’t know of any opinion poll. And I’ve not made reference to any opinion poll. I recently launched my campaign in Bongo. My speech is there. I never talked about any opinion poll,” Bawa-Dua said.
On the allegation about Prof. Avea’s refusal to step down for him, he said there was a series of engagements aimed at getting one aspirant to step down for the other, but to no avail.
“The truth of the matter is that there is a belief that the professor and I have the same support base. So, we were of the opinion that the two of us should find some compromise. We engaged. I met the professor first in his house at Winneba. We had a discussion. We could not agree on who should contest or who should step down for the other.
“I again met the professor at…I think…Comme Ci Comme Ça restaurant, in Bolgatanga. We had a discussion; we could not agree. We have spoken on phone severally; we could not agree. Then, a cross-section of our supporters met us at Vea Youth Centre to try to bring us together to feature a common candidate; we could not agree. I was there. The professor was there. Dr. Rainer was even there. But we could not agree,” he said.
“Of course, we would once in a while talk to some people to help talk to the other side to understand. That is normal lobby. I don’t want to mention names of the respectable people involved in this. The crux of the matter is we have engaged and we have not been able to find a compromise. That’s a fact.”
He contested the allegation that he told delegates Prof. Avea was not well resourced for the election, saying he did not know his “monetary worth” to determine if he was the MP’s match at the election or not.
Bawa-Dua also described as untrue Prof. Avea’s assertion that, despite losing the internal contest to represent the Abongo Camp at the upcoming primary election to Prof. Avea, he still went ahead to pick and file a nomination form to take part in the primary poll. He said it was only in 2015 it ever happened that the Abongo Camp chose Prof. Avea over him to represent the camp at the primary election and he still participated at the same primary election for two reasons.
The first reason he mentioned was that he, too, had an already-existing independent group which backed him to run for the party’s ticket. He also said the decision taken by the Abongo Camp did not bind his group, which he said he had been working with since 2011.
“He must be talking about 2015, not the current election. And in this current election, all three of us have an equal chance of winning. Nobody can claim to have more numbers. To say I have told people that he doesn’t have the numbers is not correct. I want this to be on record. I respect the professor so much. I will continue to respect him. I don’t want to engage him in any debate.
“It’s unfortunate that we were unable to agree on a single candidate to face the MP. But that is politics. I would urge the public not to buy into the allegations being made by supporters or the good professor. I have not said any of those things they have alleged,” Bawa-Dua added.
“I have not bribed anybody”— says Edward Bawa as delegates vouch for Prof. Avea’s commitment
When contacted on the bribery allegation, Edward Bawa told Media Without Borders Prof. Avea was a man of integrity.
“I have not bribed anybody to do anything. Professor Avea is such a man of integrity and a man with more experience in politics [than I have] that I don’t think I would even have the courage to even contemplate going to bribe him. He’s such an experienced man and a man of integrity that I cannot even think of it, not to talk of even doing it. If this is actually an allegation made by Charles Bawa, it is a figment of his own imagination.
“I am just concentrated on my campaign, I’m concentrated on the delegates and I want to ensure that I sell my message to the delegates hoping that they would buy into the message. Professor Avea is not the type of person who can be bribed to come and run an election. He will run an election based on conviction. You think me, Edward Bawa, would have the courage to give money to Prof. Avea to do such a thing? How can I do that?” the MP said.
The NDC has won every parliamentary election and presidential poll in Bongo since 1992. The decades-long polling monopoly of the NDC in the constituency is credited to the groundwork of student groups and cadres Prof. Avea recruited and mobilised, some NDC supporters say.
Some delegates, too, acclaim him for initiating the Village Savings and Loans Scheme, a microcredit facility they say has been providing financial support to individuals, particularly women, in Bongo and other parts of the country.
“Prof. Avea helped in projecting the Gurune Language (the language spoken in Bongo and other constituencies found within the Frafraland) and sustaining it on the national map until it became an examinable subject at the basic-school level. The recognition and approval of the language in academic institutions have generated sustainable employment for some people.
“He founded NDC youth groups in Bongo in the early 90s and funded their activities. One of those youths is Charles Bawa-Dua who is now competing with him. He secured opportunities for those youths. This tells us the level of his commitment to the party. The mother of the current MP, Edward Bawa, was the NDC’s constituency women organiser in Bongo at the time,” one of the delegates, Milton Aberinga, said.
Another delegate, Harrison Atoe Atuna, attested: “He also sourced 500,000 Euros and another 250,000 Euros through his NGO to support farmers and the Bongo District Hospital. The same Prof. Avea secured an E-block for a community day school in Bongo as well as dormitories for students and residential quarters for teachers.”
Source: Media Without Borders/mwbonline.org/Edward Adeti