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NPP Primaries: Boot-for-boot in Dome-Kwabenya

The battle lines have been drawn in Dome-Kwabenya constituency of the Greater Accra region where members of the New Patriotic Party have to choose between the deputy Majority leader in Parliament, Adwoa Sarfo, and Ghana’s High Commissioner to India, Mike Ocquaye Jnr, in their upcoming primaries.

Across the constituency, the two candidates are matching each other’s campaign strategy ‘boot- for-boot’ as the electorates lace their boots to elect their voice in Ghana’s next Parliament on December 7.

The race for the NPP ticket is on June 20.

Such is the tension and anxiety that President Nana Akufo-Addo appears to be watching happenings in the constituency and has warned the two young politicians to be at their best behaviour or risk being out of his future administration.

The two candidates are the same in many ways—lawyers, young, dynamic and vociferous and riding on their fathers’ names to continue a political career.

Adwoa Safo, the home-schooled daughter of popular innovator and entrepreneur, Apostle Kwadwo Safo, won the primaries in 2011 in a constituency where her father has a cult following.

The philanthropic Apostle Sarfo has a huge mansion in Taifa, one of the most densely populated areas in the constituency, where she grew up.

But her NPP roots begun budding in the University of Ghana where she joined TESCON, the party’s tertiary students network. On a few occasions, she ushered at the NPP’s national delegates conference.

That move gave her confidence and the political connections to contest her first NPP primaries against a political colossus—Prof Aaron Mike Ocquaye in 2007.

She lost that contest on the very day she was in a labour ward for her first child.

On the other hand, in 2012, Mike Ocquaye Jnr, the son of a political science lecturer, had wanted to step into the shoes of his father who became the first member of Parliament for the constituency created in 2004.

But the political dynasty was not to be. Ms Sarfo beat the then NPP Communicator to become the constituency’s first female MP, cutting the political succession the Ocquayes were hoping for.

When Ocquaye Jnr couldn’t follow his father’s parliamentary career in 2011, he followed his father’s diplomatic path in 2017.

Prof Ocquaye left his job as Ghana’s High Commissioner from 2001 to 2005 to become the first MP for the newly created constituency in 2005. His son who bears the same name is following his trajectory.

Adwoa Safo launches campaign Wednesday

When the two contested in 2011, Ms Safo garnered 186 votes against Mr Ocquaye’s 124 while a third competitor, Mr Robert Osei Bonsu, a businessman, obtained  19 votes.

As expected, Prof Ocquaye during the NPP’s primaries in 2011 ahead of the 2012 parliamentary elections backed his son to succeed him.

But Adwoa Safo reportedly had the party’s, now suspended, First National Vice Chairman, Sammy Crabbe, playing an instrumental role in ensuring her victory in the primaries and later the parliamentary elections.

Analysts say that has since created somewhat ‘bad blood’ between Mr Crabbe and the current Speaker of Parliament, Prof Ocquaye.

Ms Safo has since became of the party’s leading voices in Parliament as its Deputy Majority Leader and also hold the position of a Minister of State in-charge of Procurement.

In 2012, Adwoa Safo shot to prominence in the NPP when she raised an alarm about alleged vote padding by the National Democratic Congress (NDC). It was an activism that would later snowball into the NPP’s decision to challenge the 2012 elections at the Supreme Court.

In 2015, Ocquaye Jnr temporarily took his eyes off the seat. Ms Sarfo did not. She had a landslide victory against her contender in the primaries, polling 674 votes against 249 by her contestant, Isaac Amofa.

Nine years after that encounter, the two protagonists are back to the stage as the diplomat promises revenge, while the MP eyes a repeat of the 2011 victorious dose.

Campaign of titles

As the contest heats up, the two combatants are hinging their campaign on their credentials and titles. On her campaign poster, Adwoa Sarfo, the Deputy Majority Leader in Ghana’s Parliament, urges the NPP delegates to “Re-elect Hon Lawyer Sarah Adwoa Safo for Continuity, Development and Victory 2020.”

Ocquaye Jnr, on the other hand, describes himself as the “Grassroots man” rallying the delegate to vote for “Lawyer Dr A.N.N.Y. Ocquaye Jnr.” His ambassadorial job in faraway India, where he has taken leave does not feature on the poster.

Performances 

As MP, Adwoa Safo’s performance in terms of development has often come under the spotlight as her constituents, in the country’s largest constituency, demand their share of the national cake.

In the last four years, there have been at least three major demonstrations against her over poor roads in a constituency.

Admittedly, under her leadership, some of the bad roads have either been fixed— Atomic Roundabout through Kwabenya, Abokobi, Haatso, Westlands, Musuku and Ashongman Estates roads are all being taken care of by the contractors.

The four-lane interchange being constructed by the government also connects to her constituency through the ACP Estates to Kwabenya.

In a year the government has declared as the Year of Roads, the constituents would have expectations—one that the winner of the race would need to make a case to elect an NPP MP in 2020.

Michael Ocquaye Jnr arrives in India – Today Newspaper

But Ocquaye also was appointed as Ghana’s Ambassador to the world’s biggest democracy, India. He takes pride in what he said had been an exponential growth in the trade between the two countries.

Trade between the two countries hit $ 3.6 billion in July 2018, a 34% increase—Mr Ocquaye takes credit for that.

While the two gird their loins for another race, the Dome-Kwabenya constituency NPP is not at peace.

Campaign controversies 

Their campaigns have not been without controversy as Ms Safo in May accused her opponent of trying to eliminate her by foul means.

She alleged that she was targeted in an attack on the constituency chairman’s house.

“This lawlessness and indiscipline must stop. They thought I was in my Chairman’s house so I was the target. The perpetrator is Speaker’s driver. His supporters went and attacked my chairman and vandalized his house. The party must stop this because my life is being threatened,” she said.

But Mr Ocquaye Jnr discredited the allegations and insisted it was an attempt to court sympathy votes.

“How can a scuffle which ensued at the house of the Chairman over a snatched album by a supporter of Adwoa Safo be construed as a threat to her life?

“Does Adwoa live in the House of the Chairman? How come her life feels threatened after two weeks of an unconnected incident, where no one was even hurt?” he responded in a statement.

There is tension over the party album as the two sides accuse each other of hijacking the party album—the constituency’s voter register.

Supporters of Mr. Mike Oquaye Junior have, however, accused the MP of attempting to manipulate the constituency’s electoral register to favour her.

Wooing the delegates

During a recent interview with Joy News, Mr Ocquaye Jnr said the two sides had no qualms.

He said his main concern for the constituency was to be the unifier who would prioritise the welfare of party members and the constituency.

He also intends to improve security and healthcare in the constituency.

Mr Ocquaye Jnr said he had already started by renovating the constituency office which had not been painted in the last years and was also left with a broken glass door.

For her part, Ms Safo believed she is tried and tested and was in the position to further accelerate the development of the constituency.

She told the delegates, “The people of Dome-Kwabenya have given them their mandate. They shouldn’t disappoint them. They are looking forward to them choosing a candidate that is unbeatable, tried and tested. Give her a chance to continue for the greater good of the constituency and mother Ghana.”

Dome-Kwabenya is huge and borders Ayawaso West Wuogon, Akuapem North, Madina and Trobu and Amasaman constituencies.

Highly cosmopolitan in nature, it houses major institutions including the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission, the School of Nuclear Science of the University of Ghana.

Covering Dome, Ashongman Estates, Ashongman Old Town, Taifa, Haatso, Agbogba, Kwabenya, the constituency is the country’s biggest with more than 100,000 voters.

It was carved out of the Abokobi-Madina Constituency in 2004—one of 45 constituencies created that year.

It has since been a New Patriotic Party stronghold.

As two candidate traverse the Dome-Kwabenya constituency, the delegates have a choice between continuity and a fresh face. It is a race that won’t be easy for any of the two candidates if the result of the past is anything to go by.

 

 

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