Dome-Kwabenya NPP Primaries: Behold! Oquaye Jnr Cruising to Parliament

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By PHILIP KUMI

Politics! A career, a business, a course, an enterprise or a hobby? Different people have diverse opinions about it. Some even view it as a game – dirty game – loathers of it will say. Regardless of one’s opinion about it, politics proves to be an important field since it is through it that the governance of a country could be attained, usually, through elections. As such, it is not surprising that a large proportion of Ghanaians have keen interest in it, especially, with presidential and parliamentary elections.

On Saturday, January 27, 2024, the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) held its parliamentary primaries in constituencies with sitting Members of Parliaments (MPs). The outlooks were high in some constituencies. One constituency that caught attention of the whole country and Ghanaians abroad was the Dome- Kwabenya constituency. The eye balls of all politics-interested people feasted on the proceedings in the constituency with the highest number of registered voters.

The Dome- Kwabenya constituency seat has been a safe seat for the NPP since its creation in 2004. In the January 27 NPP parliamentary primaries, three candidates contested; the sitting MP, Hon. Sarah Adwoa Safo, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Free Zones Authority (GFZA) and a former Ghana’s High Commissioner to India, Ambassador Michael Aaron Oquaye Junior (a third time contester), and the Head of Strategic Planning and Implementation and Legal Advisor at the Office of the First Lady of Ghana, Mrs. Sheela Oppong Sakyi. Incidentally, all the three are lawyers.

The interest of the public in the Dome- Kwabenya constituency’s parliamentary primaries generated very early, just after the swearing-in of His Excellency Nana Akufo-Addo to begin his second term as the president of the republic of Ghana.

Adwoa Safo and NPP

On January 6, 2021, after the election of the Speaker of Parliament, Rt. Hon. Alban Bagbin, by the MPs, it became a topical issue that an NPP MP might had voted for Rt. Hon. Bagbin who was the candidate of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), as against the candidate of the NPP, Rt. Hon. Michael Aaron Oquaye, the then sitting Speaker of Parliament.

Conspiracy theory had it that it was Hon. Safo, who might had voted against the NPP candidate, because the son of the then Speaker of Parliament, Oquaye Junior, contested her in the 20th June, 2020 parliamentary primaries which she won by the skin of the teeth– eight-vote difference.

As characteristic in Ghana, the topic dissipated into thin air within a few days. Notwithstanding the brouhaha, the president nominated her as minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection. She passed vetting and was approved.

Then parliament began sitting to perform their legislative duties. The long absence of Hon. Safo from parliament became loud and worrisome – to the majority, especially, as parliament was almost split between the majority and the minority – 137 MPs apiece.

Reports had it that the Dome – Kwabenya constituency legislator had sought for leave outside Ghana for personal reasons. However, it was told that she had exceeded her leave but was not bothered to return to the country anytime soon. The majority in parliament became troubled.

When she was needed by the majority to enable them pass important bills, principally, the Electronic Levy (E-Levy), she had gone AWOL. Shockingly, she had inundated the internet with trendy photos of herself abroad, enjoying in a private jet, looking excited and beaming with smiles. On another occasion, she was in the driving seat of a vehicle abroad, singing and dancing on tiktok, where she seemed to throw subtle jabs at her critics, especially, her colleague NPP MPs.

Apparently, Hon. Safo had abandoned her ministry and constituents. Reports were rife that she had refused to grant audience to the president, the chief of staff (Hon Frema Osei Opare), and the majority leadership in parliament.

The president on July, 2022, revoked her appointment as the minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection. All this while, the rumor mill had it that Hon. Safo would not contest in the 2024 parliamentary elections, the reason she had neglected her constituents and her party. Some members of NPP MPs had taken steps to ensure that her seat was declared vacant to pave way for a by-election in the Dome-Kwabenya constituency.

In September, 2023, Hon. Safo issued an apology to the president, the NPP, her constituents and Ghanaians. She claimed that her actions were unintended and were resultant of her grappling with family issues, including the ill- health of her child. That apology was, however, accepted with a pinch of salt, largely.

Statistics

Hon Safo’s popularity kept declining. In 2016, of the total valid votes cast, Hon Adwoa Safo had 63, 488 (68%) wihile the NDC candidate Nurudeen Mohammed had 29, 392 (31.5%). In 2020, of the total valid votes cast, Hon Adwoa Safo had 75, 041 (58.4%), whereas the NDC candidate Elikplim Akurugu had 52, 262 (40.6%). Meanwhile, the NPP candidate, Nana Akufo- Addo had 78,467 (60.68%) in the 2020 presidential election.

Oquaye becomes de facto MP

As the Hon Safo was enjoying her theatricals on social media, Ambassador Oquaye Junior, who had not relented on his interest to represent the constituents of Dome- Kwabenya, became the de facto MP, attending to the needs of party faithful, from paying of medical bills to seeking job opportunities for them. He put up an appearance at every party programme in the constituency.

Whenever his work schedule had permitted him, he attended social activities like durbars, festivals, marriage ceremonies and funeral rites. His popularity had soared in the constituency and in the party at large. Hence, he became the person to beat in the parliamentary primaries.

During the election of NPP electoral area coordinators in April 2022, sixteen (16) out of the candidates who were deemed to be pro- Oquaye Junior won. Besides, all the ten (10) candidates who contested the May 1, 2022, constituency executives elections, and were believed to be pro- Oquaye Junior won.

Adwoa Safo’s Campaign

Campaigns among the three candidates began at tortoise pace and the temperature kept boiling until January 27 approached.

The political reputation of Hon Safo had sunk into the lowest ebb by herself. Observably, it sounded shockingly nauseating to a lot of level-headed NPP loyalists when Hon. Safo announced her interest to contest the 2024 parliamentary primaries. She was so optimistic. Buoyed by her dyed-in-the-wool, few close-cabinet supporters, she filed her nominations and was number 2 on the ballot paper, while Ambassador Oquaye Junior was number 1– their same ballot positions on June 20, 2020.

The MP’s campaigned was, visibly, dry and uninspiring. The vibrancy, pomp and pageantry that characterised her campaign in the 2020 primaries was conspicuously missing. To add insult to injury, the only two electoral area coordinators who belonged to her camp during the 2020 primaries, as well as many of the delegates who supported her, had switched allegiance to Mrs Oppong Sakyi. Others had joined the Oquaye Junior team.

She had attempted to wage a campaign of comparison between her records and her predecessor, Prof Mike Oquaye, but that strategy could not fly.
It was, thus, not surprising that she had a paltry 328 votes, representing 19% of the total valid votes cast.

Oquaye’s Campaign

Ambassador Oquaye Junior did not take things for granted albeit he was the leading contender. The odds were in his favour. He had conducted himself very well and his message had resonated with the Dome – Kwabenya delegates. He toured all the 18 electoral areas and met the delegates. Almost all the constituency executives were on his side.

He responded to the slogan, “Ye nim wo fri tete (we have known you since ages),” “the Grassroots man” and “No Mistake.” Practically, he was the only candidate who released a detailed manifesto. He sought to expose the continuous declining of the sitting MP’s vote in the constituency and her neglect of the constituency. His mission was simple, “Enough is enough, Dome-Kwabenya needs change for a better representation in parliament.”

Sheela

As someone who popped up into Dome- Kwabenya politics from nowhere, she was relatively unknown. Most of her support came from delegates who had abandoned the ship of the sitting MP. She campaigned on a mission to unite the party in the constituency, ostensibly, between loyalists of Hon Safo and Oquaye Junior. She could not break much grounds.

She was endearing herself into the hearts of the delegates until a day before the elections when she lost all her goodwill. She had reportedly invited the delegates to her house for a package. However, a lot of the delegates could not get their share of her package. That provoked them and they taunted to vote against her. For her part, if she expects to be taken seriously with her desire to become an MP in the constituency, she will need to have a look at some of the people who will manage her campaign and the counsel that they give her.

Many of those who led her campaign had no vote and could hardly convince delegates to vote for her. Some were in her team just to settle scores with some delegates. Obtaining 186 representing 11% of the total valid votes cast was not terrible for a first-timer, but she could have done better.

The Future

Should Ambassador Oquaye Junior become the next MP, it seems he will be poised to leave a legacy in Dome-Kwabenya constituency. And he will aim to hit the ground running to indicate his seriousness towards the task. His overwhelming endorsement of 1,194 votes representing 70% of the valid votes cast was a huge statement.

Nevertheless, from the views gathered from a chunk of the constituents, it does not appear that he will currently be pressured to make a mark instantly.

Looking at how low the image of Dome- Kwabenya constituency sunk from 2021 until the parliamentary primaries, any little success from him would be appreciated, particularly in his first term. Noticeably, he does not seem to be someone who would desire to go beyond three terms.

For the political journey of Hon Adwoa Safo, it appears to have hit a snag, unless she has something under her sleeves. Perhaps she might try to go independent, who knows? Time will tell. But that will certainly be a suicide mission.

Philip Kumi

The Writer is a Political Watcher and a Constituent of Dome- Kwabenya constituency

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