Here is a transcript of a leaked audio recording of comments made by the NDC National Chairman, Samuel Ofosu Ampofo, during a meeting with party officials.
He explains circumstances leading to his party’s withdrawal from the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election marred by violence. He also reveals the party’s plan for the 2020 elections. The National Chairman also okays the politics of insults.
The audio has put the party under pressure following concerns about the destabilising activities of party militias. The audio raises questions about the commitment of the two main political parties, the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) and opposition NDC to disband their militias.
First of all, let me say good evening and to thank you for the kind of work you are doing and the challenges we have had to go through in the past few days. I myself I call it a baptism of fire because if you were in my shoes you would really appreciate what we had to go through.
First of all let me admit that even though the party was aware that NPP would always resort to violence when we go to bye-election, the scale and the combination of state security forces against a party has never happened in the history of Ghana.
I have gone to by-elections…It is always either an NPP group against NDC group, slugging it out and the police showing a little bias here and there. But for you to see the level of deployment sheer numbers, the firepower and of course, that fact that these were not trained security personnel.
We picked intelligence very late the previous night when they went and recruited people from Odododiodoo in fact in Odododiodoo the youth organiser even came in a rush to Sanko where we were training our people to come and tell us Nii Adjei Blankson and others the kind of weapons that they distributed. What happened in Agbogbloshie, people they picked them there.
So we picked all these things and we have some of our colleagues and people there. And the plan they were hatching and the extent to which they wanted to go. If you have all this information we thought that if there would even unleash violence it will be late in the evening when they realise they are not winning…in fact they did everything including thumb printed ballot boxes which were going to be put in military Hover in the heat of the elections as if they want to restore violence they pick it and then… we had all those info.
So we thought that look this thing is going to go late so let’s watch how it begins. Some of our security guys I don’t want to mention names we tried to put some teams together. But when it started, the rate at which it came in fact if you were with me when I went to Legon hospital I saw the blood flow and the life-threatening injuries and I was getting calls from Bawaleshie, from Abelenkpe from East Legon it is like coordinated.
When I saw this thing and the calls were going, I thought that look, this thing was coordinated and if we are not careful the number of causalities we cannot handle. So I spoke to one or two of our intelligence capos and they said oo let’s wait till about 9:30 and see how…when I got to the PC the house, it was chaotic, the blood flow, everything. The Parliamentary candidate himself I had to go through a hall, go to another hall to the third place and the whole place was choked. And the cry of our party people was “look we can’t do this election again. We don’t want to die.”
And there was pressure on me. So I called him again, fortunately around the same time Honorable [name inaudible] came with me so we had to do some consultations with the candidate and then weigh the options and see. We were not in a state of preparedness to call for even reinforcement from anywhere.
As Capt Asaase Gyimah said, how do you call people with bare hands to go and face this force? Any intelligent person will say let’s weigh the option this is a by-election when we even lose the seat it doesn’t make any difference. Why should they slaughter because the tendency is that Hawks were being unleashed into the constituency and their determination is to mow them down as many as possible to let the Hawks and others know that “look you are nothing.” So why can’t we prevent that?
At the same time, there (sic) was mixed communications about the number of deaths. And it was all over the place that already two people are dead and as a party leader how do I encourage people to go and face this fire and die. So I had no option. I had no option. That is why I was tactical in saying that we are withdrawing our part agents because you see we are not in charge of elections.
We can’t stop the election. People who are leaving their homes to go and vote, I don’t have control over them I can’t ask them not to go and vote. But I have control over party people I had deployed as party people and they were under attack and so the best I can do and there were in various places I did not know what was happening to them and so once I had a fair idea of what was happening, to save them, the best thing is to recall them and bring them to a center where we can either brief them and decide whether to go back.
So, my brothers and sisters, it was a very, very difficult decision. At the same time, we also thought that if we continued this election and we win, the violence aspect will be swept aside. If we lose we have gone through the full haul so the discussion will be normal electoral violence.
So tactical withdrawal was to then place the issue in proper context so that every focus will be in on what the government is doing. And that is what we have largely succeeded in achieving. And for the first time UNDP, they have never waded into these issues. EU delegation had called one of our senior comrades and said that look they are going to rethink their funding of the 2020 elections because you know EU is a major stakeholder in terms of funding. So we can then push for proper.
My worry a little was the fact that in situations like this you may disagree with the decision but you don’t have to challenge leadership decision and in the middle of this some people decided to issue . For me, it was the most unfortunate thing because when people are being mowed down and a being killed and leadership has given a certain direction…there was pressure on me from certain angles that I should change the position I said I will never change the position. I spoke to a lot of people and they say this is a decision that I believe was in the interest of the party.
[In another audio]
[Some people] were vehemently opposed to it but when cool heads started reflecting on the whole process there are people who called me and said: “initially we were angry with you.” I mean we have chief Azorka in our meeting saying chief thank you if you had not taken this decision I don’t know how my men would have gone back to Tamale. The issue is that they had brought the Kandahar Boys and the Kandahar Boys know our (Azorkor) boys from Tamale so it was a targeted attack. So once they spot us, they invite them.
Around that time our people were so defenceless. And they have packed themselves in Pick-Ups so cordoning off and harming them was very, very easy and they had not anticipated all these things. So it hasn’t been easy but for me how we take the battle from here is most critical. It is a question of mind game. I was here because I thought that we should come and lift your spirit up and let you know that it was not a cowardice decision, it was a strategic decision that will benefit us…
I want to assure you that as long as I remain the leader of our party, my approach to elections and security has completely changed…and we need to marshal all the human and material resources. Yesterday I was speaking to him and I said that look you have to get to work. Probably one of our security people who can still drive and at the same time give you protection. Clapping. Some covert and overt operations.
We will go after them. But we will not go after them face to face. We have to use tactical approaches to make life very uncomfortable for some of them. We will target some people and we will let the people know that their life is in danger and once they know their life is in danger they themselves will be careful. As for that one I want to assure you that we will go all out to ensure that as President John Mahama said when it comes to this game, in fact, we are better than them.
[In another audio]
The security and future survival of our country is at stake. So first of all our people have identified a number of them. I don’t know if you have heard but somebody had called me that one of them is dead and gone. Whether heart attack or whatever. You see, three days ago and yesterday those who were living in Nima and Mamobi nobody has slept in his house. So you see that now we have a tactical advantage. Nobody has slept in his house. They even went to attack traders [and] some Imams had to come and plead for them. People will also start capturing your mothers and fathers and keeping them hostage until you show yourself up. So we need to go back quickly to the drawing board and strategise.
[In another audio]
There are CSO and religious organisations especially the Peace Council chair. For the first time, I will endorse insulting the Peace Council chair. [loud clapping…] I like that. We have already started.
[In another audio]
When we went to her office she said oo this one, it is you it is the NDC and NPP your usual thugs…so you know as a commissioner [inaudible] … I think we need to take her to the cleaners. [clapping follows]
[In another audio]
Once we are focusing our attention on Akufo-Addo and in fact I think that we should not focus too much on the IGP. In fact a policewoman called me and said as for them, they regard the IGP as a civilian because the man is [retired] and once you have retired as an IGP…this came from a policewoman. And so even though we will bash the IGP, I think that the whole thing was political so we must situate the communication on the president who is the commander in chief and who controls the security agencies and how he has shown his true colours as a very violent person.
We traced the antecedent from when he became a flagbearer and what he did to his own chairman and others and created a culture of silence and beat people up and did all sorts of things and has brought him into government. We need to expose him so that tomorrow as my brother said if NDC decides that we are also organising ourselves which of course we are going to organise and organise ourselves well then gradually we have shifted the attention onto them. In fact when people hear of violence in by-election, they will be thinking about Invincible Forces and the rest so we will quietly be doing our own thing.
So this is the briefing that I want to give and say that the party itself is going to come out with a number of policy initiatives. First, we are going to set up a security and intelligence unit within the party and appoint a national coordinator, a regional coordinator and constituency coordinator.
We will be picking some of our intelligence people, BNI people, national security people so that we can read and plan effectively because you see military people are military people. Their appreciation of security issues goes beyond what we can know. So when we came and Colonel Asaase Gyimah was saying that as far as he is concerned he will never order people without weapons to go and face people with arms. These are people who advise us.
Our boys came here they were so angry they wanted to move into the streets. What are you going to do? You are just going to endanger the lives of people. The second thing also is that after this intelligence unit the ballot box protection unit which we decided to set up I think that this same committee will help us to see how to implement it. And again we are going to look at how to provide security for our leading members and communicators. All of that requires resources.
Alfred Ogbamey speaks
Frankly, I thought it was a bad decision poorly communicated which is turning out to be a very good one. I will explain. Bad decision because it gave us the impression the party didn’t really prepare for what happened. It showed…we did not have foresight to expect that this will happen when evidence is available to show that if you look through the track record of by-elections these things do happen. Maybe, it is the level and the way they carried it that was a bit of a surprise especially because it happened in the center of town, close to the military headquarters, close to the police headquarters and even close to the seat of government.
I say poorly communicated decision because it came too early in the morning and too many executives didn’t know to the extent that by midday you still had executives who weren’t so sure whether indeed it was a party decision or not and I am told there was a miscommunication between the chairman and national organiser at a point in time. It didn’t speak well of us. It meant that it was not the kind of decision that was well thought out. I say it is turning out to be a good decision, however, because per the results that came out it didn’t even vindicate the NPP.
Again, good decision because through the withdrawal, the level of violence, gunshot wounds pictorial evidence, the spread of messages, the world at least know the extent to which the ruling government is willing to go to secure victory in an election. It is obvious that it is a party that is willing and ready to utilise violence to achieve its purpose and it becomes even clearer by the denial of knowledge of who those people were by the police administration and people within the security agencies forcing the minister in charge of their sector [inaudible] to acknowledge that these were his men. Again if you look at the plethora of pictures of these people who are clearly party people, thugs hoodlums who have been put into security attire, it’s become a problem of how to manage it.
Now it has also put the NDC on the defensive in the sense that this is the party that you can say was revolutionary, the perception is that we are more violent and what not. Clearly, the logical expectation is that the NDC will prepare very well. It is a lesson. It is notice to the NDC to over prepare in terms of the final election that is 2020. It is also good because the international community will pick up all these things and they now will have evidence of the fact that this is what the government is doing.
In 2020 when it happens it will be difficult for them to point accusing fingers at the NDC. Again they are in charge now the expectation is that when you are in government it is more of your duty to avoid these things so when you are seen and you give enough evidence as of now to show that this is what you intend to do, you can never blame an opposition that meets you boot for boot. So I say yes per my view it was a bad decision poorly communicated which is turning out to be a very good decision.
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