On Thursday, NDC General Secretary Johnson Asiedu Nketia announced that the form for the primaries will cost aspirants GHC20,000 while filing fee will cost them a whopping GHC400,000.
He also announced that female flagbearer aspirants will pay GHc200,000, while persons with a disability who wish to contest the position are expected to pay GHc150,000.
When he was pushed by the media to justify why aspirants must pay GHC420,000, he claimed that cost of living has gone up, falsely claiming the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) had charged presidential aspirants GHC500,000 when it was in opposition in 2014 and also said the party needs funds to organize its primaries.
When he was reminded that the NDC is a social democratic party and that the cost of 420,000 on an aspirant was way too high and betrays the ideals of the party, he rationalized the figure.
“The cost of living is high but somebody must pay the cost of running the elections; who is going to pay?” he said. “Social democracy is not poverty… I have not declared to be a presidential candidate so those who have declared to be presidential candidates must pay the cost.”
The cost of the presidential form and the filing fee raises two issues for me: one, to eliminate the other aspirants using money and two, to rig the election in favour of former President John Mahama.
The ex-president is seeking to lead the party into the 2020 election after losing by a million votes to then-candidate Nana Akufo-Addo, becoming the first incumbent president in Ghana to lose a re-election bid.
The NDC presidential race is being described as the ‘rest of the candidates’ against former president John Mahama. So far, the National Executive Council (NEC) of the party has shown ample evidence of bias against the other candidates. Not a single NEC member of the party has shied away from declaring his or her support for Mr Mahama.
This raises the issue of open bias, considering the fact that the NEC members will be in charge of the electoral processes. It comes as no surprise to me when the NEC met and decided to peg the filing fee at GHC400,000 so as to eliminate aspirants without financial clout.
While the campaign team of Mr Mahama have said they will rely on the party’s grassroots to pay his filing fee, the 10 other aspirants have kicked against the amount.
Dr Ekow Spio Garbrah in a broadcast interview Friday said he will meet with his campaign team to decide on the way forward, considering the cost involved.
He told Asempa FM Friday that if the party is looking for a rich person to lead it, there are many millionaires who will pay to lead the party, echoing concerns that the party is being sold to the highest bidder.
Mr Elikplim Agbemava in a post on Facebook said “Setting the filing fee at 420,000 is just like opposing free SHS. If the grassroots cannot pay 420,000 and dream to become president then we are in servitude.”
He further described the fee of the “people’s party” as “wrong in every sense,” urging the rank and file of the party, “Let us take our party back.”
The second deputy speaker of parliament Alban Bagbin told Accra-based Class FM that the fee gives weight to the ‘create, loot and share’ allegation against the NDC.
“Any of us could try to mobilize that money because definitely, you can get in touch with people who have money to pay off, but I can tell you that is a wrong thing to do. That is the beginning of corruption that is just giving evidence to what people have been saying – ‘create, loot and share’. I am not going to be part of that, I can assure you”.
Mr Bagbin said the decision taken by the party does not resonate with its own principles of social democracy.
“I am not going to be part of this kind of opulence and show of extravagance, I will not be part of it, no!” he said.
The posturing of the national executive committee of the party points to one conclusion: efforts are being made to rig the primaries in favour of former President John Mahama.
The cost of the filing fee, the declarations of NEC members in favour of the ex-president, who lost the 2016 election, are reasonable grounds to suspect rigging.