A lot of political jostling is underway in the Ashanti Region as the political parties make last-minute moves to win the heart of the region.
Given the ruling New Patriotic Party’s (NPP’s) ‘Agenda 47/47’, political pundits are keenly watching how the determination of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) to improve on its 2016 performance in what is known in Ghanaian politics as the World Bank of the NPP can come to fruition.
Undoubtedly, the contest in the Ashanti Region has become a two-horse race between the two parties, which has seen them criss-crossing the region canvassing for votes, with only 12 days to the December 7 crucial elections.
Although there are pockets of political activity by the other parties, including the Liberal Party of Ghana (LPG), the Ghana Freedom Party (GFP), the Progressive People’s Party (PPP), the Convention People’s Party (CPP), the Great Consolidated Popular Party (GCPP) and the Ghana Union Movement (GUM) , much attention has been on the NPP and the NDC, whose presidential candidates, their running mates, as well as their regional leaders and foot soldiers, are traversing the length and breadth of the region to woo voters.
While the presidential candidate of the NPP, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has been to the region on seven occasions this year, his running mate, Vice-President Mahamudu Bawumia, has also made five visits.
The presidential candidate of the NDC, Mr John Dramani Mahama, has also been to the region on six occasions, mainly for campaign activities, while his running mate, Prof. Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang, has made two trips.
While the NPP is trying to consolidate its grip on the region by annexing all the seats and shoring up its presidential votes, the NDC, on the other hand, is working hard to improve on its performance and retain its seats and, if possible, increase the number.
In the 2016 presidential elections, Nana Akufo-Addo polled 1,642,288 votes, representing 75.99 per cent of the valid votes cast, while Mr Mahama polled 503,368 votes or 23.29 per cent of the valid votes cast.
Dr Papa Kwesi Nduom of the PPP garnered 10,089 votes (0.47 per cent), Mr Ivor Kobina Greenstreet of the CPP had 1,872 votes (0.09 per cent), Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings of the NDP had 1,418 votes (0.07 per cent), Dr Edward Mahama of the PNC garnered 1,320 votes (0.06 per cent), while Mr Jacob Osei Yeboah, an independent candidate, had 721 votes (0.03 per cent).
Apart from eyeing all the 47 parliamentary seats, the NPP is also looking for at least 90 per cent of the popular votes for its presidential candidate.
Under the party’s retail campaign strategy, campaign teams from the various constituencies visit homes, markets, churches, mosques and other identifiable groups to campaign.
The constituencies have also embarked on health walks, which usually end with mini rallies, where the leaders address party supporters.
For the NPP, its flagship free SHS policy has been a major campaign message. According to the party, if for nothing at all, every Ghanaian, poor or rich, had benefited from that policy.
Aside from that, the Nation Builders Corps (NABCO) and the One-district, One-factory initiative are also game changers.
Unlike the NPP that has set targets for itself in the election, the NDC is focusing on selling its policies and programmes to the people and getting their buy-in, which will reflect in votes and give the party a deserving win.
In the 2016 elections, the NDC’s target was to get at least one million votes from the region. It, however, managed only a little over half of that target.
According to the Ashanti Regional Secretary of the party, Mr Kwame Zu, the NDC was fully aware of the task ahead and would not become complacent with targets.
The party has also been engaging in door-to-door campaigning and health walks to sell its policies and programmes and showcase its track record while in government.
In the view of the NDC, even though the Ashanti Region is not its stronghold, it can boast more infrastructural projects in the region than the NPP.
Mr Zu mentioned the Kejetia Market, the Afari Military Hospital, the Tepa District Hospital and the Sewua Regional Hospital as some of the projects started by the NDC before losing the 2016 elections.
He said the party had taken note of some of the mistakes it committed during the last elections and was correcting them.
“We are focused on the elections and campaigning to ensure that victory becomes ours at the end of the day,” he said.
Clearly, the battlegrounds will be the three constituencies held by the NDC, namely, Asawase, Ejura Sekyedumase and Sekyere Afram Plains.
And a lot of action has already taken place there.
Led by its Regional Chairman, Mr Bernard Antwi Boasiako, aka Chairman Wontumi, who has been the main force behind the Agenda 47/47, the NPP has waged an unprecedented campaign in those constituencies and believes that it has a good chance of winning the seats for the first time.
But the NDC is not ready to relinquish those seats and has also marshalled all its forces towards realising that goal, even as it also looks at other constituencies.
In the 2016 parliamentary election in Asawase, the NDC’s Alhaji Muntaka Mohammed Mubarak obtained 39,095 votes, representing 53.57 per cent of the valid votes cast, while the NPP’s Alhaji Alidu Seidu had 33,490 votes or 45.89 per cent, with Issah Baba Kompo of the PPP and Elias Mohammed of the CPP securing 278 votes (0.38 per cent) and 111 votes ( 0.15 per cent), respectively.
Significantly, Alhaji Muntaka and Alhaji Alidu are the same candidates doing battle for their respective parties in this year’s election.
In Ejura Sekyedumase, Muhammed Bawah Braimah of the NDC polled 23,277 votes or 51.40 per cent of the total valid votes cast, while the NPP’s Mohammed Salisu Bamba garnered 21,795 votes, representing 48.13 per cent, with Abdallah Mahama Sani of the CPP securing 132 votes (0.29 per cent) and Samuel Laari of the PNC 83 votes (0.18 per cent).
In Sekyere Afram Plains, Alex Adomako Mensah of the NDC had 5,644 (60.85 per cent), Joseph Owusu of the NPP had 3,549 votes (38.26 per cent) and Peter Marfo of the CPP had 82 votes (0.88 per cent).
With the exception of the LPG’s presidential candidate, Mr Kofi Akpaloo, who has been touring the regional capital with his fleet of pick up vehicles, very little has been seen of the other presidential candidates.
The CPP candidate, Mr Ivor Kobina Greenstreet, has been to the Manhyia Palace to introduce himself to the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, and seek his blessings.
This clearly proves it is a two-horse race between the NPP and NDC, and understandably so because the region is pro-NPP and the only party that has consistently made some mark there is the NDC.
For its part, the EC says it is ready to carry out its mandate as prescribed by the Constitution.
According to the Ashanti Regional Director of the EC, Mr Benjamin Banor-Bio, it had recruited 40,422 electoral officers who were being trained for deployment on Election Day.
He said each of the 6,737 polling stations would be manned by six officers.