Some senior and ordinary members of the governing National Democratic Congress and cocoa industry players are forecasting dire electoral consequences for President John Dramani Mahama’s second term bid in this year’s general elections if Dr Stephen Opuni remains Chief Executive of COCOBOD.
According to some apprehensive NDC members, the ruling party risks losing all cocoa growing regions if Dr Opuni’s contract as COCOBOD chief executive, which is expected to expire this month, is extended by President Mahama.
They alleged Dr Opuni’s “arrogance and controlling one-man show style,” is affecting the party’s chances in the upcoming November 07 elections and they want the President to act fast. Among NDC bigwigs and ordinary members brooding over the COCOBOD CEO’s attitude include, Members of Parliament, elected officers of the party, elders of the NDC and party sympathizers who are also farmers in the cocoa growing areas.
According to some of them who spoke to The aL-hAJJ; last December bye-election at Amenfi West which the ruling party won by skin of the teeth, is a foretaste of “what our (NDC) people have planned against the party because of Dr Opuni’s authoritarian leadership style in the cocoa sub-sector.”
“We (NDC) were lucky that some of our big men hurriedly fought to get some of our people fertilizers because when we got to Amenfi West anybody you talk to, even known NDC members will tell you they are not going to vote because COCOBOD is not giving them fertilizer, insecticides and other things due them. And this is not peculiar to Amenfi West. Farmers in most of the cocoa growing constituencies across the country are complaining,” a senior member of the party noted.
Dr Opuni’s endless standoff with farmers and heavyweights of the NDC from cocoa growing areas, The aL-hAJJ has gathered, caught the attention of the National Executives of the ruling party who it was reported invited him on several occasions to Functional Executive Committee meetings to address the problem but, to no avail.
This paper’s checks indicate that the COCOBOD CEO has snubbed most of the FEC meetings when summoned, living the National Executives of the party dejected and struggling to find ways to prevent the looming danger dangling over the party ahead of the November 7 elections.
Even though it is not too clear the official position of the NDC leadership on Dr Opuni’s continuous stay in office, a very senior and respected member of the party told The aL-hAJJ, “we cannot afford to lose election because of one man’s haughtiness. Bulk of our votes is in the rural and cocoa growing areas …for God sake the NDC believes in social democracy. We must be seen doing the bidding of the masses not what Opuni is doing.”
He said even though Mahama-led NDC government has chalked many feats in areas such as provision of water, access to health care, road infrastructure, education and has virtually found permanent solution to the agonizing power rationing, “we (NDC) risks losing the 2016 elections at the back of all these achievements if the President does not change Opuni.”
It’s not only officials and sympathizers of the ruling NDC who are calling for the head of the beleaguered COCOBOD CEO, industry players in the cocoa sub-sector are also fuming and calling for the removal of Dr Opuni to avert a collapse of the cocoa sector.
A core player in the cocoa sector (name withheld) told The aL-hAJJ “what we need to keep this hitherto vibrant industry moving is the removal of Dr Opuni. He is collapsing the cocoa sector and we are not going to sit down and allow him rundown the sector.”
“If we have to vote out NDC to get Opuni out of COCOBOD, we will do it. Though I’m NDC but I bet you I’m ready to vote out John and the NDC to save my business if Opuni remains Chief Executives of COCOBOD.”
Embattled Opuni’s unending brawl with cocoa farmers and players in the industry has been raging for some time now. It would be recalled that ahead of last year’s farmers’ day celebration at Bolgatanga, The aL-hAJJ reported how cocoa farmers and players in the industry had planned embarrassing the beleaguered COCOBOD Chief Executive in the presence of the President in order to push for his removal.
Deep throat sources within the farmers front told this paper that “we are fed up with Opuni’s arrogance and not being a team player, resulting in the dying of the cocoa industry in Ghana since he became chief executive. Annual cocoa production which peaked to a record one million metric tons in the 2011 crop season has since been declining under Opuni’s mismanagement”.
The farmers’ planned insurrection failed as both President Mahama and Dr Opuni were out of the country and therefore could not attend the farmers’ day celebration at Bolgatanga in the Upper East region.
Even when the farmers changed plans to channel their grievances through the vice President, Paa Kwesi Bekoe Amissah Arthur; he could not also attend the program due to bad weather which prevented him flying from Accra to the Upper East regional capital.
With their hopes of openly venting their spleen dashed, the farmers, sources say, have sworn to show the NDC the exit in 2016, a development that party executives told The aL-hAJJ contributed to the low turnout at the Amenfi West bye election “which nearly cost us the seat.”
“Because of Opuni’s style of leadership, NPP’s Isaac Osei, who left COCOBOD as CEO long ago still wields enormous influence there to the extent that he has influenced the appointment of some key executives who are known to be hostile to the NDC into key decision making positions at COCOBOD. Opuni doesn’t listen to anybody. He does things the way he likes without taking into account the collective interest of the party,” a party source fumed. Stay tuned for more anon.