And so it was that on the second day of March, 2020 the year of our lord, candidates, supporters and some apprentice dressmakers descended on Kingstel Hotel in Takoradi for the second day of vetting of Aspiring Parliamentary Candidates in the Western Region. The mood was largely jubilant, as confident supporters cheered on their preferred candidates as they came and went.
One constituency, Kwesimintsim, was however the focus of much attention. In the lead up to its time in the spotlight, there had been rumours and rumours of rumours. A simple two-horse race between a first term Member of Parliament and his young challenger was shaping up to be anything but. The incumbent, who survived a challenge to his party bona fides to dislodge a sitting MP some four short years ago, seemed now to have placed his trust in that lonely cudgel.
It was not difficult to find out why.
As the Honourable Member for Kwesimintsim arrived, he was heralded not by a loyal group of known party delegates or even members, but a troop of apprentice dressmakers, procured for the day at a cost of GHc 1000, if the stories are to be believed. How could it be that the incumbent could not count on the support of his delegates and had to rent a crowd of young dressmakers to wear his t-shirts, emblazoned with a plea for four more years? Surely he couldn’t be so abjectly bereft of support that apart from a handful of constituency executives intent on preserving their power, no one in the party could be seen with him?
When Dr Prince Hamid Armah arrived, delegates loyal to him erupted in tumultuous cheers. He stepped out of his car at the gates of the hotel and walked to car park with them, as songs of victory rent the air. As Dr Armah and his supporters settled, their opponent’s hired battalion put on a show. To the rhythms of hiplife songs, many with inappropriate lyrics, the young hirelings thrust their waists about and performed grinding motions against each other, as observers watched with mouths agape. Was this a vetting of candidates or had someone misread the summons as a VGMA launch party?
As their hero/benefactor mounted the stage, Ebony’s Maame Hwe came through the speakers and in that telling moment, these young women shouted at the man who had paid for them to come and provide him the illusion of support, “I hate you so much right now; I hate you so much right now”. Thankfully, the DJ quickly changed the song before we all collapsed under the weight of so much irony.
As the hours dragged along, fatigue set in for the dancing dressmakers. The makeshift dance floor emptied and in groups, they began to protest their hunger. One particularly furious lady spoke of a desire to confront the MP himself. “He doesn’t even laugh,” she complained, as momentary hunger brought their benefactor’s faults into sharp focus. The MP’s team scrambled to contain the revolt, conscious that the developments were being monitored by their cheering and seemingly inexhaustible opponents, from whom there were no complaints but confident camaraderie as they awaited their candidate’s turn. In the end, disaster was averted. Food was delivered and a rebellion put down.
Both candidates were vetted and cleared to contest. Can the incumbent dance his way to victory, buoyed by rented support? Can a candidate who despite the weight of incumbency, has to rent outsiders to boost him at such a crucial moment, really be the choice of Kwesimintsim? In the delegates’ reticence, a lot can be read and it will surely become clearer in the coming days and weeks.