As the NPP delegates prepare to go to congress to elect their presidential candidate for the 2008 elections, those seeking the nod from the party are on their charm offensives to win if not the hearts and minds of the delegates, but their stomachs.
During the just-ended Christmas/New Year/Eid-el-Adha holidays, it was parties galore as some of the party's presidential aspirants tripped over one another to fete the "probable" voters in the upcoming delegates' congress.
Some of the more lavish ones were held in the Ashanti Region capital and "World Bank" of the party. The get-togethers were either held at a luxurious hotel, aspirant's residence or in the party's regional office.
The holiday period also brought up tantalizing snippets of how some presidential aspirants have started negotiating for alliances.
The details and outcome of the negotiations have not been made known to the ADM, but strong information doing the rounds suggest that the coming days could see two influential presidential aspirants announcing an alliance.
One major question however that would have to be settled sooner or later this year is the future of Vice President Aliu Mahama. Though some of his assistants have given broad hints that he would offer himself as a candidate, he has not himself come out openly and unequivocally to announce his candidature. He is expected to do that this year, but how and when still remain close to his chest.
He also used the Eid-el-Adha feast to keep an open house for people from all walks of life to come and feast with him. Though not overtly political (he has kept open house during all the major Islamic festivals), this year's open house was abuzz with what many of his guests have been expecting from him: announce his intention to run. Said one of them, " this is Aliu's year".
He is right, because it is the Vice President's decision this year that would determine his and the NPP's chances in Election 2008. But that would have to wait until when he decides to jump into the fray. The Vice President's position is unique as he would not have to leave office as is being demanded of the other aspirants.
Government sources say those of them in the cabinet would be asked to resign in the coming weeks to enable the president continue with the remainder of his term without the handicap of absentee ministers out on the campaign trail.
At the parties organized by Dr. Apraku, Alan Kyeremateng, Dr. Addo-Kufuor, Nana Akufo-Addo, two common phrases that kept popping up were "I am the best to succeed Kufuor" and "I will never neglect our foot soldiers".
From all the speeches that were read at the parties, it emerged that the party's foot soldiers have been neglected and that the delegates would vote for someone who has the interest of these "soldiers" at heart.
On the 24th of December, when President Kufuor held a party for the Ashanti Regional Chairman, he was not spared the gripes of the foot soldiers. An insider told ADM that he was criticized for "neglecting" the Ashanti Region. "As harsh as some of the comments were, said the insider, the President took time to explain his policies".
Though he took the blame for some of the problems, he told the members of his party to hold the ministers and the party's MPs accountable for some of the lapses. President Kufuor declared the year 2007 as a year of action and urged the party to bury their differences and forge ahead in unity.
Immediately after the President's party, which lasted for hours, the Chairmen headed for the Ashanti Regional Head Office of the Party, where an aspirant welcomed them with a colourful Christmas party. The aspirant used the opportunity to spread his message and the party ended with nicely wrapped packages for each of the delegates.
At the same time when that party was going on, Dr. Apraku, Mr. Alan Kyeremateng, Dr. Addo-Kufuor, Nana Akufo-Addo, and Kennedy Adjepong were each meeting sections of the "probable" delegates.
All the parties were well attended with the presidential aspirants declaring 2007 as the most important year in the party's history.
"2007 would be a year which would either make or unmake our party", Apraku told the Ashanti Regional Women Organizers at his party for them.
The parties also showed how prosperous the aspirants were, as some of the packages for the delegates were reputed to contain undisclosed sums of money and clothes.
At one party, when Christmas cards were first distributed, a man exclaimed "ah card na ye bedi" meaning "are we going to eat the card". ADM had the opportunity to attend seven parties on the 24th and 25th of December 2006. Though at some parties, this reporter was recognized and some delegates called for him to be sacked, the presidential aspirants intervened.
Through out the parties, one thing that was noticed was that all the parties were well attended by the same people. Some "delegates" spent only a few minutes at a party and then rushed off to another - obviously to maximize their takings.
Said one of them to ADM: "It is not that we are greedy, I for instance, I went to Apraku's own and am going to Defense Minister's own, I just want to know which one I can vote for I would surely vote because my members have elected me".