President John Agyekum Kufuor has sent a strong note of caution to the New Patriotic Party's aspirants of the December 2008 contest. His message: "Money can't buy you flagbearership.”
Apparently, the campaign strategies of the aspirants are characterised by what is termed the “culture of cedi-ology”.
The President's message comes after business tycoon, Eddie Annan, received only 28 out of a potential 1,720 votes.
Mr Annan is rumoured to have spent anything between $700,000 (¢6,448,400,000) and $2,000,000 on the contest for less than 1.7 percent of the votes.
A year earlier, Stephen Ntim also spent generously in the two-horse race which saw Mac Manu elected NPP National Chairman.
Addressing party executives and members in the Eastern Region last Friday, President Kufuor said the political tradition founded by Joseph Boakye Danquah and others is built on a strong foundation of principles, loyalty and the people's unalloyed appreciation of one's hard work and commitment to the cause of the party.
The President recalled a previous contest in which one candidate paid for the transportation and accommodation costs of about 30 delegates from his (candidate's) home region. Yet, when the ballots were cast and counted he got only six votes in total. That person, The Statesman can reveal, is J A Addison, in the 1992 NPP flagbearership contest.
The President's call comes at a time when Ghanaians are bracing themselves for what is likely to be the nation's most expensive political campaign ever, as about 16 politicians prepare to run for the NPP presidential nominations.
It is estimated that some candidates have already spent over ¢5 billion in their individual bids, though the campaign may still be about eight months from being officially declared.
Typical of these financially emulous attempts to win the hearts and minds of the NPP delegates are the various courting programmes being laid out by the various aspirants for this weekend's annual party conference.
Though the party is officially paying for delegates to be bussed in to the conference at Eredec Hotel, Koforidua, this has not dampened the generosity of the presidential hopefuls to cater for the transportation and the upkeep of some delegates for the three-day event, which ends Sunday with a major 2pm rally at the Koforidua Jackson Park, following an inter-denominational church service in the morning at the Eredec.
The theme for the three-day conference is “Moving forward in unity,” an apt beginning-of-year setting for a party which risks being polarised into over a dozen camps for the best part of this year, as the nomination contest heats up.
Five delegates from each of the 230 constituencies will attend the conference, which will host a total of 1,429 delegates. An innovation will see about 90 Tescon observers. Another innovation may see some polling station chairpersons being given observer status.
What is not on the agenda is the date for the presidential nominations, which is expected to take place in December. However, in an article to be published in Saturday's Statesman, a leading member of the party will make a persuasive argument for an early primary.
This weekend's conference will discuss reports from the Regions, some key ministries and government. This is to assess how the party's manifesto presented to the electorate was being fulfilled.
John Boadu, the NPP National Youth Oganiser revealed that the party has so far not received any proposal for a constitutional amendment, which should have been done a month before the conference. The annual conference, which was postponed thrice, has made even constitutional purists queasy.This year's annual conference may still take place in August.
Speaking to journalists Tuesday, Lord Commey, National Organiser, said a special feature of the conference will be the opportunity offered to delegates to sit and chat with the President on key issues affecting their specific areas.
Though The Statesman is informed that there will be no such thing, Mr Commey has been reported by the Ghana News Agency as saying some proposals have been forwarded to the party secretariat and that he expects some amendments to be made to the party's constitution but did not specify.
According to Mr Commey the large number of “aspirants” could best be described as party members conducting consultations and “testing the waters.”
Mr Commey explained that by the party's constitution, nominations open for possible presidential candidates to file their nominations14 months before an election.
He said it was after the filing of nomination forms that the party will set up a committee to vet the nominees, and it was after a nominee had been confirmed by the committee that the fellow would become a presidential aspirant of the party.
According to the party's constitution, every constituency is expected to organise a special delegates' conference to elect four delegates from the ten constituency executives and six non-executive members. At the moment, nobody knows who would be a delegate.
The Eastern Regional Chairman of the party, Yaw Gyekye Amoabeng, explained that most of the party members accusing him of not acting on their threat to have their executives removed were not having their way because often, they failed to abide by the procedures laid down in the party's constitution.