Though a proposal to open debate among aspiring presidential candidates of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) by Hon. Yaw Osafo Maafo, has received wide endorsement by several contenders in the presidential race, the party itself has so far not made it a matter of consideration.
National Chairman of the NPP, Mr. Peter Mac Manu told The Chronicle in an interview on Monday that the issue of whether flagbearer aspirants of the party should be made to debate openly among themselves as one of the ways leading to the selection of a candidate for the party was not something that was on any agenda of the party at the moment.
"It is not something that has been set for consideration by the party because it is obviously too early to talk about something of that nature," he said stressing that the party had not even finished with matters relating to the filing of nominations and other decisions on its impending Congress.
"When we haven't even finished with the processes of filing nominations, how can we be talking about debate among aspirants when we don't even know who the competitors are," Mr. Manu emphasized.
The party chairman said the endorsement of such a debate proposal by some aspirants could only be taken as the expression of views by individuals and, "as a democratic party, we allow people to express their views on issues."
Mr. Mac Manu said even if there will be a consideration of anything like a debate, that will be after filing of nominations has been completed and the actual number of flagbearer aspirants known.
Asked whether he would personally support the debate proposal after the filing of nominations, his response was, "we will cross the river when we get there," stressing that, "all those going round now are just testing the waters and perhaps some of them would drop out after drinking some of the water and realizing that they would have no chance in the race."
Mr. Mac Manu could not therefore state his view on the proposed debate and whether the party would be considering endorsing the idea in the long.
He also emphasized that most of the issues related to the party's Congress and processes leading to the selection of a flagbearer would be determined by the National Council of the party. The chairman further revealed that the Council's meeting has been tentatively• slated for July and it is at that meeting that matters relating to congress, selection criteria, filing fee and date for the congress would be concluded.
Meanwhile, The Chronicle has been talking to persons associated with major political think tanks in the country about the political viability and usefulness of the proposed open debate among NPP flagbearership aspirants.
On Monday, Mr. Asante Pumpuni, Research officer in charge of governance and legal issues at the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) told the paper in an interview at the offices of the Centre that the proposed debate was a laudable idea, the implementation of which will go a long way to deepen the democratic credentials of the party and Ghana as a whole.
Mr. Asante, who observed that he could not state the CDD's position on the matter at the moment, pointed out that an open debate among presidential hopefuls in a political party was a common phenomenon in advanced democracies and adopting such a practice would be a demonstration of our commitment to democratic growth in the country.
Touching on the argument that having such a debate among aspirants has the potential of causing disaffection in the party since there was a likelihood of aspirants exposing each other, the CDD officer said such a development was not likely to happen.
"I don't think there should be fears about a possible disunity in the party as a result of such a debate because it has been happening elsewhere and we can also do it without any problems," he opined.
He further explained that such a debate would have to have laid down rules that may, for instance, require the aspirants to dwell on only their policies and manifestos. Mr. Asante said the debate could be tailored in a manner that contenders would not be allowed to resort to personality attacks and mudslinging that may cause problems for the party.
The CDD governance officer also talked about the need to have nominations filed before any such debate could be considered, explaining that at the moment, the large number of potential aspirants alone, would be a source of worry if such a debate was to be organized.
"Any such debate would clearly manifest the democratic credentials of the party concerned and also convince the masses about the party's commitment to transparent democratic practices," he said.
"Such a debate would provide the general public with a foretaste of what each aspirant stands for. It will also afford decision makers of the paw the opportunity to know the capability of each aspirant on a political platform and how each would confront issues when confronted with opposing views from others," Mr. Asante added.
Hon. Yaw Osafo Maafo, Member of Parliament for Akim-Oda and a leading aspirant in the flagbearership race of the party, recently made the proposal and has since been defending it.
He has been explaining that such a debate would be a platform for the various aspirants to articulate their views on how they intend to solve the problems confronting the country and their plans for moving the nation forward if given the mandate to lead the country.
Mr. Osafo Maafo, who lost his position as Minister of Education, Science and Sports last year, has consistently been of the view that the presidential race of the party should be approached with the mindset that the one who gets the nod is not just going to be an NPP president, but someone who would subsequently be appearing before the entire electorate of Ghana to seek their mandate to become president of the nation.
After the proposal, more than half a dozen of the aspirants, have indicated their readiness to lock horns with each other in such a debate on a common platform.
So far, contenders like Kofi Konadu Apraku, Boakye Agyarko, Jake Otanka Obetsebi Lamptey, Daniel Kweku Botwe, Frimpong Boateng, Arthur Kennedy, Kwabena Agyapong, and Nkrabeah Effah Darteh, have all said yes to the proposal and are just waiting for the party to show the green light.
Other aspirants like Dr. Kwame Addo Kufuor, Nana Akufo Addo, Alan Kyerematen, Hackman Owusu Agyemang, Felix Owusu Agyepong, Prof. Mike Ocquaye and Papa Owusu Ankomah have since not indicated their opinion on the matter.
Source: The Chronicle