With a few months to go to the National Congress of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), to elect its flagbearer for the 2008 general elections, some of the aspirants have embarked upon their campaigning using the name of the nation's Chief Executive, President John Agyekum Kufuor, as a tool to woo delegates.
The Chronicle says the President's name has been on the campaign list of Mr. Alan Kyeremanten, Minister of Trade, Industry, Private Sector Development and President's Special Initiative (PSI) for sometime now with many people suggesting that the Minister was actually the President's choice of candidate.
The Chronicle says it has gathered that agents of Alan Kyeremanten gave credence to the suspicion when they extensively used the President's name to appeal to delegates to vote for the Minister during a meeting with them at Techiman in the Brong Ahafo Region last Saturday.
The paper said it was told that it was one Mr. Paul Afoko, a businessman and a member of the NPP Finance Committee and curiously, Mr. Mohammed Amin Antah, the Tamale Metropolitan Chief Executive who led the Alan Kyeremanten team at the meeting.
According to the paper's account of the meeting, even though the Minister himself was not in attendance, over 240 party members including potential delegates congregated at the residence of the Techiman Municipal Chief Executive, with the team bamboozling them with sweet talk about Alan's potentials and the president's support for him.
The paper said at one go, members of the campaign team of aspirant Kyeremanten blew a cool 300 million, cedis on the delegates who congregated there. “Disturbingly, they emphasized that they were doing it as representatives of President Kufuor, who they said had sent them to canvass support for his hand-picked successor, Mr. Kyeremanten.
Other members of the team included, George Hika Benson, the Upper West. Regional Deputy Minister, currently doubling up as the Wa Municipal Chief Executive Officer and Mr. Razak Awdulai, the Kintampo DCE.
Mr. Siniyet Asigri, the District Chief Executive of Garu Tempane, who was expected at the meeting however failed to turn up, but one Mr. Adorn, popularly called "Abokyi" also described as a contractor, tagged along.
Mr. Amin Anta, Paul Afoko and others have been constituted into what is described as a "Northern Caucus" whose main task is to make sure that Alan Kyeremanten sweeps the Northern and Zongo votes. Members of this "caucus" are said to be mainly DCEs, MCEs and some Deputy Ministers who have been given assurances of "the future" should Alan become president, according to the paper.
Mr. Amin Anta called on the delegates to back Mr. Kyeremanten, whom he described as, the president's choice. He said as a Northerner and Muslim himself, he would want such notions to be discarded and instead the search should be for a competent person to lead the nation and that person was none other than Mr, Kyeremanten.
The paper said Mr. Anta and his team did not have it easy-going with the delegates a lot of who were visibly not taken in by what looked like an attempt to impose Kyeremanten on them since some of them clearly had preferences other than Mr. Kyeremanten.
Mr. Paul Afoko, perhaps noticing the unease of the delegates started flashing his presidential credentials.
The Chronicle said there were 240 delegates, and while each was given ¢1 million, an additional ¢600,000 came as "transport money" to a constituency, which rounded up the day's campaign spending on B.A. delegates to around ¢300 million.
“A delegate, pleading anonymity said it was nauseating and that, 'they are using money to spoil our party - we don't like that,'” the paper reported.
It did not end there, Mr. Afoko allegedly informed the delegates that should Alan Kyeremanten get the nod, each of them would be offered a special thank you package.
Others in attendance were some Members of Parliament, other District Chief Executives and a host of party gurus in the Brong Ahafo Region as well as the Regional Coordinator of Alan's campaign team, Alhaji Tabshiru Haruna.
The Chronicle said it learnt from the meeting that Tabshiru Haruna catalogued the credentials of Mr. Alan Kyeremanten and asked the delegates to weigh him against the others.
But the paper said Mr. Afoko, who was accused of using the President's name for campaigning for the Trade Minister, denied ever mentioning the President's name at the meeting when it contacted him on phone on Monday.
Mr. Afoko, a member of the National Finance Committee of the NPP expressed misgivings about the allegations and stated that he was at the meeting not to campaign for or attack any of the aspirants but to speak on the need for unity in the party.
He asserted that the allegations were meant to gag him from asking the delegates to carefully examine and access all the aspirants before casting their votes.
"I will never attack any of our aspirants because when we attack ourselves, we are giving ammunition to the NDC to use against us in 2008. I have not mentioned the name of any of the aspirants let alone used the name of the president.
“I will have my choice as to who leads the party but I would never attack anybody or do a thing as is being alleged," the paper quotes him as saying.
"Any person I choose to support based upon my conviction that that person will continue with the good works of the President, I will do my best to promote and project that person but not to attack anybody. All the allegations are false and preposterous," Afoko lamented.
According to him what he told the party members at the meeting was that “We want to move the country forward and keep the party in power. I told them to ensure that they embrace and accept, all the aspirants, assess them about their track records, their innovativeness, the number of jobs that they have created since they assumed office, their original ideas and concepts and form their opinion.”
He told the paper that it was untenable that he has been dragged into the fray after he had openly told the delegates that he came into the meeting in his capacity as a member of the party and a member of the Finance Committee.
“I was shocked and worried about the twist given to my com¬ments. I believe it was an attempt to gag me from asking party members to closely examine the aspirants. I have not mentioned President's name, let alone Alan's name. I deliberately refused to mention any of the aspirants names but I am tempted to say, it was a scheme by the detractors of Mr. Alan Kyeremanten," he said.
Paul Afoko, a businessman who is always close to the President said, "I swear that I never mentioned the President's name. I am not the President's Special Assistant. I see the President as a friend and a father and above all, President of the nation. I respect him a lot and I would not do anything to taint his name or use his name in vain. I will not do that," he said.
On reports that each of the party members present was given ¢1 million each, he admitted that there was an envelope given to those who attended the meeting but could not tell its content.
Asked about the source, he said it was a business man based in Brong Ahafo and others who contributed money to be given to the members as T&T.
Source: The Chronicle