An interesting scenario that can easily be described as 'a clash of the titans' was enacted at the precincts of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) headquarters yesterday when two prominent party members, Papa Owusu-Ankomah and Vice President Alhaji Aliu Mahama, and their teeming supporters, stormed the party office to file nominations for their presidential bids.
Bringing once more to the fore, the resilience of the nation's largest political party and its resolve to stay united even after its impending congress, supporters of the two NPP presidential aspirants for three hours, besieged the Asylum Down headquarters of the party, with each faction engaging the other in a popularity contest.
Being the eighth and ninth of the party's 19 aspirants to officially file their nominations, both the Vice President and the former Education Minister sent strong signals that they were indisputably hot contenders in the race to replace President John Agyekum Kufuor, come January 8, 2009.
Thousands of supporters of the two aspirants threw the nation's capital city into a cultural jamboree of a sort, but behaved in a manner that some observers said, depicted a contest of the youth versus the experienced, but still embossing the unity in diversity that the party had always been known for.
Before the arrival of the nation's Number Two Citizen at exactly 11.33am, about seven large ensembles of cultural troupes, with thousands of supporters largely from the northern and middle belts of the country had besieged the Asylum Down headquarters.
While a section of the rainbow crowd composed a fresh rendition of King Ayesoba's 'I want to see you my father', others hailed his expectant arrival with the chorus: 'Momanuso, Aliu Ye Ohene'.
But when he finally arrived, his message was short and simple because, according to him, the real launch of his campaign was just around the corner.
Like a number of aspirants who filed before him, the Vice President told the General Secretary, Nana Ohene Ntow, that all he needed was a level playing field.
“I have a very short message because we are planning our launch, which we hope to come on very soon. I call for transparency,” he said, adding that he was optimistic the congress would take place without any hitches.
And in a short but piercing message to the media, Alhaji Mahama said: “The race has just started. We are now going to hit the road.”
Having toured all the regions five times over, the Vice President said he strongly believed he would carry the day, and asked his supporters not to relent in their efforts.
Describing himself as the most experienced among the crop of contenders, he said there was the need for continuity in government.
“Apart from President Kufuor, no one can claim to be more experienced than me. With God on our side, I am sure that the NPP will win power again. The goodwill is there, let's ride on it,” he said.
Responding, Nana Ohene Ntow assured Alhaji Aliu Mahama and other aspirants that the party's leadership would make sure the up-coming congress was free and fair.
“We will play the game according to the rules, and go ahead to win greater votes for the party during the general elections in December 2008,” he stressed.
Wishing him the best of luck in his endeavour, the General Secretary said he was impressed with the large turnout and general frenzy that had characterized the race and opined that it would send clear signals to opposition political parties that had predicted that the NPP, considering its large number of presidential hopefuls, was heading for a split.
“Some people out there say they have doubts as to the strength of our party. If they still have the same doubts, they should check what happens whenever an aspirant comes to submit his form,” he stated.
Papa Owusu-Ankomah, who arrived earlier at exactly 10.13 am, described himself as the new messenger who would represent meritocracy when given the nod.
The youthful aspirant, in a rather powerful and elaborate speech, said he believed in action as against rhetorics, and promised what he called a transformational agenda.
“I am going to be Ghana's first president born immediately after independence, and as such, not only do I carry a very keen understanding of our national history; I represent a future-oriented and dynamic generation ready to make a quantum leap forward into a transformed Ghana,” he said.
To him, politics was not a matter of personal ambition, but a noble goal to service.
He however pledged his support for any winner in the December 22 contest, should another aspirant be elected as NPP presidential candidate.
Nana Ntow took the opportunity to announce that all constituencies had been directed to select delegates by the close of December 8 so as to enhance a hitch-free congress.
Before yesterday, Alan Kyerematen, Kofi Konadu Apraku, Hackman Owusu-Agyemang, Kwabena Agyepong, Boakye Kyeremanteng Agyarko, Yaw Osafo-Maafo and Jake Otanka Obetsebi-Lamptey had officially filed their nominations.
Yesterday's development earned the party a whopping ¢2.345billion in revenue so far, having collected ¢5million for each form and a further ¢250million upon submission.
Ten more aspirants, who had collected their forms, were yet to return them. They were Prof. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, Dr. Barfuor Adjei-Barwuah, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Prof. Mike Oquaye, Dan Botwe, Dr. Authur Kennedy, Felix Owusu-Adjapong, Dr. Kwame Addo-Kufuor, Captain (Rtd) Nkrabeah Effa-Dartey and John Kwame Koduah.
The closing date for nomination is November 22, 2007.
By Bennett Akuaku