ALL doubts about the number of candidates who will line up for the New Patriotic Party (NPP) flagbearership race on December 22 were erased yesterday when 18 contestants affirmed their places in the race by the close of nomination.
The General Secretary of the party, Nana Ohene Ntow, also confirmed the congress date and the campus of the University of Ghana, Legon, as the venue.
The close of nominations yesterday also ushered the party into a critical phase of the process of finding a successor to President Kufuor as the leader of the party and, possibly, President of Ghana.
The Chairman of the Council of Elders of the NPP, Mr Akenten Appiah-Menka, waded into that phase of the process when he declared 13 out of the 18 contestants as non-presidential materials and just fell short of publicly identifying them.
Mr Appiah-Menka's pronouncement stirred the expected controversy, particularly within the party's stronghold in the Ashanti Region, where party heavyweights told the Daily Graphic that they would keep to the tradition of using the known formula and conventions to select delegates for the party's congress.
The party elder had made it clear that the council would issue the names of the five candidates who were potential winners, but National Chairman of the party, Mr Peter Mac Manu, in a reaction, said the party had never taken any official position on that.
He said the party was a democratic institution and would not use any method which frowned at the tenets of democracy to eliminate any of its members who qualified by the NPP constitution and the national Constitution to be a flag bearer of the party and President of Ghana.
He said every member of the NPP had the right to express his or her opinion on the process but added that what the constitution of the party stipulated would be the position of the party.
Consequently, there would not be a uniform system for the selection of the delegates from the region, as some people believed.
In all previous congresses, constituencies had had their own style of selecting delegates and the December 22 one will not be an exception.
The Asante Akim North Constituency Chairman of the NPP, Nana Adu Asabre, for instance, told the Daily Graphic that the constituency had agreed that each of the 10 zones would select one person to represent the constituency.
The Bantama Constituency Chairman, Mr H.K. Kokofu, also told this paper that the executives there would use consensus building to arrive at the selection of delegates.
Mr George Ayisi-Boateng, a founding member of the party in the region, in another interview, said the sole representative of group would be selected by consensus.
He said the founding members would meet and agree on one person to represent them at the congress. The regional secretariat had given the go ahead for the application of the conventions for picking the delegates because they had proved to be peaceful.
Party sources said delegates would be selected between November 28 and December 8. Constituency chairmen were expected to pick forms at the regional secretariats of the party to fill and submit for processing.
This will be done without infringing on any constitutional provisions of the party. The filing of nominations by the NPP presidential aspirants, which started on October 22, 2007, ended at 5.00 p.m. yesterday.
At the close of it all, all but one of the 19 members who picked forms had filed their nominations. The only exception was Mr John Kwame Kodua, a Kumasi-based legal practitioner, who said he had received direction from God that he should not contest.
Those who have filed are the Vice-President, Alhaji Aliu Mahama, Nana Addo-Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Papa Owusu-Ankomah, Capt Nkrabea Effah-Darteh (retd), Dr Kwame Addo-Kufuor, Dr K. Arthur Kennedy, Dr Kofi Konadu Apraku, Dr Barfuor Adjei-Barwuah, Prof Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng and Prof Mike Oquaye.
The rest are Messrs Alan Kyerematen, Dan Botwe, Yaw Osafo-Maafo, Felix Owusu-Adjapong, Jake Otanka Obetsebi-Lamptey, Kyeremateng Agyarko, Kwabena Agyapong and Hackman Owusu-Agyeman.
With the completion of the process of filing of nominations, the NPP has inched closer to the organisation of its national delegates congress, which is barely 30 days from now.
The process started on October 22 when the party opened nominations for interested party members to pick nomination forms.
All the aspirants, after touring the 230 constituencies and 10 regional party offices of the party throughout the country, convinced themselves that they had what it took to lead the party.
The candidates picked forms at the cost of GH¢500 (¢5 million) and returned them with a hand-written application, certification of various qualifications, membership cards, forms filled by card-bearing members from each constituency and filing fees of GH¢25,000 (¢250 million).
Most of the 18 aspirants collected and submitted their forms with pomp and pageantry, while others were of the view that making noise about the collection and submission of forms was not necessary.
The party, early this month, set up a six-member vetting committee which interviewed and screened the documents of the aspirants to ensure that they qualified to lead the party into the elections.
The committee was expected to present its report, but unless the unexpected happens, all the 18 will be cleared and made eligible to contest as aspirants at the congress.
This is the first time in the history of the party that it will be selecting a presidential candidate while it is still in office. In 1992, 1996 and 2000 it did so while it was in opposition.