The outspoken Chairman of the Ashanti Regional Council of Elders of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Mr Akenteng Appiah-Menka, has appealed to President J.A. Kufuor not to cast his vote on Saturday when the party holds its national delegates congress to elect a flag bearer for the 2008 general election.
Reacting to the information that the President had been made a delegate to the congress on the ticket of the Ayawaso West Wuogon Constituency of the party, Appiah-Menka said it would be a big political mistake for the President to vote for any of the 17 candidates who would contest the flagbearership at Saturday's congress.
The party elder told the Daily Graphic in Kumasi yesterday that “it is not too late for the President to withdraw as a delegate if he has, indeed, been selected as one”.
He said by refraining from casting a vote, the President would have helped calm the speculation that he was supporting one of the candidates.
He said it was good that the President had not openly declared his support for any of the candidates and stressed the necessity to carry that posture of neutrality through to the end and not to compromise it at the most crucial time.
Mr Appiah-Menka said as a result of that same requirement for neutrality, he had advised himself not to go public with the names of the five most qualified candidates among the 17 contestants as he promised a few weeks ago.
He, however, predicted that the ballot¬ing would go for a round-off, judging from the neck-and-neck race and popularity of the five leading contenders.
Giving further reasons for not publicly naming the top five, the veteran politician and industrialist cited intense pressure from various sections of the party and noted that “political maturity also imposes on one the need to be a team player and be responsive to popular opinion”.
“The pressure came from all over; ¬from the topmost to the lowest parts of the party - and I had to succumb because the disclosure could derail the beauty and competitiveness of the con¬gress on Saturday,” Mr Appiah-Menka told the Daily Graphic.
“Having listened to the views of the rank and file, I have to review my position to disclose the names of the five candidates one week to the congress,” he said, and added that one of the qualities of a good leader was the ability to listen to advice.
He, however, noted that “every true observer can easily read through to locate the five aspirants”.
About a month ago, Mr Appiah-Menka, in an inter¬view with this paper, stated that only five of the aspi¬rants had presidential traits and gave the assurance that he would come out with the names a week to the congress.
Touching on delegates for the congress, Mr Appiah-Menka expressed the hope that they would vote according to their conscience and not allow monetary and other considerations to dictate to them.
He also commended Nkrabea Effah-Darteh for the maturity shown in not going to go to court over his disqualification to contest the flag-bearer slot.