At long last, the much-awaited New Patriotic Party (NPP) Extraordinary Congress, dubbed, 'Golden Jubilee Congress' to elect a flagbearer from among 17 strong contestants to lead the party to the December 2008 general elections is here.
The elders, executives and indeed foot-soldiers of the ruling party are once again faced with the task of choosing the one to take over the baton from President John Agyekum Kufuor, whose tenure expires on 7th January 2009.
Even though the party has held congresses a couple of times, the excitement and anxiety being generated by this year's campaign messages from all the aspirants, coupled with the near unpredictability of the outcome of the contest no doubt places this year's exercise of the ruling party in the category of a world-class congress, like the ones organized by both Democrats and Republican parties in the United States of America.
While the outcome of the contest seems unpredictable, political analysts have narrowed the 'ring for the bout' to a straight fight between former Minister of Trade, Industry, Private Sector Development and President's Special Initiative, John Alan Kwadwo Kyerematen, and Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, former Minister for Foreign Affairs and one-time Attorney-General.
The other contestants, though considered capable and strong contenders in the race, having acquired considerable experience, would not be of any threat to the pair of Alan and Nana. However, this in anyway does not make the 15 other aspirants less important in the race, as some observers contend there could be a run-off.
According to political analysts, the contest between the two former ministers could be described as a fight to the finish between 'the old guards and young turks'.
Nana Akufo-Addo is said to be working all out to win the congress so he could get a bite at the presidency as his campaign messages seem to suggest that he is the captain of the team.
At 63, Nana Akufo-Addo's biological clock is fast ticking away and he may not be 'eligible' for another congress, which may be eight long years away, if he fails to grab the flag today.
Others also contend he had been with the party from the 'trenches' in the opposition, spearheading the fight against oppressive dictatorial regimes including the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), and People's National Defence Council (PNDC), as well as working to get the National Democratic Congress (NDC) out of power.
According to proponents of the Akufo-Addo presidency therefore, he deserves to be 'rewarded' for his long service and dedication to the party.
On the other hand, Alan, who is about 54 years, is determined to prove to the 'old guards' that he is 'the new kid on the block' and that winning the flagbearership race has more to do with strategies than just long service to the Danquah/Busia tradition.
One of Alan's networks codenamed, 'Kalamari', meaning baby octopus, is working around the clock to ensure that their candidate carries the day.
This makes today's battle, one between 'Kalamari', and Nana Akufo-Addo's network, FONAA (Friends of Nana Akufo-Addo).
Kyerematen, though not a Member of Parliament (MP), has succeeded in virtually 'infesting' all the 230 constituencies with his Kalamari network, just as a live octopus does. And when it was time to begin the race, he started it in a grand style.
He set one of his notable political records in recent times when less than 72 hours after picking his nomination forms, he managed to get them endorsed and returned to party officials.
“I was able to bring delegates from all the 230 constituencies to endorse my nomination less than 48 hours, and held a mammoth rally to usher in the filing of my papers,” he told DAILY GUIDE.
The slogan, 'Job for the people; Cash for the people' seems to be catching on so well with the public that some analysts believe it is just 'oiling and lubricating' the machinery he set up three years ago.
Supporters of both aspirants claim their camp is currently in a commanding lead, and have used several opinion polls as the yardstick to access their chances. But whatever it is, the battle line has already been drawn, and in a matter of hours, Ghanaians would find out who the victor is.
It is expected that all things being equal, the final result would be declared on Saturday 6.30 pm, as announced by the NPP National Chairman, Mr. Peter Mac Manu.
By Wisdom Peter Awuku