Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and Prof John Evans Atta Mills, two leading contenders for the most covetous office in Ghana, will this evening engage each other in a war of wits over which of them has a better programme for the country, in the much-publicized presidential debate series.
In what appears to be a two-horse affair, even though People's National Convention (PNC's) Dr Edward Mahama and Convention People's Party (CPP's) Dr Paa Kwesi Nduom are part of the programme, this critical encounter is intended to afford the electorate another window from which to assess the personalities and their political parties as regards their abilities to manage the affairs of the country.
DAILY GUIDE learnt that the leading candidates were holed up in undisclosed locations in last few days, rehearsing for today's titanic clash.
Ghanaians would be glued to their television sets as they watch the show from the comfort of their homes.
The presidential candidates have before today's encounter spoken on different political platforms in a bid to convince Ghanaians to give them their mandate.
DAILY GUIDE can confirm that the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), under whose auspices the three-hour programme is going to hold, has turned all stones to ensure that all hitches are obviated.
Today's encounter will be officiated by Prof. Kwame Karikari, a former Director of the School of Communications Studies of the University of Ghana, Legon and veteran broadcaster Cyril Acolatse.
The leading contending political parties have disagreed in the areas of education, management of the economy and especially health insurance.
The elongated senior high school period from three to four years under an educational reform programme by the incumbent NPP government has been criticized by their NDC counterparts who consider the new deal unnecessary and wasteful.
Prof Mills has for instance not minced words in condemning it and even gave the assurance that should he win the presidential election, he would review it downwards so that the senior high school would take three years and not four as it pertains under the new arrangement.
Perhaps the management of the economy is one area where the most fireworks would be witnessed by Ghanaians who would mostly watch the unfolding encounter on the screens of their TV sets.
Whereas the NPP government has prided itself on maintaining macro-economic stability and occasionally pointing at the cedi's relative stability to maintain a certain robustness in a competitive world, the NDC has often scorned at this presentation, describing it as bogus. Mills would therefore tell Ghanaians what he would do differently as against when he was chairman of the Economic Management Committee and the cedi suffered a free fall.
The National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) which the NPP administration presents as a flagship of its performance is considered by the NDC as selective in application.
Nana Akufo-Addo faces a daunting task this evening as he challenges three opponents in the persons of Prof. Mills, Dr. Nduom and Dr. Edward Mahama.
His ability to successfully deliver his points in a manner as to present his vision for the future, while contemporaneously defending the legacy of the Kufuor administration, would underscore the dexterity of this lawyer who has already traversed the whole country with his message of moving Ghana forward.
Mills should be able to convince Ghanaians today that his would be truly a Mills Government independent of Rawlings' overbearing figure.
Fashioned along the lines of the recent US presidential debate series, the feature looks set to have found room on the political landscape of the country.
The Tamale encounter would cover governance and social services.
So critical are the encounters that DAILY GUIDE can confirm that the political parties were busy coaching their candidates yesterday on how to field questions and generally compose themselves under the glare of the cameras in hectic dress rehearsal sessions.
Special invitations have already been dispatched and all things being equal, the Kofi Annan ICT Centre in Accra will host the 'clash of the titans' over economics, politics and above all the track records of each of the political parties, especially NDC and NPP, since both have a register of achievements, good governance and the like.
With the order of questioning, seating and the like already agreed upon by the parties including the debates committee, all Ghanaians are waiting for now is the 7.00pm timing.
To ensure that orderliness reins at the venue of the debates, each political party is allowed only 15 supporters.
With participating political parties debarred from bringing uninvited persons and so-called machomen to the debates venue, Ghanaians can expect nothing but order.
No matter how a candidate excels in their presentation, open applause which could inflame passions would not be allowed.
It was decided upon by the parties and the committee that Nana Akufo-Addo will answer the first question in the first round, with the CPP taking on the first question in Round Two and so on.
Presidential candidates will have two minutes within which to answer a question and a minute for a follow-up question.
Three minutes for the making of direct speeches at the end of the fourth round will be allowed while there shall be two-minute breaks in between rounds.
Included in the terms is the fact that there shall be two moderators for each event.
In the Tamale encounter, Prof Ivan Addae-Mensa, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Legon and Israel Laryea of Joy FM will be moderating.
The IEA has for the past few years been engaged in programmes intended to nurture the democratic culture of the country, an occupation which has seen the think-tank develop a number of modules in that direction.
From seminars to workshops for mainstream political party managers to women's wings, the IEA has added this high-profile event to its menu of programmes, starting from the 2004 polls, where the incumbent NPP boycotted it.
The NDC also shunned a similar exercise in 2000, when it prevented its presidential candidate, then vice president Atta Mills from taking part in the debate.
This is the first time all the major parties including the incumbent are taking part in a televised debate.
Being the first time that the think-tank is bringing together all presidential candidates, the organization has agreed with representatives of the parties on guidelines to ensure that nothing untoward takes place to take off the shine from the rare encounter.
As part of efforts to bring order in today's event, a balloting session was organized to determine which of the parties takes the first slot.
The NPP which is the political grouping to fire the first salvo is doing so because during the balloting its representative, Dr. Arthur Kennedy, chair of the party's communication committee, picked number one to enable Nana Akufo-Addo make the initial presentation.
Mr. David Ampofo the Convention People's Party (CPP) campaign strategist secured the number two position for his party when he picked that slot at the balloting session.
The NDC picked the No 3 through Ms. Hannah Tetteh, the Communications Director of the party.
The People's National Convention (PNC) is in the fourth position.
By A.R. Gomda