NPP Goes To Congress Who Is Who?
Come Saturday, April 12, 2014, a total of 5,265 delegates of the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) would converge at the Tamale Sports Stadium to perform a single but very vital political task - elect national officers (executives) to steer the affairs of the party for the next four years.
Many were those who thought events leading to the much-awaited National Delegates' Congress would be smooth-sailing and devoid of acrimony, considering the fact that it is considered a battle among brothers and sisters.
However, the competition has sometimes been characterized by rancour, bitterness and propaganda, thereby giving cause for supporters of the party to worry about the aftermath of such an exercise.
The stakes for Saturday's conference are high as the contestants try to outdo one another.
In all, ten positions are to be contested by 44 applicants, including most of the incumbent national officers.
The positions are National Chairman, Three Vice Chairpersons, General Secretary, National Treasurer, National Organizer, National Youth Organizer, National Women's Organizer and National Nasara Coordinator.
National Chairmanship Slot
The position is being hotly contested by the incumbent, Jake Otanka Obetsebi-Lamptey; his first Vice, Fred Oware; Paul Afoko and Steve Ayesu Ntim.
Jake: This is a man who seems to be making a resurgence into the race on the strength of support by some regional chairmen of the party, and his claim that he could not be blamed for the handling of the 2012 campaign, since there was a campaign team that was supposed to have strategized for the party's victory.
Stephen Ntim: Having lost on two consecutive occasions, Ntim comes into the race as an old face with a lot of sympathy across board. He has again run a great deal of campaign, focusing on the delegates and is certainly one of the favourite candidates, according to an opinion pool conducted among the delegates.
Even though the Akufo-Addo camp went in to fully back Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey in the last congress, Ntim lost by a few hundreds. This time it appears to be an open race.
From all indications, Ntim will be having tremendous support from his home region - Brong-Ahafo - alongside the solidarity he is possibly to be accorded by delegates from the other regions on account of his third effort towards annexing the national chairman seat.
Paul Afoko: He was somehow under threat during the vetting time but seems to have regained the ground he virtually lost; and this has made him a strong favourite for the position.
His rigorous campaign and message of resourcing the grassroots for effective mobilization and campaigning seem to have resonated within the party and endeared him to the hearts of many delegates.
Mr. Afoko's well-developed media strategy seems to enhancing his chance of coming out victorious this Saturday. This has been further powered by the clearance he received from the party's Elections Committee following a petition which attempted to disqualify him from the race. With well-oiled campaign machinery and major endorsements from top party names like Nana Akomea, Kwadwo Mpiani, Nana Obiri Boahen, Prof Kwabena Frimpong Boateng, among others, his chance is very bright.
Fred Oware: Though a frontrunner at the beginning of the race, he has certainly fallen behind Paul Afoko and Stephen Ntim in the last few weeks, with many ruling him out at a point. But the sudden upsurge of support from pro-Akufo-Addo forces can turn things around for the current 1 st Vice Chairman.
He is rumoured to be having the support of part bigwigs like the two-time flagbearer, Nana Akufo-Addo; influential former General Secretary, Dan Kwaku Botwe and former National Chairman, Peter Mac Manu.
Depending on how these forces work to pull support for Fred Oware in these last few days, he could very well emerge as the party's new national chairman by Sunday.
His chances will to a large extent, depend on the support he can bring to his side from his home region – Central - the Greater Accra, Ashanti and the Northern Regions.
The position of General Secretary is high up on the cards for grabs with incumbent Sir John battling it out with former Deputy Communications Director, Yaw Buaben Asamoa; former Presidential Spokesperson, Kwabena Agyei Agyepong and Captain Nkrabeah Effah Dartey (Rtd).
Sir John: He is called the people's man; but many dislike some of his utterances, one of which landed him in the Supreme Court during the landmark election petition hearing last year, with a contempt charge.
Many of the elites in the NPP are uncomfortable with his style of politics; but from the standpoint of being almost ruled out of the race at a point, this shrewd politician has tremendously turned the tide around in the course of his campaign and certainly heads to Tamale as one of the favourites for the General Secretary race.
On his campaigns, he had not shied away from his stance that as General Secretary, he would facilitate victory at the flagbearership primary and during the general elections, for Nana Akufo-Addo – a message which though controversial to some party functionaries, seems to go down well with supporters of the two-time flagbearer.
As the pro-Akufo-Addo camp has beefed up its efforts to get those loyal to its cause elected, the chance of Sir John is brighter than all the current executives in terms of retention of their positions, despite the stiff challenge he is facing from the other contestants.
It certainly would not be easy for him, but 'the only Sir' in Ghana's politics as he prides himself, is likely going to come out victorious.
Nkrabeah Effah Dartey: This is the second time the retired army officer is vying for the General Secretary position of the NPP – with the first attempt ending in a defeat when he came third.
This time too, Capt Effah Dartey (Rtd), who happens to be a former Minister and MP in the erstwhile Kufuor administration, is expected to cause a stir at Tamale.
A lawyer by profession, Capt Effah-Dartey told DAILY GUIDE that he would cause a major upset in the Northern Regional capital on Saturday.
Yaw Buaben Asamoa: Very early in the race, he appeared to be the biggest threat and the best alternative to incumbent Sir John.
He commenced his campaign early with a tour to all the 10 regions, even before new constituency executives were elected.
With party gurus like Dr. Kwame Amoako Tuffuor and Yaw Osafo Maafo backing him, YB as he is affectionately called, seems to be cruising to a favourable position this time around, his abysmal performance in the last contest for the position of General Secretary in 2010 in Kumasi notwithstanding.
However, with the entry of Kwabena Agyepong into the race and well-resourced campaigns of the former Press Secretary to President Kufuor an air of uncertainty surrounds the contest regarding who is going to emerge the winner.
That notwithstanding the motor accident he had on Tuesday, Kwabena cannot be ruled out of the equation. The party could in a very unlikely case, decide to go for a compromise candidate like YB if the fire from both the Sir John and Kwabena Agyepong side continues unabated.
Kwabena Agyepong: Obviously heads for Tamale neck to neck with incumbent Sir John. The former Press Secretary and flagbearer aspirant perhaps has the most established stature among all the contestants in the race for General Secretary, with a solid reputation among party faithful – a reputation he has built since the 1990s.
With a well-resourced campaign and well-thought-out message of empowering the grassroots, Kwabena toured all the 275 constituencies in a spectacular fashion and propelled himself to the top of the race, in the estimate of a number of delegates. However, a late upsurge by Sir John and some rough campaigning between his camp and the Sir John campaign team have meant the two are now neck-to-neck.
His achievement as a representative of the party in the 'strong room' of the Electoral Commission is an obvious trump card for him.
The General Secretary race would therefore be too close to call unless something dramatic happens. It is not clear if last Tuesday's accident while on the campaign tour will attract the proverbial sympathy votes.
But whether Sir John retains his position or Kwabena Agyepong unseats him, will largely depend on how Ashanti and Greater Accra, the two largest regions, decide to swing and to whose favour.
John Boadu: He is seen as the frontrunner for the National Organizer position with the recognition of his hard work for the NPP – matched probably only by the current Organizer, Moctar Bamba.
Boadu's tenure as National Youth Organizer and his subsequent appointment as Deputy Communications Director of the party, make him very popular among the rank and file of the party.
John also has a wide following, having begun his career in politics as a constituency officer and rising through the ranks to the national office.
With very strong support in the Ashanti Region and several other regions, he could have a resounding victory.
Hopeson Adorye: Though relatively new at the national level, perhaps propelled by the Young Patriots – a militant youth group in the NPP – his acclaim for being tough and fearless epitomized by his comments which ended him at the Supreme Court, mean that he is probably the biggest threat to John Boadu for the position of National Organizer.
Hopeson believes that once he comes from the Volta Region, where the NPP has been struggling to get votes in elections, he would be a better man to bridge the wide gap.
Moctar Bamba: The incumbent National Organizer is not out of the race.
Party faithful see him as having been dormant during his tenure and especially in the run-up to the 2012 Elections.
His chances have further been dented by his admission that he could not work as much as he should with the explanation that his job was hijacked by certain people.
National Women Organizer
This is another position that will present an interesting spectacle, viewed from the caliber of the contestants.
Otiko Afisah Djaba: Incumbent Otiko Afisa Djabah is facing stiff opposition from her one-time Deputy, Tina Mensah, and not-too-well-known Mawusi Nudekor Awity, a gender advocate in the area of women empowermwent.
Otiko is up and running for the job, even though she is facing a tough time in her quest to retain the position.
Her woes might have stemmed from her victory over strong woman, Christine Churcher, which seemed to have brought her on collision course with many of the established elite women in the party as well as other issues which have actually affected her delivery.
With a lot of the big shots in the women's wing actively campaigning against her, Otiko's fate is quite clear, although she can rely on support from many of the TESCON women's organizers who are also part of the Electoral College, for survival.
Tina Mensah: The Deputy Women Organizer of the NPP who resigned to contest the parliamentary primary at Weija, is now seen by many as the most avid challenger to her former boss, Otiko.
She has been able to woo most of the ladies who are disgruntled with Otiko, into her camp.
She is therefore seen as the strongest contender to Otiko.
Mawusi Awity: A ranked outsider in the contest, she can still pull a surprise after embarking on what many consider to be one of the most intensive campaigns on the women's front in the history of the party, with a message of empowering the women to be self-sufficient.
She is therefore seen as an underdog with a potential to spring a surprise on Congress day.
Vice - Chairman
The tall list of people vying for the three Vice Chairmanship position makes the race an interesting one.
So far, the names that have popped up as favourites are Freddie Blay, Sammy Crabbe, Sheik T B Damba and F.F Anto.
That of Philomena Serwaa Akoto Sam also seems to be making waves, having stepped up her campaign in the last couple of weeks ahead of Congress.
Freddie Blay: He is greatly being propelled by the delegates from his home region – Western – and has within a very short period, endeared himself to those from all the other regionsf. His stature as a former 1 st Deputy Speaker of Parliament and his closeness to two-time flagbearer of the NPP, Nana Akufo-Addo, also inure to his benefit.
From interviews conducted by this paper - which assessed the chances of the individual candidates - Mr. Freddie Blay stands out the tallest. It will therefore not be surprising if he emerges the winner at the close of voting at the forthcoming Congress.
Sammy Crabbe: He will be heavily backed by delegates from the Greater Accra Region who are eager to get a colleague in the National Executive body of the party as it is speculated that the current Chairman, Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, is likely not going to retain his position.
F.F. Anto: The former Ashanti Regional Chairman of the NPPP who has succeeded in rallying the support of the delegates in the region, has also come strongly into the race and with little push from the other region, he could win one of the three positions.
T.B. Damba: The only Sheik in the race who is also incumbent 2 nd Vice Chairman, is quite popular in the North and could also retain his position, all things being equal.
Philomena Sam: Although considered not a hard core politician, she could shock most people at the eleventh hour. In view of her appeal to people, she could emerge as one of the three Vice Chairpersons-elect. She is liked by some party faithful for her financial and logistical support in difficult times.
National Youth Organizer
This position is considered as the livewire of the NPP and other political parties due to the vibrancy of the youth. Whoever comes out as the party's youth organizer therefore has an arduous task of rallying the you around to mobilize support for the victory of the party and its standard bearer in 2016.
Sammi Awuku: With his popularity soaring across the length and breadth of the country, his oratory and well-structured campaign, Awuku, with his 'Boyz Abre' slogan, is seen as the obvious man to beat for the National Youth Organizer race.
Political pundits believe it is unlikely that anyone will be able to shock the man who until recently, was a former Deputy Director of Communications of the NPP, in view of his good human relations.
The National Youth Organizer election has a smaller electoral college, comprising Constituency Youth Organizers, Regional Youth Organizers and TESCON members.
One reason why Sammi Awuku is seen as the favourite is that it is clear that there is no main contender to him.
Nonetheless, candidates like Richard Nyamah of the Young Patriots fame and Pius Enam Hadzide, who is sticking his neck out for the second time, are expected to make a good showing, though it is difficult to see any of them coming close to victory.
Acting National Youth Organiser, Emmanuel Attafua Danso, Charles Adu Gyamfi and Gifty Oware, are equally sure of victory, even though the tides do not seem to favour them.
The race for National Treasurer is being contested by incumbent Esther Ofori, who is facing stiff opposition by Kwabena Abankwa Yeboah, Suzzy Mensah, former Deputy Eastern Regional Minister and Hajia Ahmed Sauda Ruka.
The contest has generated a lot of interest with a lot of aspirants trying to unseat incumbent Abubakar Sulemana, also known as Laku-Laku.
In spite of his good human relations, Laku-Laku is threatened by Alhaji Kamal-Deen Abdulai, who is considered his main contender, whiles Alhaji Abdulai Taminu, Salihu Yahaya Bo, Alhaji Ahmed Sadat Awudu an aide to the late former Vice President Aliu Mahama, Haruna Mohammed Maiga, Alhaji Aminu Ibrahim and Alhaji Baba Gado Ibrahim, are also in the race.
By Charles Takyi-Boadu