STEPHEN Asamoah-Boateng disclosed exclusively in The Statesman last Friday that he intends to contest for the position of General Secretary for the New Patriotic Party in November.
“I have looked at the state of our great party. I have listened to the voices that care and I have come to the conclusion that this is a responsibility that I cannot ignore,” he told The Statesman.
However, this could require him to resign from his position as Deputy Minister of Tourism and the Modernisation of the Capital City. Moreover, it could trigger another by-election in a constituency that the NPP managed to wrest from the NDC in 2004. Asa B, as he is popularly known, beat NDC's Jojo Bruce Quansah to take the Mfantsiman West seat last December.
A member of the NPP's Constitutional and Legal Committee, O B Amoah explained to The Statesman that Article 9 of the party constitution states that “The Party shall have a national secretariat which shall be headed by the General Secretary, who shall be a full-time employee of the Party.”
The same article states under paragraph G (vii) that “The General Secretary shall not be a candidate for the office of Member of Parliament or President of the Republic.”
In the view of Mr Amoah, who is also a Deputy Minister for Education and Sports, “the constitution does not expressly say that one cannot contest for the position of General Secretary whilst serving as either an MP or a Minister. It is only after ones election as General Secretary that the constitutional bar can be said to be expressly triggered into force. We can debate endlessly on whether the swearing in as General Secretary can actually take place on the election night before the successful candidate goes through the proper procedures to hand in his or her resignation to the appropriate authority.” While Asa B seems prepared to step out of his ministerial position, he does not appear that enthused by the prospect of foregoing a seat that he fought gallantly to win. His constituency executives are also said to be quite anxious about the prospect of being handed the responsibility of achieving the ruling party's first mid-term electoral victory. The extra spice is that it would be the first major test of the NPP's popularity in a constituency that it currently controls.
However, going by the excitement that the announcement of Asa B's interest in the General Secretary job has generated among party activists, there is also pressure on him to look at the wider interest of the party concerning the all-important 2008 general elections.
Mr Amoah is very optimistic that the ruling party has the “people to ensure we maintain power after 2008 and continue offering good and sensible services to Ghanaians so as to tackle this generational cycle of poverty and despair.” He has further expressed delight with “the crop of people seeking high office in the party.”
The NPP National Congress is scheduled for Saturday, November 19. For the national chairmanship, while having kind words for all the aspirers, Mr Amoah, nevertheless, singled out Mac Manu, the Western Regional Chairman, for particular praise, adding he has the “clout, respect, commitment, history, political intelligence and party political knowledge to motivate and connect with activists and consolidate the necessary party structures to make the NPP an effective election machine. But, even more importantly to the quality of Ghana's democracy, we need a leadership that can turn our party into much more than an electioneering machinery.”
Mr Amoah said his focus is more on the contest for General Secretary, though. “The General Secretary is in effect the chief executive officer of the NPP. He or she is responsible for overseeing the operations of the Party's national secretariat and coordinating the activities and operations of the Party.”
Mr Amoah acknowledged that there have been some agitations from activists who feel hard done by. He assures them that far from being ignored, they can expect more from the new crop of leadership expected to take over the affairs of the party after November.
“Their concerns have been taken on board and it is a priority area for the incoming executive members.”
He stressed further, “The General Secretary is responsible for all employees of the party at constituency, regional, overseas and national levels. That underscores why we need a strong person at the helm.”
On the aspirants, he believes they are all “very capable to deliver. Ohene Ntow continues to show his worth and commitment to the party and I see him as an excellent material. Abeiku Dickson is also a good material. Ferdinand Ayim has shown right from 1992 that he is not only committed to the party, but he is a very capable, creative and a hardworking leader.”
On the news that Mr Ayim, the Special Assistant to the Minister of Tourism and Modernisation of the Capital City, may pull out from the race, Mr Amoah was not convinced. “I am in touch with Freddie and he hasn't given me that impression. In fact, I pray he remains in the race.”
Mr Amoah says he has been very excited by the news that the MP for Mfantseman West has joined the race. “If there were any doubts, his candidacy re-affirms the depth of young talents that the NPP has ready to take the party to the next level. Asa B has all the attributes of a good and effective General Secretary. We have no illusions about 2008 and we need the best people to take us past that milestone of three successive successful general elections.”
The National Chairperson, National Treasurer and General Secretary, are the only officers expressly barred as candidates for Parliament or the Presidency. Yet, the NPP constitution is silent on concurrent appointment as Ministers. Furthermore, it is only the General Secretary whose position is stated as full time. This effectively stops the holder of the office from holding any other position.
There are, however, hints that at the November congress, delegates may be asked to amend the constitution to allow MPs to hold office as Chairperson, General Secretary or National Treasurer. No such bar is placed on another sensitive office – that of National Organiser.