INFORMATION reaching The Statesman is that the Member of Parliament for Mfantsiman West and Deputy Minister of Tourism & Modernisation of the Capital City, Stephen Asamoah-Boateng, has pulled out of the race for General Secretary of the New Patriotic Party, even before launching his campaign.
Two weeks ago, Mr Asamoah-Boateng told The Statesman that he was prepared to resign from his deputy ministerial position to contest for the party's highest executive post. But, he deliberately refused to speak further on the matter to the press because he was yet to consult with some powerful people in the party, including President John Agyekum Kufuor. He saw the President a week ago. But rather than receiving a presidential blessing, Asa B, as he is popularly known, came out of the meeting with a death kiss to that particular ambition.
The President, our sources reveal, did not exactly stop the MP from running. “Asa B was merely comfortably re-assured by the President that he was very much in his plans for the NPP government to deliver to the people,” a source said.
The Deputy Minister can be expected to feature prominently in the President's next reshuffle, which close aides stress would see several 'peaked' ambitious cabinet ministers retired early and some non-performing appointees given their marching orders.
Speaking to The Statesman this week, Asa B confirmed that he had indeed consulted the President about his flirtation with the General Secretary vacancy. He described the meeting as “fruitful and very enlightening.”
“I share the President's view that the priority is to pool all forces behind the NPP government to deliver and deliver convincingly. Once that is done, the race to hold on to the keys to the Castle and carry the numbers in Parliament would be a no contest.”
Thus, “I have consulted extensively on this and come to the firm conclusion that I should stick with the responsibility of playing my part fully in this government.”
Also to withdraw from the contest is Lord Commey. He has decided to contest for re-election as National Organiser, and not contest as first speculated for the General Secretary job.
With their withdrawal, the contest remains packed. Nana Ohene Ntow, Kojo Smith, Kwadwo Afari, Andy Appiah-Kubi and Owusu “Sir John” Afriyie, are all in the race. Ferdinand Ayim, the substantive Tourism Minister's Special Assistant, may still be in the race. While he has not launched his campaign and there are very little signs of him doing so, he remains very popular. Analysts believe the 42-year-old may be leaving his options opened for 2008 and beyond.
Meanwhile, yesterday at the Teachers' Hall, Accra, another strong contender launched his campaign. Abeeku Dickson, who is seeking the position of the General Secretary of the NPP, added his voice to the message that members of the party need to produce an effective party machinery to ensure unity in and victory for the party.
Remarkably, his message was noted for its lack of bite on his vision of a modern, effective and expanding political party.
He, nevertheless, made a strong case against political parties sleeping in between elections. Calling for the setting up of “performance-oriented mechanisms” at all levels of the party, Mr Dickson wants the NPP to “let the impact of our ideas be felt and work towards the acceptance of those ideas. In the long run,” he adds, “it is ideas which rule in politics and in society.” Like some of the other candidates fighting for party office, Mr Dickson believes the relationship between the ruling party and the government must be better defined. He has called for the party to “have a much bigger influence in the general policy framework of the government” and some of the major decisions. “Since taking over the mantle of the nation in January 2001, the truth is that the relationship between the party and the government has been unclear, undefined and ineffectual. The result is that there are many areas in which the impact of the party has been negligible.”
He promises “hard work, level headedness, a receptive administration focused on winning elections and catering for its fold.”
Reminding the party of his long association with the Danquah-Busia tradition, Mr Dickson said “Since 1979 I have been an ardent, active and loyal activist, member and advocate of the UP tradition. I have between 1992 and now served a long apprenticeship as a leading figure in the party's youth organisation. I in fact led the Youth Wing as its national chairman from 1998 to 2000. I know my party north and south, east and west.”
He has outlined the qualities he believes he possesses that make him the best man for the job. He sees himself as an “all round player,” willing to dedicate himself full time to the job and “able to interact confidently with individual personalities and organisations…”
“The General Secretary of a great party like NPP must be a true and dedicated member of the party. He/She must be accessible to members of the party both young and old, and treat them with due courtesy and respect; he must be a good listener and capable of engaging in serious discourse and debate. He/She must be a good administrator with the ability and skills to run efficiently and effectively the party's national secretariat and oversee and coordinate the party's activities throughout the country and beyond.”
Outlining his vision, he says, “I intend to work towards establishing an NPP that will present itself as a veritable and attractive party for many more Ghanaians in our country.”
He also intends to “promote and maintain very united national, regional, constituency and polling station executives of the party.” He urged the party loyalists not to allow the party to fall into the dangerous trap of factions.
He said “We are all members of one great family and we can survive and be successful if we join in this crusade of unity and brotherliness.” Mr Dickson attributes a lot of the party's problems to low media presence. “The NPP has up till now not had a good mouthpiece in the media. I believe that this is a defect which must be remedied immediately. I have plans to do this which I will put into effect immediately I am elected.
The aspiring General Secretary contested the parliamentary primaries in the Agona West Constituency in 1996 and has since become a major pillar of the constituency for the party.
“The time has come for the party to have a modern, well equipped functional national secretariat as well as regional and constituency secretariats,” he stresses.
Mr Dickson further notes that one of the problems facing the party which has not been dealt with and needs serious attention is the inadequate flow of information. He said as a party, the national secretariat should know what is happening in other parts of the region right down from the polling stations and enforce provisions of the party's constitution to secure party discipline. He has suggested a functional party website.