THE Minister of Information, Dan Botwe has thrown his weight behind the candidacy of Peter Mac Manu for National Chairman of the New Patriotic Party. Mr Botwe, who was twice General Secretary of the governing party says, “for me all the indications are that Mac Manu, Lord Commey and Hawa Yakubu. I think it's important that the party goes for people with proven record who can lead the party to victory.”
Lord Commey is going for another term as National Organiser, while Hawa Yakubu tries for the first time as First Vice Chairperson.
Mr Botwe's endorsement flies in the face of growing rumours that Ministers, especially Regional Ministers, are being impressed upon by the Castle to persuade delegates to vote for the other main contender, the current First Vice Chairman, Stephen Ntim.
What is absolutely clear is that the last minute skirmishes and manoeuvres to get preferred candidates to vote one way or the other are heightening. Ntim, who took an earlier lead in the race appears to have lost a lot of ground to Mac Manu in recent times. But, it is anybody's game, considering the intensity of the lobbying going on this week.
Mr Botwe says from the three candidates for the chairmanship, the former Western Regional Chairman is the one he believes, with his experience and knowledge of the party, can give the “party the kind of strong and dedicated leadership required.”
Also last night, the National Executive Council of the New Patriotic Party met at the Sanaa Lodge, Tesano for an emergency meeting leading to Saturday's delegates' conference. Top on the agenda was the programme for the event to take place at the Great Hall of University of Ghana, Legon.
A related issue was the fear that the current National Chairman Harona Esseku, may use the platform to be so provided to accuse others authorities, such as the Castle, for making his work difficult, who has brought the name of the party into disrepute, who should be allowed to stand.
While his candidacy for re-election was not blocked, the job of giving a speech (or report) on the party to the delegates has been passed on to the National Treasurer, Michael Dugan. However, Mr Esseku will still be allowed to give his campaign speech, which may still be dreaded.
What has become clear is that, with Esseku's standing in the party at an all-time nadir, the race for the next chairman has been narrowed down to Peter Mac Manu and Stephen Ntim.
There have been rumours, consistently denied but still bandied about as the truth, that some aspirants are being at least politically sponsored by the Castle. News that the Castle supported ones candidature should normally have been welcomed by such persons.
Surprisingly, however, in the last few weeks of this election, such candidates have strenuously denied in public that they have received any such endorsements.
If the rumours about the President endorsing some candidates are true, then tomorrow's National Delegates Conference runs the risk of being more a referendum on the president's influence and or popularity in the party than on the candidates themselves. Already the failure to get Esseku to step down last night has already lent itself to interpretations.
With a day to go, Ntim's campaign is now being overshadowed by the support he allegedly enjoys from President Kufuor. Yet, he has always insisted the President has not told him so.
It is simple why the debate has shifted from the message to the 'anointment.' The former 'favoured son,' Harona Esseku, has clearly fallen out of favour. Something he has taken so badly that he nearly took the party and the Castle down with him by statements that were interpreted to mean that not only was the Castle 'hijacking' funds meant for the party, but those funds could have come from illicit contributions.
Critics of presidential endorsement paradoxically argue that the presidency has no business endorsing a candidate, since the new executives would be working to, among other things, rebuild the party and prepare it for the 2008 general elections.
They also point to his endorsement of Harona Esseku's candidature in the 2001 election, and Mr Esseku's lackluster performance as National Chairman ever since, reflected in the general feeling of disaffection among party members. The endorsement seems to have had a negative impact on Mr Ntim's chances. The eloquent, astute, affable, and financially able 47 year old, whose mother hails from Wamfie in the Brong Ahafo Region has, since 2001, worked assiduously to help steer the party. He has shown innovation and solid commitment, both physical and financial, to the growth of the party. He has forged a relationship with the various branches of the party across the country, resourcing some of them from his own pocket.
But in recent times, since the news 'broke' that the president was actively supporting his candidature, information reaching The Statesman, especially from the three northern regions, is that the response to his campaign message has grown colder by the day. The last few days have seen him wrestling mightily with the consistent assertion that he is the preferred choice of the Castle. Alas, the coveted endorsement might be a poisoned chalice after all. But, that does not take away his strengths.
Peter Mac Manu, 52, meanwhile, is confident. He is a successful entrepreneur, and is widely seen as a dye-in-the-wool party man. He was until recently a two-term Western Regional Chairman, wresting seats from the National Democratic Congress and cutting deals with other parties, notably the CPP, in areas where the latter party seemed stronger on the ground. The Ellembele and Evalue Gwira seats were all won by the CPP with the benign blessing of Mac Manu.
Although the president reportedly asked the two aspirants to negotiate and have one of them step down, Mac Manu's understanding of this is that he was here before Ntim and Ntim should naturally give way, especially since the Western Regional chairman did same in 2001. Ntim sees it differently. He won the 2001 race squarely and he is simply waiting to be crowned Saturday.
Sources close to Mac Manu refer to the 2001 party poll, when he heeded the president's request that he abandon his ambition of becoming National Vice Chairman and rather consolidate the gains he had made in the Western Region, where he had helped the party win more Parliamentary seats.
He has worked consistently over the years to help build the party structures. A founding member of the NPP, he has consistently been a pillar in the growth of the party. He was a member of the Adu Boahen campaign team in the 1992 election and the Kufuor campaign in 1996; has personally resourced the party, including contributing some of the seed money for the acquisition of the National Headquarters, and is generally seen as a mover in the party who is in tune with the wishes of the party's foot soldiers.
His campaign took off slowly, but appears to have gathered momentum in the last few weeks. His candidature is said to be especially welcome among old die-hard supporters of the party. His only problem might stem from his being an Ashanti – ironically, the reason his country man, President Kufuor, reportedly cites as a mark against him.
The incumbent National Chairman, Harona Esseku, appears to have been left in the dust.
In another development, Joy FM has reported a member of the campaign team of the incumbent chairman of the party, Obed Yao Asamoah as saying that “Rawlings' declarations in the National Democratic Congress has never created any impact for the NDC, except only disasters and so any attempt by the founder to declare a Presidential candidate will be fiercely resisted.”
The member, Prince Adam Hamidu, expressed regret that the role of the founder and the chairman of the National Executive Committee, Flt Lt J J Rawlings, was to play an advisory role and not to create any factionalism in the party, which according to him, was not helping the course of the NDC, as a political party, the station reported.