TOMORROW the New Patriotic Party goes to the polls for very crucial elections – to choose national executives to prepare the party for 2008 and beyond. This contest is as crucial as the one that led to victory in the 2000 general elections, if not more so.
The 2008 general elections will be held after two four-year terms in power for the NPP. It is an election that can be lost on at least five fronts: voter apathy; bad record in government; enemy propaganda; weak organisation; and lack of funds.
This therefore requires a team at the party headquarters that can muster the armoury necessary to beat back the above threats. This presupposes that you don't need in any one candidate all the attributes required to stay defeat; it is a team effort, built on strong, decisive, energetic leadership. Besides commitment and loyalty to the political cause, organisation skills and communication skills are the two major requirements of the job.
It is for this reason that The Statesman will urge delegates not to be unduly influenced about who is supporting whom and who isn't. It would be a travesty of merit if certain candidates are rejected because they either had or did not have the endorsement of a personality such as the President.
In any case, the President cannot be said not to have the interest of the party at heart that he would wish to impose on the party which brought him into power a candidate who doesn't fit the bill. Well, you may say this is debatable. But, President Kufuor has as much interest in the NPP post-2008 just as any of the very committed members.
For those who say the next national executive is not for this government but for the 2008 race, they should also bear in mind that until the next government is sworn into office in January 2009, the next executive will derive strength from the government and the government from that executive. Even after the NPP chooses a flagbearer, President Kufuor's influence on the party will not wane. Those who criticise him (by heart) shouldn't forget that he is the most successful 'leader' the Danquah-Busia family has ever had, electorally. Politics is about power and he has twice delivered.
However, we would advise the President to be careful in over-taking sides on the December 17 contest. Indeed, it is not in his interest to be all-out trying to influence delegates to vote one way or the other. He wouldn't want his endorsement or lack thereof to overshadow the real attributes of any candidate. Even more damaging is the real prospect that this contest could be turned into a referendum on his popularity or influence in the party that he has twice sent into unprecedented electoral victory. That would be most unfair to both the presidency and the party.
He should be mindful of making it his contest. An overbearing influence carries the risk of turning the race for the chairmanship, for example, from one between Peter Mac Manu and Stephen Ntim (as is the case) to one between Kufuor and the others.
The fact is, who ever wins cannot but work effectively with the government. And this must be done on the basis of mutual respect.
President Kufuor may have his preferences, which is only natural. But, people should not underestimate his political maturity. Whoever wins, the President can work with. Whoever wins, must know that he or she cannot work apart from the government.
Unfortunately, while an endorsement from the President is ordinarily a blessing, the situation is not that clear cut now. This situation, as boldly interpreted on our front page cartoon of today, is that Harona Esseku's problems have served as a negative indictment on the President's choices. The party may not wish to give the President the benefit of the doubt again, but that shouldn't stop the delegates from evaluating the candidates on their merits. If the best candidate coincides with or against the President's preference: tough luck. Let the best men and women win. It is in the interest of all.
Tomorrow we shall come out with the candidates we believe have shown persuasive signs of delivery.