According to the newspaper, The Statesman, the former Information Minister and two-term General Secretary of the New Patriotic Party, Dan “The General” Botwe, is set to step out of the shadow of Yaw Osafo Maafo and join the contest for the NPP presidential candidate for 2008.
What this may mean is that there is likely to be five contestants for the NPP flagbearership with roots from the Eastern Region.
Over a year, Messrs Botwe and Osafo Maafo went into some form of informal pact: if the latter runs, the former was prepared to put is own equally merited aspiration on ice to support the MP for Akyem Oda. But this did not stop the pressure on the younger man to concentrate on his own ambition.
Indeed, getting Mr. Botwe on his side was seen as a major coup for the former finance minister at the time. Mr. Botwe as General Secretary led the NPP into his historic two successive electoral victories with increased majority. His links with the party grassroots are legendary. He was in the Adu-Boahen camp, shifting to throw his weight behind Mr. Kufuor for the 1998 presidential nominations.
Last week a paper linked to Mr. Osafo Maafo described Mr. Botwe as the “Operational Manager” for Mr. Osafo Maafo's campaign. But in a swift rebuttal to the report, Mr. Botwe told an Accra based radio station: “I am not the Operational Manager for Yaw Osafo Maafo's campaign and I have never been. It is never true.” Mr. Botwe in the last few months had been distancing himself room the man he calls 'my uncle.” The former Education minister helped financed the young Mr. Botwe's upkeep during the latter's exile day in nearby La Cote d'Ivoire. While his response to queries about presidential ambition are met with a stiff no, “I've not brought my mind to it”, kind of throw off his actions point to the contrary.
When the news of Mr. Botwe preparing to launch his campaign was broken to a top aide in the Osafo Maafo campaign team, the response was, “We are not surprised. In fact we had suspected for a while. So we have not included him in most of our strategy meetings in the last few weeks. Since President Kufuor threw out Messrs Botwe and Osafo-Maafo from his government, the smart money was on the General going full throttle to execute his 'uncle's campaign.
The two men were said to have been overwhelmed by the strong wage of public sympathy that met the decision of their dismissal from Cabinet. Ironically, it was the strength of this that might have finally convinced Botwe to fight his own fight. But he had been scheming for sometime now. Last month, Mr. Botwe was on the same flight to London with the President, who was heading for Washington to see Mr. Bush.
He went to London, ostensibly to attend the funeral of Sam, the son of former PP Minister for Garbah and the brother of Hans of Shell, UK. But the details of this trip, according to our UK sources, were more forward looking than to bid farewell to the dead. With the reshuffle pending and resigned to whatever fate awaited him, Mr. Botwe used the opportunity in London to confer with his support base in London about his prospective candidacy to lead the NPP for the December 2008 race.
Ironically, an incident that took place on the flight to London is suspected to have sealed his ministerial fate. When on April 27 the President called him to the Castle to tell him to step aside, Mr. Kufuor innocently suggested that Mr. Botwe return to the NPP headquarters to support the party. Seated beside the President were Aliu Mahama, Francis Poku, Chinery Hesse, Peter Mac Manu and Nana Ohene Ntow.
The President turned to his party chairman, who showed no objection to the suggestion. But there were potential difficulties about this. Mr. Botwe has always expressed the desire to go back to Kokomlemle to build up the party's non-existing research centre. But his overwhelming stature and inter-personal chemistry were feared as a recipe for friction between him and his successor as General Secretary, Nana Ohene Ntow.
His imminent entrance into the race to succeed Mr. Kufuor means that potential risk can now be avoided. As to what has caused Mr. Botwe to stop the vacillation and step up to be counted as a presidential aspirant may linger in the sphere of speculation for sometime to come, especially since he intends to cling on to denial for sometime, too.