THE ancient city of Kumasi, described as the epicentre of Ghana’s politics, is virtually drowned by political activity, as the New Patriotic Party (NPP) prepares for its novelty one-day annual national delegates conference today.
The conference is historic because the party is gathering nearly 4,500 delegates at one place to elect its national officers.
“Reflect, Rebuild and Recapture Power in 2012” is the theme on which the NPP is holding this year’s conference, which will be chaired by its outgoing National Chairman, Mr Peter Mac Manu.
Former President J.A. Kufuor, as well as the Minority Leader in Parliament, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, is billed to address the conference.
Yesterday, the former Vice-President, Alhaji Aliu Mahama, led a group of NPP members to offer prayers at the Kumasi Central Mosque.
The conference will be climaxed with a church service on Sunday.
Candidates contesting for various positions have already pitched camp in the city to put finishing touches to their campaigns, adding to the pre-conference excitement.
As all eyes closely watch events that will unfold at today’s congress, the challenge facing the party is to hold peaceful and smooth elections devoid of divisive tendencies.
Who leads the charge to make the NPP assert itself during Election 2012 is another task before the delegates if they are to ensure that the party comes out of the congress more organised and with a focused plan of action and measurable targets.
Thirty-two candidates have so far filed their nominations and been vetted to contest for eight positions at the congress. The positions include the chairman, first and second vice chairmen, general secretary, national organiser, youth organiser, women's organiser and treasurer.
Five persons are vying for the position of national chairman, with a former First National Vice-Chairman, Mr Stephen Ntim, and a former Minister of Tourism, Mr Jake Otanka Obetsebi-Lamptey, emerging as front runners.
During the last NPP congress which saw Mr Mac Manu emerge as National Chairman, it was Mr Ntim who came a close second after he had been highly tipped and favoured to win the race. The question many delegates are pondering over is whether it is Ntim’s time now.
However, Mr Obetsebi-Lamptey’s organisational abilities and pedigree in party political activity have thrown the contest very wide open. What will happen on the conference ground today will go a long way to decide and determine who actually wins the chairmanship position.
Among the other personalities contesting for the chairmanship are Dr Charles Wereko Brobbey, a former presidential candidate of the defunct United Ghana Movement (UGM) and ex-Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana@50 Secretariat; Mr Felix Owusu Adjepong, a former Majority Leader, and Mr Sammy Crabbe, a former Greater Accra Regional Chairman of the party.
For the general secretary slot, a Kumasi-based legal practitioner, Mr Owusu Afriyie, popularly known as Sir John, seems to have done enough to lead the pack. He has been described by many delegates as affable, down-to-earth, with impeccable organisational qualities and also media-friendly.
Mr Yaw Buabeng Asamoah, a former aide to former Vice-President Mahama; a former Member of Parliament (MP) for Berekum and Deputy Minister of the Interior, Captain Nkrabeah Effah Dartey (retd); Mr Obeng Busia, a consular at the Ghana Embassy in the US, and the incumbent General Secretary, Nana Ohene Ntow, are the others in contention.
The national youth organiser position will be contested by Mr Anthony Abayefa Karbo, a leading member of the Alliance for Accountable Governance (AFAG); Mr Stephen Amoah, Mr Michael Ampong and Pius Enam Hadzide, all youth activists.
The position of women's organiser will be fought closely for by Ms Christine Churcher, a former MP for Cape Coast, and Ms Otiko Afisah Djaba.
On the ballot for the national organiser slot, the names will appear in this order — Mr John Boadu, Alhaji Moctar Musa Bamba and Mr Isaac Eduosar Edumadze.
The NPP Election Committee and the Electoral Commission are mounting seven different polling stations at the stadium for the delegates from the 10 regions to vote simultaneously to save time.
Although some of the delegates the Daily Graphic spoke with lauded the Mac Manu era and wished it well, they expressed disappointment that his era took the party into opposition. They are, therefore, looking forward to a new leadership that will bring the party back into political power.
Meanwhile, party supporters in the metropolis have been waiting anxiously for the D-day, since the national executives announced Kumasi as the venue for the crucial conference.
And as the day approaches, one cannot help but notice that NPP has taken over life in the city.
Radio stations are inundated with discussions on the conference, with people phoning in to express their views on the event.
The party’s colours have been displayed in every corner of the metropolis, with flags and buntings flying over cars, electric poles, buildings and even on trees.
Kumasi is traditionally a stronghold of the NPP, the party having garnered huge votes in the city in the various elections under the Fourth republic.
As a result, party supporters in the metropolis and, indeed, the entire Ashanti Region, see the holding of the conference in Kumasi as a step in the right direction.
The Baba Yara Stadium, venue for the conference, has not seen much activity because of the hosting of the super zonal athletics competition for senior high schools there.
However, posters of some of the contesting candidates have been posted on walls at the stadium.
Only the VIP stand, the adjoining wings and the Tartan tracks in front of the VIP stand will be used for the conference. The entire area to be used could seat some 6,000 people.
In all, 4,500 delegates will take part in the balloting but at least 1,000 others will be at the stadium for various reasons.
Consequently, the Ashanti Regional Police Command has prepared to beef up security to meet the expected number of people.
It has given the assurance that enough policemen will be on the ground to maintain law and order.
Besides, the military will be on stand-by to respond to any unforeseen circumstances.
The Ashanti Regional Chairman of the party, Mr F.F. Anto, has explained that the event is not a political rally where everybody cam enter the stadium.
He explained that the Baba Yara Stadium was chosen because of the available space both in and outside it.
All the other political parties have been invited to the conference and indications are that they will respond positively.
Meanwhile, a list of some contestants for executive positions alleged to be the choice of one of the party’s flag bearer hopefuls has created apprehension within party circles in Kumasi.
Some party members believe it can cast a bad image for people whose names are on the list.
Since the party expanded its electoral college in August last year, it is the first time a congress is being held in Kumasi, the stronghold of the NPP, and, according to sources within the party, nothing is been left to chance to ensure that the outcome of the congress is not only free, fair, smooth and successful but that delegates will also vote and elect leaders who can deliver on the promises made and make the party competitive to win future elections.