Kofi Konadu Apraku believes as a true party man with his kind of political and international experience, he is the right man to win the flagbearership contest for the New Patriotic Party on December 22, 2007.
However, if that does not happen and the contest is forced into a run-off between Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and another candidate, he would throw his support fully behind Akufo-Addo.
He made this known when he met supporters and leadership of the NPP in the United Kingdom last Friday. The meeting held at the Golden Stool Restaurant, Tottenham, North London, kicked of the former Trade & Industry Minister's ten-day tour of Europe and North America.
Dr Apraku's message in London supports various reports reaching The Statesman that when canvassing party members for votes here in Ghana, he sometimes goes beyond that to speak positively for the former Foreign Minister, as well.
The Statesman can further disclose that Dr Apraku is by no means the only candidate expressing conditional support for the candidacy of Akufo-Addo besides his own. Another leading aspirant, who recently launched his campaign, is also known to have repeatedly sent similar signals to party members. Though, that candidate also believes he is the right man to lead the party and run the country after President John Agyekum Kufuor.
The conditional endorsement of Nana Akufo-Addo by the man who worked beside him on the Prof Adu Boahen 1992 presidential bid confirms media speculations about probable alliances among some of the 19 aspirants.
However, last week one leading aspirant was reported as saying that he was not in favour of any such electoral pacts. Pundits predict that the focal points of alliances would be around candidates the other aspirants believe can be trusted to unite the party, creating a confident platform for beating Prof Atta Mills in barely 13 months time.
Speaking in London, at a gathering attended by four branch executives of the NPP, and some sympathisers, Dr Apraku said it was imperative that NPP delegates respond to the cries of the party rank and file and elect a presidential candidate who has the respect, confidence, support and solidarity of the entire party. He therefore called for the election of a candidate who can be trusted to unite the party after the December congress.
Putting himself in the position of such a unifier, Dr Apraku added, like himself, Akufo-Addo is a true party man who battled in the trenches for the decade before the 2001 victory, who can also be trusted to maintain and build upon the cohesion of the party.
Describing the former Foreign Minister as a close political and cabinet ally, Dr Apraku, former Minister for NEPAD and Regional Cooperation, recounted to his audience the leadership role the two active founding members played when the party was in opposition. He, however, stressed that he is much younger than his colleague MP, Akufo-Addo, whom he sits next to in the House. Dr Apaku is 53. Akufo-Addo is 63. But, Dr Apraku’s revelation to the UK/Eire branch of the NPP only confirms the considerable understanding that has built up between the two men who first contested for the NPP leadership in 1998. That time Akufo-Addo came second to John Agyekum Kufuor, with the Offinso South MP taking a distant third.
Dr Apraku draws inspiration from his third position, recalling that John Agyekum Kufuor came third to Albert Adu Boahen in 1992 only to beat Prof Adu Boahen in the subsequent 1996 contest. He told his UK audience, "At the Koforidua congress, three criteria came out as the yardstick for anybody who wants to be the leader of our party. A true blooded NPP person, devoted and committed member of the party capable of unifying and defending the values and ideals of the party. Somebody who has served the party in good and bad times," and thirdly, he said, "Somebody competent enough to lead and deliver. And I believe I am the best-placed person."
Skipping the 17 men in the contest, Dr Apraku then singled out the MP for Abuakwa South: "I pay tribute to my friend Nana Akufo-Addo, also a flagbearer. We were in the trenches together, he is one of those who stood up for us when the going was tough and I have always sat next to him in Parliament. I have asked my God that if there is anybody else in the party who is better qualified in terms of the three criteria laid, to lead the party then it is him."
One member of his audience later on remarked to The Statesman, "Besides doing a great job at marketing himself, at some point we felt he has been appointed as Nana’s campaign manager.
"He definitely wants Nana to win in the interest of party unity and cohesion. To him Nana is the very embodiment of what our tradition stands for," Eugene Antwi said. Though the latest opinion poll puts Akufo-Addo first, with a significant margin of 13 percentage points ahead of his closest rival, his 35% lead in the polls gives further credence to the prediction that for the first time the NPP leadership race may go for a second round. A candidate needs 50% plus one vote to be declared winner.