Excitement is gradually winding up to fever pitch in the ancient town of Sunyani ahead of the historic flagbearer contest between incumbent President John Evans Atta Mills and former First Lady Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings for the right to lead the governing National Democratic Congress into the 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections.
Sunyani, capital of both the Sunyani District and the Brong-Ahafo Region, will play host to the unfolding drama of a sitting Ghanaian president under the Fourth Republic being challenged in his bid for a second term by a member of his own party.
The personage contesting with the president is no mean person either – the wife of the man who founded the party and the man who literally handpicked Professor John Atta Mills as his successor and has until recently assiduously stuck by and campaigned for him since 1996.
The 10,000 seater Sunyani Coronation park as well as the town itself is awash in NDC colours and a variety of posters of both President Mills and Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, touting the credentials of each candidate and advising delegates on who to vote for.
Over 3,500 delegates are expected to vote for the person who to them would the party for the next four years.
Purveyors of NDC paraphernalia are engaged in brisk business, food sellers are setting up extra stalls and have hired all plastic tables and chairs in the Sunyani township; operators of drinking bars are expecting a bumper trade. Hotel rooms run out over a month and a half ago.
Residents of Sunyani are in most part bemused by the sudden invasion of their town by a large contingent of 4-wheel-drive vehicles, a reported 1,500 policemen and an advance party of what one Sunyani resident called “the dreaded Azorka Boys” from Tamale.
Several busloads of delegates from the regions have arrived, with a few more expected.
The media is out in full force, with a special media centre set up outside the stadium for those who failed to receive accreditation.
Anybody who is somebody in the NDC is in Sunyani. At the time of filing this report (3pm) both the President and his Vice had reportedly arrived. Former President Rawlings and his wife are also reportedly in town and are expected to continue campaigning throughout the night.
Ministers spotted include Local Government Minister Samuel Ofosu Ampofo, Trade Minister Hanna Tetteh, Agric Minister Kwesi Ahwoi, Employment Minister E. T. Mensah, Collins Dauda, Presidential Advisers Totobi Kwakye and Ato Ahwoi, Majority Chief Whip Cletus Avoka, Deputy Information Minister Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, Deputy Tourism Minister James Agyenim Boateng, as well as the executives of the party including Chairman Kwabena Adjei, General Secretary Johnson Asiedu Nketiah and Propaganda Secretary Richard Quarshigah were all spotted busily seeing to last minute organizational matters.
Kofi Adams, Spokesperson of the Rawlingses, was also sighted confidently predicting victory for Nana Konadu.
Meanwhile, Francis Duker, deputy national chairman of FONKAR has reportedly resigned, information reaching Citifmonline indicates.
Speaking to Citifmonline.com, residents of Sunyani and some delegates appeared eager for the epoch-making event to take place as soon as possible – with the majority of respondents predicting victory for President Mills.
Of the 45 persons whose views were sampled, 20 who claimed to be delegates predicted a “massive landslide” victory for the Prof Mills, although they failed to put a figure to their prediction.
The towns folk, while largely agreeing with this sentiment, were most diverse in their predictions, with a high of 95% and a low of 70%, all in favour of President Mills.
But also speaking to Citifmonline.com, the National Campaign Coordinator of the Nana Konadu for 2012 campaign team, Hon Michael Teye Nyaunu, predicted 65%-35% victory for his candidate.
Two other members of the group Friends of Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings (FONKAR) who spoke to Citifmonline also confidently predicted victory for their candidate, citing her courage in breaking the status quo.
Speaking to the media about the likely effects of such a hard-fought-contest on the NDC less than two years before a major national election, Samuel Ofosu Ampofo, Minister for Local Government and former National Organiser, predicted: “NDC will stay united, NDC will come back stronger and more united.”
Sunyani was voted the cleanest city in Ghana for the year 2007 by the Ghana Tourist Board. According to Deputy Tourism Minister James Agyenim Boateng, the NDC is in Sunyani “to party.” Residents have expressed the fervent hope that this enviable record will not be lost in the dust and heat of the contest, described as a “family affair” by both sides.