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General News
President Kufuor Strikes! 6/18/2007
President Kufuor has finally decided that those aspiring to win the nomination as presidential candidate of the governing New Patriotic Party have ''peaked before time.'' Several of The Statesman sources have confirmed our report of yesterday that on Tuesday President John Agyekum Kufuor summoned all eight Cabinet Minister-aspirants to his office at the Castle, Osu, and demanded of them to hand in their resignations by next week.

However, additional information available to The Statesman indicates that this could be extended to the end of the first week of July, shortly after the African Union summit, here in Accra.The President at an NPP National Executive Committee meeting in April, informed the party that he intended to call all Minister-aspirants to have a ‘stern" chat about their campaigns. The President, at that time had shown some anxiety about the prospect of dirty campaigns among the aspirants.

The Ministers who are expected to resign are Alan Kyerematen (Trade & Industry), Kwame Addo-Kufuor (Defence), Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey (Tourism), Felix Owusu-Agyapong (Parliamentary Affairs and Majority Leader), Papa Owusu-Ankomah (Education & Sports), Mike Oquaye (Communications), Hackman Owusu-Agyemang (Water Resources, Works & Housing), and Nana Akufo-Addo of Foreign Affairs.While the demand notice is expected to lapse at the end of next week, it is, nonetheless, widely expected to be extended to July but before Parliament rises on Friday, July 27.

According to one Castle source, first to be called Tuesday was the Minister of Defence and younger brother of the President, Kwame Addo-Kufuor. He is said to have disagreed with the President’s decision, citing the party constitution which only demands resignation of Ministers after they have filed their nominations. Filing of nominations is expected to begin on September 15, a whole three months away. The rest of the minister-aspirants, The Statesman has learnt, appeared at the Castle around the same time and were told to also prepare to clear their desks in ensuing days.

However, they did not take it lightly, according to leaks picked up by The Statesman. Mr Owusu-Agyemang, in particular, is said to be among a very few of them who made his strong views on the matter known to the appointing authority.At least one assertive aspirant is said to have added to the earlier point made by the Defence Minister. His point, our sources say, was that while the President was free to appoint and disappoint, to demand of them a blanket resignation now would neither be supported by the party constitution nor would its indiscriminate application be fair.

The Majority Leader, for instance, stuck religiously to his pledge not to start any campaign or ‘water-testing’ until the year 2007. Yet, he is being asked to resign alongside a handful who were known to have kicked off their campaigns much earlier.While rumours had been rife in government circles about a pending reshuffle, there had been conflicting signals from the Castle. The President had been flirting with the option of picking and choosing.Nevertheless, he had forewarned in 2005 that minister-aspirants who peak before time would risk the sack.

A source close to one of the aspirants told The Statesman yesterday, "It’s not that they are eager to hold on to their portfolios at all cost. In fact, they are all ready to abide by the party policy on resignation. But, they think this is not the way to go about it."NPP Chairman, Peter Mac Manu told The Statesman yesterday that the party, for its part, considered 2007 opened for campaign and that they are aware that some people had been active in their "pre-nominations campaign," testing the electoral waters, but that until the nominations are opened in September no aspirant could be considered to be a candidate in the strictest sense of the word.

The general argument is that not all of the water-testers may eventually file. Indeed, The Statesman is aware of another Cabinet Minister who has been testing the waters in a stealth-like manner. Yet, he is yet to be added to the known number of aspirants. The President and his security bosses have been markedly edgy since April when newspapers disclosed that Kwesi Arthur, a senior party member and former board member of the Export Development Investment Fund had filed a complaint before the Commission of Human Rights and Administrative Justice accusing Mr Kyerematen of conflict of interest.

The Trade Minister responded with a press release, pointing fingers at party insiders seeking to taint his hard-earned reputation.Indeed, Mr Arthur was a very close political ally to Mr Kufuor and was instrumental in raising funds for candidate Kufuor before 2001. The President also believed that one of the other aspirants could have been behind the action taken by his former aide, Mr Arthur. The Statesman

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