Ghana?s ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) will hold its congress Saturday to elect a new presidential candidate ahead of next year?s general elections. 17 presidential aspirants are reportedly vying for leadership of the party after they went through what the party described as a rigorous screening process. The winner would take over from President John Kufuor who is constitutionally barred from running after serving two consecutive terms as the country?s president.

Nana Ohene-Ntow is the general secretary of the ruling NPP party. From the capital Accra, he tells reporter Peter Clottey Ghanaians would witness a strong leader emerge to lead both the party and the country.

?The New Patriotic Party is going for congress tomorrow Saturday December 22nd at the University of Ghana Legon. 2,326 delegates are going to elect the presidential candidate out of a line up of 17 contestants. The congress venue is very well set to host the event; I have been there just a short while ago to inspect preparations. Accommodation for all delegates is all set; the conference venue itself, which is the forecourt of the Great Hall of the University of Ghana, is also set. Delegates are arriving in Accra from all across the country; our foreign delegates are also already here and arrangements are fully set for congress to take off tomorrow morning,? Ohene-Ntow pointed out.

He denied speculations that President Kufuor is backing one of the presidential aspirants, which is threatening party unity.

?There has been a lot of talk about the president allegedly supporting one aspirant against all others, and there?s been a bit of speculation about that. The president himself on a number of occasions publicly stated that he was not backing any particular candidate against others, and that whoever is chosen by congress he would support that party for the campaign towards the election in 2008,? he said.

Ohene-Ntow denied rumors that tag the ruling party as ethnically based, which frowns on other ethnicities.

?The party, everybody knows is a national party. Indeed the constitution of Ghana does not allow ethnic based party or regional based party in Ghana, and that if any party is found to be ethnic based or regionally based, the electoral commission has the right to proscribe such a party. So for the very reason that the NPP is in power, the NPP won a national election not once, but twice. That sends a clear signal that this is a party that straddles the entire length and breadth of the whole spectrum of the ethnic diversity and complexity of Ghana. And that is an empty allegation,? Ohene-Ntow opined.

He said the ruling party espouses true democracy in all of its dealings.

?When you want to talk about the vice president and whether he should have been allowed to move on or not, I think that the party has both the constitution and conventions that we have gone by. The constitution of the party allows for people to compete freely, the vice president has not been hindered in anyway. And others who are also interested have been allowed to compete freely. This is a very, very democratic party,? he noted.