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Politics of Friday, 31 March 2006

Source: Statesman

The NPP race is not for the swift?

ALIU VRS NANA ADDO

Those who have been following our get-to-know-the-aspirants series in the last couple of weeks are in no doubt that the New Patriotic Party indeed has several qualified people vying to take this country into the next gear of accelerated growth.

While, there are several others, including Paapa Owusu-Ankomah, Courage Quashiga and Ato Essuman who are still flirting with the idea of running, there are others too, like Arthur Kennedy, Boakye Agyarko and Frimpong Boateng, who, albeit, have publicly announced their intention to run, are still not registering on the radar screen at the constituency level. We are likely to feature them in the future if things improve.

But today and in the last of the current series, we are focusing on two heavyweights: the Vice President of the Republic and the Foreign Minister. One is seen as the man to beat. The other, as the closest to the big stool.

If being considered by everyone you meet as handsomely pleasant was pivotal in choosing a presidential candidate then making that short 50-yard walk from his office at the east wing of the Cabinet Room to its west wing to the Office of the President of the Republic would be a done deal.

Aliu Mahama, who turned 60 on the third of March, is arguably the most likeable, uncontroversial person within the upper echelons of Ghanaian politics. A gentleman in every true meaning of the word. For a man who had to be dragged from his lucrative business world to be running mate of John Agyekum Kufuor in 2000, Alhaji Mahama has grown admirably well into the office to become Ghana?s first ever two-term Vice President in history.

His job allows him to travel the country. Saturday, the Vice President, accompanied by MPs and party executives, joined the chiefs and residents of Shama, Inchaban, Kojokrom, Essikadu, Market Circle, Effiakuma and Kwesimintim, to clean their surroundings and also addressed mini rallies. Yet, in all these trips he has cleverly refused to directly exploit the opportuni! ty to expressly lobby party executives for votes.

Now, the big question is this: would he join his boss after 2008 and retreat quietly with a copy of the Greenstreet report into retirement? Or would he battle it out with about ten others for the NPP presidential nomination? The smart money is on him not running.

Another man who has displayed perhaps more than the rest that the race to lead the NPP in 2008 is not for the swift but for those who have endured is Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. Unlike Alhaji Mahama, the MP for Abuakwa South has announced publicly that he is certainly going to be a contender for the flagbearership when the time comes.

But, to the admiration of the President and several non-committed Ghanaians, hitherto he has steadfastly refused to succumb to growing pressure to unleash his campaign machinery. His reason is simple: an early campaign is likely to divert attention from the main goal at hand of getting the Kufuor administration to first succeed. Already, the proliferation of campaigns is creating competing camps at all levels of the ruling party.

Nana Akufo-Addo may draw inspiration from the fact that despite his decision to hold back for now, he has not been able to stop the spontaneous momentum behind his anticipated bid. But, he needs to do more personally to physically reconnect with the party nationwide,! since politics is all about people and their sense of worth.

Instinctively, he does not support the calls for an early presidential primary for fear that it might create a leadership problem of dualism within the party, with divided allegiance towards the incumbent and his heir apparent. The NPP, in spite of some worrying grassroots disenchantment, has managed to stay together.

By 1998, the NPP was, arguably, split into two distinct camps ? the Kufuor camp and the Akufo-Addo camp. The two men swept 96.4 percent of the delegates? votes in the six-man race, with Nana Akufo-Addo coming second with 628 (31.6%) votes. In a distant third place was Kofi Konadu Apraku with 52 votes (2.6%). But, after losing out to Mr Kufuor, Nana Akufo-Addo took a conscious decision to disengage his core support group as a way to foster the cohesion and unity that has sustained the party till date.

But, some loyalists of his are not happy. They don?t want to revisit the situation in 1998 where he had only six weeks to campaign after launching his bid late. For instance, the Veep may not be campaigning but he has the inherent advantage of pressing palms across the country as he performs his official ceremonial duties. Messrs Owusu-Agyemang, Osafo-Maafo, Ocquaye, Addo-Kufuor and Apraku are making their case before a party which has seen the faces of several delegates changed since 1998.

So, whiles the Foreign Minister goes about his business of accumulating more and more air miles, groups are springing up across the country under the umbrella of Friends of Nana Akufo-Addo (FONAA) to fill the vacuum. The Statesman can disclose that a group has been formed in Accra to coordinate the activities of FONAA. The Chief Patron is Victor Newman.

The race is on and the Vice President knows it, too. But, has he the command of constituencies to swing NPP delegates his way? He is working hard in the three northern regions and progressively in Ashanti and the lands of the Fantes. Currently, he is seen as the NPP?s most popular aspirant in the Volta Region and his candidacy may help tackle the perception of the party as Akan based. Nevertheless, the statistics show that the NPP has progressively increased its electoral deposit in all the non-Akan areas. And, for a party to have an advantage over the rest with the biggest ethnic group in Ghana (49%, with a total population of 8.56 million) should no way be seen as a disadvantage. In a country where the influence of the Charismatic churches hold sway, Alhaji Mahama, a devout Moslem, has adroitly courted the Christian community very well, to the point of addressing a massive Christian Crusade at the Independence Square.

Alhaji Mahama has complimented President Kufuor creditably. President Kufuor?s gentle personality called for a Vice with an equally sweet-tempered demeanour. He has served his boss, his party and his nation with distinction, without being seen to compete with his boss.

He is not perceived as a man with strong roots in the NPP, though. But, that is to assume that those loyal to the party are only those who make their contributions at the national headquarters in Accra.

Alhaji Mahama has had a long standing reputation as one of the most influential pers! onalities in the north. The north, it is recalled, gave the UP tradition a core founding group, the NPP (Northern People?s Party).

A man with one of the strongest direct political pedigree in Ghana is Nana Akufo-Addo. The Foreign Minister is related by blood to three of the legendary Big Six (J B Danquah, granduncle; William Ofori Atta, uncle; Edward Akufo-Addo, father;). His father?s house, Betty House in Korle Wokon, in downtown Accra, served as the headquarters of the country?s first political party ? the United Gold Coast Convention.

Forty years later in 1992, his family?s Ringway Hotel became the venue of the weekly Press Conferences for the NPP and while on their way to address such a press conference in 1992 that B J Da Rocha unilaterally changed the just-launched party?s name from National Patriotic Party to New Patriotic Party. His hope was that the ?N? would be soon dropped to leave it as ?PP?, akin to Dr Busia?s Progress Party.

That Akufo-Addo property was later bombed allegedly by an agent of state security under President Rawlings.

Nana Akufo-Addo embodies the Danquah-Busia tradition.

?When J. B. Danquah advanced the concept of a property-owning democracy for Ghana as the bedrock of the United Party?s national vision, he was not advocating luxury for an elite class. He was rather extending the notion of individual ownership to the majority. He was preaching what you might call the democratisation of property - teaching the majority not only to aspire to fulfilment, but granting them access to the ladder of vertical mobility,? Nana Akufo-Addo stated in a recent speech.

Ironically, he was a Marxist during his formative years as an Economics student at Legon in the 1960s and had many an intellectual battle with his dad, an avid UPist. But his father was to have the last laugh in February 1966 as his son was chased out of campus barefooted, with his socialist friends Modibo Ocran, Kweku Mensah and Abel Edusei to his house for refuge after the overthrow of Kwame Nkrumah. The old man is said to have just sat in his swinging chair on the verandah laughing as his first born came home panting for cover.

The ideological transformation started shortly afterwards, when the young Akufo-Addo returned to Europe to continue with his studies and work. And the synergy of his conservativism, liberalism and his short flirtation with socialism is obvious in his long-endured popular appeal. The substance of this popular appeal is aptly encapsulated in his vision of Indigenous Capitalism as the philosophy for Ghana?s future.

Ghana must adopt a ?can do, will do? attitude towards economic growth, the Foreign Minister has said and he has tremendous confidence in the ability of the Ghanaian.

Nana Akufo-Addo can inspire. As spokesperson for AFC, he led the inspirational drive that got a record half a million people on the streets of Accra and Kumasi to demonstrate against the NDC?s economic policies.

Still, if the Vice President really decides to run he carries with him on the campaign an advantage unmatched by any of the others. His nigh ceremonial role gives him that opportunity to represent the President on regional programmes, while designing similar programmes for himself.

His critics point to the fact that even as the Number Two his name is seldom mentioned among the very front runners ? the clearest indicator, it is argued, of his chances.

But, that is to underestimate his popular appeal and, in the last five years, the ground he has covered and continues to cover.

His charm is so infectiously relaxing that he can make you forget you are in the company of the second most important person of the land. He is very popular with traditional rulers, too. This may have something to do with his job being seen as more of a ceremonial Vice President.

The Foreign Minister is seen as a politician with the charisma, intellect and populism that cut across sectional lines. Nana Akufo-Addo returned to Ghana, after practising law in France, to lead the national struggle against military dictatorship. In 1977, at the age of 33, he was the first to join Akwasi Amankwa Afrifa to oppose Kuti Acheampong?s attempts to form a one-party state in the guise of UNIGOV.

Nana Akufo-Ad! do showed his political organisational skills as General Secretary of the People?s Movement for Freedom and Justice, which led the successful ?No? campaign in the UNIGOV referendum, ultimately bringing about the downfall of Acheampong and the restoration of multi-party democratic rule in the country in 1979.

?Mahama envisions a Ghana that is clean and healthy, fully connected to his cherished Information Age, connected to the rest of Africa (He is fascinated by Botswana?s development strides, which is largely rooted in her cultural values, and have been citing it to buttress his Pan African vision of Ghana), holistic and balanced, disciplined, where traditional values connect to the future, where the inhibitions within her culture are refined in order to free the people from long-running ancient ignorance, fear and erroneous thinking i! n their progress,? is how one observer describes the Vice President in an article (See P.6) The trouble is the role of the Number Two is hardly defined beyond his acting role. And, that he has done plenty of as his boss travels the globe in fulfillment of Economic Diplomacy, especially chairing several Cabinet meetings.

Also, he has chaired the Oversight Committee of Gateway; the Oversight Committee of the National Institutional Renewal Programme; and he has represented Ghana on some important international assignments, such as addressing the United Nations.

His defining moment came! at the Independence Day of 2002, where as acting President he launched his campaign for greater discipline. The Vice President hit a raw nerve which caught the imagination of the whole nation when he urged Ghanaians to tackle indiscipline in society.

It kind of lost its discipline when Andy Awuni, its coordinator, was appointed a Deputy Information Minister in 2003. But, perhaps, the greatest difficulty was that key government officials saw the campaign as a personal crusade of the Vice but not as a government policy, requiring collective inter-ministerial effort and the government thus failed to back it with the needed enforcement tools.

In the 1980s, Nana Akufo-Addo used the law courts to promote human rights and civil liberties, with celebrated cases such as Tuffuor vrs Attorney-Gen! eral. Once the nationalist Atakora Gyimah founded the Danquah-Busia Memorial Club in Kumasi, Nana Akufo-Addo became the obvious choice as Chairman of the Organisation Committee of the Club. It was at around this time that his links with the grassroots was fully established as he traveled the length and breadth of the country to establish branches of the club, which were to be soon turned into local organs of the NPP in 1992 when party politics resumed.

As a founding member of the NPP, his passion, acumen on strategy and political commitment were rewarded when Prof Adu Boahen made him his campaign manager. Nana Akufo-Addo?s contributions to the NPP have been adequately chronicled elsewhere (See P.6).He has been consistent in marketing the NPP as! not an elitist party but a party committed in ideology and practice to bringing the greatest happiness to the greatest number of Ghanaians.

This is one of the defining attributes of the man they say was born with a silver spoon in the mouth. But, what many people don?t know is that Nana Akufo-Addo was born in Bukom/Swalaba, Accra. He had his primary education at the Government Boys School and later Rowe Road School (now Kinbu ). He even grew up in Nima, where he is expected to move back to ! in the coming months. His childhood friends and classmates included, the boxer Roy Ankrah (Black Flash, Ghana?s first Commonwealth medalist), the goal keeper Duodu Ankrah, James Attuquayfio, Addo Odamatey, and Frank Odoi.

Nana Addo was a great sportsman. He played alongside Fiifi Atta Mills in the University team, at Legon. But, Nana Addo left the Legon centre half, Mills, behind to play for the Academicals (the national team for students). Ohene Gyan, Nkrumah?s Director of Central Organisation of Sports, made Nana Addo his outfit?s Administrative Secretary.

As a young man, Aliu Mahama studied at the Government Secondary School, Tamale from 1960-67 for his Ordinary and Advanced Level Certificates; obtaining a BSc in Building Technology at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in 1971.

Alhaji Mahama?s successful career in construction started with the Bolgatanga regional office of the State Construction Corporation, fresh from University, enjoying promotion three years later as Assistant Regional Manager at the Koforidua Regional Office of SCC for a year. Between 1976 and 1982 he served as Regional Manager for the Northern Region.

In 1982, he decided to go on his own, by setting up LIDRA Ltd, becoming the Chairman of the Northern Regional Contractors Association in 1996 until the December 2000 Elections.

But, it has not all been construction. Until, Mr Kufuor settled on him but not Edward Mahama or Mustapha Idris as running mate, Alhaji Mahama was mostly known as a heavy bankroller of the NPP in the north.

But, his political career goes deeper than his pockets. Al! haji Mahama has exceptional interest in local governance and community development. He was an elected Councilor of Yendi District Council in 1978 and Assemblyman, Tamale Municipal Assembly in 1990. He chaired the infrastructure sub-committee of the Assembly and later the Economic Development Sub-Committee and the Tamale-Louisville Sister City Committee.

He also served as member of The Board of Governors of several Secondary Schools in the Northern Region including the Tamale Polytechnic Council. He was also a board member of Ghana Oil Company for six years.

He is associated with results, and as a team player, too. He is a founding member of the Real Tamale United Football Club in 1976. The club, which shot through the promotion goal posts to the First Division in two years in 1978. In 1994, he took over the Chairmanship of the Club until the December 2000 Elections.

He is married to Hajia Ramatu Mahama. Their marriage has been blessed with four children.

Nana Akufo-Addo is a strong nationalist who believes in the inherent capacity of the Ghanaian. His biggest support base is certainly within the youth, in spite of the fact that he is in his early sixties. Arguably, youthfulness is a state of mind. And dynamism can grow with age and experience.

He is in his third marriage. This first to Remi, a Nigerian ? daughter of the late celebrated Nigerian lawyer and politician, Chief Remi Fani Kayode ? ended in divorce after two daughters. His second to Obaa Eleanor from the Roy! al House of Dekyere (Botase) in Asante Mampong, ended with her tragic early death at the age of 39 in 1993, their union being blessed with yet another daughter. He married last year Rebecca, daughter of the Speaker of the Parliament of the Third Republic, the late Mr Justice Griffiths-Randolph, who brought him yet another daughter. As the proud father of five daughters, he understands fully well the empowerment of women. Gender issues can be safely left in his hands.

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