Feature Article of Thursday, 6 September 2012
Columnist: Coffie-Newman, Dennis
The Twelve Cardinal Reasons Why John Mahama Needs A New VP Running Mate Posted on September 5, 2012 by okromouth
Ekow Spio-Garbrah, a leading member of the National Democratic Congress. Photo: DailyGuide Ghana
By Dennis Coffie-Newman*
So much water has passed under the bridge since the demise of the late President John Evans Atta Mills. There have been some changes within the power structure of the ruling government; we now have a new President and a new Vice-President. So do we also have a new first lady and a new second lady. One could go on to list the ripple effects as far as to the Central Bank all the way down. There are a few things that are apparent here. With the change in the leadership of the NDC for 2012, there is no doubt that the NPP is leaving no stone unturned to rebrand its messages to suit the new players. Having observed the presidential campaigns in the last 20 years in Ghana and with the new scenario that confronts the NDC, whereby the NDC has to adapt itself to the new situation in less than four months to the general elections, it is obvious that President John Dramani Mahama needs to maximizes his opportunities by making the right choices that will lead to victory come December 2012. As we ponder as a party over who partners the President into the 2012, I wish to add my voice to the call not to endorse Mr. Kwesi Amissah-Arthur as a running mate. If the idea is to endorse a Fante from the Central region, then the President should consider his one-time colleague at the Ministry of Communication, Dr. Ekwow Spio-Garbrah. The President can ponder over what I christened as the twelve cardinal reasons why he needs a new Veep in the person of Spio.
1. President Mahama chose current Veep within a week of having been sworn in as President because he needed someone who was already within the government and who could assist him immediately as a Vice President, following the death of President Mills. Because Amissah-Arthur was already Governor of the Central bank and had been a Deputy Finance Minister, and was a member of the Economic Management Team, it made good administrative sense for him to be chosen as a Veep. In that position, he can help the President to manage the economy and the Cabinet for the last few months of the left-over of the Mills Presidency. By selecting Amissah-Arthur, Mahama was fulfilling a requirement of the Ghana Constitution, whose main focus is about effective governance.
2. The task of winning an election is a different task from that of governance. It is about effective campaigning, persuading people who might not otherwise like you and your party and government to nevertheless vote for you. Amissah-Arthur is not cut out for that task. Indeed, as the President has to travel soon to the UN and may have to engage in other foreign travels as President, he needs someone in the Castle or Jubilee house to be more fully in charge of managing government. Similarly, as Mahama needs to spend a lot of time campaigning to make up for the two year lead time advantage that Akufo-Addo has over him, he still needs someone back in the office to be shuffling and approving official papers. So Amissah-Arthur can fill the Veep role very well.
3. Political campaigning is mostly about effective communication of a Party and a candidate’s political views, manifesto, policies and action plans. To the extent that campaigning is mostly about communication, and not economics, engineering, law or dentistry, a political figure within the NDC who understands and is good at deploying communication strategies and tools can be a very good running mate. In this era of radio and television, a telegenic personality who can make sound and persuasive arguments n behalf of the NDC and John Mahama who could be a solid running mate. Indeed, many people, including me, were disappointed when President Mahama did not select Dr Spio-Garbrah as his Vice President. However, increasingly, the logic of President Mahama is becoming clearer. He doesn’t have time to campaign to win the elections, so he could do well to confuse the NPP with his tactics.
4. The NPP had developed all their campaign strategy around President Mills. Then when Mills died, the NPP had to quickly revisit their campaign worksheets and see how to redirect their fire-power at Mahama. So far, they have tried to link Mahama fully to what they consider the failures of the Mills administration, with regards to overall economic performance and the sliding cedi, and dollar shortages. Again, because Amissah-Arthur had been the Governor of the Central Bank during this same period, the NPP also effectively tag him as part of the failures of the Mills era. This is why many NDC strategists are beginning to think that it would make great sense for President Mahama to choose a running mate who has NOT been part of the Mills-Mahama administration so far, so that such a person will be less vulnerable to attacks from the NPP. Dr Ekwow Spio-Garbrah fits this description quite well.
5. It became clearer at the NDC Congress that President Mahama recognises the importance of President Rawlings in the upcoming campaign. President Rawlings advised Mahama publicly before all the NDC delegates and the entire nation of Ghana to “remove some rotten planks” from the NDC bridge and to replace them with stronger planks. In the minds of many people, Spio-Garbrah should be one of the strongest planks Mahama could attract into his government or give a major role to, especially as a running mate. Spio-Garbrah also comes from the Central region, where everyone agrees the running mate should be picked from. 6. All NDC people are seeking unity in the party as a sine qua non for winning election 2012. Most NDC faithful also believe that a leading role for Rawlings is essential to that victory. Rawlings has publicly stated his terms for getting engaged in the campaign. Every leading member of the NDC also knows that Rawlings has a high regard for Spio-Garbrah, and if he Rawlings sees John Mahama putting Spio to good use, that will be a strong indicator to Rawlings that Mahama has heard his recommendations and is taking action. So what will be any good reason why John Mahama will not take such a simple and easy step?
7. Mahama naturally will wonder what explanation he will need to give to Ghanaians about having one person as VP and another person as his running mate. But historically in Ghana’s recent history, there have been many similar examples, including Kufuor and Aliu Mahama as President and Veep in 2008 for NPP, but Akufo-Addo and Bawumia as flag bearer and running mate. Or Rawlings and Mills as President and Veep in 2000, but Mills and Amidu as flagbearer and running mate for NDC. Even more interesting in 1996 was Rawlings and Arkaah as President and Vice President, but Rawlings and Mills as flagbearer and running mate, while the same NCP’s Arkaah partnered Kufuor as an NPP running mate. So, all kinds of combinations have been possible and necessary for electoral victories in the past. So Mahama should be bold enough to make sensible electoral decisions, if he wants to win the December polls.
8. Mahama should also not be afraid to have a different running mate from his Veep, by feeling any sense of permanent obligation to Amissah-Arthur. He should remember that he himself was the third choice of President Mills, after Mills had already previously chosen Martin Amidu in 2000, people to leader when it comes to campaign Mahama has been making claims about representing a new era of youthful leaders. Amissah-Arthur is already 61, so cannot readily be seen as a youthful leader. Others like Kwesi Botchwey, at 68, cannot partner Mahama effectively, and has been away from NDC politics and campaigning for too many years. Another youthful running mate would have been Gossie Tandoh, but many NDC cadres and youth blame him for NDC losing the 2000 elections, when he broke off to create the Reform Party. He has never spoken on an NDC platform in the last 12 years, with business being his main interest. In the 12 years as the leader of the Reform Party, he was unable to build it to any strength in Ghana. The Party never had any MPs nor did Tandoh openly ever criticise the NPP even when reform was supposed to also be an opposition party between 2001 and 2009. He would not be welcome so soon after returning to the NDC fold as a running mate.
9. The person who NDC youth look up to the most is Dr Spio-Garbrah, to be President Mahama’s running mate. The two men have worked together before harmoniously at the Ministry of Communications in the late 1990s. They have continued to be friends since then. Those who were in Spio’s campaign team in 2006 know that the only person Spio had proposed as his own running mate had he won the NDC primaries was John Mahama. If fate had smiled on John and made him President, it is only fitting that John also returns that favour. The youth believe in Spio mainly because of what he did to set up the GETFund from which many young men and women have been benefitting tremendously for more than 10 years. Many also remember him when as Minister of Education, he was the first Minister to donate a Pick-up car and computers to the NUGS for their office administration.
10. All NPP members and sympathisers will tell anyone who asks that Spio-Garbrah is the one person that they all fear will dislodge their campaign strategy if he becomes a central person in the NDC line-up. In Kumasi and the Ashanti region, in particular, NPP members are not at all shy in stating openly that they hope somehow Spio does not show up in the NDC line-up for the campaign. The NPP national Chairman Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey has known of Spio since their days in the advertising industry in the mid 1970s, and he knows what trouble Spio can cause the NPP should John Mahama tap him for a leading role in the campaign. John Mahama must send a bolt of lightning into the hearts of the NPP faithful by naming Spio as his running mate.
11. In the NDC itself, Spio is seen as very likeable and approachable by NDC footsoldiers and the rank and file. Having served as Director of Communications and the campaigns of Atta Mills, then as Communications Director/Press Secretary at national Headquarters, and a Vice Chairman of the Party from 2009, Spio is a true-tested NDC party man. He is known across the length and breadth of the country by Constituency Chairmen, regional organisers, branch chairmen, as well as traditional rulers. He will make John Mahama’s very difficult task of wining an election with less than 100 days of active campaigning, much easier. Amissah Arthur may be a good economist but political campaigning is not his strength. The President will not be able to send Amissah-Arthur by himself to campaign in even his own native Central region and expect any major positive outcome. It is time for President Mahama to bite a sweet bullet and unleash Spio-Garbrah onto the NPP.
12. Spio is seen as very friendly and very helpful to those seeking various kinds of assistance. Many who visit him in his office are often surprised by the long lines of disaffected NDC members who visit him regularly to share their problems and seek his advice, referral cards to government big shots, and financial assistance for all kinds of personal problems If President Mahama wants to win the December 2012 elections, he will be sending a strong signal into the NPP camp by choosing Spio-Garbrah as his running mate.
I wish there was a way I could slip this epistle into the hands of the President without having to go public. But those around them sometimes do not make it easy for messages of this sort to reach them. It is for this reason I have to resort to the media to send my pints across to the President. I only wish him well, as our destiny as a party is inextricably tied to the choices he makes as a person.
*The writer is an Educational Consultant on Adult Educational Matters and based in Leicester, UK. He may be reached via email firstname.lastname@example.org.