Feature Article of Saturday, 24 November 2012
Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame
By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
As one who edited both the proposals that culminated, separately, in the establishment of the John Agyekum-Kufuor and Aliu Mahama institutes, I was naturally nonplussed to learn about the death of former Vice-President Aliu Mahama. Needless to say, what I learned while editing the proposal for the Aliu Mahama Institute is the fact that the well-being, success and prosperity of Ghanaian youths were upmost in the mind of this veritable statesman of a rare breed.
Of course, when I talk about his great concern for the future well-being of Ghanaian youths, particularly northern Ghanaian youths, I am not talking about the lurid and expedient distribution of Procrustean-type uniforms to public schoolchildren; that, in fact, strikingly draws a fundamental difference between the inordinately vote-hungry faux-social democratic politicians from the other side of the ideological divide and the man of whose sacred and revered memory I am doing this all-too-fitting homage.
And to be certain, Alhaji Aliu Mahama was far too classy to go the preceding way low, below-the-belt road to clinching the august prize of the presidency. For, as I mentioned a short while before, Mr. Kufuor’s arch-lieutenant for two glorious electoral terms, or eight years, so far the longest and most productive to be served by any substantive Vice-President since our country’s independence, was a veritable statesman of a rare breed.
And so Alhaji Aliu Mahama did what most statesmen, and women, too, for that matter, are known to do – strategizing and comprehensively planning for the long-term development and prosperity of our children and grandchildren. Curiously, though, even as I write this tribute tonight – Nov. 20, 2012 – I have absolutely no idea of what has become of the multi-dimensional and multipurpose Aliu Mahama Institute. But there is one thing that I am fully certain about; and it is the fact that no tribute could be more fitting than to have the institute named for our late uncle and elder statesman generously funded and the programs detailed in the original proposal for the institute – E-mailed to me by Ms. Dapaah, I forget her first name – put into operation at high dudgeon.
Indeed, I came relatively rather late to writing this tribute, because I had been anxiously waiting to see that the funeral of former Vice-President Aliu Mahama would not miserably and pathetically degenerate into the sort of decadent circus act into which the cynical operatives of the Mahama-Arthur-led National Democratic Congress turned the excessively long-drawn funeral and burial of the late President John Evans Atta-Mills. And here, also, of course, I am referring to the kind of repulsive game tag that surrounded the choice of burial ground, or place of interment, for Mr. Jeremiah John Rawlings’ longtime protégé and presidential second-bananas.
Well, you couldn’t really call Alhaji Aliu Mahama a presidential second-bananas to President John Agyekum-Kufuor, because the decidedly urbane Tamale-born Vice-President Aliu Mahama brought a certain inimitable panache and finesse to the Office of the Vice-Presidency that is woefully lacking among the ranks of his counterparts of the National Democratic Congress. I am deeply sorry to observe the latter incontrovertible truth. And that inimitable quality, of course, was evinced by the fact that Alhaji Mahama did not envisage the Vice-Presidency the way that an Olympic swimmer perceives his/her diving board, that is, as a mere momentarily convenient stepping stone into the main action.
But that so low has the august job of the Vice-Presidency been reduced, became uncomfortably evident in the wake of the tragic and “mysterious” passing of the retired University of Ghana tax-law professor, when sheer political expediency was shamelessly allowed to trump tested and proven competence and statesmanship. To be certain, I was not the least bit flabbergasted by the patently scandalous protocol which attended the selection of the vice-presidential replacement for the now-President John Dramani Mahama, who had himself largely been an absentee second-bananas to the late President Mills, particularly during the final two or three weeks prior to the latter’s passing.
Significantly, Alhaji Mahama understood one thing that the remarkably younger Mr. John Mahama may never understand; and it is the stark fact of reality that the Presidency is no hermetic, or iron-clad, entitlement of any serving or, rather, acting Vice-President. Needless to say, the Presidency is a jeweled-crown that must be fiercely contested and won on the basis of merit and massive electoral support. On the part of Alhaji Mahama, what seems to have been woefully lacking was massive electoral support, particularly from his home-region and putative stronghold of the North and the two Upper regions. On the latter count, one avid political pundit makes the quite credible claim that during the two general elections that brought and retained Messrs. Kufuor and Mahama at the helm of national affairs, the former Vice-President never drew in more than 20-percent of the total northern votes.
While, indeed, I am in no vantage position, whatsoever, to speak for former President John Agyekum-Kufuor, it is nevertheless, almost certain that the foregoing, coupled with Alhaji Mahama’s widely perceived active involvement and/or partisan interest in the Ya-Na Affair, effectively hobbled any chance at an official endorsement by his then boss. Indeed, in the heated lead-up to Election 2008, I personally observed that had he proven to be capable of readily carrying at least half of the total legitimate northern votes cast, as well as garnered the official endorsement of President Kufuor, I, personally, would have had absolutely no other alternative, or choice, but to unreservedly line up behind the candidacy of the renowned statesman and remarkable entrepreneur.
But that almost every passing comment regarding the man, since his recent demise, has also included the imperative need to finding a lasting solution to the Dagbon royal family impasse, may well point to the fact that ultimately, it was his apparently woeful inability to completely dissociate himself from this most unfortunate tragedy that effectively scuttled Alhaji Aliu Mahama’s otherwise all-too-deserving shot at the presidency. Still, in death, the man looms larger than life.
It is also a rather refreshing and teachable lesson for all Ghanaian politicians to learn that at the time of his death by stroke, according to President Kufuor, Alhaji Aliu Mahama appeared to have totally overcome whatever bitterness he might have harbored in the wake of the crashing of his presidential ambitions – for he had reportedly suffered the disease that killed him while vigorously campaigning for Nana Akufo-Addo, the current flag-bearer of the main opposition New Patriotic Party – is a remarkable testimony to the humanity and the greatness of the man.
For former President John Agyekum-Kufuor, though, the death of Alhaji Aliu Mahama could not have been more untimely: “He [Vice-President Aliu Mahama] was ready to serve and did not suffer from any complexes. He worked very hard in government[,] so it is a very big blow to me personally” (See “Stroke Killed Aliu Mahama – Kufuor” Ghanaweb.com 11/17/12).
And when you are fast and fittingly buried not only on your ancestral land, where your glorious journey to greatness began, but in your own homestead by a loving family that has stood beside and behind you through your successes and failures, you really die a good death. So long, Uncle Aliu! Allah loves you far better and greater than any of us could love you!
*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is Director of The Sintim-Aboagye Center for Politics and Culture and author of “Ghanaian Politics Today” (Lulu.com, 2008). E-mail: [email protected]