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Opinions of Monday, 26 December 2005

Columnist: Asenso-Boakye, Francis

Addo-Kufuor - The Best President Ghana May Never Have.

There?s a great deal of wisdom in choosing our public officers to reflect the geo-political and ethnic diversity of our dear country. This, notwithstanding, merit and integrity should never be sacrificed, under any circumstances, for ethnic representation.

Some political observers describe the late Victor Owusu ? a great Ghanaian - as the best President Ghana never had, because they thought he would have surely been one of the best Ghanaian Presidents if he had won the 1979 presidential election, which made Dr Hilla Liman, Ghana?s first and only president in the Third Republic. I was too young during the heydays of Victor Owusu to appreciate his good works, but I have read a lot about him; even his early association with Dr Kwame Nkrumah, and know that he was a staunch advocate of the property owning democracy, the cornerstone of our great political tradition, the Danquah-Busia tradition. May his soul rest in perfect peace!

Another great Ghanaian who I think will make a great President is Dr Kwame Addo-Kufuor, the dynamic Minister of Defense and Member of Parliament for Manhyia, Kumasi. This is an assertion, I believe, very few people will disagree. With President Kufuor term limited status, political pundits and the media in Ghana have started making one of their favorite stories - speculations on the possible presidential candidates/aspirants of the New Patriotic party (NPP). The NPP, has since its formation, provided the most transparent and competitive platform for the selection of its presidential candidates. Typical of NPP, many names have come up as possible aspirants, and these are all men of substance and undoubted political and professional credentials. Among those mentioned include, but not limited to, Paapa Owusu Ankamah, Mr. Osafo Marfo, Mr. Alan Kyeremateng, Nana Akufo-Addo, Dr. Kofi Apraku, Dr. Addo-Kufuor, and Alhaji Aliu Mahama.

The NPP has a sterling reputation for its liberal democratic values comparable to political parties in advanced democracies such as the Republican and Democratic parties in the United States, and the Labor and Conservative parties in Britain. Since 1992 when Ghana returned to constitutional rule, it was the NPP that first introduced the election of its executives from the national to constituency level. The party still serves as the beacon of hope for our fledging democracy.

One particular name that I find most interesting in the NPP presidential candidate race is Defense Minister, Dr. Kwame Addo-Kufuor. Although Dr Addo-Kufuor has not declared his intention to seek the party?s nomination, just like his other colleagues whose names have come up, there have been a lot of stories and articles about a possible presidential move on his part. Ever since Ghana returned to constitutional rule, this man has demonstrated real commitment to national development in his capacity as a physician, lecturer, Member of Parliament and Minister of State. As one of the finest practicing physicians Ghana has ever produced, Dr. Addo-Kufuor has always used his expertise to the service of many poor people who otherwise would never get any health care. He is the type of doctor one will like to see. His patients always argue that if you go and see him in his consulting room, all your sickness will vanish even before you start using his prescribed drugs. This is because of his caring attitude and personal attachment to his work and patients. His private Clinic, Kufuor Clinic remains one of the most successful private medical centers in the country.

In fact, the resume of the 65 year old physician is by far from average. He holds a medicine degree from the prestigious University of Cambridge and a postgraduate studies from Middlesex Medical School Hospital all in the UK. Dr Addo-Kufuor is a past President of Ghana Medical Association (GMA), and past Representative for West Africa on the Confederation of African Medical Associations. His period as GMA president was quite eventful and successful as GMA became one of the most effective professional organizations in the whole of Africa. He was also a part time lecturer at the Department of Medicine, School of Medical Sciences, KNUST. In 1997, he became a Member of Parliament for Manhyia and an erudite minority spokesperson for health. Many Ghanaians will recall that Dr Addo-Kufuor performed this task to the admiration of all and sundry. He was the planner and architect for the party?s health insurance policy which has now metamorphosed into the National Health Insurance Scheme. In the run up to the 2000 election, Prof. Atta Mills of the NDC was reported to have said that he would bring Dr Addo- Kufuor into his government if he had won the elections. He has the qualities of a statesman in him. Nana Akufo-Addo, the NPP Presidential frontrunner, speaking at KNUST before the 2000 elections, described Dr Addo-Kufuor as a statesman, very cautious politician. These put in the picture the kind of respect he enjoys from people across the political divide. He is on record as having supported Prof. Adu-Boahen, the NPP 1992 presidential candidate, as against his brother J.A. Kufuor in the 1996 NPP presidential primaries. Dr Addo-Kufuor did this because he thought Prof. Adu-Boahen would be more marketable in the 1996 general elections, having lost to J.J. Rawlings in the previous elections. Dr. Addo-Kufuor therefore comes across as a very brave and independent minded person, and these qualities should never be overlooked.

Dr Addo-Kufuor performance as Minister of Defense has been outstanding. When he took over the ministry, the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) was perceived as a polarized and hostile institution. It was seen as a place of torture, but the Cambridge trained-physician has transformed the GAF into a professional and public friendly institution that will stand the test of time. Even though his office is at Burma Camp, he remains one of the most accessible and approachable ministers in the Kufuor government. Journalists and people who go to see him in his office are always allowed to do so as long as he is in the office. Dr Addo-Kufuor is fine gentleman, humble, but firm, principled, vocal and courageous individual. He is a man of great personal characteristics, conviction and undoubted integrity. He has won the best minister award organized by the media on several occasions. Indeed, should he get the chance to lead our country, there is no doubt that he will make a great president.

However, should he decide to context in the NPP primaries, his challenges will be obvious. He is the younger brother of the president and also an Ashanti, and this is something, I believe, some Ghanaians will find it difficult to come to terms with. My personal experience tells me that tribal affiliation is a crucial factor in voting patterns and the results of the previous national elections we have had since 1992 are clear testimonies to my assertion. Even campus politics back home in Ghana were seriously ruined by tribalism. The fact that Addo-Kufuor is an Ashanti and a younger brother of the incumbent government will be the greatest barrier to his campaign. Should he win the NPP nominations, the NDC will get a free campaign message they will run with, for they have nothing else to say than to play the tribal card. Readers will recall during the second round of voting in the 2000 presidential elections, the NDC, including Prof. Atta Mills, were on the streets of Ga traditional communities such as Nungua, Teshie and other areas in Accra inciting Gas against Ashantis, having realized that they had nothing else to tell Ghanaians. In fact, the NDC pursued this strategy in other regions of the country, but they were dishonorably unsuccessful in that regard and lost the elections. No wonder they left behind a polarized nation! One beautiful thing about advanced democracies is that the people vote for those who can do the job based on their track record, but not which tribe or region one belongs to. In the US now Sen. Hilary Clinton is virtually the frontrunner as presidential candidate for the democrats. People don?t talk about the fact that she is the wife of the last democratic president, but rather what she stands for, and what her voting patterns are in the Senate. President George Bush is the son of the last Republican President, George Bush senior, but was voted for not because of his father, but rather what he stands for, as a compassionate conservative. President Kufuor has received wild criticisms of nepotism for appointing his brother as minister, though Dr. Addo Kufuor went to Parliament and into politics on his own volition, and was one of the leading spokesmen for the party in parliament. In fact Dr Addo Kufuor?s case could be, to a large extent, likened to that of Robert Francis Kennedy, also called "RFK" - one of two younger brothers of President John F. Kennedy and was appointed by his brother as Attorney General for his administration. As one of President Kennedy's most trusted advisors, RFK worked closely with the President during the Bay of Pigs Invasion and the subsequent Cuban Missile Crisis. In 1964, after his brother's death, Kennedy was elected to the US Senate from the state of New York. He was assassinated shortly after delivering a victory speech at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California, during the California Democratic Primaries in 1968. But for his assassination, RFK was on his way to becoming the next president of the United States. In Ghana, this is virtually considered an abomination, but in the United States is a common thing. In an apparent response to the fact the he?s too old to be president, the veteran J. H. Mensah said sometime ago that ?if it were in South Africa, they?ll say he?s a nice old man (referring to Nelson Mandela), but in Ghana they say he?s too old?. Our political and ethnic configuration make RFK?s example difficult to emulate in Ghana, since we do not necessarily vote for the best. In Ghana the selection of parliamentary candidates, and more importantly, running mates have been marked by intense ethnic maneuverings. Ethnic considerations in elections are not necessarily bad, especially when they are aimed at ensuring equal representation in the national decision making process. There?s therefore a great deal of wisdom in choosing our public officers to reflect the geo-political and ethnic diversity of our dear country. This, notwithstanding, merit and integrity should never be sacrificed, under any circumstances, for ethnic representation. It is only when merit, experience and integrity are put first that Dr Addo-Kufuor?s will be seriously and objectively considered in the NPP primaries and that his prospective campaign will not be branded as an attempt to establish a dynasty in Ghana. I do have confidence in the NPP delegates. I think nobody can have any undue influence on them. In all their congresses so far, they?ve always made very good selections that reflect the general view of our party. The recent election of Peter Mac Manu as chair of the party is an ample evidence of the party?s resilience to any possible internal influence, and the party has even come out of the congress even stronger. I have followed people?s reactions to Dr. Addo-Kufuor?s potential campaign, both in public and in private. I have heard statements like - do we want to establish a dynasty in this country? The next president should not be an Ashanti! With this kind of mindset amongst us, and especially with an Ashanti and the new party chairman, people will more likely pretermit the excellent professional and political career and reject him, and if this is a widespread thinking of all Ghanaians, then Dr Addo-Kufuor could be of the best President Ghana may never have.

Thanks a lot for reading my article and please stay tuned for more?.

Francis Asenso-Boakye
New Jersey, USA.


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