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Opinions of Sunday, 29 July 2007

Columnist: Kwamena, Ato

Aliu is the Man


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Friend, like you, I have been closely following the run up to the NPP’s presidential primary. I have watched all the candidates. Weighed them. And found many wanting. A lot of them do not measure up. They have no chance whatsoever in winning the NPP primaries, let alone the presidency; and would be disastrous in office as President, if so elected. They are what I call, the “Dennis Kucinichs” of the NPP Presidential Race. Dennis Kucinich is the US congressman (parliamentarian) from the state of Ohio who runs for president anytime there is a presidential race in the US. He runs both to satisfy his ego and to provide comic relief. You may call him the “Mr. Domestication” of the US. Some of the NPP’s Kucinichs are actually very competent people in their field of endeavor. In fact, guys like Dr Arthur Kennedy, Mr. Boakye Agyarko, etc are over-achievers. They are very successful people in their professions or careers and may one day make serious presidential candidates. But for now they are Kucinichs as they lack the necessary political machinery to run for the highest office of the land.

So for me, the NPP presidential primary remains a contest between Foreign Minister, Akuffo-Addo, and Vice-President Aliu Mahama. In terms of their chances of winning the primary, the rest are just joking. The biggest jokester of them all is Kwabena Agyapong. He should save our ears. Effah-Dartey is daydreaming if he thinks he’ll ever be president. Dr. Apraku must be funny! He’s never proven himself competent in any position so far. He’s been mediocre, at best. Dan Botwe is a fine gentleman, but any presidential hopes lies in the future, not now. Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey is just “on an ego trip”. He’s gone “million miles from reality”. Dr Arthur Kennedy, Boakye Agyarko, and Prof Frimpong-Boateng, are over-qualified but they lack any political machinery on the ground. Their chances therefore are nil! Yaw Osafo-Maafo, Paapa Owusu Ankoma, Prof Mike Ocquaye, Hackman Owusu-Agyeman, and Dr. Addo-Kufuor are very competent and hardworking individuals. But they are vying for the position at the wrong time. The circumstances are just not right, and they have no chance of winning the primary. Alan Kyeremanteng will never be president or a presidential candidate of the NPP. He’s the Eddie Annan of the NPP – throwing money at a lost cause. And that’s my blunt truth to these folks.
Again the contest remains a race between Aliu Mahama and Akuffo-Addo. Which one of them should be president? Akuffo-Addo, as stated today (July 23, 2007) in the Statesman has served the party longer. He was part of the interim national coordinating committee that run the NPP in 1992 prior to the selection of the late Prof Adu Boahen as leader of the NPP in the 1992 Presidential elections. He was one of the leaders of the Kume Preko demonstration that stood up against the dictatorship of the (P)NDC. He’s served as legal counsel to many NPP and opposition leaders who suffered persecution from the intolerant Rawlings regime. And in the 1996 NPP primary, he almost beat Mr. John Agyekum Kufuor to the flagbearership of the NPP. So he’s been with the NPP through thick and thin. So in contrast, Aliu Mahama is a “neophyte” to the undiscerning. He came to the limelight when Mr. Kufuor chose him as his vice-presidential candidate. So he was not as popular as Akuffo-Addo.
But is that enough reason to choose Akuffo-Addo over Aliu Mahama? Nay, I say! The mere fact that a Presidential candidate of a major opposition party at that time (Mr. Kufuor) knew Alhaji Aliu Mahama (who was then the Managing Director of LIDRA – a construction firm he owns) shows that he (Aliu) was not so inconspicuous to the leaders of the NPP, as others would have you believe. He might have been inconspicuous to the grassroots of the party, but apparently those at the helm of the party at that time knew of him. In fact, he had been one of the apparently anonymous financiers of the NPP party during its infancy. You see, friend, not every person in this world craves for the limelight. Not every person wants every good deed they do to be acknowledged with the adulation of the masses. Truly, some of the most helpful and effective people in life, are those who like to work behind the scenes. They do not get the credit they deserve as they are not so conspicuous. But they don’t mind that at all. And the fact that they do not hear public acknowledgment of their good deeds does not hinder them from offering their services or resources for the collective good of us all. This actually reflects the spirit of humility that is embedded in such people, as Aliu Mahama.
Friend, like you, I admire Akuffo-Addo a lot. He’s a serious man. A man who has his head screwed on straight. But deep down, you and I know that Akuffo-Addo is not the man we want at the helm of the affairs of this country. He’s not the man to ‘heal’ this country – bring us together as one. The main claim of Akuffo-Addo to the Presidency of Ghana is that he has sacrificed a lot for this country and for the NPP. So his claim to the presidency is more by right. He feels, as well as most of his supporters, that after or next to Kufuor, he is the RIGHTFUL person to lead the NPP, and for that matter mother Ghana. He feels he’s served Kufuor faithfully for over 6 years as Attorney-General, and then Foreign Minister, and coupled with his years of leadership in the NPP he’s the right man for Ghana. So to his supporters, he is the inevitable heir of the NPP leadership, after President Kufuor.
But just as the Presidency of the republic is not a family ‘stool’, in the same way, it is not an office to be claimed by ‘right’. No one has the ‘right’ to be president. Rather, it is a privilege to serve as one. And no one should think that because of his or her own personal sacrifices they have “earned” the presidency of our country. The main criteria to choosing a Presidential candidate should be: Is this person competent? Is he/she going to provide Servant-Leadership? Does he/she have the right temperament to move the nation forward? Is he decisive, and willing to take bitter but necessary decisions? Can he/she inspire change, where there’s a need for change? Can he/she unite the country? Can he/she move the nation forward socio-politically, and economically? Is he/she the right person at this time?
Akuffo-Addo is extremely competent. But at this time in our history, he’s not the right man for the job. If not for anything, the Kufuor presidency has taught us that you need not be a rabble-rouser or an orator to effectively govern this country. It has taught us that confrontation is not the most effective way to govern a country. What has kept us together as a country, to a large extent is Kufuor’s “gyae ma nonka” attitude. The President’s ability to ignore provocation and slander by the NDC’s godfather Jerry Rawlings and his poodle, Fiifi Mills, is the main reason why this country has been as stable as it is. Friend, if you have followed NPP politics since its inception, you will agree wholeheartedly with me that Akuffo-Addo is no John Agyekum Kufuor. He’s a vindictive man. He’s a no-nonsense dude. Rawlings’ perennial lies, slanders, and provocations would have been matched with an equal and proportional force. And this would not have been in the national interest. When two elephants fight, the grass suffers. But through Kufuor we know that the most effective way of dealing with a megalomaniac is to ignore the person. Nothing has pissed off Rawlings more than the fact that Kufuor does not respond to his (Rawlings’) nonsense. He’d love it if Kufuor had been responding to all provocative and illogical statements and accusations that drop out of his mouth every blessed day. But Kufuor is a wise man. He knows that to stoop to Rawlings’ level would be to demean the highest office of our land. It would also mean that the office of the president of Ghana is on an equal level with the “virtual” ‘office of the former president’ which has no constitutional backing – an office that was created by the NDC to satisfy the huge ego of their megalomaniac godfather and leader. Akuffo-Addo, in Kufuor’s position, would have been a tit-for-tat president. We don’t need that now.
The temperament of Aliu Mahama is in the mould of John Agyekum Kufuor. No wonder, the two men get along great! Me thinks, this country’s next President would need to have Kufuor ‘abotare’ (the patience and longsuffering of Kufuor), and his humility to steer the affairs of this country in the right way for the next few years and to keep us together as one nation. Aliu is a fine gentleman. He’s the man to reconcile this nation. There comes a time in a nation’s life, that the Almighty offers a people such leaders. And at this time in our history, Aliu is the right man! Like Kufuor, he’s humble, affable, and kind-hearted. He’ll not violate our human rights. “A bruised reed, will he not break.”
As for competence, I have no doubt that, like Akuffo-Addo, Aliu is very competent. He’s been the finest Vice-President this nation has ever produced. He was a very successful businessman, and on assumption of office as vice-President he assimilated into the position as if he’d been at it for years. I’m sure he has a first hand idea and knowledge as what it takes to manage the affairs of this country. He’s headed cabinet sessions in the absence of the President, and has acted as President on numerous occasions.
Friend, what the NPP needs to do most, is NOT to put up a candidate who makes even staunch supporters of the NPP uncomfortable; a candidate who deep down in our own hearts we question his ability to unite this country. The NPP needs to put up a candidate who when we look at, we can all see a piece of ourselves in him. A candidate who all the 10 regions of Ghana will look at and not feel threatened. A candidate, whose likeability cuts across board. A candidate, who despite smearing and slandering epithets from the opposition NDC, would be secretly or covertly admired by the same leaders and would not be seen as a threat to them. You see, when Kufuor was sworn in as President for the first time, many of the NDC leaders thought he was going to go after them. They thought it was “payback time!” To their shock and awe, that was not the case. And in spite of their public spewing of venom, secretly they admire Kufuor’s leadership and tolerance. And it is the same type of tolerance that we need. Of the two leading candidates, Aliu is the one able to continue on the same trend. He wouldn’t need to force himself to stomach the NDC’s insults and provocations…he would! Because that is who he is – a tolerant person by nature.
The NPP delegates and supporters must also be sensitive to our tribal differences. We all know that Aliu is from the Northern Region. He’s not an Akan. No tribalist can therefore point to him as proof that the NPP is an Akan party. In Aliu, our brothers and sisters from Eweland, would not feel threatened. They will not have their natural visceral response to everything that is Ashanti, or Akan. The Akans in the NPP have nothing against Northerners. In fact, of all the ethnic groupings in Ghana, the Akans are closer to the Northerners than any other such grouping. An Aliu presidency would greatly expand the support-base of the NPP. Politics is about numbers, friend! Aliu would easily be accepted by the Akans. But the most important thing of all, with respect to the need for us to be sensitive to our tribal differences, is what an Aliu presidency will mean to our people of the North. For many decades our brothers and sisters in the North have been marginalized. In terms of infrastructure, they lack the basics. In terms of sheer pride, they have suffered enormous bruises. It is not fun when you subconsciously know that in your own country people of your tribe or ethnicity are noted as laborers or kaya yoos. I say this, without any sense of mischief or malice. I’m just being blunt!
Our Northern people have subjugated for the Southerners for too long! They have been subservient to the South. It should be a matter of concern to any patriotic Ghanaian when some of our own people cannot hold up their heads as high as others because of poverty and socio-cultural marginalization. We should all be ashamed of ourselves for having treated our fellow citizens as ‘second-class’ citizens for so long! Nevertheless, an Aliu presidency would not be to appease our Northern brothers and sisters. Rather, it would help boost the self-confidence of our fellow brothers and sisters, and concomitantly help heal a nation from its prejudices. It will be a win-win situation; for both the South and the North. If our children from the Northern parts of our country, have someone like Aliu to look up to, it would go a long way to dismantle the socio-economic chains that have entangled our people there, and have kept them at the doldrums of our development. The fact that our North is extremely poor should be a matter of concern to everyone. It is unacceptable. No person can push forward an agenda to change the course of history, than Aliu Mahama. If our Northern regions catch up with the rest of the country, it would be to the benefit of all of us. It will not be at the expense of anyone. It will be a ‘win-win’ situation. Together we stand! And together we sink! We are one people. It is therefore immoral for us to watch the Southern part of our country advance as our Northern parts are LEFT BEHIND.
Some may say that what you just proposed as going to happen if Aliu were elected president should have occurred when Dr Hilla Limann was president. My answer is Aliu is no Limann! Aliu is very much aware of the socio-cultural and economic disparities within our country and has spoken about it numerous times – targeting especially, our Zongo communities and encouraging them to seek formal education, quit using violent methods, etc. He’s the man to change the country!
Some say that Aliu can’t win the Presidency because he doesn’t have any constituency in the country. False! What they fail to see is that in a Presidential election candidates must lay claim to the entire country as their constituency to have any chance of winning. Aliu is not running against Akuffo-Addo for the MP’s Abuakwa constituency. If that were the case, Akuffo-Addo would win hands down. Aliu is running for the Presidency of Ghana, which entails all the length and breadth of our beloved country. An Aliu presidency has the potential of uniting our Northern people, especially our Dagbon people. Peace and unity in Dagbon is in our collective national interest. The Presidency of Ghana is bigger than any stool or skin in the land. A Dagomba occupying our highest office may well serve as the bridging gap between the seemingly insurmountable rift between the Abudu and Andani Gates of our Dagbon people. If the NPP would nominate Aliu Mahama as their Presidential candidate, yes some Dagombas would fall victim to the NDC’s politicization of the Dagbon problem, but I predict that a significant majority of Dagombas, irrespective of what Gate they come from, would be proud of Aliu Mahama, as they would rightfully identify a piece of themselves in Aliu. They would see him as a father figure and would be more amenable to hearing any advice to from him than from any other person. Dagombas are one people who respect and offer their utmost allegiance people in authority. Disrespect to the elderly is alien to these people. And it is trait that has been exploited by the NDC to turn brother against brother, and sister against sister. Rawlings knows that when a Dagomba pledges his allegiance to you, he/she means it! So the few Dagombas whose allegiance he has, he exploited to turn their own people against each other for political gain. Because divide-and-rule is a tactic that has worked so effectively in the past for him, he is not willing to forgo it, though it destroys a people. But a President Aliu Mahama, will be such a huge fatherly figure to our Dagomba people that it will break the chains of captivity that has kept our people there in bondage and has made them vulnerable to the whims and caprices of men whose minds are heavily deluded by the devil. His voice would over-ride any other voice. And trust me, they will hear him when he tells them to unite and close ranks. They’ll listen when he tells them to get their acts together or suffer being left behind by the rest of the country.
Politically, the Northern communities in the other parts of the countries, popularly called Zongo Communities, are some of the most impregnable areas for the NPP. Most of their apprehension against the NPP is truly unfounded. For the history of the Danquah-Busia tradition is rich with stories of the contribution of men and women of Northern extraction without whom there would be no Danquah-Busia tradition. The repulsion of our Zongo communities to the NPP is founded in misplaced fear. They have the wrong perception that the NPP is anti-Zongo. To attack this untruth at its roots, an Aliu presidential candidacy will be needed. It will confound all the propaganda that the NDC’s propaganda machinery will be able to spew or churn out. So an Aliu presidency would soften the hard stance some of our people there have against the NPP. It would become more socially acceptable for our Zongo communities to accept the NPP as they’d be pressed to overlook the leader of the party who is nothing but one of their very own! He can speak their language. He’s a Moslem, and therefore shares a common religion with them. In short, he’d be very irresistible to people there, except hardcore NDC fanatics. If the NPP truly wants to manage the affairs of this country for many decades, it is necessary that they start expanding their frontiers now!
As none of the NPP Presidential candidates, except the foreign-based ones, have come out to explicitly state their agenda or plan for the country, it won’t be possible to compare those of the two front-runners. I would seize this opportunity, however, to call on both Akuffo-Addo, and Aliu Mahama to come out with their agenda for the nation. The onus should lay more on Aliu since as vice-President, he has been overshadowed by his boss, and in order for him to enhance his chances he would need to inform the delegates what plans he has to build on what he and Kufuor has done and what different or new programs he has for the country.
Friend, there’s no doubt in my mind that any candidate offered by the NPP will beat Rawlings’ poodle, Atta Mills. It is for this reason that the NPP Delegates who will choose the flagbearer of the party have a solemn obligation to select just not any person, but the RIGHT person for mother Ghana. They should look beyond the party and focus more on Ghana – what would be in Ghana’s interest. And if they perform their work as patriotic as they should be as Ghanaian citizens, only one man will be seen as the best for the NPP and mother Ghana at this time – the man Aliu Mahama! Aliu will cut across the core of the NDC’s support base – which is Northerners apart from Voltarians. Fiifi Mills will likely choose a Northerner as his running-mate, but what would that be in the face of another Northerner as the main man of the incumbent party? The worst Aliu would be able to do is to split the Northern vote with the NDC. That alone would be enough to win the presidency of the republic. The only region I can honestly see Aliu losing heavily in is the Volta. And that view is based on precedence. But Ashanti, Eastern, Western, Brong Ahafo, Greater Accra, and Central Region would vote massively for Aliu. He’d split the votes in the Upper East, Northern and Upper West Regions.
Friend, eight more years of the NDC in opposition is exactly what the doctor prescribed for Ghana. For this and many other reasons, NPP must close ranks, elect the winnable candidate – Aliu Mahama – and hold on to power for at least the next 8 years (after Kufuor’s term of office is over). After Aliu’s second term, the doctor will review the therapy and may refill the order for another eight years in opposition for the NDC. Until then, vote wisely in December, 2007.

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