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Opinions of Saturday, 11 January 2020

Columnist: Jonathan Ntow Dadzie

JM, Central region again?

Former President John Mahama Former President John Mahama

Shock and disappointment greeted an announcement on Asempa FM, last week, that the Presidential Candidate of the NDC, His Excellency John Dramani Mahama, has once again selected a running mate from the Central region to partner him for the 2020 presidential elections.

The afternoon broadcast by that Multimedia radio station, mentioning Prof Kwesi Botchwey, an indigene of the Central Region, as the NDC Running Mate for this year’s elections, shook the foundations of the umbrella body, with many expressing disappointment at the decision. The breaking news claimed the decision to choose Prof Botchwey had been approved by the founder of the NDC, His Excellency Jerry John Rawlings, after some consultations.

The mentioning of a running mate from the Central Region makes it a record time that the region has been favoured to have a vice-presidential candidate on the ticket of the NDC. Since its formation, the NDC has always had the region producing a son on its presidential ticket.

The Central Region produced Kow Nkansan Arkaah, Prof JEA Mills and Paa Kwesi Amissah Arthur (all of blessed memory) as running mates on the ticket of the NDC. The selection of running mates in the NDC ceased for the Central Region, only when the same region had produced Prof JEA Mills as the NDC presidential candidate, who then had to choose his running mate from the northern sector regions of the country. Therefore, anytime the NDC has had a Voltarian (Rawlings) or a Northerner (Mahama) as the presidential candidate, the practice has been to select a running mate from the Central Region.

This precedent has become the order in the NDC in spite of the fact that the Central Region has produced some of the worse results the NDC has ever recorded in its history. For example, in 2016, the Central Region drastically reduced the number of NDC parliamentary seats from 16 to 4 - a disaster of a result that the party will easily wish to forget and put behind them.

NDC has been consistent with the Central Region on their presidential ticket, but the region has been consistently inconsistent in its support for NDC.

The bar graph and table below show the voting pattern of the Central region from 1992 to 2016 in percentage terms.

After providing some good comfort for President Rawlings led NDC in 1992 and 1996, the results show, the Central Region shifted its support to the John Agyekum Kufuor led NPP in the year 2000, even though a son from the region was the sitting Vice President and Presidential Candidate of the then ruling NDC. The region kept faith in the NPP in 2004 and only changed to support their son, Prof Mills, in the 2008 elections, with a popular chant of pride 'adze wo fie a oye" (let's cherish our own).

The NDC seemed to have maintained the momentum in the region as reflected in the 2012 elections which followed the demise of Central Region's own President Mills. That dominance was however short-lived as the 2016 election results showed a classical humiliation of the NDC in the region, even though the region had the then Vice President and Running Mate of the NDC in Paa Kwesi Amissah Arthur campaigning and soliciting their votes. In fact, voters in his home constituency voted for the NPP Parliamentary Candidate, obviously an insult to the then Vice President.

From all indications, the Central Region is a swing region and will continue to be so no matter the regional background of the candidates on the ballot paper. The people of the Central Region went to the polls twice, saw the face of their own son twice on the ballot paper, and rejected him twice. This is enough statement to politicians in Ghana that the Central Region votes are not based on affinity to a candidate, but on issues that affect or influence them.

The choice of former Finance Minister, Dr Kwesi Botchwey, therefore will fail to attract any vote in the region, if part of the consideration was based on his ability to pull votes in his home region merely because he hails from there. This is the reality because the Central Region is not a monolithic group, contrary to what many assume it to be. The region is not a region of Fantes. If it were to be so, the name of the region would've been the Fante Region, just as we have Ashanti Region, Volta Region, Bono Region, Ahafo Region etc.

The Central Region is made up of the Efutus/Awutus, the Gomoa people, the Agonas (where Kwesi Botchwey comes from), the Borbor Fantes, the Fetu people, the Assins, the people of Breman, the Denkyira people, etc.

The underlying unhealthy rivalry among all these Central region tribes disabled the forefathers of these groupings from coming together to form a Fante kingdom (state). The various groupings of the region relied on trade and socialisation as their only means of dealings with one another, except when some of them had to come together to fight the Ashantis from conquering their lands.

Now that there are no Ashanti invaders to fight, the common enemy left for the people in the Central region is poverty. The NDC must, therefore, concern itself with policy alternatives which will boost the farming and fishing industry in the Central Region, create industries and thereby provide assurance of job opportunities for the Central Region youth. Anything less than that will not yield the votes needed from the Central Region at the polls.

Should the NDC be willing to play the regional card to its advantage (even though politicians deny its existence), then the Central Region is definitely not the region to look at. Their affinity towards people from their region is not strong enough to make them consider pushing their own to greater heights on the basis of hailing from the region.

Therefore, the NDC folks who took to social media to express their angst and utter disappointment in the announcement of Prof Kwesi Botchwey, are right.

NDC needs votes. The choice of a running mate must, therefore, excite some voters to go vote to push their son, brother or father to the presidency. For votes, JM must look deeper to whip sentiments towards victory. Unfortunately, choosing a running mate from the Central Region might not be able to whip up those needed sentiments and affection that must go with it. Your Excellency, the ball is in your court.