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Opinions of Thursday, 30 April 2020

Columnist: Yaw Ofosuhene Agyeman

Mahama to choose a dark horse as running mate?

NDC Flagbearer, John Dramani Mahama NDC Flagbearer, John Dramani Mahama

The presidential candidate of the National Democratic Congress, Mr. John Dramani Mahama is gearing up to launch a spirited bid to recapture the presidency he lost to President Akufo-Addo in 2016 but one nagging challenge remains: The choice of a running mate.

Given the caliber of people whose names having been making the discreet rounds for many months now, former President Mahama will be spoiled for choice in his selection of a running mate. In the beginning, there was a long list of names said to be under consideration in the choice of a running mate.

These individuals of considerable personal and career achievement included Valarie Sawyerr, a former Deputy Chief of Staff at the presidency, Prof Jane Naana Opoku Agyemang, a former Minister of Education and Zanetor Rawlings, a medical doctor and daughter of former President J.J Rawlings.

Also on the list, were former Attorney-General, Marrietta Appiah-Opong Brew, Julius Debrah, a former Chief of Staff under Mahama, Kwesi Ahwoi, a former High Commissioner to South Africa, Dr Johnson Asiama, a former Bank of Ghana Deputy Governor; Hannah Tetteh, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Dr Kwesi Botchwey, former Chairman of the National Development Planning Commission.

Sources close to the NDC leadership say after months of consultations and debate, the party has now settled on three potential running mates.

Recent reports had it that Dr. Kwabena Duffuor, a former Minister of Finance in the administration of the late Professor JEA Mills, Dr Zanetor Agyeman-Rawlings a former Deputy Minister of Finance and Member of Parliament for Ajumako Enyan Essiam, Cassiel Ato Forson. However, a fourth name believed by many to be Mahama’s actual choice has sprung up: That choice, it has been revealed, is Professor Kwesi Botchway. Rawlings is however likely to strongly oppose the choice of his former Finance Minister as Mahama’s running mate because of a sour relationship between them.

Some pundits expect that since the presidential candidate of the NDC is from Northern Ghana, he will choose a running mate from the south of the country, that since he is male he ought to choose a female as a running mate, that since he is a relatively young political leader, he will choose a veteran politician to balance the ticket and that since he is a Christian, he may settle on a Muslim as a running mate.

Beyond conventional wisdom and pundits expectations however, there is a practical reality about elections in Ghana that may engage the attention of the NDC’s presidential candidate in his choice of a running mate:

The data on presidential results in Ghana from 1992 to 2016 show that voters in the Ashanti Region vote massively for the NPP, whilst the NDC always registers a comparatively low voter percentage in the region. In a reverse scenario that has remained typical, the NDC scores its highest percentage of voters in the Volta Region in every election whilst the NPP typically obtains its lowest voter percentage in that region.

The tactical choice of a running mate who is a native of Ashanti has the potential to swing a large percentage of votes from floating, independent and apathetic voters in the presidential election in favour of the NDC’s candidate.

The Potential Dark Horse: Kojo Bonsu

Another name some party leaders say could be a surprise choice, keeps playing silently up as a possible running mate, is that of former sports administrator, politician, businessman and former Mayor of Kumasi, Mr. Kojo Bonsu who is credited with drawing the NDC back from the brink of despondency and possible disunity after the 2016 election by creating the NDC’s “Unity Walk.” The “Unity Walk” which was replicated in all regions of the country helped to whip up the dipping morale of party rank and file and seal emerging cracks within the party.

Mr. Bonsu subsequently toured some regions of the country canvassing delegates’ support to run in the NDC’s last presidential primaries, but later withdrew from the race and pledged his support for former President Mahama.
In a survey conducted by the Center for Progressive Governance in some regions, an average of 93% of floating voters from data collected believe the choice of a running mate could affect which party they would vote for in the 2020 presidential election. According to the survey, 68% percent of floating voters want a John Mahama/Akan running mate ticket.

Mr. Bonsu is an Ashanti royal from Offinso. He is a nephew of the Ashanti King, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II . His mother, Nana Adowa Pokuaa was the former Offinsohemaa. His father, Kwadwo Mensa- Bonsu worked with the Workers Brigade of the immediate post-independence era. He could bring a lot to the Mahama ticket which could swing the Ashanti vote in favour of the candidate. Mr. Bonsu’s tenure as Mayor of Kumasi saw him building good relationships with many citizens of Kumasi and the city’s market women who nicknamed him" Ohemaaba".

Beyond the ethnic factor however, are other reasons why Mr. Bonsu, a shrewd problem solver and organizer, could be a practically effective Number Two man for Mahama if NDC wins the 2020 election: Mr. Bonsu has a track record of outstanding achievement as a corporate CEO, local government administrator, football and sports administrator, publisher, printer, mobile and telephony operator and commodities trader and politician.

Mr. Bonsu was the first West African representative of giant sports kit manufacturer Adidas. He was the first sports industry entrepreneur to obtain Adidas sponsorship for the national football team, the Black Stars in 1992. As Board Chairman of the National Sports Council, he spearheaded the re-branding of the council into a sports authority.

Mr. Bonsu was the brain behind the historic rebranding of GOIL that catapulted Ghana’s leading indigenous oil marketing company into the international brand it is today, when he was appointed acting CEO of the company in 2009. Four years later, while Mr. Bonsu was Mayor of Kumasi, GOIL honoured him at a ceremony for his remarkable contribution to the growth of the company.

When he became Mayor of Kumasi in 2013, Mr. Bonsu created the Kumasi Rattray Park, the very first of its kind in Ghana. The park's facilities include an artificial lake, a golf course, Wi-Fi connection, children's playground, and gymnasium, a six-square meter dancing fountain, restaurants and cafeterias. He also built the multi-million dollar Kumasi-Kejetia project, the Asawasi Market, the Tafo Market and the Atonso-Agogo Market and redesigned the famous Prempeh Assembly Hall in Kumasi into a Modern conference hall.

While all that may have seen his fame and popularity shoot up, it also made some chiefs apparently wary of him and he resigned as mayor as a result: “I resigned as mayor of the city because some chiefs in Kumasi thought I was becoming rather too powerful and popular, so they had to find a way of bringing me down. I have resigned because I think it is the right thing to do in the circumstances.” Mr. Bonsu who in Ashanti traditional parlance is a grandson of the Ashanti Golden Stool, has since effectively repaired his relationship with the Manhyia Palace and has been seen many times at events in Manhyia, one of the most recent being during the funeral celebration of his aunt, nana Afua Kobi Serwah Ampem.

His vast organizational experience has even benefitted the country’s entertainment industry as well in the past: He was the first Ghanaian arts and entertainment entrepreneur to bring the internationally famed musical groups Musical Youth and Osibisa to play concerts in Ghana.