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Opinions of Friday, 4 April 2008

Columnist: Ato Kwamena Dadzie/Daily Dispatch

THE OUTSIDER: Mills’ running mate blues

On paper, it is the presidential candidate’s prerogative to choose his running mate. But that’s not the case in reality. It’s really a tough decision. Just ask the NDC’s Prof. Mills. He has been presidential candidate for almost two years and he still can’t make up his mind. Can you blame him? There are so many factors to be considered and so many special interest groups (or individuals) to be consulted before a decision is made. And in the NDC, such a decision cannot be taken without the founder’s seal of approval.

In the two previous elections he contested (and lost) it seems Prof. Mills’ major criteria for selecting a running mate was that the person must come from the north. In 2000, he chose Martin Amidu and in 2004 he settled on Alhaji Mohammed Mumuni – both fine gentlemen from the north.

This year, things are a little bit more complicated.

To begin with Prof. Mills is not a well man. Sorry but this issue of his sickness won’t go away until he’s completely healed. Let me stress that I’ve always argued that his illness should not stop him from running and nobody should use his illness to question his competence or his capacity to lead. With that in mind, candidate Mills needs a running mate who will not use his infirmity as an excuse to usurp his powers – that is if he becomes president. In other words, the running mate should be absolutely loyal. This breed of humanity is very hard to come by these days and I believe it is one of the things which have stalled the appointment of a vice presidential candidate for Prof. Mills.

Add this to the fact that there seems to be a clamour for a female vice president and the complication deepens. So far some of our finest, most intelligent and most beautiful women have been mentioned as possible candidates for the vice presidency in almost all the major political parties. Information Minister, Oboshie Sai-Coffie and Women’s Affairs Minister, Hajia Alima Mahama, have both been mentioned as possible running mates for the ruling party’s Nana Akuffo. But one name stands out amongst the lot of possible female running mates – Betty Mould-Iddrisu.

I will confess. I have had a serious crush on Mrs. Mould-Iddrisu for years. She is a very smart woman and that, for me, is one of her major attractions. I think she would make a very fine vice president and a great president if she gets the chance. I have said it before and I have no qualms about repeating it: if Prof. Mills settles on Mrs Mould-Iddrisu as his running mate, he would have my vote. In that case, I would be voting for her and not him. I’ve never voted before because I don’t trust politicians enough. But I trust Mrs. Mould-Iddrisu (and I have a crush on her) and these provide me with sufficient motivation to go out and vote the party that puts her on its ticket.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Mould-Iddrissu is not the only one on Prof. Mills’ mind. The MP for Bole-Bamboi, John Mahama is also being considered. He is such a fine gentleman. And he’s smart too. He will also make a very fine vice president. I think Mr. Mahama is one of the few politicians in this country with the very rare ability to get people on both sides of the political divide to sit up and listen. And when he speaks, he makes a lot of sense which appeals to everyone – on both sides. So I’m not surprised that he is also being considered. But if Prof. Mills’ chooses him over Auntie Betty, I will only go out and vote for the candidate who decides to run with a woman. I just don’t have a crush on Mr. Mahama yet and so he doesn’t get to me the way Auntie Betty does.

If what we’ve been hearing in the news is anything to go by, it seems Prof. Mills is likely to settle on either John Mahama or Betty Mould-Iddrisu – unless he has other ideas or he succumbs to pressure from those who made him a politician.

And there seems to be a lot of pressure on Prof. Mills. Just listen to Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings. She’s merely the wife of the founder of the party, who happens to none other than former President Rawlings. I don’t think Nana Konadu holds any particular office in the party other than being the spouse of the founder. The last time I checked, she was heading an NGO whose members like wearing red berets and were often seen on TV frying gari or squeezing oil from palm nuts.

On paper she has no say in who becomes Prof. Mills’ running mate. But after the ‘Daily Graphic’ repeated the speculation we’ve all gotten used to that Prof. Mills had settled on John Mahama, Nana Konadu decided to show the world that in her husband’s party, she is a force to be reckoned with. She wants Prof. Mills to run with Mrs. Mould-Iddrisu and she has sent out very strong signals that there will be dire consequences if any other candidate is chosen. She says Prof. Mills will not be allowed to have his way. According to Nana Konadu, Prof. Mills was “treated with kid gloves” in 2004 and allowed to make a decision on his own. Responding to the reports about the selection of Mr. Mahama, the former first lady says: “my husband has not agreed.”

Comments like that only add to the perception that Prof. Mills has no balls of his own. I think the Prof. has balls. His only problem is that he tends to allow the Rawlingses to toss them about too often. After Nana Konadu’s outbursts, the Prof. Mills is now left in an even more difficult position. He can choose to call Nana Konadu’s bluff and go with Mahama and risk a serious fall-out with his bosses – the Rawlingses. On the other hand, he might decide to bow to Nana Konadu’s demands and settle on Auntie Betty – appeasing the Rawlingses but winning my vote and making us all think that he really can’t do anything without the Rawlingses’ say so.

It’s really a tough choice. I think that under the circumstance, Prof. Mills should choose neither Mrs. Mould-Iddrisu or Mr. Mahama. He should settle on either Alhaji Mumuni or some other candidate. Such a step will not piss off the Rawlingses so much but it would help his bid to show us that he’s his own man.

I would love to see Mrs. Mould-Iddrisu running with Prof. Mills. I agree with Nana Konadu though that Mrs. Mould-Iddrisu “is the new kid on the block.” But the Prof. shouldn’t run with her because the ‘Iron Lady’ is breathing down his neck. That wouldn’t do justice to the qualities Mrs. Mould-Iddrisu would have brought to the NDC ticket. Everyone would say that she’s running because ‘Iron Lady’ said so. That would be bad for the NDC, bad for Prof. Mills and very bad for Mrs. Mould-Iddrisu. She deserves better.

As Prof. Mills struggles with the tough choices he has to make, someone should tell Nana Konadu and her husband that if they want to see their party back in power, they have to accept the fact that the NDC is bigger than the Rawlingses. They cannot continue to micromanage the party and Prof. Mills, for that matter. Of course, they will have a say. But Prof. Mills is now officially the leader of the main opposition party and he should have his way.

That is the only way he can assure Ghanaians that if he is elected as president he will not buy a Gulfstream jet for his boss or, under instruction from his boss, invest huge sums of money in a cotton tree and expect to harvest rice. Get my point?