You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2008 08 20Article 148734

Opinions of Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Columnist: Ato Kwamena Dadzie

THE OUTSIDER: Nana’s audacious choice

There are many in the ruling New Patriotic Party who are not very pleased with the party’s presidential candidate, Nana Akuffo Addo. They are very annoyed (to say the least) that the candidate settled on a relative “outsider” as his running mate. But most of them dare not complain in public.

Even the garrulous MP for Assin North, Kennedy Agyapong, who boldly (and some will say, foolishly) spoke out against the possible selection of Dr. Mahamadu Bawumia as Nana’s running mate is suddenly singing a different tune now.

“How can you (pick) somebody like that who has no commitment, no loyalty to the party and does not even know the people whose sweat got the party to where we are today?” Mr. Agyapong asked in a radio interview on Thursday morning. “If they choose somebody who is a technocrat and can do the job and forget the party affiliation, we will lose.”

In that interview Mr. Agyapong warned that he will not bother to get on a platform to campaign for Nana Addo, if he makes Dr. Bawumia his running mate. “I will not campaign,” he said. “I will not waste my breath and time. I dare you. Let Bawumia go and campaign over there (in the Central Region).”

Nana called his bluff and named Dr. Bawumia as his choice of running mate – rejecting known party faithful like Gladys Asmah, Hajia Alima Mahama and even Alan Kyeremanten.

The next time we heard from Mr. Agyapong he was speaking at a rally in Sekondi-Takoradi, canvassing votes for his party. Why the 180-degree about turn? Simply put, Mr. Agyapong has been told to shut his trap or lose the privileges the ruling party confers on him. He’s not the only who has been told to shut up. Many others who are so disgruntled by Nana’s choice have been told to either stop whining and put up or ship out and talk all they want.

The party is going to try to gloss over the divisions and move on as they’ve so expertly done in the past. Whether they succeed or not, we shall see in December. If they win the election, Akuffo Addo will thump his chest and say he’s been vindicated. If they lose, you can bet your last pesewa that people like Kennedy Agyapong will find their voices and gloat – “I told you so.”

For now, though, I think Nana’s choice of the deputy governor of the Bank of Ghana as his running mate offers some food for thought.

I am disappointed Nana didn’t choose Hajia Alima Mahama. I am a feminist and I had vowed to vote for Nana if he settled on a woman. He didn’t. So he loses my vote (which doesn’t count for much anyway). He has not given any reason why he didn’t choose her. But I blame that old school politician, B. J. da Rocha for it. He wrote a lengthy, whinny letter to the party’s executive vehemently stating his opposition to Hajia Alima. According to Mr. da Rocha, she isn’t NPP enough. I still cannot understand why an old, sensible man like Mr. da Rocha could be so petty. He made it all seem he had something very personal against Hajia.

It has also been said that Nana rejected Hajia at the last minute because her own Muslim sect told him that they’d rather he chose a man. The nation’s number one fishmonger, Gladys Asmah, another woman who didn’t hide her interest in running with Nana was completely cut out of the race because she was neither a Muslim nor a northerner. The same warped reasoning applied to the other women who were in the reckoning for the slot – Oboshie Sai Coffie and Gifty Afenyi-Dadzie.

This whole idea that the vice presidential candidate should come from the north and be Muslim is outrageous. It may by politically expedient but it is not good for our fledgling democracy. Competence should be the only criteria for selecting people for such important positions – ethnicity and religion should not be encouraged. Nana limited his scope and it could cost him.

Make no mistake about it, Bawumia is a fine brain. He will do well in the position of vice president (or even president). But his selection is going to alienate some party people. “Monkey dey work, baboon they chop,” is what some of them are saying. The fact that he’s not a card-bearing member of the party has earned him the tag of an ‘outsider’. I think, however, that is he not quite the outsider many people think he is. He was brought in by Yaw Osafo-Marfo to be part of the team at the Bank of Ghana. He’s been part of the system and he’s worked it quite well.

The fact that he has not been openly extolling the virtues of the government doesn’t mean he’s an outsider. He is an insider. The fact that he doesn’t have a party ID doesn’t make him an outsider. Like Alhaji MND Jawula, Dr. Bawumia’s political allegiance has always been with the NPP. The only difference between Jawula and Bawumia is that the deputy central bank governor is wiser and didn’t rush to publicly display his political colours just to court the attention of the party’s leader. And it paid off quite well for him. He was offered the slot literally on a silver platter.

The task that remains for Nana Akuffo Addo’s campaign is to sell Bawumia as an excellent addition to the team. That’s not going to be easy. Bawumia will win the party some middle class and Muslim votes. But his presence will cost the party some votes as well. Some of those who have been ordered to stop sulking over his selection are thinking twice about whether they should vote NPP in December. Some of them are threatening to vote ‘skirt-and-blouse’ (vote NPP in parliamentary poll and vote another party’s candidate in the presidential elections). At the end of the day, Bawumia might cost the NPP more votes than he will bring in.

Nana’s gamble here, though, is that he’s counting on his own profile – after all, he is the candidate – to win him the election. This is what charismatic people do. Last time I checked, Akuffo-Addo didn’t have the charisma of Rawlings. He also doesn’t have the goodwill, candidate Kufuor enjoyed in 2000. So he would have helped his own bid by choosing a known face – a choice which wouldn’t have opened a fountain of grievance in the party.

Apart from having to defend his choice at every turn to party faithful, Nana also has to draw up a whole marketing strategy for his running mate. People need to be convinced who he is, what he has achieved and what he brings to the table. Bawumia himself has to be taught the art of public speaking and be helped to overcome stage fright. Listening to him speak on the platform last Sunday, he sounded like a kindergarten kid struggling to string the words in ‘Bla bla Black sheep’.

Look at Atta Mills on the side. His running mate, John Mahama, as the Americans say, “hit the ground running.” Whiles Mahama is selling himself so well, Bawumia is now trying to convince his party that he has been one of them all this while. He is also going to have a tough time navigating the political minefield and we all know it’s nothing like the banking boardroom. Already people are throwing dirt on him and questioning why he omitted his tenure as a board member of Ghana Telecom from his well-publicised CV.

So why in the world will Nana take such a gamble with Bawumia? It could have something to do with his third-class degree in economics. A president who allegedly earned a third class in economics surely needs a vice president who got a first class in the subject. It could also be that Nana knows that he needs someone with a very good intellect to call his bluff and challenge him to superior heights. And this, I suppose, is one of the reasons why Mills settled on Mahama. Nana could also argue that this is a clear sign he will not dabble in jobs for the boys.

Whatever Nana’s reasons may be for settling on Bawumia, I take delight in one thing: whichever party wins the elections in December, we will have a smarter, more articulate and very useful vice president from next year. That’s something the real outsiders can cheer about!