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Opinions of Saturday, 19 January 2008

Columnist: Agyemang, Eric

The NPP's Ticket In 2008, Why I Propose Boniface

The NPP's Ticket In 2008, Why I Propose Hon. Sadique Boniface For Partner

This year will be a very busy one, thanks largely to two major events, namely “Ghana 2008” and “Flagstaff House 2008”. For the latter, all the major political parties with a realistic chance of forming a government in January 2009 have elected their flag bearers and this year’s contest looks to be like no other in the history of Ghana’s politics.

Judging by the calibre and quality of each of the Presidential Nominees, especially given the resurgence of the C.P.P., who in previous elections have provided the needed push to get the NPP to power, this year’s contest is going to get down to two words: “Running Mate”, i.e. which of the two major political parties, can pick a Running Mate with the popularity either to win floating votes and/or break into the other’s base. This is why in my view, the Hon. Boniface Abubakr Sadique fits the bill and I have every confidence in proposing him for consideration for the following reasons:

1. Popularity: Hon. Sadique is the most popular politician I have ever met. It may be recalled that he made his debut as a Member of Parliament representing the Salaga Constituency in the Northern Region of Ghana in 2001, after an overwhelming victory as an independent candidate in the 2000 general elections. The words Northern Region have been emphasised on purpose. It would be recalled that in that election only 4 out of the 23 seats in northern region did not go to the NDC, namely; Damongo-Daboya, Salaga, Gukpegu-Sabonjida (as it then was) and Yendi which went to the NPP and then Salaga which went to Hon. Boniface as an Independent candidate.

Knowing the extent of the NDC’s popularity in the three northern regions, their monstrous election machine and their overwhelming use of cash and other resources in that election, it took the combination of an organisational genius and sheer popularity for an ordinary citizen funding his own campaign to emerge victorious against the odds of two major political parties, the NPP and the NDC. If any one thought his performance in that election was a fluke, take a look at his performance in the 2004 election when he contested and won the seat for the NPP, much to the consternation of many of the NPP stalwarts in the Salaga Constituency. Contrast that with the record of other independent members of parliament who attempted to contest for other political parties and ours too (no names required). That kind of popularity is not rented popularity, it is gifted.

2. Popularity among Muslim/Zongo Communities: whether we hate or love him, we are constrained to deny that there is no Politician in the Country at the moment who is more popular in the Muslim Communities than Hon. Boniface. His popularity in the Muslim community is not limited to any part of the country. Unlike other Muslim politicians whose popularity is limited to their specific constituencies, such as Ayawaso, Madina, etc. The Hon. Boniface’s popularity in the Muslim community cuts across from Esiama in the Western Region to Sunyani in the Brong Ahafo Region. In the Kumasi Metropolis, one would think he is Member of Parliament for any of their constituencies. Why does this matter? Two reasons: 1) the 2008 election is too close to call and every vote counts, therefore every political party would be seeking to maximise their votes and make sure they are indeed counted. 2) A major stronghold of the Opposition NDC is the Muslim Community, where almost every seat in parliament representing a Muslim Community is occupied by an NDC Member of Parliament, except perhaps Hon I.C. Quaye who benefits from a lot of non-Muslim communities in his constituency to keep his seat. I can mention for example, Ayawaso East and Madina in Accra and Asawase in Kumasi. Therefore, in an election which is so close, it is absolutely crucial for the NPP to break the NDC’s monopoly over the so-called “zongo votes”. To do that requires an overwhelmingly popular running mate to partner the Flag bearer.

3. Popularity in Northern Ghana: The Hon. Boniface was appointed to the Northern Region as Minister in early 2005. By far the most complicated region to administer because of its sheer size and a looming Dagbon crisis. Upon his appointment he made tackling the Dagbon crisis an issue of priority and succeeded in bringing the disputing parties together, first, for the installation of a Regent and then the burial of the late Ya-Na. Of course, this is not to discount the role of other institutions and individuals, such as the committee of eminent chiefs, chaired by the Otumfuo. This singular achievement has won him the admiration of many in northern Ghana, as he earned the trust of both sides of the aisle in the Dagbon issue. No wonder that when he was being recalled to Accra, many voices of disapproval were raised.

4. Achievement in Government: I am in no way attempting to sacrifice performance or quality on the alter of popularity. As a matter of fact, we would want the record of the Hon. Boniface to be matched against any other candidate and compared in terms of thoroughness of duty, meticulous pursuit of objectives and scrupulous attention to detail; and all other factors rated secondary. As has already been indicated, his performance in the northern region as Minister is a record that cannot be contested by even the most cynical critic of him. Add to that his records as a deputy Minister of Trade and Industry (as it then was), Deputy Minister of Tourism and Modernisation of the Capital City (as it then was), Minister of Manpower Development, Youth and Employment and now Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing. There is only a few who would have the kind of rounded experience that the Hon. Boniface has had over the last seven years, the last three of which have been spent as a member of cabinet. Therefore performance or the ability to perform should never be in doubt.

5. There are those who have argued that the NPP should select a woman as a running mate. I would normally not be against that. In fact, I am one of those who believe that women should have more responsible roles in our party and country, and I would very much wish the circumstances were entirely different. Unfortunately, they are not. The fact of the matter is that we are going into an election against a ferocious, unrepentant opposition, who have declared that being in opposition is hell; and are therefore going to come out firing on all cylinders. That is not the time to experiment; that is the time to put your best foot forward, not just in terms of a running mate who can campaign for himself, but has the capacity to follow the opposition to their backyard, i.e. the zongo communities and the northern regions, and give them a good run for their money. Yes, there are lots of good women in our party with great expertise and experience, for whom great tribute and citation are owed. But with the Hon. Boniface you get intellect, experience, expertise, charisma and on top of that you get popularity in the zongo communities, all for the price of one. For me this is not the time for blind sentimentalism about wanting a woman for running mate. Even though I would want to see a woman occupy the high office of Vice President, I would rather lose a woman than lose power. With power we can put a woman in every high place imaginable. Keep in mind; with power we have already made history by appointing the first woman Chief Justice, perhaps in the whole Africa.

6. Since the NPP primary ended successfully on the 22nd of December 2008, some of us with close ties to the Muslim Communities have tried to test the pulse in these areas. The overwhelming expectation is that Hon. Boniface would be running mate to Nana. One therefore gets the sense that people in those communities will be totally carried along with the NPP. Apart from that the NDC is scared to death about Boniface, because they are aware that if they are to lose their firm grip on the zongo community, it is going to take one man: BONIFACE, the guy with a deceptive name that makes him look like a Christian and yet is a Muslim.

7. I believe that one of the major reasons why the majority of the NPP delegates chose Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo was because they wanted to make their work in canvassing for votes in the constituencies and polling stations a lot easier. One thing that makes it easier for them apart from any thing else is Nana’s name recognition propensity. Name recognition is a crucial element in any popularity contest and currently in the Ghana; no one has it more that Nana. It is equally crucial for Nana to partner himself with a running mate with an equally high name recognition propensity in the communities in which we intend to break the back of the opposition.

8. The Possibility of a Second Round: If Mr. Ben Ephson is to be believed, this year’s election bears all the hallmarks of an election heading to the wire in a second round contest. And if the election of persons like Bernard Morna and Alhaji Ramadan to key positions in their parties is not sign enough, consider their record of belligerence against any policy of this government. Indeed, some of these people are NDC Manchurian candidates taking over control of smaller political parties in readiness for the 2008 elections. This is why a second round may not be good for the NPP. To be able to stop that we need to stop their plans before they take shape, by choosing a candidate who is not only strong, but also has the capacity to fight in the enemies backyard. As is often said, the best method of defence is to attack; and we need to defend our power.

9. Neutrality with Respect to Dagbon: whether we like it or not, the Dagbon issue will play as a significant electoral baggage to our party if it is not well managed. In my view therefore, it is important to pick a running mate who is unaligned to any of the factions, and his performance in the Northern showed clearly that the Hon. Boniface is truly accepted by the people of Dagbon as an honest broker in their painfully difficult issue.

10. Above every thing else, the one crucial reason why the NPP must choose Boniface for running mate is that the NDC must not be allowed to come back to power and the Hon. Boniface is the man with the capacity to partner Nana to stop them in their tracks. He did it as an independent candidate in Salaga in 2000, did it for the NPP in 2004 and will certainly do it as a Running Mate to Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the “Man of the Moment”.

Eric Nana Agyemang
Suame, Kumasi


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