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Opinions of Thursday, 16 April 2015

Columnist: Al-hajj

Who succeeds Mahama ?

-Amissah Arthur, Debrah, Opuni, Omane or Sylvester

Confident of retaining power in 2016, the questions as who succeeds President John Dramani Mahama has started agitating the minds of power brokers and enthusiasts of the ruling National Democratic Congress.

Although not oblivious of the arduous task of remaining in government after the 2016 elections, chieftains and strategists of the governing NDC, The aL-haJJ’s investigations have uncovered, have begun raising the issue of who replaces President Mahama for the 2020 elections.

Reports reaching this paper indicate that five names have so far popped up for the 2020 flag bearer post; with the name of the Cape Coast born banker-turned-Vice President, Paa Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur, featuring prominently. Also being considered for the coveted post is the just appointed Chief of Staff, Julius Debrah; Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD, Dr Stephen Opuni; Minister of Communications, Dr Edward Kofi Omane Boamah and Chief Executive Officer of National Health Insurance Authority, Sylvester Mensah.

Amissah-Arthur

Flying on the crest wave of what has become institutionalize in the NDC where Vice Presidents succeed the President, admirers of Amissah-Arthur are said to pressing the political knob to get him to lead party after President Mahama. Drawing inspiration from how former President Rawlings successfully paved the way for his vice-president, the late President Mills to succeed him, and he (Mills) also having given President John Mahama an almost blank cheque to prepare him for the highest post of the land; those pushing for an Amissah-Arthur presidency argue that it will be unconscionable to deny the Veep the topmost post.

Mr Amissah-Arthur, a trained Economist of repute who was deputy Minister of Finance in the Rawlings government and later Governor of Bank of Ghana before climbing to the second highest office of the land, is no novice to the political game. Despite operating on low and quite profile since he was appointed Veep following the elevation of then Vice President Mahama to President after the untimely death Prof Mills, Amissah Arthur has in recent become more visible and busy.

This, according to Flag Staff sources, may have informed the recent clean bill of health bestowed on Mr. Amissah Arthur by his boss, president Mahama, who is also ECOWAS Chairman.

However, vice President Amissah-Arthur has a lot of mountainous hurdles to cross before warming his way into the hearts of the rank and file of the ruling NDC to be handed automatic succession.

Central region, having produced a president and vice President for the NDC in the last six years, there are reports that elders of the party may be unwilling to depart from the now institutionalized concept of regional rotation, and as such, may not select a flag bearer from the Central region, at least, not for the near future. Another nagging issues threatening Amissah-Arthur’s possible rise to the top is his age. Born on April 21, 1951, the Vice President will be 70 years by swearing-in time in 2021, an advanced age at which members of the NDC are using to nail New Patriotic Party flag bearer, Nana Akufo-Addo. Rising Star Julius Debrah The meteoric rise of Chief of Star, Julius Debrah, a relatively young politician who seem to be born with destiny on his side just like the man he is likely to replace, has not come as surprise to many who knew him back in the days.

Coming from a humble background and shuffling from being Eastern regional Chairman of NDC, Chief Executive of Ghana Tourism Authority, 2012 parliamentary Candidate for Suhum constituency, Eastern regional Minister, Greater regional Minister, Local Government Minister and now Chief of Staff, Julius Debrah has indeed come a long way.

His impeccable handling of the sectors he has managed so far, which earned him a call up to serve at the nerve center of the Mahama government, Julius Debrah’s admirers say, makes him the ideal person to step into the shoes of President Mahama.

He is one of the few politicians in Ghana respected across the political divide. Members of his party regard him a smooth operator; those outside his party see his dexterous political moves as a threat to their dreams of clinching political power.

This observation was evident in admission by NPP Member of Parliament for Manhyia South, Dr Mathew Opoku Prempeh, that the “NPP had its workload of winning power in 2016 doubled with the elevation of Julius Debrah to the Chief of Staff post”.

Despite the enviable and privilege positions he has occupied over the years, affable Julius has been touted by all, and even to his subordinates, as very humble and God-fearing. The chief of staff in addition to the above stated merits is, he relates very well with the media.

Political watchers say, with his native background fitting well into the NDC’s regional rotation agenda, Julius Debrah’s age is an added advantage. They say President Mahama may have deliberately ship him to the seat of government to prepare him for the big task ahead. However, his critics say his election as flag bearer will not bring any political gain to the NDC since the Eastern region has in recent times been won by the opposition NPP, albeit, with slim margin.

Proponents of this view argue that Nana Akufo-Addo and his Akyem elements have made inroads in the Eastern region, adding that it would not be politically wise to overlook strongholds or regions the party has been winning over the years in the selection of a flag bearer.

Dr Stephen Opuni

The Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD, Dr Stephen Opuni, unknown to many people, is a shrewd politician by all standards. His exploits were felt when the NDC lost power in 2000 and was in opposition. Until the return of NDC to power in 2009, Dr Opuni has been in charge of operations of the party in the Ashanti and Brong Ahafo regions.

Also a smooth operator, Dr Opuni is not new to the political game. His hard work and diligence earned him appointment as Executive Director of Food and Drugs Authority under the Mills government.

His impressive handling of affairs there led to him being promoted to COCOBOD, arguably the biggest revenue generation empire in the public sector. Since his appointment as CEO of COCOBOD, he has worked to secure the USD1.7 billion cocoa syndicated loan, and he is currently targeting to purchase 1.2 million tonnes of cocoa, the highest in recent years.

Coming from Ashanti region where the NDC is seeking to annex one million votes or above 30 percent votes in 2016, Dr Opuni, although considered by many as snooty and lacking team player attitude, political pundits insist, he is better placed to take over from President Mahama.

The pundits say the NDC will make marginal gains in the Ashanti region, regarded as NPP’s stronghold, if the COCOBOD CEO is made to lead the party into the 2020 elections. His age and native background, they say, fit into the ruling party’s plans.

Sylvester Mensah

Another rising and relatively young political maestro whose name keeps popping up in discussions leading to selection of flag bearer or running-mate for the NDC, the 2020 polls not exclusive, is the Chief Executive of National Health Insurance Authority, Sylvester Mensah.

Sly, as he is popularly known, needs no introduction in NDC and Ghana politics in general. Starting as the first Greater Accra regional Youth Organizer of NDC to a legislator for La Dadekotopn constituency through to a defeated General Secretary, Sly has over the years written his name with gold in the history books of the ruling party.

Ever since he left the lecturing job at Institute of Professional Studies and Banking sector, Sly has been one of the key pillars of the NDC and one of the chief architects of the party’s success in the 2008 and 2012 elections. He is credited to be the only CEO in the NDC government to have written and launched an autobiography, a move that generated gossips of intension to lead the ruling party in the foreseeable future. Since his appointment as head of NHIA, he has impressively managed the scheme which was predicted by the experts not to last beyond 2009 unless new funding source was secured.

Despite the hiccups in its operations due to government’s inability to pay up statutory funds meant for it, the NHIA under Sly, with support from a competent team of personnel, has extended cheap and accessible healthcare to almost half of the country’s population. His twin background of Ga and Ewe makes him a strong contender for the number one post in the NDC. Many say his election will serve as reward for Gas and Ewes for keeping faith with the party over the years.

However, Sly is regarded by his party folks as not a grass root person needed to prosecute the 2020 elections. This observation is said to be working against his possible dream of replacing Mahama.

The multi-talented Omane Boamah

He has severally denied harboring presidential ambitions for reasons that he has not attained the mandatory 40 years. But reports gathered by this paper suggest that Communications Minister, Dr Edward Kofi Omane Boamah, is one of NDC stalwarts whose name keeps coming up for flag bearer post. Starting a NUGS president through to his active days as a leading member of Committee for Joint Action (CJA) and deputy Minister under Mills, Dr Omane Boamah, has over the years distinguished himself to the admiration of all and sundry.

Noted for his calm disposition but tough analysis, the trained medical-doctor-turned politician has gradually warm his way into the hearts of the rank and file of the NDC to the extent that his name keeps popping up in almost all discussions relating to President Mahama’s successor.

Although a medical doctor by profession, his appreciation of issues such as politics, economics and international relations, many say, puts him in a comfortable position to replace the President. Those in favor of his candidature say, Dr Omane Boamah is aide by the striking similarities between him and President Mahama in terms of disposition. They also say he resonates well with the grass root of the party.