Friday, January 11, 2008

The debate about choosing a running mate is on!

Gender, ethnicity main deciding factors

Daily Graphic, Friday, January 11, 2008. Page 14 (Politics)

Sam Okaitey & Kobby Asmah

Elected contenders for the December elections for the presidency of Ghana have switched into the critical gear of picking running mates for the “real” phase of their campaign. And more than any of the previous four presidential contests so far held under the Fourth Republican Constitution, gender and ethnicity have become big issues in all the camps.

The flag bearer of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and former Vice-President, Prof. John Evans Atta-Mills, who was the first among the lot to be elected, also provided the first signal when the Daily Graphic contacted him early this week.

He was emphatic that among other qualities, his running mate would be somebody who had the interest of the nation at heart and who enjoyed the collective support of the party. Without mentioning any mane, Prof. Mills told the Daily Graphic that, “whoever will be nominated will be somebody who enjoys the support of the people and who can partner me to victory in election 2008.”

During the chat three names came up strongly, out of which one is destined to be picked by Prof. Mills for the ratification of the party’s National Executive Committee. They are Alhaji Mohammed Mumuni, with whom the professor ran in 2004, the venerable John Mahama and the elegant and eloquent Mrs. Betty Mould-Iddrisu.

However, and this early, Prof. Mills would not be pushed into disclosing any preference yet, saying, “I am not talking about a woman or a man, however as soon as we complete the discussion, it will be made public.” He drew attention to the point that the trend for naming a running mate had been three to four months before the elections, alluding that he would made that public announcement by August.

Within the camp of the flag bearer of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Nana Akufo-Addo, and the man with whom Professor Mills is tipped to run a close race for the presidency, the issues are similar and came to the fore on Tuesday when Nana Akufo-Addo visited chiefs and opinion leasers in Tamale and Damongo.

An insider disclosed to the Daily Graphic that one point which was made clear at the meetings with the Northern chiefs was a clear message that the Kuffour-Aliu formula which ensure a two-time victory for the NPP would be maintained, in which case Nana Addo would pick a Muslim from the North as his running mate. Further to that definite position, two names, one expected, the other a complete surprise, dropped from the meetings with the Northern chiefs to add a few that had been rumoured earlier.

From the gender side of the debate has emerged the name of the Minister for Women and Children’s Affairs, Honourable Hajia Alima Mahama, while for ethnic balance, the name of Northern Regional Minister, Alhaji Abubakar Iddris, was dropped, in addition to the surprise emergence of Alhaji M.N.D. Jawula, who appeared to have had the endorsement of the Northern chiefs.

While Hajia Mahama and Alhaji Iddris are persons whose party and political credentials are common knowledge, Jawula is a man known, not for politics, but for his depth and experience in public administration, civil service and football.

It is predictable, however, that depending on who between Professor Mill and Nana Akufo-Addo makes the first announcement, and in the unlikely event of the gender issue proving decisive in one camp, the ethnic one would play up in the other. A similar scenario of the gender-ethnic balance prevails in the camp of Conventions People’s Party (CPP) where, in spite of the fierce rebuttal this week from the Chairman of the party’s Publicity Committee, Mr. Kwesi Praat, Jnr, the name of Samia Nkrumah keeps dropping from the lips of other party insiders who prefer to remain anonymous for now.

One party insider told the Daily Graphic yesterday that the consideration of Samia Nkrumah goes deeper than the sentimental reason of her being the daughter of the party’s founder, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. “Samia is well educated and informed; she had a deeper appreciation of the Ghanaian and African issues than most of us think. Above all, from her base in Europe, she has acquired an orientation similar to that of her father in Europe and America before returning to liberate Ghana from the colonialists,” her said.

That notwithstanding, the Daily Graphic is reliably informed that the choice of Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom’s running mates for December general election could also be either Ibrahim Mahama, a veteran politician, Bright Akwetey, or Professor Agyeman Badu Akosa, the last two of whom ran with Dr. Nduom for the CCP flag-bearership.

The signals from the People’s National Convention (PNC) point to another balancing act with strong indications that the party would repeat its1996 precedent when Dr. Edward Mahama, chose a female Professor Dede Mate, a former Deputy Health Minster in the Limann administration, as his running mate. And in line with that, Dr. Mahama this time is likely to pick Dr. Rose Kutin-Mensah, the Africa Regional Director of ABANTU for Development, a non-governmental organisation, or Dr. Ansa Kumi Quaye of the Political Science Department of the University of Ghana, Legon, as running mate.

Party Chairman, Alhaji Ahmed Ramadan, however, declined to make any comments on the matter, saying it is the prerogative of the party flag bearer to nominate his running mate.

With such a formidable array of men and women in the Race for presidency, whom political observes say are equally matched in their intellectual and political credentials, a more crucial role may lie ahead for the running mates, and the PNC may set the stage by being the first to announce its running mate by the end of the month.

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