John Dramani Mahama’s announcement Monday, of Prof. Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang, as his running mate, a first by a presidential candidate with a 50 percent chance of winning has as expected, raised debates about the electability of the pair.
Prof Opoku-Agyemang’s nomination comes as a big surprise to many because bigwigs such as Dr. Kwabena Duffuor, Prof. Kwesi Botchwey, Kingsley Awuah-Darko, Alex Mould and Ekwow Spio-Gabrah, were all not considered most ideal; she was never rumoured to be included in the initial part of the committee’s report.
The committee amongst the 15 candidates considered was looking for someone who was a strategist, electable, had name recognition, and had grassroots organizational building capabilities, amongst other political considerations.
Since the flag bearer of the party is a northerner, an Akan and hence a southerner was traditionally also thought complementary.
Prof Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang’s surprise announcement, according to sources was informed by the following checklist:
1. Electoral Clout – This essentially was looking at what Prof Opoku-Agyemang was bringing to the campaign of the NDC. Whether or not she is recognised within the rank and file of the party and has the ability to campaign; as a former VC, she is expected to be eloquent, a quality that persuades and wins votes.
2. Governance Capability – Prof. Opoku-Agyemang will be expected to handle numerous matters, and especially when the president is not in the country. Her supporters say as first female Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast (UCC), where she spent almost all her professional teaching life, Naana supervised the introduction of a medical school, while her critics point to her lackluster and poor performance as Minister for Education. It is not known that for four years as education minister, any of the 88 or so ministers enrolled their children in the failing public basic schools.
3. NDC Credentials – Prof Opoku-Agyemang reportedly became a card-bearing member of the party just recently, though she worked behind the scenes.
4. Party Cohesion – The NDC was very strategic because they didn’t want someone who would be seen as overly ambitious when the presidential slot is very vacant. Most of the earlier candidates that were pencilled had presidential ambitions.
5. Candidate Complementarity – The running mate must complement the flag bearer. It appears the Day Secondary School projects were undertaken between the pair with great harmony. And when then-President Mahama said in March 2015 in faraway Botswana, “I have a dead goat syndrome”, the pair were in perfect agreement that teacher trainee allowances should be withdrawn and instead teacher trainee enrollment expanded. Their decision was justified by supporters who pointed to all the other tertiary education students who received no grants. But really can this nation continue to give cash to teacher trainees who will never honour their bonds to serve in the rural areas? John and Jane have bitten the bullets. They seem to agree with Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko who wrote July 6 on Twitter, “Their choice of running mate suggests loudly that the NDC has been forced to accept EDUCATION as a major election ISSUE”.
6. Financial Contribution – Someone who can contribute to the affairs of the party. Most of the candidates would have been great here, but as you know by now, “The teacher’s reward is in heaven”. How else can the poorly paid Ghanaian teacher be expected to rise to this level unless someone looks beyond the financial contribution factor. Here John Mahama has defused the “monecracy” factor in our politics, and has placed teachers issues front and centre.
Of course, beyond the criteria, John Mahama must have had aforethought that someone in the NPP will waive a corruption tag, and then in the age of #MeToo, and a vociferous women’s advocacy in Ghana will most likely wave a banner that reads “All Lives Matter”.
In their first official criticism of Naana Opoku Agyemang, the NPP could not list one corrupt deed of hers.
It was the same headache the NPP caused the NDC in 2008 when the young Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia was announced by Nana Akufo-Addo as his running mate; for eight solid years – beginning from the day the announcement was made, there was no corruption tag.
What is unique about Naana, is that she was a minister for four years, and since the speculations began, the NPP has not been able to dig up any dirt.
The corruption tag the NDC had against Bawumia was more about his role as Personal Assistant to the Governor, and later Deputy Governor, of the Bank of Ghana during the cedi redenomination of 2007.
However after eight years in office from 2009 to 2017, the Attorney-General’s department, manned by stalwarts including Martin Amidu and Betty Mould-Idrrisu, could not charge Bawumia with any offence. NPP meanwhile has been in power for more than three years and has yet to find corrupt deeds to tag against Naana.
This surely must count for something which neutral-minded observers will consider as the election season begins right about now with Naana’s announcement – and an NPP TV ad featuring a man in NDC colours and his spouse in NPP colours who convinced the man that free Senior High School helps poor families.
The author is a journalist, communications and media analyst and a writer. The views expressed are solely his and does not represent the organisation he works for.