Should the NPP go north or just stay south?

It is presidential primary season again and in usual expectation, NPP has the men with humongous ambition to lead the party.

There is a smorgasbord of candidates in the fray—a few with good reasons to be in the contest but many others, with no business being in the race.

In the crowded field, we have the charismatic vice president, Mahamudu Bawumia—a man who has built an organic support within the party, endeared himself with a large following among the current party system and equally within those aggrieved with the current administration who see him as one who can bring change and unity. His rise and attempt at the presidency seem divine.

Alan Kyerematen, former trade minister— who will be making his fourth attempt at the flagbearership. Alan’s candidature carries the burden of mostly disgruntled former appointees of Akufo-Addo and some remnant front men of the Kufuor era who want a political comeback.

Kennedy Agyapong’s candidature is a barking challenge not grounded in empirical or substantive data on Ghanaians not wanting a Muslim president in Bawumia. In a Trumpism style, however, he has succeeded in building respectable momentum.

Afriyie Akoto is making a challenge in an attempt to cement a family heritage for proper historical recognition; Konadu Apraku has become a perennial candidate in an attempt to fulfil a fading childhood ambition; Joe Ghartey is trying something, whose outcome the jury is yet to ascertain; Kwabena Agyapong is pissing-in for all the injustices he believes he has suffered from the NPP; Boakye Agyarko, has held a long presidential ambition and its part of the process for him; Addai Nimo for some reason, has developed a penchant to contest presidential primaries and an unknown Kwadwo Poku.

The large number of candidates have set the stage for a long winding acrimonious primary process— a super delegate process to prune down the number to 5, before the larger electoral college will vote on the top 5 to elect a flagbearer who will square off with John Mahama of the NDC in December 2024. Given these, we will look at the issues that will determine the election outcomes.

What should the NPP do with Bawumia

In 2008, a 44-year-old unknown banker was thrusted into the political limelight as the running mate to Akufo-Addo. In between that time and now, he has contested on the ticket of the NPP on 5 presidential elections (if you add the 2008 run-off) and served as vice president for two presidential terms. Bawumia is Muslim and a Northerner but by family background, education, training, and competence—a quintessential NPP flagbearer candidate and presents a conundrum for party delegates.

The NPP over the years have been tagged as an Akan party who only entertain northern vice presidents for political expediency. In Bawumia, the party has a candidate who fits the part— but for religion and ethnicity as vehemently being argued by some party fanatics. The dilemma for NPP is to dare if they do go with Bawumia or dare if they don’t. The fundamental question is, why not Bawumia? How can the party explain that to the doubters of the NPP (including John Mahama) that the NPP is an inclusive and broad-based party but not an Akan hegemony. Yes, there are many other reasons why the party could choose an equally qualified candidate to lead, but until the opponents of Bawumia can make the case besides religion and ethnicity, we will wait for the reasons.

What does Bawumia bring to the table?

In Bawumia the NPP has a candidate who possesses demonstrated presidential quality, experience, and an unrivaled ability to take the NDC head-on while in opposition and currently in government. He is an experienced campaign juggernaut with measurable delivery in 2012, 2016 and 2020. This is an asset none of the other candidates possess. To add to this, he has a wife who also has a demonstrated campaigning record, a strong asset none of the other candidates or spouses can compare.

Bawumia brings to the race a proven constituency— yes, he has brought the Northern Region to the NPP. From 4 out of 20 parliamentary seats in the region in 2008, through his hard work and that of others, the NPP has 16 against the NDC’s 15 in the traditional northern region (Northern, Northeast and Savanna). Over the last few elections, the Northern Region has become a battle ground for the NDC from the long days when it was the NDC support region in the path to the presidency. Among the candidates, none has a clearly defined constituency to offer.

As vice president, he has demonstrated his competence by championing and delivering on numerous government projects. Notably, he has led Ghana’s digitalization agenda with visible outcomes recognized not only in Ghana but across the world. He has not been an armchair vice president but one that has put shoulder to the wheel. He has shown over the years that, given the absolute power as a president, he will be a solutions-driven leader who will think outside the box and proffer solutions that will spur Ghana’s economic transformation.

Plainly, Bawumia is competent and incorruptible, an attribute that will be significant in determining the 2024 election outcomes.

It’s your turn (Aduru wo so)

Yes, it must be somebody’s turn to lead the NPP but is there any de jure or de facto process to ensure that? And if even there was, whose turn is it really and by which yardstick are we measuring?

Going by presidential primaries, Konadu Apraku has contested since 1997 and thus should it not be his turn? Going by longevity in the party, who between Apraku, Alan and Kwabena Agyapong should be handpicked? By campaign experience, Bawumia has been on an NPP presidential ticket 5 times so it should be his turn because he has more presidential campaign experience than any competitor. By presidential experience (Snr Apprentice) Bawumia has been vice president for almost 8 years and by any stretch of argument and measure should make 2024 his turn.

Going by measurable commitment, loyalty, and sacrifice to the party, Bawumia has demonstrated over the years, his loyalty and commitment equal or even more than the other candidates. First, he quit an upwardly trajected Central Bank job to support Akufo-Addo in 2008, then subsequently quit an AfDB position to support again in 2012. After the 2012 elections, when NPP— a party who has the men needed a man to stand as a star witness in the supreme court challenge, who amongst the men stood up? Bawumia of course. In the run-up to the 2016 elections when NPP needed men to make a charge at the NDC, Bawumia again stood taller among this fray of aspirants. It is a verifiable fact that, apart from Kennedy Agyapong, most of the candidates have never attacked the NDC or their candidates or defended the NPP against NDC attacks and propaganda at any forum.

Going by the NPP tradition argument, it’s the turn of a Dombo to lead the NPP, and it can only be Bawumia’s turn— he’s the compelling Dombo candidate in the race.

Who can break the 8

Bawumia’s potential flagbearership presents an existential threat to the very fiber of NDC core support and strategy. They will need a colossal amount of work to counter a Bawumia candidacy. Prominently, the selection of Bawumia kills a perpetual and yet, potent NDC propaganda that the NPP does not like northerners and Muslims. For NPP that seemingly does not like northerners to elect a northern candidate, sends strong signals and knocks-out the NDC strong propaganda in the north and Muslim communities. The NDC never believed that day would come and if it comes, they will need to alter their strategy to accommodate a Bawumia onslaught.

If selected, Bawumia will go against John Mahama— the first time two members of minority ethnicities and particularly from the northern region will represent the dominant political parties, a testament to Ghana’s consolidating democracy and strong party system.

In the North, while John Mahama comes with a record to defend as a former president, Bawumia comes with a tabula rasa. He only must compare what he delivered as a vice to what John Mahama delivered as a vice and subsequent president. For most people in the north, some key questions are why choose John who can be president for 4 years against Bawumia who can potentially offer 8 years, what did John do for the North as president of Ghana and what could he have done that he failed to do as president?  Answers to these questions will be instrumental in voter choices between John and Bawumia.

Over the years, the NDC has courted majority of the support of Muslims and people of northern extraction whether they live up north or have migrated into the Zongos and other settler communities down south. That has been the forte of the NDC and has remained difficult to break for the NPP even where Northern and Muslim vice presidents were added on presidential tickets. With the selection of a potential president under NPP the jury will be out there on how this NDC stronghold of the Muslim bloc of votes will react.

If the election is to be framed on the personalities of potential Northern candidates, Bawumia has an unblemished record in public service, one that is epitomized by competence and incorruptibility. So among the 10 NPP candidates, these unique challenges Bawumia presents to the NDC will change the dynamics of Ghanaian politics and presents him with the best chance to break the 8.

Will Bawumia be his own president?

On Friday the 16th of June, Bawumia filed his nomination to a lot of pomp, applause, and celebration from a throng of party supporters. He was unequivocal, “I have my own vision for Ghana” in the cacophony of ovation.

Bawumia has been nothing but a humble, respectful, and yet firm vice president and surely been his own man. He has undeniably been his own man as a vice president and will be his own man as president.

Ghana’s fourth republican politics teaches us that, our executive presidents are powerful, and no person or group can usurp presidential powers. The case of Atta-Mills and Rawlings illustrate this point. Things aren’t always what they seem.

The 2024 elections will not be an ordinary election. It will be an election where the impact of ethnicity will possibly be diminished by the possible selection of two minority candidates from the north. For the NPP, they will need to solve the Bawumia dilemma and decide whether to go north with an equally qualified Bawumia whose strength in the north breaks an NDC stronghold and provides the NPP, depth to support their dominant strongholds of Ashanti and Eastern for a good path to the presidency.

Not selecting a qualified Bawumia resets the election to the status quo, depending on massive support from Ashanti and Eastern, ceding the north, Muslim and other votes to the NDC and manifesting the NDC propaganda that the NPP is an Akan hegemony.

It’s therefore up to the elephant (delegates) to decide whether to go north with Bawumia who brings a bonus or go south with any of the aspirants with all the liabilities that may bring.