MANASSEH’S FOLDER: Comparing Akufo-Addo and Prof. Opoku-Agyemang

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President Akufo-Addo and Prof. Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang

THE flag bearer of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) has finally named his running mate for the 2020 election. Contrary to some leading names that had been widely circulated since last year, John Dramani Mahama settled on a woman.

She is a former minister of education, a university professor and former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast. Her name is Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang.

It’s the first time a winnable political party has selected a woman as a running mate. It’s an opportunity to have a first a female vice president in a country where some people are still not comfortable taking instructions from women.

As expected, the scathing scrutiny has started, with some escalating it beyond the boundaries of sanity and decency. But let us stay with the printable ones. What are they saying?

She cannot match Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia of the New Patriotic Party (NPP). She brings nothing to the ticket. Ghanaians, especially women, will not vote for a woman. She signed the petition to release the Montie 3, the three young men imprisoned by the Supreme Court in 2016 for criminal contempt. Her record as a minister of education is poor. The list goes on and on.

Politically, it may be true that her choice doesn’t bring much to the Mahama ticket because she doesn’t appear to have an identifiable constituency. She’s a woman, but she should be accepted based on the strength of her character and accomplishments, not because she is a woman.

In terms of governance, it would be difficult to say how she can serve as a check on John Mahama should they win. John Mahama’s first term was not impressive and one would have expected a stronger figure that could serve as a check on him should he win, but that is not likely to come from his former appointee.

But has a strong figure really counted in the output who occupies the second most important office of the land? Historically, vice presidents of this country would have their say, but the president and his inner circles often have their way.

It is also true that many looked to a choice that would provide an antidote to Dr. Bawumia. The NDC would not agree publicly, but inwardly they will admit that Dr. Bawumia was instrumental in the NDC’s defeat in 2016. They will admit that he and his wife, Samira, were the most exciting pair of tongues on any campaign platform in 2016.

Since Dr. Bwumia burst into the political landscape like an unexpected spring of water in a desert, the subject that has dominated our political discourse has been the economy. Mention Bawumia and one is tempted to think about the economy. His agenda-setting role in making the economy the front burner of national and political discourse cannot be ignored, even if you have reason to question the sincerity and the ability of his government to implement the economic sermons he preaches.

In my book The Fourth John: Reign, Rejection & Rebound, there is a chapter titled The Bawumia Factor in the 2016 election in which I wrote:

“When the campaign took off, Dr. Bawumia was like a dribbling striker in the midst of a disorganised defence, too slippery to contain. In the political game of 2016, he was the supporting striker to his flag bearer. At a point, however, he appeared as though he was the main striker, attracting the attention of the defenders, leaving the main striker to enjoy a kind of freedom that was unusual with presidential candidates.

“The arsenals of the NDC in 2016 were directed at Dr. Bawumia and the prevailing economic conditions made him believable even when he did political propaganda with the economy. In bad times, even the lies of the opposition sound more credible than the truth of the government…”

For this reason, many, including some members of the NDC, expected an economist with a witty tongue as sharp as a circumcision blade to match Dr. Bawumia.

But Dr. Bawumia has not always been like this. In my book, I indicated that when he was first appointed as running mate in 2008, “he did not appear to have what it took to convince a class of primary school kids to vote for his party.”

Some political opponents of the NDC’s running mate also argue that the position of a vice president is key because, in the absence of the president, the vice president acts as the president of the country. The Majority Leader of Parliament, Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, has stated this publicly, questioning the ability of Prof. Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang to take over should anything happen to the president in the course of the four years. This brings us to the next important question.

Can Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang be president of Ghana?

Why can’t she be?

If Nana Akufo-Addo has been president and still wants to be president, why can’t Professor Opoku-Agyemang be president? After all, what does it take to be president? Or rather, what does it take to be a good president?

Ghana and the rest of Africa are not this miserable because we have lacked people with ideas to turn our situations around. We have not grown to that stage where our problems are complex and need complex manoeuvrings to outdo other nations to remain dominant. Ours are not the problems that face superpowers or trillion-dollar economies. We are still faced with the most basic problems of our lives–water, electricity, healthcare, decent schools, deplorable roads and lack of hospitals among other necessities of life.

The solutions to our problems are in our textbooks right from the primary schools to the universities. Our economic problems and their solutions are available in university dissertations and policy documents from the World Bank to the IMF. They are even written better by nation’s that were once like us, but which now lend to us.

Our political parties remind us of the solutions when they are in opposition. So it isn’t for the lack of knowledge that we are perishing.

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