Ghana Is Ready For A Female Presidential Candidate

Sun, 13 Jun 2010 Source: Otchere-Darko, Gabby Asare

REACTIONS TO the news that former first lady, Nana Konadu

Agyemang-Rawlings, who turns 62 on November 17 and is preparing to contest

for the flag-bearership of the ruling NDC in 2012, have been extreme.

Majority of the vociferous voices say it would be a disaster. But, how true

is this?

She is arguably the most politically exposed and politically experienced

Ghanaian female around. She was an active First Lady for 19 years, whose

mobilisation prowess is legendary.

This is a woman who runs a women's movement (31st December Women's

Movement), which at one time boasted of a two-million membership


She has described it as a “broad based development oriented

Non-Governmental Organisation that aspires to achieve [its] objectives

through the effective mobilisation of women.”

In her, the NDC has a woman who has a solid three-decade record of mass

mobilization; A woman who has the confidence to mix with the shakers and

movers of the world; A woman who will die for the party; A woman with a

handbag filled with iron balls and who is not afraid to swing it.

So if Ghana is ready for a female presidential candidate, then Mrs.

Rawlings is a credible candidate. She more than qualifies.

But, would it be wise for her to stand against a sitting president, in a

presidential primary? The fact that it didn't happen to Messrs Rawlings and

Kufuor does not mean the prospect of her candidacy should be dismissed


President Rawlings faced no opposition in 1996 because it was his

‘personal’ party and his popularity was never in doubt.

After all, he single-handedly decided for the party who his successor

should be. President Kufuor did not face any challenge in 2004 because he

had run the country credibly well, and his popularity was not in doubt.

Can the same be said of President Mills today? Certainly not. Don't forget

Mills is in a position quite similar to what the Democrats faced in the


Nixon had earlier lost to JFK by a margin of 0.2%. Nixon sought for

re-nomination as the Republican presidential candidate and won.

With his nationwide popularity assured, he came back and won the

presidency. It is not cast in stone that incumbent presidents should not be

challenged by their party members.

That decision is a calculated one based on prevailing pros and cons -

chances of the party being re-elected or defeated by sticking to the

incumbent leader. The NDC cannot leave anything to chance.

They should allow those positioning themselves to challenge Mills to do

so, or risk being stuck with a losing candidate in 2012. The prospect of a

challenge may even challenge President Mills to make a more serious attempt

towards delivering a better Ghana than he is so far managing to do.

Also, in spite of all his threats of seeking a second term, it is far from

certain that Mills will be in contention in 2012. That decision may not be

entirely his to make.

But, with some 2,000 delegates to decide who leads the NDC in 2012 (in the

event of a contest), any serious challenge against Mills will call for a

significant expansion of the party's electoral college.

The NDC has next year's annual national conference to effect any such

constitutional reforms. It should not be seen as an anti-Mills expansion,

but rather an expansion for the sake of the party.

In 2007, it was the small size of the electoral college of the NPP that

encouraged 17 people with some loose change (money to spare) to throw their

hat into the NPP ring.

In the end, that orgy of ego trip cost the party dearly, in portraying it

as corrupt, and in dividing the front. It prevented the eventual winner

from going into the 2008 election with a clear mandate from his own party.

A bigger electoral college will be a better test of the popularity of

whoever emerges as the 2012 NDC candidate.

If Mills believes he is popular within his party, then let him sponsor

such an exercise and take away probable allegations of vote-buying.

Ghanaians should not find it politically profane the fact that the wife of

a former president may be thinking of contesting to be president. Exactly

two years ago, Americans were preparing themselves for a possible President

Hillary Clinton.

The world's longest serving female leader, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of

India, was born into the politically influential Nehru family. Her

grandfather, Motilal Nehru, was a prominent Indian nationalist leader. Her

father, Jawaharlal Nehru, was the first Prime Minister of Independent


The late Benazir Bhutto, twice prime minister of Pakistan, was the first

woman elected to lead a Muslim state. She was the eldest child of former

Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and was the wife of current

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari.

In Mongolia, Suhbaataryn Yanjmaa, who became Head of State between 1953

and 1954, was the widow of national hero Sühbaatar, and arguably the

absolute first woman political ruler in contemporary history.

Between 1968-1972, Song Qingling, the widow of doctor Sun Yat-sen, the

founder of the Chinese Republic, and the sister-in-law of Marshall Chiang

Kai-shek, his successor as president of the Republic of China (then

Taiwan), was co-president of the People's Republic of China.

Indeed, from 31 Oct 1968, to 24 Feb 1972, no Head of State was mentioned

in the communist state, but Dong Biwu and Song Qingling were Vice

Presidents by then (she was elected to the post in 1954, after being deputy

premier since 1949), so, de facto (and in theory), both leaders shared the

presidential duties in 1968-1972.

Furthermore, when in 1976, Zhu De, who was then the head of state and

chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (the

presidency of the Republic was officially abolished the previous year),

passed away, a vacancy period was inaugurated and not filled until 1978,

with the appointment of Ye Jianying.

In these months were the 21 vice-chairmen, among them four women: Song

Qingling, Cai Chang, Li Suwen, and (from 2 Dec 1976) Deng Yingchao, the

widow of just deceased premier Zhou Enlai. Shortly before Song's death, she

was elected “Honorary President” of the People's Republic of China.

In Argentina, Maria Estela ‘Isabel’ Martinez de Peron, served as president

from 1 Jul 1974 to 24 Mar 1976.

She replaced her husband Juan Domingo Perón as president, immediately

after his death, since she held the Vice-Presidency of the Republic and the

presidency of the Senate since the 1973 electoral victory of the

'Perón-Perón' formula. In fact, Perón's incapacitation forced her to act as

president since Jun 29.

She was the first woman who became president, both in America and in the

world. And also was the first one ousted in a military coup.

Cory Aquino of the Philippines is another example of a widow who succeeded

her husband as president. After Benigno Aquino's assassination in 1983, she

became Asia's first woman president.

The widow of Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, assassinated in 1978, also became the

president of Nicaragua from 1990 to 1997.

Chandrika Kumaratunga, the daughter of the late Sirimavo Bandaranaike,

three times prime minister of Sri Lanka, served both as prime minister and

president, and both through democratic elections.

Upon her election as president in 1994, the daughter appointed her mother

as prime minister.

Chandrika's father and Sirimavo's husband, Solomon, was assassinated while

being prime minister in 1959. The same thing happened to Chandrika's

husband, Vijaya Kumaratunga, who also assassinated in 1988.

Until 2009, Janet Jagan was the President of Guyana. She was also prime

minister in 1997. She succeeded her husband, Cheddi Jagan, in the

presidency, some months after his passing.

The sixth woman occupying the presidential office in America, and the

second one with an additional premiership experience in the world (the

first one was Sri Lanka's Chandrika Kumaratunga), Mireya Elisa Moscoso de

Arias, the first woman president of Panama, also took advantage of her

status as widow of former president Arnulfo Arias Madrid.

Maria Arroyo, the current president of the Philipines, is the daughter of

late president Diosdado Macapagal, and the country's second woman


Certainly, Mrs. Rawlings has plenty of international precedent to support

her bid. Her challenge is finding enough party support to finally make good

this two-decade long ambition of hers.

For people like Nii Lamptey Vanderpuye, the presidential aide who

dismisses her bid with contempt, they should be reminded that she was even

more responsible for the formation of the party they belong to today than

even her husband.

In 1992, Kojo Tsikata and co, the CPP elements within the PNDC, were happy

to piggy back an Nkrumaist vehicle, like Kweku Boateng's NCCP.

It was Konadu Agyemang-Rawlings, who managed to convince Obed Asamoah to

support the project of going alone to set up a new party.

The others were very sceptical, but she was not. I guess the same forces

are today sceptical about her chances as presidential candidate. They

should know by now that the lady is not for writing-off.


Columnist: Otchere-Darko, Gabby Asare

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