Presidential Succession

Mon, 22 Jan 2007 Source: Kennedy, Arthur Kobina

With the NDC nomination now settled, the nation has turned its attention to the NPP race. Due to the large number of potential candidates, many have focused on which candidates have valid claims to the office. These discussions have been fuelled by comments by the President as well as ex-Senior Minister JH Mensah. Speaking at a party meeting before the Congress, the President invoked the party’s traditions and urged people to be mindful of these traditions as the party prepares to choose his successor. He even opined that the NPP was modeled after the British Conservative Party. Even though the President himself did not say so, others wishing to exploit his remarks were quick to point out that the President was referring to an informal queue that exists and by his remarks suggesting that some would do well to take their place at the back of that mystical queue. In his remarks at the NPP Congress, the ex-Senior Minister urged potential candidates to “ check themselves” as to their suitability for the office before running and chastised those who have gone around asking for votes on the grounds that they are good-looking.

Clearly, the President and ex-Senior Minister were motivated by the best interests of the party and Ghana in making their remarks. It is obvious that they desire a very orderly and dignified process leading to the choice of a nominee who will be victorious in the 08 general election.

Since the beginning of this contest, there has been talk of dynasties and coronations. It goes without saying that these tendencies are not in the best democratic traditions.

Here, I have set aside my own and other equally worthy candidacies to examine the idea of Presidential inheritances and/or successions. I examine the various claims of those whose supporters assert that it is their turn to inherit the office. To be fair, I am not aware that any of these candidates have made this argument themselves. It is not even clear that they agree with these arguments. The first of these claimants is the Honorable Foreign Minister, Nana Addo Dankwah Akuffo-Addo.

The argument for him is that aside from his long service to the party, he was the runner-up the last time and therefore has the first place in that mystical queue. Furthermore, according to his supporters, he has Presidential genes because his father, himself a President, was related to our founder JB Danquah, and that to the extent that a royal family can be said to exist in our party, he belongs to it. Recently, during a visit to the Western Region, the Foreign Minister playfully added another argument to his claim; the fact that he is called “Nana”.

The second person with an inheritance claim is the Vice-President, Alhaji Aliu Mahama. As his supporters see it, he has been a full and almost equal partner as well as under-study to the President during this Presidency. To the extent that the administration has been successful then, he should, aside from the President himself, get the most credit for the success of this government.

Indeed, according to his supporters, when the President picked him as his running-mate, he was in effect, annointing Mr. Aliu as his successor. As far as Mr. Aliu’s supporters are concerned, if the President was not constrained by reasons of decorum and fairness, he would be obligated to endorse Aliu since supporting another candidate will be the equivalent of acknowledging that selecting Mr Aliu as his running-mate was a mistake.

From this premise, Mr. Aliu’s supporters contend that he is the best positioned to continue the progress made under this President and is entitled to the nomination. Acting from this premise, some of the Vice-President’s supporters are unhappy that during the President’s generational roll-call at Jackson Park, he did not mention the Vice-President. It is an unfair criticism for a number of reasons. First, as anyone who was on the platform with the President can attest, he was just listing examples of people from particular generations rather than giving a detailed list. Second, a Vice-President, unless he has renounced any ambitions to the office, is always a presumed contender and therefore should not require the President’s validation to be a viable candidate. Of course, the lesson in this for the President and party leaders is that there are a lot of people who are ready to interpret anything he and/or they do as evidence of support for this or that candidate and as the father of the party, he must not only avoid but be seen to avoid taking sides. He took an important and commendable step in that direction when he said at the rally that he would work hard to elect whoever is chosen by the party as its candidate. Of course, former Vice-President John Atta-Mills had the same argument in 2000 in his unsuccessful bid to succeed Former President Rawlings and the electorate did not accept it.

The third person with claims to the nomination based on inheritance or in his case heredity is Honourable Dr Kwame Addo Kufuor. According to his supporters, aside from his accomplishments as a Minister, those who wish they could vote for the President for another term should be ecstatic that his brother is ready and able to step into his shoes. According to them, the President’s stewardship has demonstrated that he is from good stock while Dr Kufuor’s performance as a Minister has left no doubt that he can step into his brother’s shoes without mi ssing a beat. Thus to vote for Dr Kufuor is the surest vote for continuity.

While I will leave others to adjudicate these different claims to the Presidency, in democracies, such inheritances/successions are rare. In the 1950’s while heading for independence, there were some in the “big-six” who considered Kwame Nkrumah an upstart and thought there were others more deserving of the honour of leading Ghana to independence. The electorate thought differently and supported Nkrumah and he went on to be perhaps, Ghana and Africa’s most celebrated post-independence leader. In the1979 elections, late Victor Owusu, an accomplished Minister in the Busia regime was said to have the best “ Aduru meso” argument for the nomination. When he was nominated, the Peoples National Party went for a brand new face who used to work for Victor in foreign affairs called Hilla Limann and he defeated Victor. In 1998, the ex-Senior Minister, who had not only been a Senior Minister in the Busia regime but had covered himself in glory during the struggle to restore democracy was running against a man who was a junior Minister in the Busia regime and should have been way back in that mystical queue. However, that guy, now his Excellency President Kufuor, won in a landslide. It turns out that the delegates were right. Mr. Kufuor has since been elected twice to the Presidency. In America’s two centuries of Presidential succession, both family successions and Vice-Presidential successions have been rare. Only two men have followed their fathers into the Presidency, John Quincy Adams and George W Bush and they waited twenty-eight and eight years respectfully.

Except in case of death, Vice-Presidential successions too have been very rare. When George Bush (41) succeeded Reagan in 1989, he was the first Vice-President to move directly into the Presidency by election in one hundred and fifty years! When Al Gore tried to do the same thing in 2000, he was not successful. So much for Vice-Presidential succession!

As for the blood ties argument, the NPP tried that in the Odododiodo by-election when we picked the son of a deceased candidate to run for his vacant seat and received a thumping from the electorate. A word to the wise might be enough. On the other hand, some leaders selected from the back of the queue or out of it have done very well.

In 1952, Dwight Eisenhower was nominated by the Republicans despite the fact that he had just joined the party and he went on to win the Presidency twice. In 1992, some in the Democratic Party thought that Bill Clinton was not even in the queue. Indeed, a year before the election, he had the support of only one percent of Democrats. However, the voters, just as they had done in 1960 with John Kennedy, picked him to be President and then re-elected him! In Canada in 1968, the Liberals reached to the back of their queue to pick Pierre Trudeau who went on to serve sixteen years as a very successful Prime Minister. As for the British Conservative party, in keeping with their tradition of trying to win elections, they have just installed as their leader David Cameron, a forty-year old with no experience but tons of ideas and charisma. Hopefully, our party will consider the example of the party whose traditions, according to the President, our party aspires to.

Finally, on the question of whose turn it is to have the Presidency, my answer is “THE PEOPLE” The NPP should nominate a candidate who will propose solutions to the important problems confronting the nation.

If we do, that person, no matter his/her place in that mystical queue will be elected to the Presidency and that is what should matter to our party. Let us honour those who have served our party BUT the Presidency is not a hereditary stool to be inherited or a reward for past service.

If we are pragmatic, we will once again elect a President who will lead Ghana forward while we continue to sing “ Di wohene!!” for years to come.

Kukrudu! Kukrudu! Kukrudu!!!

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Kennedy, Arthur Kobina