Prof. Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang: Is Ghana ready for a woman vice president?

Prof Jane Naana Opoku Agyemang Former Education Ministerwed3qweq Prof. Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang

Mon, 6 Jul 2020 Source: Ekow Arthur-Aidoo

Very soon John Dramani Mahama, the NDC flagbearer, is expected to announce his running mate for the December 2020 polls.

Prof. Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang has been widely rumoured as a favourite - the only woman reportedly pencilled for the position.

Joe Biden is reportedly considering Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren as his running mate, and events in the US hugely influence what happens here in Ghana; the incumbent NPP held their parliamentary primaries and presidential nominee acclamation around the time President Donald Trump also held a party rally.

To many, when Nana Akufo-Addo selected Dr Mahamudu Bawumia as the running mate, the subculture of attacking the personality of the candidates changed.

Dr. Bawumia and the late Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, John Mahama’s former running mate, must be applauded for enhancing issues-based politics in Ghana.

Dr. Bawumia changed Ghanaian politics when he continuously spoke about the economy and how that affects our everyday lives.

The political atmosphere indeed changed to a comparatively healthier public discourse when Akufo-Addo and Bawumia focused on education and the economy.

With Amissah-Arthur to match Bawumia, the economic management team became the focus of debates.

Over the years, Ghanaian politicians have been playing the trial and error ethnic balance game, sometimes called Regional balance, but with Naana’s likely nomination, there will be a tectonic shift from Regional balance to gender balance - who said All Lives Do Not Matter?

Prof. Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang is rumoured to be the favourite of the NDC strategists since she fits into the NDC tradition of having never departed from a Central Region vice presidential candidate since 1992.

Some have said her nomination will also be a great honour to the late Prof. John Evans Atta Mills, who passed away as a sitting President.

The Central Region together with Greater Accra, are considered swing regions who change every now and then and thus change the electoral fortunes of the two major parties.


This question is important because there are religious and traditional patriarchal hegemonic views that women should not lead.

Women constitute the simple majority of Ghana’s population across most age brackets and hence the electoral register, but when it comes to key government positions, women are the minority.

Indeed, the research evidence published by the University of Innsbruck says that women are willing to compete for all positions under the right conditions.

“Interventions to promote women have continuously been criticized as ineffective and inhibiting performance. Economists of the University of Innsbruck have now rejected this criticism; they conducted a series of experiments which examined the efficiency and effects of various interventions to increase women's willingness to enter a competition,” the story from Science Daily titled “Scientists show positive effects of affirmative action policies promoting women” which was published February 2, 2012, partly read.

The threat of mudslinging in every electoral politics the world over, is a real and present danger, including even in college student politics, and Naana’s family may have cautioned her to stay out of higher-level political participation.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to take part in the government of his or her country” (UN, 1945).

In 1995, the Beijing conference on women organised by the United Nations indicated that improvement in women’s representation at all levels of decision-making is a fundamental achievement for both transparent and accountable government and sustainable development in all areas of life.

But 28 years on, women in higher political office face intractable obstacles. A research conducted by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) in 2005 stated that political female representation globally stands at 16%. - in the prevailing social and economic regimes as well as existing political structures.

Ghana is no different; women constitute a minority in both local- and national-level politics.

“Currently there are 36 women MPs out of 275 or 13 per cent,” wrote Isaac Ato Mensah, a mass communications scholar on writersghana.com in an article titled “POTROG and women: the current scuffle” dated 10th June, 2019. “One way of curing underrepresentation is to let data analysis direct us towards certain targets. In that regard, the Ghana Population and Housing Census is a useful guide”.

Ato Mensah who was responding to the firestorm President Akufo-Addo (POTROG) came under when he mentioned in France in a live event with President Emmanuel Macron that women constitute 30 per cent of his cabinet and cautioned against “identity politics”.

He argued that by stretching the women’s argument, then-President Akufo-Addo should fill up his cabinet with “a 66 per cent quota of the illiterate population at least half of whom are women”, as an example, while adhering to the Directive Principles of State Policy.

Prof. Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang has earned for herself a great reputation as the first female Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast (UCC). At her induction ceremony, Sir Sam Jonah, then Chancellor of UCC, described her as a "courageous and determined female who never accepted the status quo, but had worked hard and passed through the mill to attain her present position".

She also became a minister for education under President John Dramani Mahama.

But can she survive the schedule of a vice president seeing that education is not the only issue she will deal with? For example, the vice president is by law the chairperson of the Ghana Armed Forces Council, the Police Service Council, among others, and by convention is chairperson of the Economic Management Team.

Some political analysts believe she will be making better and informed decisions when it comes to students’ or teachers’ welfare because as an educationist she has seen it all.

Prof. Opoku-Agyemang will not be the first educationist to be vice president; at least we know Prof. Atta-Mills of blessed memory, was once a lecturer at the University of Ghana; Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia the current vice president has had teaching spells at Emile Woolf College and LSE/Oxford University in the UK, and the University of British Columbia in Canada; and Kofi Abrefa Busia, prime minister during the second republic, was a respected professor at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands and St Antony's College, Oxford University.

What has/have been their respective contributions to the welfare of students and teachers, and education generally during the tenure of these professors?

Some political watchers think that Prof Opoku-Agyemang will win the votes of those classified as moderates or politically neutral, an electoral category that significantly determines the outcome of the presidential ballot.

Others believe neutral women and teachers/lecturers will be speaking in her favour even if only as an “experimental woman vice-presidential candidate”.

Prof Nana Opoku-Agyemang should understand teachers’ allowances and teachers' issues better as against the economist Dr. Bawumia.

Again on this PhD and “skirt and blouse” issue that tertiary education lecturers are being asked by the National Accreditation Board (NAB) to comply with whereby one needs a minimum of a PhD in the same subject discipline only to qualify as a lecturer, Naana is expected to bring a better understanding to the debate during the campaign.

Should Ghanaians expect Prof Opoku-Agyemang to tell lecturers of polytechnics and teacher training colleges which are now degree-awarding institutions to get PhDs or quit?

Even if she wanted to, some analysts believe because Prof. Kwesi Yankah, a minister of state for tertiary education and the NAB are pushing for it, Naana will be more inclined to have a rethink as a political strategy.

But Prof. Naana Opoku-Agyemang let free Senior High School (SHS) advocates down.

"I thought the debate was settled," she said in a rather acerbic tone to MPs during her ministerial vetting when she was asked whether she would consider introducing free SHS, suggesting that once they the NDC had won the election, free SHS was out of the question; that the electorate had rejected free SHS.

Whatever be the peripheral cues that attract the electorate to a candidate, sanitation, illiteracy, ignorance, health, poverty, unemployable skills and poor leadership are among the intractable problems bedevilling Ghana, a nation of 30 million people with an annual population growth rate of 2.2, and a population pyramid very broad at the base, with about half of the population below age 18.

Email of author: paanyan7@gmail.com

Columnist: Ekow Arthur-Aidoo