Setting the Records Straight on "Politics of Age" in Ghana

Mon, 14 Jul 2014 Source: Agyemang, Katakyie Kwame Opoku

In recent times, the age of presidential aspirants has become a bone of contention in Ghana's political discourse. Whilst most Ghanaian intellectuals argue that competence should be the guiding principle in selecting a leader, it appears the Ghanaian floating voters, especially those with lower educational backgrounds, use personality traits as a benchmark to determine which personality leads them at any point in time. The personality traits as explained by behavioural scientists, are the distinguishing qualities that embody the individual. They are a person's habitual patterns of behavior, temperament, emotion, physique, attitude, posture, beauty, age, charisma, humility, among others. In Ghana, the above characteristics attributed to presidential candidates have, to a very large extent, determined the presidency in Ghana. This is because, Ghanaians have never voted based on economic policy. For, if that had been the case, either the NPP would have retained power in 2008 as a result of the free maternal care, or the NDC would have been completely rejected in 2012 due to "Woyomism".

In fact, politics of age, just like politics of character assassination has been synonymous in Ghana's elections since the 1st Republic. For, it is on record that the Ghanaian electorate have always preferred a more youthful Candidate to an older aspirant. It is therefore surprising that most NPP members, especially the delegates, have overlooked such key electoral factor in the selection of the party's flag-bearer for national elections. In fact, if it is understood that Ghanaians in general do not live in an ideal electoral world, or do not live in an advanced country such as the US, or UK, where probably majority of voters would consider a specific economic policy as a determinant to vote, then it is mind-boggling for NPP delegates to stick to a 72-year old Candidate who has led the party into opposition for 8 years.

Talk to any NPP member, and the consensus is that, people who cast their votes based on a Candidate's age, beauty, physique, charisma, or those who are influenced with salt, cloths, money, laptops, and cars are "political fools". Regrettably, most NPP members have not taken time to understudy the voter psychology in Ghana, hence the party's current predicament. But, as a formidable political party, it is incumbent upon all NPP members to respect the voter's decision, even if we do not necessary agree with them. For, whether we like it or not, the very people we cast aspersions on prior to elections are invariably the "Kingmakers" as far as the election of a president for Ghana is concerned.

Indeed, if all NPP members come to accept the fact that the party does not have the requisite number to elect its presidential candidate, as the president of Ghana, then it is incumbent upon us to examine the psychology of the Ghanaian floating voter in order to map up strategies to get his/her vote. It is against this backdrop, that I, Katakyie Kwame Opoku Agyemang, have put myself in the shoes of these floating voters in order to push their agenda forward. However, out of ignorance, patience, and of course, malice, some of my fellow NPP members are calling for my head instead of taking time to analyze my new political stance.

History, they say, cannot be wiped away so easily. It is there to guide us in all our endeavours. It would be recalled that in Election 1960, the Ghanaian voter chose CPP's Dr. Nkrumah, who was then 47 years old over UP's Dr. Danquah, then 63 years old, to be their president. Similarly, Dr. Busia (56 years) of the Progress Party chalked an overwhelming victory over NAL's K.A. Gbedema (64 years) in Election 1969. Besides, in Election 1979, the Ghanaian electorate preferred PNP's Dr. Limann (45 years), a Candidate who never contested any election in Ghana, to PFP's Victor Owusu (62 years), who was a former Minister of Foreign Affairs. The most surprising victory was in 1992, where a military dictator, then 45 years beat NPP's Professor Albert Adu-Boahen to the presidency. The NDC's Flt. Lt. Rawlings was again chosen ahead of NPP's Kufuor (62 years), a former MP and deputy minister of state in Election 1996. Similarly, NDC's Prof. Mills (64 years), a Candidate who had never contested any parliamentary seat in Ghana, beat NPP's Nana Addo (65years), and three times Member of Parliament. In Election 2012, the Ghanaian electorate once again showed that, a youthful president (55 years) with "Edey bee K3k3" was more important than an older candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo (68 years) who had free SHS as his Campaign Message. The only situation where an older Presidential Candidate beat a younger one in the annals of Ghana politics was in 2000, where J.A. Kufuor beat Prof. Mills, but we all know the factors that accounted for Kufuor's victory.

Therefore, as a party, we should not lose sight of the fact that, the NDC would definitely do age politics in 2016. The NDC is aware that the retiring age for public sector workers in Ghana is 60 years, with life expectancy as 65 years. Thus, if even Afari Gyan, who is below 70 years is being impressed upon to go on retirement as the Chairman of the Electoral Commission, I do not see the moral benefit and political sense in presenting a 73-year old Candidate in Election 2016, especially against an incumbent youthful president who used only three months of campaigning to beat our Candidate in 2012.

If indeed, we need power now, then we must present a Candidate who is neither too old nor too young in order to win their votes. This is a good political strategy. For, if age was not an issue in Ghanaian politics, then Nana Akufo-Addo, an older presidential candidate, could have beaten the younger ones, Prof. Mills and John Mahama in two previous elections. Again, if age did not count, John Mahama wouldn't have remarked that he was born after Ghana's independence so Ghanaians should vote for him. Remember, Mahama won the 2012 elections one touch based on such statements which the NPP thought were non-starter. In presenting Dr. Bawumia to NPP faithfuls as the running mate to Nana Addo in 2008, His Excellency, J.A. Kufuor had this to say; "Look at this gentleman; he is young, and brilliant. Above all, he is handsome". What then is Dr. Bawumia's business in politics, if indeed, younger candidates are "irrelevant"?

Though, my fellow NPP members would be quick to cite examples from Cote D'Ivoire, Liberia, and Malawi etc in an attempt to diffuse the age politics, they equally fail to envisage that, Ivorians, Liberians, and Malawians would not participate in Ghana's elections in 2016. Citing re-elected aged Presidents as examples to defend Akufo-Addo would not help either. This is because, aged Presidents like Mugabe and Mandela were either sitting presidents who got re-elected, or returned from 26 years of imprisonment.

Besides, there is no art to find wisdom in the face of an old person neither there is a scientific proof of wisdom being synonymous to old age. Though, I am not all that religious, but I don't think King Solomon was 72 years at the time he was described as the wisest King in the world. I do not also think the occupant of the Golden Stool, Otumfuo was 72 years when he was named as "King Solomon" by his subjects. Neither have I seen any 72-year old installed as paramount chief in any part of Ghana, when equally younger candidates abound in the family. This, I believe is food for thought for all NPP members, and should guide us to select a better candidate to face Mahama.

Therefore, judging by the incompetence and lack of vision on the part of a youthful president like John Mahama vis-a-vis the Ghanaian voter's abhorrence of old men as presidents as the political records show, it is imperative for the NPP to present an equally visionary and competent candidate, who acts as a bridge between the youth and the aged. This would make the NPP, a force to reckon with in Election 2016. Alan John Kyerematen turns 61 years by October 2016. He has the charisma and a proven track record as innovator, job creator, problem solver, diplomat, unifier, and business and human resource developer. Fortunately, his posture and personality traits meet the demands of the floating voter, and "John" is added to his name to complete the John hierarchy in the 4th Republic. Why should the NPP let this opportunity slip by at this crucial moment? Are we looking for power or just a mere flag-bearer?

Folks, let's seek ye first the political power by presenting Alan, and all other things shall be added unto us. The success of any leader largely depends on the wealth of experience and selflessness of the people he chooses to work with. It is my strongest belief that, Alan just like Kufuor would select the best team to work with in order to put both the NPP and Ghana on a sound footing. Let's change our flag-bearer this time, and I sure different result would come.

God bless Ghana! God bless the NPP!! God bless Kufuor !!!

Katakyie Kwame Opoku Agyemang, Asante Bekwai-Asakyiri. Email: katakyienpp@yahoo.co.uk

Mobile: 0547851100 : 0264931361 : 0202471070

"Vision, coupled with persistency, results in true success"

Columnist: Agyemang, Katakyie Kwame Opoku