Should Nana Akufo-Addo select his running mate early?

Thu, 7 Oct 2010 Source: Haruna, Mahama

Choosing a running mate is a very important step for any Presidential contender. It is a significant decision in his campaign and should not be taken lightly. The running mate must be carefully selected to avoid any unforeseen problems that could cost the contender the election.

Article 12 (b) of the New Patriotic Party constitution states: "The Party’s Presidential Candidate shall, in consultation with the National Council, nominate the Vice Presidential Candidate. The Vice Presidential Candidate shall be a known and active Member of at least five (5) years and shall be nominated by the Presidential Candidate at least twelve (12) months before the general elections when the Party is not in government or the sitting President is not the Candidate. The National Council may however dispense with the requirement under special circumstances".

This means the NPP Flagbearer has up to December 2011 to nominate his running mate. But to me that will be too late.

I know some may argue that NPP Flagbearer Nana Akufo-Addo should not be rushed into choosing his running mate. I have heard some people suggest that the running mate be chosen sometime after the NDC Congress to elect their Flagbearer which will likely happen at the end of 2011. Others argue for a delay in order to salvage the person NPP would select from the NDC propaganda machine. It could also be argued that the NPP should leave itself flexible so as to adjust to any selection the NDC may do after their Congress to elect a Flagbearer.

I would argue that the early and immediate selection of the NPP running mate will effectively address any prolong and rancorous lobbying as witnessed in 2008 and allow the Party to concentrate on the bigger task of unseating the clueless NDC administration.

The reality is that factions always come up and cut across every level of the NPP anytime the issue of leadership positions comes up and there has always been the involvement of party members indirect or direct in the selection of potential candidates for the running mate slot. This is natural. We have people who may be supporting the bid of people who are their friends, schoolmates, tribes mate or people they know will support their future aspirations. We have seen this at the Polling Station, Constituency, Regional and National Executive Elections as well as the Presidential Primaries.

I was part of the NPP Flagbearer's tour to the three Northern Regions last month to thank delegates for electing him as Flagbearer. Nana Akufo-Addo disclosed to delegates that if the NPP had five more seats in the 2008 Parliamentary Elections he would have easily won the Election. Nana Akufo-Addo is absolutely right. Many NPP members do not know that the issue of a running mate for the NPP in the 2008 election cost the party at least two seats in Northern Ghana.

Factions were created or entrenched in certain constituencies in the run up to the selection of the running mate in 2008 but there was no enough time to bring these factions together. In the Nalerigu constituency the supporters of Hajia Alima Mahama were up in arms against certain party members they accused of betraying her. There was mistrust, suspicion and bad blood between party members in Nalerigu-Gambaga and the result was that Hajia Alima lost the seat.

In the Salaga constituency the supporters of Alhaji Boniface Abubakari Saddique accused Lepowura Alhaji Nurideen Jawula of vying for the position with the aim of diminishing the chances of Boniface. The supporters of Jawula did not take this kindly and this resulted in several confrontations hence some party members voting against Boniface in the Parliamentary Election.

The traditional rulers in the Salaga constituency did not help matters. The late Yabongwura Bawa Doshie, overlord of Gonja and a former Kpembewura appealed to Nana Akufo-Addo to consider making Alhaji Abubakar Saddique Boniface as his running mate describing him as a humble, honest and sincere gentleman who had exhibited leadership qualities. The Paramount Chief of Kpembe Traditional Area, Kpembewura Kebasigi Ibrahim Haruna on the other hand openly named Lepowura Alhaji MND Jawula as his choice of running mate to Nana Akufo-Addo when Nana Akufo-Addo paid a courtesy call on him as part of his campaign tour of the Northern Region. He described Alhaji Jawula as the best option for Nana Akufo-Addo and the NPP in their quest for victory in the 2008 election because he was more experienced for the job and his partnership with Nana would attract more people into the NPP.

Most of the current crop of National executive of NPP pledged to push for an early Congress to elect a Flagbearer, get orphaned Constituencies to elect Parliamentary candidates early next year and where there is consensus, constituencies with sitting MP's will have their primaries a year ahead of the 2012 election. This they believe will enhance party cohesion. They are on course with their pledges especially with the early selection of the NPP Flagbearer. But I have a strong feeling the selection of the running mate should not be an exception because the reasons for the early selection of a Flagbearer are applicable to the selection of a running mate. What the lessons of 2008 tell us is that the only way the party can be united is when competitions at all levels of the party are over.

Another important argument is that the running mate needs enough time to make himself popular, engage in a serious campaign and get to understand the political terrain. The 2008 Election running mate of NPP was selected in August 2008 and therefore had only four months to popularise himself and to campaign. At least two of that the four months was used to get himself accepted by some leading members and to build bridges, meaning he had just two months to campaign.

There will always be problems in political parties so far as the selection of a running mate is concerned. According to Arthur Kennedy "our party (NPP) has always had a difficult time choosing running mates. Even when Victor Owusu, our Presidential candidate for 1979 election picked the Tolon-Na, Alhaji Yakubu Tali, who was generally very well regarded in the party, there were grumblings. It is reported that Victor had gone to congress with Madjitey high on his list but when the Tolon-Na put in a strong performance, Victor had to change plans and pick him. Those days, the running mate was announced almost immediately after the candidate was picked. Later, Victor had to send Appiah-Menka to pacify Madjitey.

Arthur Kennedy also explained that "when President Kufuor picked Alhaji Aliu Mahama for the 2000 election, there was a near-rebellion. When Aliu was announced at a National Executive meeting in Ho, it was greeted by deafening silence. Then people erupted in protests. A few choice words were exchanged between President Kufuor and one or two others at the meeting. Quite a few of our prominent members walked out of the meeting in disgust. It is alleged that quite a few people believed they had been promised the running mate slot by Mr. Kufuor. Amongst these were Prof. Wayo Seini and late Madam Rebecca Hawa Yakubu. Of course, Mr. Kufuor and his team denied this". Ex-President Kufour we are told later summoned his embattled running-mate, gave him a long list of party elders and ordered him to get to work selling himself to them. I believe Alhaji Aliu Mahama succeeded in pacifying many party members because he had a longer period to do so. This is the more reason why Nana Akufo-Addo should select his running mate early so he could have enough time to do what Alhaji Aliu did in 2000.

Undoubtedly the search for the 2008 NPP running mate was the most problematic in the history of the party. We vividly remember how one of the giant pillars of the NPP, BJ da Rocha spoke loudly against the choice of Hajia Alima in a confidential letter to the Flagbearer and copied to the National Officers of NPP. He warned the NPP will be chaos should Nana Akufo-Addo select Hajia Alima Mahama as his running mate for the 2008 election. He is alledged to have said it would be difficult, particularly in the north to sell an unmarried woman like Hajia Alima. With a letter from an NPP dinosaur like BJ da Rocha, Nana Akufo-Addo had no option than to bow to pressure and drop his interest for Hajia Alima Mahama.

After the name of Dr Muhamadu Bawumia emerged, others also resisted. Kennedy Agyapong a leading financier of the NPP for instance condemned the proposed choice and threatened if Bawumia was picked, he would leave the party to campaign alone. It was said Bawumia was not a party member. Some other party members quoted a portion of Article 12 (b) of the Constitution of the NPP which says, "...The Vice Presidential Candidate shall be a known and active Member of at least five (5) years...”, forgetting that the last paragraph of the same Article says, "... The National Council may however dispense with the requirement under special circumstances".

Given the acrimony that characterise the selection, it will be right to say our Flagbearer should start the process by constituting a committee to start the hunt for his running mate. The Flagbearer must kick start the search to identify the names of potential nominees with the most suitable one nominated by January next year to avoid a repetition of the 2008 search which erupted into intense debates, lobbying, newspaper endorsements, radio talk-show debates and the sending of negative text messages about the potential candidates.

By Mahama Haruna.

Columnist: Haruna, Mahama