By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK
I am sure most readers will say that, the above question is premature and probably unnecessary because President Mahama is not yet the confirmed Presidential candidate of the NDC, though that could be a mere formality. Let us even assume that he is the confirmed candidate, he would first have to win the December 2012 Presidential elections before the question of a second term arises. Whilst I would not disagree with those who hold such views, I have a different opinion on the question because the evidence is that societies and organisations that pose hypothetical questions regarding the future, seek potential answers and plan ahead of time are some of the most successful, so my question is relevant today as it may be tomorrow.
In the likely or unlikely event of President Mahama winning the December 2012 Presidential elections, would he go for a second term in 2016? To answer this question, I believe we should seek answers from the Ghanaian Constitution.
For easy reference, Article 60 (6) states, “Whenever the President dies, resigns or is removed from office, the Vice-President shall assume office as President for the unexpired term of office of the President with effect from the date of the death, resignation or removal of the President”.
Article 60 (7) states, “Where the unexpired term served by the Vice-President under clause (6) of this article exceeds half the term of a President, the Vice-President is subsequently only eligible to serve one full term as President”.
President Mahama is a Clause (6) President and therefore from the above there is no constitutional restriction preventing him from serving two terms since the unexpired term of the late President Mills is only a little over five months and far less than half of the four year term. President Mahama can seek for and if elected serve two full terms plus the unexpired term of the late President Mills. That would make him the longest serving President under the Fourth Republican Constitution. On the other hand, if he fails to win the December 2012 Presidential elections he would also go down in history as the shortest President of the Fourth Republic and even if he wins but fails to win a second term, his record would be the first President to serve just one term under the Fourth Republic.
As at today, President Mahama has already made history, though tragically by becoming the first Clause (6) President under Article 60 of the Constitution. He is also the first post independence baby President. Whatever happens in any of the scenarios above, I can assure you that President Mahama is bound to set many records unparalleled in Ghana’s political history.
From what he was reported to have asked Ghanaians to give his late boss a second term because both Ex-Presidents Rawlings and Kufuor had two terms, it would not be wrong to assume that if he wins the December 2012 elections, he would definitely seek a second term. He is more likely argue that two terms are the established customary practice so he would ask Ghanaians to follow the norm, though that position is very weak, especially, when the Fourth Republic is just two decades old.
What are the challenges facing the new President on this roller coaster journey of record setting? The first hurdle is to overcome the opposition Presidential candidate, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo, a formidable candidate in the December 2012 Presidential elections. Nana Akufo Addo will not be easy to beat because he lost narrowly to the late President Mills in 2008. Since then both he and his party have learnt some lessons from that defeat. For example, he is not taking anything for granted though the pro opposition media continue to create the erroneous impression that he would win come December 2012. They have the habit of showing photo of a massive rally that was addressed by Nana Addo any time they report on NPP campaign activities or on Nana Addo’s campaign trips. The country-wide tours by Nana Addo and his friendly approach to reaching out to the voters are very good lessons from his 2008 defeat, which could deliver votes to him in December. In 2008, he was often seen in suits but this time he is often in a Ghanaian wear than in a western suit.
The second challenge is the record of the Mills/Mahama administration. Though, the late President will not be on the ballot paper, the electorate will judge President Mahama on the four year term of his former boss. Indeed, President Mahama has no option but must campaign on their achievements and failures. He cannot and must not apportion blame, instead, he must be bold and proud to point out their achievements and at the same time, be humble and sincere enough to accept their weaknesses and failures.
The third barrier is the NDC internal conflicts. If the demise of President Mills does not end the conflicts and bring the various factions and self interest groups within the party, then President Mahama is certain to add a third record to his Presidency come December 2012. The party should take advantage of the mood in country following the death of President Mills and the need for peace to iron out their differences and bring all on board for victory in December 2012.
The last challenge is the electorate and here there are both opportunities and threats. One of the opportunities is that, President Mahama may benefit from the goodwill and public sympathy following the sudden death of President Mills, especially from the fact that the late President has received glorying tributes from even his opponents in the country and global leaders, including President Obama. What is poignant about the tributes is the fact that, many admit and give testimony to how well the late President was performing in terms of addressing the socio-economic and political difficulties facing the country. These are good campaign messages that may benefit President Mahama in December.
The threats include the fact that, the outpouring of goodwill and public sympathy may not last long and even if they last long till the election, they may not materialise into votes for President Mahama and the NDC. Again, since the Ghanaian electorate has the practice of changing political colours after two terms (at least in the fourth Republic), Ghanaians may be fed up with NDC and deny Mahama a second term in 2016. This sounds like I am contradicting myself since I have rejected the customary practice argument. It’s not contradictory because it is possible that Mahama may not win in December 2012 and even if he wins, that would not be President Mahama’s second term but first.
The last challenge for the President and all Ghanaians is a peaceful, free and fair election in December 2012. The President has already promised that the election will be the most free and fair ever. No matter whatever records he sets thereafter, if the December 2012 Parliamentary and Presidential elections are not peaceful, free and fair, President Mahama would go down as the President who could not hold Ghana together in one piece.
President Mahama is reckoned to set a number of records that may remain on the records books for years to come. Historians and Political Scientists will study his Presidency for decades to come for good or bad reasons. Whatever records he decides to add to the existing two may be in his own hands or out of his reach and predetermined by destiny but I believe that he would want to fashion his own political destiny. We all wished (including President Mahama), the first record of being a Clause (6) President would not have been set but through no fault of ours, death suddenly deprived Ghana of her former President.
Notwithstanding that sad episode, President Mahama has the golden opportunity to set enviable records as well as some that may not read well on his CV. Among them are: the longest ever President, the shortest ever, the first to serve one term, etc under the Fourth Republic. These will be in addition to the existing two so far. Which of the remaining records would he add to his already impressive CV are as good as your guess? I will welcome your predictions but please no insults and abuse, even if you disagree with me or other readers. Insults and abuse ceasefire in honour of the late President Mills, please.
Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK