FEATURE: NPP Veep Jockeying
Mr. Akilu Salisu Should Argue Sensibly
By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
In their fervid bid to influencing the Presidential Candidate of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) in the selection of his running-mate, several special interest groups have been pitching their candidates for Vice-President and advancing reasons, many of which defy practical historical reality and common sense. Among the latest of such pitches is one by Mr. Akilu Salisu, described as First Vice-President of the Central Regional Nasara Club, a Muslim establishment. Mr. Salisu is staunchly behind the candidacy of Hajia Alima Mahama, the quite reputable Minister of Women and Children’s Affairs. The problem with special-interest political advocacy is that it invariably tends to inject highly tendentious motives into an otherwise benign and purely merit-based discourse. For instance, Mr. Akilu Salisu, of the Nasara Club, stakes the unpardonably preposterous claim that “giving the position [of Vice-Presidential Candidate] to a Muslim woman would help remove the perception that NPP is an Akan party as well as help to promote gender balance” (see “FOMWAG ROOTS FOR ALIMA” Modernghana.com 7/10/08).
First of all while, indeed, Nana Akufo-Addo may well contribute positively to our ongoing discourse on gender balance by selecting “a woman” as his running-mate, selecting “a Muslim woman” as his running-mate may not necessarily contribute positively towards the same discourse. And why? Because once the equation of “gender” is ideologically loaded upon with the “religious” equation, or variable, the purpose of gender balance is promptly vitiated, if not altogether eliminated, in fact. For then, it begins to appear that Muslim men like Mr. Akilu Salisu are cynically using our women to push their own religious agendas. Secondly, there are also quite a remarkable number of well-performing “Christian” women cabinet members of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) who could also be equally justifiably, as well as viably, trotted out as meeting the criteria of gender balance vis-à-vis Nana Akufo-Addo’s selection of a running-mate. And what is more, in a democratic culture, it is the proverbial majority that carries the vote; and it is beyond dispute that there are far more Christian women among the Ghanaian electorate than there are Muslim women; and so, at best, putting forth the candidacy of Ms. Alima Mahama on the grounds of her religious identity flagrantly prejudices our entire democratic process, for it is tantamount to the unsavory practice of “tokenism,” and religious tokenism has no place in the kind of secular constitutional democracy that Ghana’s Fourth Republic is about. Besides, our Fourth-Republican Constitution clearly stipulates the Separation of Church (or Religion) and the State.
It is also quite curious that presumably well-educated Ghanaians like Mr. Salisu should equate ethnicity with religion; for instance, being an Akan is not mutually exclusive with being a Muslim, and it is an open-secret that nearly half of indigenous Ghanaian practitioners of Islam are Akan and/or southerners.
But what is even more curious is the fact that the same people who vehemently accuse the New Patriotic Party of being an Akan party, are absolutely AWOL when it comes to dealing with the even more curious fact that, to-date, the so-called National Democratic Congress (NDC) has not fielded any Muslim as either the party’s Presidential Candidate or Vice-Presidential Candidate. What is more, other than the Vice-Presidential position, and now the Presidential Candidacy of Prof. Atta-Mills, most of the key positions in the NDC, including Chairman and Propaganda Chief are held, and have consistently been held, by either Anlo-Ewes who constitute less than 6-percent of Ghana’s population, or by people of Volta Regional descent; and yet, in spite of the fact of its founding-proprietor, Mr. Jeremiah John Rawlings, having ruled Ghana for some twenty excruciatingly long years in postcolonial Ghanaian history, surprisingly, nobody is calling the NDC an Ewe party.
Indeed, as this writer stated quite awhile ago, in one of his columns, to describe the New Patriotic Party as an Akan party ought to give absolutely no occasion to invidious charges of ethnocentrism. For one, to be an Akan party simply means that democracy is active an alive in Fourth-Republican Ghana – for Akans, indisputably, constitute at least 50-percent of Ghana’s electorate and citizenry. This means that no political party could be accorded an electoral mandate without having carried a sizable portion of the majority Akan vote; and so disingenuous and hollow attempts by the likes of Nasara Club’s Mr. Akilu Salisu to politically malign the NPP are just that, totally hollow, disingenuous and practically unsound.
This writer personally believes that, indeed, Hajia Alima Mahama, given the chance, could well become one of Ghana’s best Vice-Presidents. But this writer is also wary of the fact that Ghana and the NPP have just had a Muslim Vice-President for nearly 8 years now. And, indeed, it is an unprecedented and, perhaps, also an unbested first in Ghana’s history, since no ruling party before the emergence of the New Patriotic Party had a publicly professing Muslim as Vice-President. Even more significant is the imperative need for Ghanaians to guard against the eerie possibility of setting an unsavory and morally unsound precedent of making a habit, or culture, of permanently reserving the Vice-Presidential spot in the NPP for Muslims and Northerners; for political entitlement, of the sort foolhardily championed by the likes of Mrs. Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings, has absolutely no place in a constitutional democracy. What must be done is to strongly encourage, as well as actively support, qualified Ghanaian women to enter mainstream politics, not create an unsavory political ghetto – or “tokenistic” entitlement institutions – such as the reservation of a certain number of parliamentary seats for women, as was wildly and vehemently advocated in the recent past. It is also wrongheaded and ill-advised for Hajia Memuna Habib, leader of the Central Regional Federation of Muslim Women’s Associations (FOMWAG) to be invoking the ill-fated presidency (or premiership) of Ms. Benazir Bhutto as one that is worthy of emulation by Ghanaians. Indeed, as Hajia Habib rightly pointed out, herself, Ghana, unlike Pakistan, is not a Muslim nation, and Ghanaians are in absolutely no hurry to have our country converted into a religious satellite of any other nation. In sum, while religious tolerance has for centuries been prized by Ghanaians, nevertheless, Ghanaians have always learned to draw the line where religious tolerance is unduly taken advantage of by ideological fanatics and cynics parading in the guise of disinterested moralists.
*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is the author of 17 books, including “Dr. J. B. Danquah: Architect of Modern Ghana” (iUniverse.com, 2005) and “Ghanaian Politics Today” (Atumpan Publications/lulu.com, 2008). E-mail: email@example.com.