By Richmond Keelson & Atta Kwaku Boadi
Many Ghanaians followed and waited with bated breath, the outcome of Nigeria’s elections on Saturday, February 25th, 2023 with varied interpretations. Some stakeholders’ take on the elections bordered on pure spins that they hope would help stoke up their own parochial political cause, back home in Ghana. Such was the anticipated wishes of assigns of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP).
From the perspective of those who are clamouring for a breach of the NDC-NPP duopoly, the Peter Obi magic was as inspirational as a road map to follow to break the established two party order. “Can Ghana have a Peter Obi in Ghana”? Many questioned, while contributing to the debate. From the discussions on both conventional and social media one name that featured prominently was that of top Ghanaian entrepreneur and politician, Dr. Papa Kwesi Nduom. Dr. Nduom has a distinguished track in Ghanaian politics and many credit him with his campaign of decency and innovation which are aberration to other platforms.
Of course, you needed not to overstretch an imagination to know how the ruling NPP was all for the retention of power by the governing APC in Nigeria to underscore their Breaking the 8 chorus that has assumed an unofficial theme of the NPP for the 2024 elections. The victory of the APC’s presidential candidate, Asuwagu Ahmed Tinabu therefore, strengthened the hope of many NPP folks that the breaking the eight-year hiatus that has bugged Ghana’s electoral process, since the inception of the 4th Republic, could be on course.
As the NPP dreamt of a possible enactment of Tinabu’s Breaking the 8 mantra in Ghana, what these zealots may not be aware of is that Breaking an 8 year—2nd term political office is not a novelty in the West African country. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) which first won a democratically conducted election in Nigeria had an uninterrupted 16 years of a four-year term of office. It started with General Olusegun Obasanjo who completed a second term of eight years; followed by Alhaji Shehu Musa Y’aradua and later, Goodluck Jonathan.
There was also the expected Peter Gregory Obi upset script that was being backed by some of the smaller Ghanaian political parties. The shocking rating of Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) in the run-up to the February 25th elections, drew many parallels with Ghana’s political situation. And indeed Obi delivered. As a first timer in Nigeria’s presidential elections, the LP nominee returned a whopping vote of more than 6 million. He also won 11 States as against 12 each, by the two leading parties— the PDP and the APC.
The Nigeria political barometer indeed measured appropriately most of such wishful indices of Ghanaians who followed the Nigerian elections from the days of campaigning to the final voting and counting days. But which one of the two most popular Nigerian political parties best fits the wishful desire of those Ghanaians who thought an APC break of the 2nd term eight-year tenure is an unprecedented feat that is likely to be staged by the ruling NPP in Ghana?
The history of Nigeria’s 3rd Republic suggests that any such permutation is either argued from a standpoint of ignorance or a cheap populist propaganda that has no basis. The fact of the matter is that between the two, the PDP has won four elections; while the APC, including this year’s election, has won on three occasions. It’s would therefore be disingenuous for anyone to think that there are similarities in the Nigerian, Ghanaian political terrain. Perhaps, it’s the achievement of Peter Obi that is worth considering in order to galvanize the smaller parties to strive for a possible enactment of the Obi feat in Ghana.
Papa Kwesi Nduom & the Obi shocker
Thus, it’s very legitimate to dream whether the Obi shocker of a performance, can ever be staged by any political party in Ghana and move on to eventually become a third alternative to the NPP and the NDC. To such Ghanaians, their answer to the nagging question is not far-fetched: “There is Papa Kwesi Nduom who could be a carbon-copy of an Obi in Ghana,” they argue. And so, soon after the Nigerian election results were trickling in with Obi in strong contention, the man whose name came buzzing on social media and other media platforms was Papa Kwesi Nduom, the founder of the Progressive People’s Party (PPP).
Many argued that with the stagnant performances of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) over the past 30 years, the time was due to embrace a third political tradition. Except the NPP and the NDC that had won Ghanaian elections with massive numbers running into millions, none of the smaller parties had been able to garner votes beyond a 200,000 barrier. In all of his three attempts in 2008, 2012 and 2016, Dr. Nduom came a distant third, although in the run-up to all three elections, he had presented a superior message than any one of the two leading political parties— NDC and the NPP.
Nduom’s performance, many political analysts say does not only defies logic, but also begs coherence and top quality argument. The only satisfaction they could settle on perhaps, was that Nduom’s reward was just matter of time. That argument is underpinned by the fact that almost all of Ghana’s presidents in the 4th Republic had to bid their time before their content gained currency within the public space. John Kufuor won the presidency after three attempts; John Mills same; just as current President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo.
Although former President John Dramani Mahama may have won the 2012 elections, his 2nd term-tenure attempt had been stalled on two occasions and maybe making a third attempt to win a 2nd term office in 2024. Such difficult journeys had also come to define the history of other smaller political parties that had tried to usurp the positions of NPP and NDC albeit unsuccessful right from the inception of Ghana’s 4th Republic. But If coming events cast their shadows, then like Obi’s stellar in Nigeria, that of Dr. Nduom’s is perhaps in due course.
With the truth now emerging, many Ghanaians now know the decision to collapse many of Dr. Nduom’s businesses was a way of stifling his energy and oxygen that are required to navigate the turbulent and robust Ghanaian political and election terrains. Even some callers to media discussions have indeed, alluded to the fact that the cruel call to destroy Dr. Nduom’s businesses was one callous act to disable his involvement in Ghanaian politics.
“Can you imagine if Dr. Nduom had contested Ghana’s elections in 2020 and how that would have boosted his chances in 2024. It’s obvious Akufo Addo and his government deliberately ruined Ndoum’s political career by destroying his businesses, believing that he wouldn’t have any sense of presence for politics,” one caller noted.
The overwhelming Ghanaian interest in the just concluded elections of our West African neighbours seems a natural order borne out of years of a constructive relationship on many fronts, even if it became jolted a few occasions. Two of such sour and acrimonious occasions occurred in 1979 and 1983. In 1970, Dr. K.A. Busia’s Progress Party (PP) ordered the deportation of some one million Nigerians and other nationals from Ghana to their native countries.
Many had considered a similar action embarked on by then Nigerian President, Alhaji Shehu Shagari in 1983 to be a retaliatory gesture against the Busia’s action. In that repatriation order, thousands of Ghanaians were deported from Nigeria in the heady days of Jerry John Rawlings’ Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) military junta.