The combined ‘curse & madness’ phrase has defined the second term administrations of the two leading political parties in Ghana—the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC). And it does seem all two are yet to pick relevant lessons from their abortive attempts to succeed themselves in a possible third (3rd) term office.
The ruling NPP is again proving that it has no clue on how to go round the second term mandate, let alone to break the third term curse. Meanwhile the theme for NPP’s campaign for the 2024 elections is “Breaking the 8.” Under the Ghanaian constitution, a sitting political administration has a four-year first term mandate; with a constitutional legitimacy to re-contest for a second (2nd) term of another four-years. There is however, the prescribed constitutional sealing after the eight-year; two terms.
Ghana’s first president in the Fourth (4th) Republic, Jerry John Rawlings, could not help his successor on the ticket of his NDC party—Prof. John Evans Atta Mills to succeed him in 2001; John Agyekum Kufuor of the NPP failed in his bid to ensure that his party’s presidential candidate, Nana Akufo Addo replaced him in 2009 and John Dramani Mahama could not break the hiatus in 2017.
But the NPP is poised to alter the narrative in 2025 when a new Ghanaian president would be sworn into office. This is epitomized in the party’s campaign slogan leading up to the 2024 general elections: Breaking the 8. It’s an admission of the way none within the political space has been able to run an uninterrupted third-term and how to become the first political party to break the established two-term convention after 2024.
The history of presidential elections in Ghana’s 4th Republic
The NDC under Jerry John Rawlings suffered ignominiously when the then President picked his Vice, John Evans Atta Mills as his direct successor without recourse to the internal selection processes of the then ruling party. That was during the 2nd term of the former Ghanaian strong man, Jerry John Rawlings who first ruled as military dictator and later as a civilian president. After the Rawlings’ caveat, any such individual presidential ambition within the NDC became still-born.
Prof. John Evans Atta Mills, was Rawlings’ chosen heir in his “monarchical” administration. Rawlings’ unilateral decision led to the secession of a founding member of the NDC—Augustus Goosie Tanoh and some others from the NDC to form the National Reform Party (NRP). It’s believed the NDC lost the 2000 elections because of the jolted NRP blow. Similar bug hit the NPP in the 2008 elections. The party could not manage the internal transition from Kufuor to a potential NPP president because of the number of candidates that vied for the party’s presidential nomination.
In all 17 candidates contested the NPP presidential nomination in 2008 and that created a massive acrimony among supporters of the candidates. Therefore, after Nana Addo had won the NPP presidential primary, the party went into the 2008 presidential election with deepened wounds and divisions.
The religious & ethnic play in the NPP presidential primary
There are two leading candidates in the NPP’s presidential nomination. These are the sitting Vice President, Dr. Mahmudu Bawumia and a perennial contestant in the NPP presidential primary, Alan John Kyerematen. Unfortunately, the candidature of the two, is at the center of intense jostling by leading party chieftains who seem to be writing an obituary script, synonymous with the one that caused NPP’s defeat in 2008.
Party stalwarts supporting the Bawumia bid were the first to throw into the public, tribal, ethnic and religious innuendoes to define which one of the two, best fits the bill. In the estimation of the chieftains, it’s time the party considered someone from Northern Ghana to be the nominee candidate of the NPP. The leading advocate of the claim is the majority leader in Parliament, Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, who said “it would be politically suicidal, to bring another Akan presidential candidate after an Akan president.”
Akans are the largest indigenes in Ghana and they occupy the biggest geographical space of the country. The current President, Nana Akufo-Addo is of an Akan extraction. His predecessor, John Agyekum Kufuor is also an Akan indigene. The NPP itself has an unpleasant history of dealing with the tribal slant as an Akan party. Perhaps that explain why some of the party faithful think this is the finest opportunity to erase that “erroneous perception”.
In the case of the majority leader however, you don’t need a crystal ball to hazard a guess that his overdrive for the Bawumia candidacy is inspired by his personal interest in the NPP presidential ticket for the 2024 elections. Kyei Mensah’s supportive position, party insiders believe, is being induced by his sworn ambition to be the running mate of Dr. Bawumia for next year’s elections.
The ripples from that suggestion are so disturbing that many NPP supporters fear the tribal–ethnic tinge has the potential of breaking the center of the party, even before the party’s presidential primary this year. Party chief, Dr. Nyaho Nyaho Tamakloe, is of the view that Kyei Mensah’s comments “are aberration to the NPP’s democratic credentials.” A leading member of party, Kennedy Agyapong was equally miffed at Kyei Mensah’s proposition: “Keep your dirty tribal and ethnic politics to yourself.”.
Other Bawumia supporters have gone to the extent of tracing the Akan dominance of the NPP tradition to suggest that this is the time for a non-Akan, especially a Northerner, to lay claim to the NPP presidential slot. It’s the contention of these Bawumia supporters that after the Busia and J.B. Danquah run axis at the presidency, it’s time for the Dombo-Karbo isle to also be rewarded with the NPP nomination.
The current President is a known protégé of Danquah and his cohort, while former President Kufuor was groomed by the Busia bloc. The only founding faction of the UP tradition yet to be honored is the S.D Dombo, Abayefa Karbo bloc. They represent the Northern isle of the UP-NPP; hence the intense lobbying by Bawumia supporters for NPP delegates to endorse their candidate to fill the Dombo—Karbo void.
That argument is largely because the Vice President is of Northern extraction and is therefore best suited for the lineage of his kinsmen. Dr. K.A Busia, Joseph Boakye Daquah and S.D. Dombo were the fore-bearers of the United Party, an antecedent of the NPP. Busia was Ghana’s Prime Minister in 1969.
Bawumia’s struggling identity, Alan Kyerematen & the battle lines
The Bawumia supportive argument is however, fast falling flat on the face. If it’s about the tracing of political history, then Bawumia has no lineage to the NPP, some critics argue. He is believed to be a chip of the CPP stock, critics further contend. The CPP was the political party founded by Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah and won for Ghana her independence and republican status.
Bawumia’s father, Alhaji Mumuni Bawumia was a minister in Nkrumah’s 1st Republic after the senior Bawumia jettisoned the UP on grounds that it had planned to use people of Northern extraction to cause chaos in the country in 1965. The Vice President does not seem to have shown enough pedigree within the NPP. It’s the contention of some party members that Bawumia’s claim to fame within the NPP family was that once upon a time, the NPP’s search party found him to be credible enough to partner Nana Addo for the NPP presidential ticket at a time that he—Bawumia, was not even a card-bearing member of the NPP.
So the NPP breached its membership code to ensure that Bawumia became a legitimate candidate for the Nana Akufo Addo’s presidential ticket. The 2024 NPP presidential contest in itself is likely to go down the wire as a race between the two front-runners and their credentials in the NPP tradition, which of course, traces its antecedent from the United Party (UP) of the 60’s. With the narrative so far, the suggestion in some quarters is that Bawumia’s candidature can only thrive in an emerging new order within the NPP.
It’s not same with his leading opponent, Alan Kyerematen, who is considered a key party man and a founding member of the NPP. The Vice President is surely going to be a beneficiary of an order being established by the sitting administration. Paradoxically, core members of the current administration campaigned on the conservative orientation of the NPP, when they were canvasing for then candidate, Akufo Addo and even during the national elections. Akufo Addo benefitted from such liberal outlook of the NPP in the party’s primaries in 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2020.
In other words, a tradition that rewards loyalty, longevity; staying put and paying continuous obeisance to the cause irrespective of the circumstance that confronts any such candidate. It’s such liberal order, which although, benefitted Akufo Addo in the past, he and his cohorts are trying to alter as the NPP prepares for the crucial 2024 presidential primary. Indeed, the current political establishment has not hidden it desire to breach the status-quo, by openly supporting the Bawumia candidacy.
That means Dr. Bawumia is likely to enjoy massive incumbency support, similar to what many sitting Ghanaian presidents benefit from, on the national election scale. It’s therefore, not surprising that some other high-profile members of the administration are backing the Bawumia candidature. Definitely, his political godfather—Ken Ofori-Atta is one of them. The Bawumia candidature is not likely to be stifled of funds because it’s an adopted project of the President and majority of members of his administration.
However, as to whether these are the only determinant factors to ensure a Bawumia success, still remains a conjectural game. On the other hand, Alan’s campaign machinery is being lubricated by the old guards in the NPP, not least, his political grand-master, former President J.A Kufuor. That means Alan’s fan base will be driven from the Kufuor axis in the NPP. Therefore, stalwarts like Kufuor himself, Dr. Kwame Addo Kufuor, Dr. Richard Anane, Felix Owusu Agyapong, Kwadwo Mpiani, among others are the pillars of the Alan campaign.
Not least, a statement of claim from others who feel slighted by their suspension from the NPP before the 2016 elections. These are suspended party chairman Paul Afoko and the suspended 2nd vice chairman, Sammy Crabbe. A former suspended National Secretary, Kwabena Agyepong is however, competing in the NPP presidential nomination. Another former General Secretary, Nana Ohene Ntow, has even gone public with his declaration as the campaign manager of Alan Kyerematen. Others who feel marginalized by the current NPP administration are all likely to join the Alan bandwagon.
The content and character of the current happenings in the NPP is just a confirmation of how the Victor Owusu and William Ofori-Atta axis have seamlessly been operating the NPP political machinery since its formation in 1992. The UP tradition which is an offshoot of the NPP, split into two—the Popular Front Party (PFP) and the United National Convention (UNC) during Ghana’s Third Republican elections in 1979.
When it became obvious that Victor Owusu was to become the presidential candidate of the PFP, a secessionists group, led by William Ofori-Atta (Paa Willie), a member of the Big Six (6) formed the United National Convention (UNC). Members of the Big Six are believed to be founders of modern day Ghana. It’s the express belief of many that the Akufo-Addo led isle in the NPP, represents the faction with a leaning towards the Paa Willie bloc; while the Victor Owusu faction is being led by former President, J.A. Kufuor.