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NPP Presidential Primaries: A choice to make. Dr Bawumia or Ken Agyepong?

Opinion

8 months ago
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We are in the home straight now. All indicators suggest that it is a straight battle between Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia and the Member of Parliament for Assin Central Hon Kennedy Agyepong. Apologies to Dr Akoto and Addai Nimoh. If the results of the Super Delegates elections are anything to go, it looks like a done deal for Dr Bawumia. Winning over 65% of the electoral votes with the top brass of a party should give any candidate some level of confidence in winning the national delegates elections proper.

The Political strategists would however argue that a vote by a little less than one thousand people cannot represent the views of over two hundred thousand people. There is the other side of the conversation that also suggests that if the party is whipping everyone in line, why is it that the Veep appears to enjoy the support of all and sundry everywhere he has been on the campaign trail? Does he enjoy the genuine love of the electoral population or its a case of incumbency advantage.

This is not the first time the ruling New Patriotic Party would be electing a flagbearer to lead them into the national elections. I have followed the Party’s internal politics since 1992. There has always been a lead candidate with others jostling for the top job. It gets a bit interesting when particular scenarios are considered with reference to the NPP in power and the NPP in opposition. With the NPP in opposition ahead of elections in 1992,1996,2000, 2012 and 2016, there were leading contenders and others who were clearly testing their popularity. It was a straight one between Prof Adu Boahen and then candidate John Agyekum Kufuor in 1992 and 1996, and between Kufuor and Nana Addo 1998 ahead of the 2000 elections. In 2008 and 2012 it was a straight one between Nana Akufo-Addo and Alan Kyeremateng.

In government though, two interesting developments pop up. Then Vice President Alhaji Aliu Mahama was only good enough for 3rd position in the internal election with 146 votes as candidate Akufo-Addo polled 1096 votes to emerge victor with Alan in 2nd position with 738 votes from a field of 17 candidates. Party colossi in their own right. This time though, Vice President Dr Bawumia appears to be odds on favourite to winning the election with party officials and many leading members of the party throwing their weight behind him. They obviously would have their reasons for the massive show of love for the Veep. The questions that arise however is what would be the considerations of the party faithful as they go into the electoral booth on Saturday November 4th across the country?

THE NUMBERS CONVERSATION

Not many outside the party may have come across the Veep beyond his job at the Central Bank before he was thrust into the electoral space ahead of the 2008 elections.  The NPP as a political party has long underperformed in the Northern parts of the party, that is, then Northern Region, Upper East and Upper West. The party could only boast winning a few seats. Gukpegu Sabonjida within the Tamale enclave and Yendi in all 3 regions in the 1996 elections. By 2008, the party began making inroads with Dr Bawumia as Veep. The argument may be made that he was not on the ballot paper but it is also impossible to overlook his association with Nana Addo giving the party some votes there. By 2016, the party had won up to 21 seats, in all 5 Northern Regions (Savannah and North East had been carved out of the Northern Region) and managed to win 20 in the 2020 elections.

It is fair to say that Veep Bawumia contributed significantly to these upturns in the last two elections respectively. Elections are all about numbers and if a party can rally around a candidate who can poll in numbers from the strongholds of their opponents and top it up with traditional votes from their base, then winning the elections could be a certainty.

Mr Agyepong on the other hand has not tested himself beyond the boundaries of Assin Central. He is a strong party who has contributed significantly to the fortunes of the party especially on a financial level. That is not in doubt. As to whether the faithful would entrust him with the entire nation to bring in the numbers remains to be seen. 

ESTABLISHMENT SUPPORT

Dr Bawumia appears to have the support of many big wigs in the party. I have listened to loads of arguments for and against this idea. One thing I do know is that any party person seeking the highest office of the land would need the support of the big wigs and those who matter in their political parties. In other jurisdictions, it is called endorsements. Getting these endorsements has a way of swaying many party faithful onside.

I have followed the US Presidential Primaries since 1996 for both the Republican and Democrats. I saw late Bob Dole actively seek the support of high ranking Republican officials including Senate Majority Leader Trett Lott. I saw Al Gore actively seek President Clintons backing in 2000. I saw then Senator Kerry lobby top Democrats in 2004. Same with John McCain in 2008. Then Senator Obama had ringing endorsements from the likes of then Governor Howard Dean of Vermont. At the time, Governor Dean was a powerful member of the Democratic Party. The list goes on.

Potential Flagbearers actively court and seek the support of high-ranking officials with the hope that it translates into votes not only for the primaries but the national election itself. It appears to me that Veep Bawumia has smartly courted the numbers in his bid to win the Partys nomination and that is working for him. As to whether many Party faithful have been whipped in line is a discussion we can have but its also fair to say that as many would want to align with the Veep in return for Political favours. Let’s not be hypocritical about this. There are those who would want Dr Bawumia’s endorsement for their Parliamentary bids with others lobbying for CEO positions and so forth if he wins. This is done everywhere. Ghana would not be an exception unless you are not a smart politician.

Mr Agyepong on the hand does not appear to be gaining the as much numbers as Veep Bawumia. Not many of them are going public on their support of his candidature. He needs the numbers and the big wigs. With a only a few days to go, its difficult to see how he would rally the numbers of the influential personalities to make things happen for him.

ECONOMY

It gets a bit exigent here. Absolutely no doubt that the economy has faced its harshest challenges yet. The most ardent NPP fanatic would agree that the management of the economy could have better. As the Head of the Economic Management team, it is only natural that Dr Bawumia would take some jabs from his competitors and the opposition National Democratic Congress. Issues of Covid and the Russia-Ukraine war have been raised in his defence. The question that would always arise is how the nation has managed COVID funds and what the Plan B was when we were hit. Inflation has been insane the last few years.  Other nations have wiggled their way out of the challenge. It appears Ghana is still struggling to stay afloat.

Again, the argument in Veep’s defence is that the buck does not stop with him. Yes, it stops with the President but it is also fair to say that once he is taking the credit for all the great things of the government, he must fairly accept the challenges of government. Indeed, I recalled his speech in Cape Coast a few years ago when he touted the Economic Management team of the NPP and mocked that of the opposition NDC. His opponents would then say that this is the time to stand up and be counted and not appear to flutter out of the difficult conversations. He asserts he will be his own man when he gets the job.

Ken argues strongly with his successes as a businessman and how impactful they have been on transforming the lives of the people. He argues he would do more if given the nod. He has demonstrated an ability to create jobs and transform lives. The Public sector can be rough. How he would bring his private sector skills to impact on the larger public space remains to be seen. 

CHARACTER TRAITS

He is nice. He is charming. He is eloquent. He embraces all and sundry. He is well spoken. He is affable. He is smart. He is religiously tolerant. He is incorruptible. These are the comments you hear from ardent Bawumia supporters. Are they right with their assertions? There are many out there who take a critical look at the above descriptions in casting their votes in elections anywhere in the world. There is an old saying that if your character traits play to your advantage, you take advantage of it. I was at the last graduation ceremony of the Ghana Immigration Service in July at Assin Fosu. After he was done with his speech, he came around to speak to some guests randomly.

An elderly woman then shouted ‘BWM’. He almost burst into laughter. He could not hide it. Everyone who was there noticed it. That was natural. Just acting like everyone else. For me, that was nice.

The personality of Hon Ken is a tough talking person who takes no prisoners. Ruthless, aggressive and uncompromising. Very strong in his beliefs. Party faithful have lauded this over the years but to what extent would they appreciate these traits with the leader of their party? Some strategists have even suggested that some of his tough pronouncements over the years may come back to haunt him.

POLITICAL GRAVITAS

Seven years as Vice President would naturally give anyone in that position some political gravitas. He has quickly and smartly built an image for himself that has endeared himself to many. He is human and would naturally have his shortfalls but it is fair to assert that he has carefully built a certain persona with the support of some very smart minds around him. I won’t pretend to know everyone around him but he would not have succeeded in building such a persona on his own. Not everyone has that political gravitas to win as many people over. He is clear, authoritative, charismatic and intelligent. These traits put you in a position to manage challenges as a leader. Fair to say that he has the above and more.

Hon Ken has built a Trump like kind of image. Tough talking businessman who would want to transfer his expertise to Jubilee House. Would that be enough?

A CANDIDATE WHO CAN BREAK THE 8

Breaking the 8 has been the mantra of the NPP in the last few years. For leading members of the party and the faithful, the whole idea of bowing out of power after 8 years of electoral acceptancy should be a thing of the past. For them, the party has more than delivered on their brand promise since 2016 and more than deserves the opportunity to carry on. In carrying on the leadership of the country, the question that would be naturally asked is which of the candidates can help the party break the 8 and what the dynamics would be in that conversation?

Many of the two hundred thousand and more voters would have mind up their minds by now. There may be a few who may be undecided. Saturday, November 4th, is not too far away. We would see what happens.

The writer Kwame Dwomoh-Agyemang, is a Communications and International Relations professional and serves as an adjunct lecturer at African University College of Communications, Knutsford and Pentecost Universities.
 

Email: papakaydee1@gmail.com.



 

source: Kwame Dwomoh-Agyemang