By Peter Clottey*
Ghana’s opposition National Democratic Party has chosen former first lady Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings as its presidential candidate at the party’s national delegates congress Saturday in the capital, Accra.
National Democratic Party supporters say the former first lady’s popularity could pose a significant challenge to incumbent President John Dramani Mahama in the November 7 general election.
NDP General Secretary Mohammed Frimpong says Agyeman-Rawlings is the best candidate to deliver the change Ghanaians demand.
“The entire country is clamoring for her return onto the political landscape to give to Ghanaians what she has done and knows best in terms of mobilization, women empowerment, and so on and so forth. That is why the NDP followers throughout the country had unanimously decided to endorse her as our presidential candidate for the 2016 election,” said Frimpong.
Former president Jerry John Rawlings, who is the founding father of the ruling National Democratic Congress expressed support for his wife before she was overwhelmingly endorsed by the NDP as the party’s presidential candidate. It remains to be seen if the former president will also support his wife against incumbent President John Dramani Mahama from the NDC.
Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, presidential candidate for the main opposition New Patriotic Party congratulated the former first lady.
Local media quoted Nana Addo as saying, “Her wealth of experience in Ghanaian politics should put her in good stead to help steer and shape the nature of our political discourse from one of attrition, personality attacks and negative preoccupations to an issues-based campaign, hinged on the competition of policies and ideas … That is how the public interest of our nation can be best served. The NPP and I welcome her into the race for the Presidency and wish her well.”
Anti-Mahama alliance possibe
Addo’s warm remarks prompted suggestions the two opposition leaders and their parties will form an alliance to challenge Mahama and his governing NDC in the presidential, parliamentary and local elections.
But NDP general secretary Frimpong says the party’s focus is not on forming an alliance with any other opposition party before the polls.
“Alliance ahead of the election is not in our agenda, that I can tell you for sure,” said Frimpong. “But the point is that we are all bent on seeking for change [and] there is a very strong determination for change … and that is why probably the NPP flagbearer and our just endorsed flagbearer will share this common opinion for the need of change.”
The NDP was unable to register Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings as the party’s presidential candidate with the Electoral Commission of Ghana in the last election, despite endorsing the former first lady at the delegates congress in 2012.
“We had very strong disrupters in the 2012 election, and just as we were preparing to file her flagbearership with the electoral commission, there was a very elaborate conspiracy to scuttle this attempt, and that is what happened … And therefore, nobody could base her performance or would be performance on the 2012 election because after all she did not participate,” said Frimpong.
But critics say the NDP should resolve an internal power struggle, rather than blame outsiders for the party’s challenges.
Frimpong says the former first lady will play a key role in preventing Mahama from winning the presidential vote in the first round of the poll. He predicted Agyeman Rawlings would be the “kingmaker” on who becomes Ghana’s next president.
“It’s becoming quite prominent that Ghanaians feel a female must be given a chance. And the record of probity and accountability in governance was [regarded] very high in their tenure and has slumped now to a very abysmal level … With all these considerations coupled with her drive towards mobilization to eliminate poverty, and disease and illiteracy, all these go to create fond memories in the population … Therefore, comparing with three other contenders … We can say that it would be very difficult just to think that there can just be one run-off.”