Let me first issue an abstract apology. This piece may make you uncomfortable. You may even become spiteful. But it will force you to rethink all the unnecessary comparisons made between Prof. Jane Naana Opoku Agyeman, the running mate of the National Democratic Congress and His Excellency, Alhaji Dr. Mahamadu Bawumia, the Vice President of our dear motherland.
Why is the comparison unnecessary and even abstruse? Well, because running a university as its Vice Chancellor and running a country as its Vice President are not comparable in any analytical sphere! The near endless stakeholder dimensions in country considerations cannot be matched by the universe of management in a public university. Period!
Quit playing around. Professor Naana Opoku Agyeman’s individual accomplishments as a girl and a woman and a mother and an academic and a manager, sequentially arranged, may be starry but she is about to do the hardest job in her life against an opponent equally brilliant as a boy, and a man and a father and an academic, and a manager; but hang on, also brilliant as a politician, and a public speaker and a Vice President.
Walahi! This is a tough job. And what makes it even tougher is the unwieldy politics. So, let us start with the politics. That Professor Jane Naana Opoku Agyemang is being used as a ‘Sanitizer’ for the Mahama ticket is in itself a difficult task. The NDC is in high spirits because for the first time since 2015, the lens is not on the Ex-President. How cool? The reportage and the narrative is not on corruption, incompetence, cancellation of student trainee allowances (nurses and teachers), Ford bribery, Airbus scandal, Ibrahim Mahama’s Bauxite deals, the tentative discussions about conceding defeat in 2016 or former appointees who are being jailed or facing corruption trials.
All the above coupling with his legacy of a moribund economy. These issues will inevitably be brought back to the fore as they represent the bulwark of the NDC’s record. There is not enough ‘alcohol in Prof. Jane’s Sanitizer’ to cleanse the NDC and President Mahama of his performance while he was the head of the host.
So, the distinguished Professor will enjoy her celebratory moments but the lights will stay turned on only for a short while. Breathe, NDC because you will soon exhale. And when the lights go out, the essence of Bawumia’s braininess will dawn on the opposition. I am nominating only two aspects of Bawulitics -Bawumia’s politics- you have to deal with.
First is selling the Prof to the multiple seen and unseen, known and unknown, movers, shakers and the ‘Hidden Figures’ of the political space- People you never see or may never suspect they are so vested with power. Oh Yes! They exist. From Kings to Chiefs, Queens to Regents, Bishops to Pastors, Chief Imam to Imams nationwide, Business moguls to Union executives the Vice President has built relationships that are in part defined by his affiliation to the NPP and in part defined by his own affable and welcoming self.
Of course his beautiful brain breeds its own friendships but that work has been done consistently and quietly from 2008. Oh, how wonderful will it be for Professor Jane Naana Opoku Agyeman to build such resourceful relationships, nationwide over the next five months? Mind you, these near kindred associations reflect trust and the ability to influence processes through organization. And all politics is about mobilization and organization; but at the core is relationship building.
So is selling Prof politically, enough? Not Quite! She must have the ability to withstand the incredible introspection and analysis that will follow her every move. How I wish I could say family was off limits! Neither is her public record as Education Minister under President Mahama and her personal judgement like in the Montie 3 clemency plea to President Mahama (Ohhh! Prof signed that one but on hindsight, maybe, NO!). Her time at University of Cape Coast will all be scrutinized. And no matter the reports, she must be able to stay focused and not fall apart because the NDC needs her to match Dr. Bawumia.
And that still presents its own set of challenges.
Now let’s get to the meat of this competition. The Angels upstairs must be having a treat! For all the PhD and Professorships are about to crystallize into only one solid pebble. VISION! Who among the two has the capacity to envision what our future as a country should be? What kind of life we must have from Wenchi to Ho? Who has the ability to see SOONER FASTER? Who can process all these novel spiel in technology, the future of work, maxing out the youth bulge, replotting the possibility frontier and actually, committing resources to it? it is not just about who can make a difference but who can make the right difference.
At this critical time of our dear nation’s history where we are locked in a hermetic competition with the rest of Africa and the globe, who can arouse the digital energy that unlocks our brains and breed the creative impetus that will propel us into a sub South Korea over the next ten years, assuring us of a future that makes us relevant.
How will these distinguished scholars process the economy as a function of agriculture and oil and non-traditional exports; and connect our earnings to our wellbeing in real time? My humble supposition is that if two PhDs, one in Linguistics and the other in Engineering were competing for a job akin to engineering, it would be unassailably challenging to give the job to the linguistics candidate, no matter how incredibly smart they were.
I posit that the job of connecting the dots in Economics is like Engineering. It must be done by those with the requisite training, at least, at this present period in our lives as a nation. And Bawunomics, the ‘WaleWale Adam Smith has already developed the smarts in that regard. Prof. Jane will surely understand the issues to a degree and she will surely have a team that will help her.
But, no matter how much Google you read, you still cannot repair your own car. Kindly ask your mechanic who repairs their car for them? A trained Economist is a dependable asset for the economy. He speaks and understands the language. The solutions jump at him when he is in the shower and having breakfast and saying afternoon prayers. They are part of his normal routine. In leadership, your smarts are key. Prof Jane must now show us what her smarts are. And she has five months to do so.
Religion, Gender, Party
I have deliberately stayed off the stirring conversations about the religious affiliation of Prof. Jane and H.E Dr. Bawumia, the obvious difference in gender and the brilliance of the NPP against the opposition NDC. While these things matter a great deal, they provide fodder for a sequel to this opinion. I find it necessary therefore, to shelve my thoughts on them. Kindly chew on the above and set your mind on the decision to pursue progress and prosperity for mother Ghana by choosing a Vice Presidential candidate who can help the President deliver on their mission of transforming the Ghana we live in today. Dr. Bawumia has shown fortitude.
We await Prof Jane to step into the ring. This is SHOWTIME!
Kojo Frempong is a Presidential Staffer whose priority areas are Economic Development, Management, Leadership, Decision Sciences and Getting Things Done.