Who leads NPP in 2016?

With the recent Election Petition trial (EPT) in the Supreme Court (SC) over, and President Mahama confirmed, whether New Patriotic Party (NPP) sympathisers like it or not, as having been validly elected, the political punditry has already begun: Who leads the NPP in 2016? Is Amissah-Arthur’s political future in the NDC hanging by the thread?

Opinions seem divided on whether Nana Akufo-Addo should run again, in spite of his advanced age; pass the baton to his protégé, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia,; or leave the field entirely for an Alan Kyeremanten comeback. Names like Dan Botwe, Oboshie Sai Cofie and Matthew Opoku-Prempeh have also come up as potential running mates. But, although the latter three are immensely qualified individuals, they have to wait their turn for 2020 and beyond. For 2016, the game should be played entirely between the former three if the NPP want to stand a realistic chance at unseating the NDC.

Below, I evaluate three possible scenarios and explain why a Bawumia/Alan ticket is the most winnable proposition. I also show how the NDC’s success at propaganda has become a structural constraint on the NPP’s strategic options, as it was evident in what many now see as Nana Addo’s hasty decision in forswearing his right to a review of the SC verdict. I contend that the NPP will enhance its chances by coming up with options that can defeat the NDC propaganda machine. But in so doing, the NPP may, in turn, shape the NDC’s own strategic options.

A. Nana/Bawumia Redux in 2016: By forswearing a review of the SC decision, Nana Addo may have given himself a chance to take his last shot at the presidency. If this happens, he’ll most likely serve only one term. Strategically, a Nana/Bawumia redux will prevent the NDC from engaging in vile propaganda against the NPP for using and abandoning Bawumia following his role as Witness-in-Chief in the EPT. It will also send a strong signal to folks in the North that the NPP are not only keeping faith with Bawumia, but are also preparing him to lead the party after Nana Addo’s exit.

However, there is a potential drawback in Nana Addo staying on the ticket. Naturally, due to his advanced age, it’s not strange for him to face health issues. But in the lead up to the 2016 elections, even a routine medical check-up will be exaggerated by the NDC. You can’t blame the NDC if they so seek to gain political capital. The NPP similarly tried to exploit the reported ill-health of the late Prof. Mills. With fresh memories of President Mills’ death in office, voters are likely to become easily swayed by any propaganda highlighting Nana Addo’s advanced age and related health problems.

B. Alan/Bawumia for 2016: In substance, this should be the most appealing pairing for 2016. Not only are Alan and Bawumia youthful, they also come with far more distinguished career backgrounds than their most likely competitors on the NDC side. While President Mahama has been “the Fine Gentleman” of Ghanaian politics, he has no distinguished record, either as a minister under President Rawlings or in his previous job as a grants officer at the Japanese embassy. Vice President (VP) Amissah-Arthur has an even more lacklustre record as an academic at Legon and deputy minister of finance under Rawlings. His brief stay at the helm of Bank of Ghana was also remarkably unimpressive.

In contrast, Alan and Bawumia cut their teeth in both domestic and international policy circles, Alan with the Ministry of Trade and the United Nations; Bawumia with the Bank of Ghana (BoG), the IMF and the African Development Bank. Whereas the one is credited with initiating and rolling out the EMPRETEC Africa programme of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); the other was influential in the redenomination of the Cedi and the introduction of e-zwich in Ghana, as well as, in recent reforms that have helped tame Zimbabwe’s hyperinflation. Between the latter pair, Alan, as the more experienced, should be the natural leader on the ticket.

However, in our part of the world, considerations other than competence have even greater salience. Here, good looks and ethnic ties easily trump competence, and the NDC’s major trump card is to fun ethnic sentiments by portraying the NPP as an Akan party. While an Alan-Bawumia ticket will more than pass the good looks test, it will fall prey to vicious ethnic propaganda by the NDC. The NDC will certainly remind Northerners of how the NPP used Bawumia and dumped him when it came to choosing the flag-bearer. They will even cite this as justification for President Mahama’s unfortunate, and factually incorrect, claim that the Northerners also deserve to be presidents, not just VPs.

Furthermore, Alan as flag-bearer is likely to re-ignite the Ashanti-Akyem ethnic rivalry. Already, there is a feeling that Ashantis were not as enthusiastic in voting for Nana Addo as they were voting for Kufuor. But for this, some believe, Nana Addo might have carried the day on Dec. 7, 2008 and the NPP might be in power today. Whether this perception is right or wrong, the likelihood of reprisal in the Eastern Region if Alan leads the NPP into 2016 shouldn’t be ignored.

C. Bawumia/Alan for 2016: In view of the above considerations, a Bawumia-Alan gig seems the most politically convenient ticket that doesn’t also sacrifice competence too much. To be sure, Bawumia may still be inexperienced in politics. At least one term as VP, during which he served as head of the economic management, would have served to sharpen his political skills. Nevertheless, Bawumia’s perceived political inexperience can be more than compensated for by having a strong and fairly charismatic VP candidate. In this sense, one can’t think of a better running mate to Bawumia than Alan.

While my Fanti folks hardly vote on tribal lines, with Mahama’s government fumbling, Alan has enough charisma to pull in the Central and Western Regions, as well as the traditional Ashanti stronghold, while Bawumia splits the North with Mahama. In addition, Nana Addo could help his protégé maintain the Eastern Region as NPP stronghold. The NPP is then likely to win in at least 4 regions to make victory sure. However, the only way this ticket is possible is if Alan doesn’t contest the NPP primaries and accepts to be Bawumia’s running mate. The big question is: will he?

Nana Addo can make that deal happen. While Bawumia cannot beat Alan in any NPP primaries in the foreseeable future, it is equally true that Alan cannot beat Nana Addo in an NPP primary ahead of 2016. For the sake of certain victory for the NPP, Alan should be persuaded not to contest the NPP primaries for 2016 and be assured of the VP slot. If he declines the deal and decides to contest, Nana Addo can threaten a comeback. In spite of Nana’s advanced age, a Nana-Bawumia ticket still stands a better chance of unseating the NDC than an Alan-whoever-else ticket.

If Alan accepts the deal, the NDC face certain defeat. However, the NDC may be forced to try to counterbalance a Bawumia-Alan ticket by giving their own ticket greater star power or gender sensitivity.

That will see homeboy giving way to either Ekwow Spio-Garbrah or Hannah Tetteh as VP candidate. There are more thrilling elections to come.