Opinion

Mahama’s electoral baggage

The signs were on the wall, and like graffiti in the ghettos of Kinston Jamaica, John Mahama has been all-over-the-place and occasionally taking jibes at the NPP government. After dilly-dallying with his intentions, former President Mahama has hinted of his second-coming, as his followers would like to call it. Excerpts of the message which was shared on his Facebook page reads, ‘I will not disappoint you even as we await the publication of the party’s guidelines for selecting a new leader’. As expected, his announcement has been received with mixed feelings. While his constituency in the NDC cheers him on as they find it welcoming that John Mahama ‘will not disappoint’ them, others find it disappointing as they expect him to remain who he now is; an ex-president.

For the pro-Mahama camp in the NDC, there is no other candidate that can bring them power in 2020. Some also suggest that none of the candidates have the financial wherewithal and track record to match the NPP in the next elections. I cannot tell whether the NPP won the last election with money. For all I know, the NPP won the elections by strategy, ideas and need I say the NPP has been able to feed effectively off the NDC government’s failures? It is therefore fogeyish for a large political party like the NDC to think of one family or a group of people as its bank roller without which the party cannot win an election. In any case, would the NDC not win any election in future if John Mahama lost his life?

Crowdfunding is an important funding model that political parties around the world now adopt so it’s not a fashionable argument for a major political party who lost power less than two years ago to say it cannot pool resources among the ranks and file of the party. Even Donald Trump resorted to fundraisers to fund his campaign. In serious political parties, credibility and media-appeal would be the focal point of major decision making.

As for the social infrastructure development that the pro-Mahama camp holds as a trump card, I am not sure the NDC inherited a desert in 2009 when it took over power. The John Mahama-led did well in this regard nonetheless, but it should remember the question that was asked during the 2016 election: ‘who eats roads?’.

The chances
John Mahama’s chances in the next election will not only depend on his stewardship as a president, but rather largely, on the performance of the sitting president and how the NDC communication machine is able to convert that into ballots. One other factor is whether President Nana Akufo-Addo will seek re-election. Clearly, absence of President Nana Akufo-Addo would mean the NPP would present a new candidate, a decision that will enhance Mahama’s competitiveness in the race. Only time will tell how important this factor is in this analysis.

One cannot tell what his message will be for his ‘second-coming’. For me, a message that would reflect soberly on the excesses and mistakes of his presidency will be his best bet. One that summons bravado in a war-like defence of those excesses against which the people of Ghana registered their displeasure at the 2016 polls, would be John Mahama’s nemesis.

By speaking out on issues of grand corruption, miscalculated policy decisions, unemployment that characterized his tenure, and how he intends to address them given the nod again, John Mahama would cast himself as an experienced candidate who has learnt his lessons. That way, he would have a proactive response which would weaken allegations and propaganda from the NPP government. Anything short of that would be an empowerment to the NPP’s communication machinery.

Perhaps a strategic choice of Vice Presidential candidate will be an impetus to the candidature of John Mahama. A vice candidate of a descent that mirrors the key demography of the party would be a positive addition. Perhaps, to consummate the so-called Unity Walk, John Mahama should merge camp with one of his contenders in the NDC who represents the relevant demography, not only in the NDC but the country at large. This will also enhance his image as a bridge builder.

The odds
Former President Mahama is more vulnerable to smear campaign and propaganda than any of the candidates in the NDC flag-bearer race. He will also be subjected to serial name-calling, a phenomenon that has characterised the political terrain. It is the reason I wonder why he wouldn’t stay in his one corner as a statesman and allow posterity to deliver its proverbial verdict on his stewardship. He indeed comes with a heavy baggage which spin doctors will latch onto even as the vice President continues to throw stochastic jibes at him. This is not to say government is not struggling with implementation of its policies and corruption.

But the implementation of his flagship Free SHS and Nation Builders’ Corp shows that President Nana Akufo-Addo is not only implementing some of his promises but also has his eyes fixated on his chances in the next elections.

As many of those running affairs in the NDC still showing ambition of contesting for various positions in the party, the credibility virus might last beyond the 2020 elections.

The NDC, if my unsolicited advice can be tolerated, needs candidates who are as credible as possible with very minimal baggage. Unless it is the assumption of the party that the messenger can be separated from his message.

Frederick K Kofi Tse
[email protected]

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