Sammi Wiafe writes: Why Dr. Bawumia must choose his running mate now

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On November 4th, 2023, a significant moment unfolded in the history of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) as it elected, for the first time, a Muslim and a Northerner to lead the party into a major election.

Since 1992, the NPP has consistently elected an Akan Christian, including figures such as Professor Adu Boahene, J.A. Kufour, and Nana Akufo-Addo.

However, in the upcoming 2024 election, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia will be on the ballot, with hopes that Ghanaians will cast their votes in his favour.

Dr. Bawumia had ascended the political ranks within a party often perceived as an “Akan Party.”

His introduction to the political landscape occurred when he was first selected as a running mate to Nana Akufo-Addo in the 2008 election.

Luck shined on him when Nana Akufo-Addo reposed confidence in him again and selected him to partner him again in the 2012, 2016 and 2020 elections.

When Nana Akufo-Addo was questioned by some school children who visited him at the Jubilee House why he selected Dr. Bawumia to partner him, his response was simple “He [Dr. Bawumia] speaks honestly to you, he is not one of those people who you have to guess what they want to say, he says what he wants to say directly, and I like that, I prefer to deal with people who are very direct in what they say. These are some of the reasons why l chose Dr. Bawumia to be my Vice President.”

On December 6, 2023, Dr. Bawumia was expected to meet the National Executive Committee and the National Council of the NPP to fulfil a constitutional requirement, which mandated him to present his running mate to the party leadership 12 months before the election. But he requested for more time for this crucial selection, which many deemed challenging.

Despite differing opinions, I believe that an early selection of a running mate would benefit DMB and the NPP in preparation for the 2024 general elections.

The NPP is hoping to break the eight-year cycle election jinx, striving to become the first political party under the current democratic dispensation to win back-to-back elections. With Nana Akufo-Addo absent in 2024, DMB would be the new face on the ballot, facing John Mahama, who had previously served as the senior prefect of elections in Ghana (2012, 2016, 2020, and 2024).

Choosing a running mate early would provide ample time for DMB and the Running Mate (RM) to campaign. The 2024 election posed significant challenges for the NPP, with various international polls, including the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU), predicting an NDC and JM victory. The NPP has a huge mountain to overcome if it wants to win the polls. Selecting an RM early would demonstrate readiness for the election and negate the perception of indecision. After all, the PC and the RM are the Chief Campaign Managers for themselves and the party. The NPP and DMB will be shooting themselves in the foot if they decide to wait for the NDC’s John Mahama to select his running mate first. It will give away the notion that the NPP is undecided and always waiting for the opposition to take the lead.

As the renowned Nigerian preacher Apostle Joshua Selman said, “If you leave room for uncertainty, circumstances will decide for you.”

Secondly, an early selection of an RM would eliminate rumours, speculation, and lobbying, as numerous individuals are seeking such a position.

Already we are told or have heard of a long queue of individuals hoping to be selected as RM. Many are lobbying through close friends and associates of DMB, while others are allegedly paying media colleagues to do the lobbying for them through the power of radio, TV, newspapers and online portals. Social media can’t be left out.

I am reliably informed of how one of these “wannabe running mates” has already set up an office and recruited young men and women to flood social media platforms with his images and good works to attract the powers that be to consider him as running mate.

Some are even seen through pictures and videos kneeling in front of DMB and President Akufo-Addo as if they were being prayed for or anointing oil being poured on them.

If DMB selects his RM early, we will not see all these things and all rumours, speculation, and names being thrown about will end.

Thirdly, DMB should know that any name presented as RM and approved by the party will spark controversy and misgivings within the party. DMB can even select Nana Akufo-Addo as his RM (if the constitution allows); people within the party will still disagree, which, if care is not taken, may affect the chances of the party in 2024.

When he, DMB, was selected in 2008, I saw the anger and disappointment on the faces of party stalwarts at the Alisa Hotel that night. I saw how key members of the party questioned the loyalty and even questioned who Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia was. We saw how some even went on radio and TV to threaten the party over this choice.

I’m not sure DMB would want to see such an ugly scene again. If the selection is done now, DMB will have enough time to explain the choice he made and bring everyone on board much earlier before the election. The NPP needs unity to prosecute this agenda of breaking the 8.

An early selection of a running mate will help DMB remain focused and not be distracted by lobbyists. As a deliberate plan to sell him more to the Ghanaian voter, the President has ceded more of his public engagements to him as a way to showcase him as the new leader.

If he selects his RM early too, such an individual will also be publicly sold to the Ghanaian populace long enough before the 2024 election, rather than being done a few months before the polls.

Gone are the years when RMs did little to win elections, but John Mahama in 2008 and Dr. Bawumia himself in 2016 have taught us a good lesson that RMs do play a significant role in securing victories in elections.

The NPP goes into the 2024 elections with a lot of baggage: economic meltdown, arrears of statutory payments, haircuts, among others.

DMB and the NPP have a lot of work to do to convince Ghanaians why another NPP government should be given the chance, and he, DMB, cannot do this alone; he needs his RM to complement his effort, like how he did for Nana Akufo-Addo in the 2012 and 2016 elections, resulting in a massive victory for the NPP. And to do this, you need time—enough time. This is the more reason an early selection of an RM is key for DMB and the NPP.

The NPP has no luxury of time, and everything must be done to win the 2024 election. Every incumbent government or party goes into an election with its back to the wall and a whole lot of uncertainty. DMB and the NPP can help themselves if they select a RM early enough, hopefully by the end of this year or early January 2024.

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