The battle to replace Akufo-Addo
President Nana Akufo-Addo is completing his constitutionally allowed two terms, but tempers are high. Tension is brewing ahead of a showdown that could make or break the NPP as it settles on Akufo-Addo’s successor.
After Alan Kyerematen (an old guard and former trade minister) and Boakye Agyarko (former energy minister) pulled out, there are four candidates left in the NPP race.
Vice president Mahamudu Bawumia leads the pack, composed of nonconformist lawmaker Kennedy Agyapong, ex-agriculture minister Owusu Afriyie Akoto, and Francis Addai-Nimoh, a former MP.
“Obviously, it’s a two-horse race between Bawumia and Agyapong,” Kwame Asah-Asante, a political science lecturer at the University of Ghana, tells The Africa Report.
What the polls say
With almost a month to go until the NPP’s flagbearer elections in November, latest polls conducted by Global InfoAnalytics predict victory for Bawumia as the party’s preferred presidential candidate.
According to the polls, the majority of NPP delegates (45%) are backing Bawumia to lead the party into the 2024 elections, followed by Assin Central lawmaker Agyapong (18%).
He’s the most marketable candidate so far and when we talk about experience at the top, he’s seen it all
The other two candidates scored zero each while 17% and 20% of delegates were not disclosed and undecided, respectively.
Representatives from both Bawumia and Agyapong’s camps are optimistic of victory.
“The vice president has been there for the party in good and bad times,” Bawumia loyalist Akbar Yussif Rohullah Khomeini tells The Africa Report. “He’s the most marketable candidate so far and when we talk about experience at the top, he’s seen it all.”
For his part, pro-Agyapong backer George Opoku Amponsah, says Agyapong is the personality the party needs to match the opposition squarely in the general polls. “We need a leader who is bold and fearless,” he tells The Africa Report.
The two contenders are in the race for the first time presenting different options for the party. A win for Agyapong means the party is going into the crucial elections with a candidate from Ghana’s Central Region, which has proven to be a decider as a swing region in recent polls.
If the delegates give Bawumia the nod, it will also be the first time that the party is heading north to present a Muslim candidate and non-Akan speaking as well.
In the event of a runoff, according to the polls, Bawumia will beat Agyapong in the ethnic Akan (44% against 20%), northern (53% as against 10%) and swing (35% against 22%) regions.
The dark horse
Rabble-rouser Agyapong is the dark horse, having joined the NPP election late following his discontent with the establishment and how the economy is being managed under Akufo-Addo and his appointees.
George Domfe, a researcher at the University of Ghana, believes this could affect him a great deal.
“His late entrance into the whole competition has really affected him because those who really want to be president had already started many years ago,” Domfe, a senior research fellow at the Centre for Social Policy Studies in the University of Ghana, tells The Africa Report.
Agyapong, 63, knows he has a lot of catching up to do as opinion polls show he is trailing Bawumia, who is the favourite. The straightforward politician has been ruthless with his criticisms against the vice president as the head of the economic management team.
He handles issues in a very fine and practical manner using all the beautiful homegrown ideas, but his outbursts are going to be played back to him one day
The West African nation has been battling its worst economic crisis in decades brought on by spiralling public debt and global factors. The major gold and cocoa exporter is currently under a $3bn IMF programme.
“We lost the elections in 2022 — the time the Ghana cedi destroyed the hard work of many businessmen, all the way to the tomato seller. Ghanaians will never forget that. The time the middle class went to court because their monies were lost, and the time the pensioners had their monies gone, Ghanaians will remember that,” Agyapong said at a campaign stop on 19 September.
Political scientist Asah-Asante says Agyapong’s acerbic tongue can cost him a lot politically. “He handles issues in a very fine and practical manner using all the beautiful homegrown ideas, but his outbursts are going to be played back to him one day.”
Domfe agrees that Bawumia’s Achilles heel will be the 2022 economic meltdown, but points out that the economist’s strengths far outweigh his weaknesses.
“Many other things work for him. For example, as a Muslim he has conducted himself so well,” the development economist tells The Africa Report.
“He moves very well with the Christians and the Muslims as well. Also, as a northerner he doesn’t discriminate, he is always everywhere, and people love him, and so I am not surprised that every supporter of [the] NPP wants him to lead.”
Although Agyapong has been blunt and boisterous with his campaign across the country, Asah-Asante says the strategy is gaining capital among the grassroots people.
“He’s able to reach out to the top brass, he’s able to reach out to the rank and file,” the political scientist says. “He also appeals to those floating voters within the party and his strength also lies in the fact that he’s able to connect very well with the youth.”
A man of ideas
Touching on Bawumia, he says the former deputy governor of the central bank has effectively used technology to drive his campaign, extolling his intelligence and how well he articulates his messages.
“He is a man of economic ideas… A lot of things have been digitised today and they have created the opportunity for [the] government to bring in the necessary revenues,” says Asah-Asante.
He notes that Bawumia also works well with the MPs in the party and many others.
“Bawumia has also endeared himself to the hearts of many within the party, cutting across the old, the young, and the leaders. All these things could attest to the fact that the man has qualities they believe that they must pay him by giving their mandate to him come 4 November,” says Asah-Asante.
Placing the two main candidates side by side, Domfe did not blink in predicting who will carry the day in November.
“Now that Alan Kyerematen is out of the contest, Bawumia is likely to do better than 70% because many in the Alan camp will also want to vote for Bawumia… so definitely he is winning outright, there is no doubt about that,” he says.
Political marketing strategist Bernard Tutu-Boahen says the two camps must be mindful of their utterances else their words will come back to haunt the party in the lead up to the elections.
“Their campaign teams need to be a bit pragmatic with regards to some of the communications that they put out there… they should deliver messages that delegates will want to hear and not to, as it were, [make] accusations and counter-accusations that would probably muddy the waters going forward,” Tutu-Boahen tells The Africa Report.
(The Africa Report)