By FRANCIS KOKUTSE*
The key players in Ghana over the next week: From left, New President John Drahmani Mahama, former President Jerry Rawlings and main opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo. PHOTO | AFRICA REVIEW
The next few weeks promise to be interesting for Ghana as the country tries to come to terms with the
sudden death of President John Atta Mills on July 24. Known for its strong democracy, the west African country will be keenly watched over how it handles its transitions.
Within hours of Mr Mills death, his deputy John Dramani Mahama was sworn in in line with Article 60 (6) of the country’s constitution, drawing praise from observers.
“I am pleased with the way things have gone. We did not have any of Africa’s problem with the death of a President,” said Mr Kojo Pumpuni Asante, an analyst with the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD).
Mr Asante said that Ghanaians would now be watching how the process is completed, especially with the appointment of a new Vice-President. “We have come to a point where it is clear that the state is seen as sacred and the people would want know how the whole process is conducted,” he said.
The key battleground looks to be within the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), on whose ticket Mr Mills was in December due to stand for re-election to a second term.
The NDC will have under five months to find a new presidential candidate to run against its main opponent, the New Patriotic Party, which is fronting Nana Akufo-Addo, who Mr Mills narrowly beat in 2008.
“…it is how this is conducted that should be of concern to every Ghanaian,” Mr Asante said.
Initial concerns would be how former President Jerry Rawlings, a key political figure in both the NDC and the country, reacts to the death and in addition, his relationship with the new President, thought to be cold.
Mr Rawlings did not have a good relationship with former President John Kufuor, who Mr Mills succeeded, and extended the same treatment to President Mills who he ha hand-picked as his Vice-President and was later instrumental in his election in the party of which he is the founder.
Some members of the NDC are worried about Mr Rawlings as he is known to have some dislike for President Mahama. “We are not sure what it is and we would be watching how he would react to his administration in the next few months,” said a party member who spoke on condition of anonymity.
There are also some party members who think that Mr Rawlings wife, Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings, is likely to become the party’s presidential candidate as she was the only one who stood against the President Mills at the NDC party primary last year.
This has however been dismissed by the NDC’s deputy general secretary, Mr George Lawson. “There is no truth in that,” he told the Africa Review. “The party’s constitution is clear that we have to go to Congress to elect a new candidate to lead us.”
Thus, instead of the party concentrating on its campaigns, it is now faced with lobbying and campaigning to elect a leader. If it is not properly managed, the process could implode as there already various opposing groups within the party.
Those close to President Mahama would want to fight for his election while other groups known to be supporters of President Mills may want to field their own candidate.
The NPP would be watching closely to see how the NDC camps slug it out among themselves. If Mr Rawlings turns against President Mahama, it would also mean that the NDC would be contesting the election against the opposition NPP and a new party that is yet to be registered and which claims to have the blessings of Mr Rawlings and his wife.
Change of guard
The change of guard at the presidency is also likely to affect some personalities. Chief among these would be President Mills’ director of communications, Mr Koku Anyidoho, who has over time incurred the wrath of many including party supporters. It is not known if he will have a place in the new scheme of things.
There are also other appointees who are referred to as the “Mills Boys” and they may have to negotiate their allegiance with the new man at the helm.
With the talk of a Congress to elect a new presidential candidate, intense lobbying is expected in coming weeks. President Mahama is known to have his eyes on the presidency and will most likely try his luck.
He is however known to have a frosty relationship with Mr Rawlings and is unlikely to have his support.
One scenario is that he may have to contest against someone that Mr Rawlings would support if he decides to stick with the NDC. Even though Nana Agyeman Rawlings has been associated with the new party that has announced itself, she has not formally resigned from the NDC and may want to contest for the leadership of the party.
If she does, given the bitter campaign that was run in the days to the last Congress last year, it is likely that the party faces bitter times ahead which might affect how the members unite to fight the election.