Listen To Story
The second-highest officer in the Ghanaian government is the vice president. In the event of the resignation, impeachment, incapacitation or even the demise of the president, the vice president, who is the first in the presidential line of succession, would take over as president for the remaining period of the term. The president and vice president are chosen by the general electorate on a single ticket for a four-year term in office. Therefore, when applying for office, every candidate for president is required to include the name of their running mate. The choice of the running mate, who has the potential to become president is therefore a very important decision of national interest and to the ambitions of the party they belong. A candidate for running mate is subject to the provisions of article 62 of the 1992 Constitution. The candidate must, among other requirements, be at least 40 years old. Obviously, there is no upper age limit.
The announcement of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) presidential candidate’s running mate will be one of the crucial decisions that H.E. John Mahama, the party’s 2024 flagbearer must make, ideally within the next few months. The question that the NDC’s rank and file are widely debating now is whether Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang will be announced again as the running mate for the 2024 General Elections and the repercussions of such a decision. Historically, except for 2016, the NDC has not repeated a running mate.
Over the years, the selection of the running mates has been purposefully and thoughtfully planned to position the party advantageously for electoral successes. Usually, this strategic decision is made based on deductions arrived at after the analysis of the outcome of previous elections and the predicted dynamics of subsequent elections. To ensure seamless succession and continuity, the flagbearer, in consultation with the National Executive Committee (NEC), may consider many factors such as the age of a candidate, marketability, the candidate’s ability to win, resourcefulness, competency, results-orientedness, ethnicity, regional balance among others. In this article, the age factor and how it promotes smooth transition and continuity, is the main subject discussed.
There are usually various discussions and lobbying efforts that precede the decision and announcement of a presidential running mate. And indications are that these activities are already ongoing at various circles of the NDC party hierarchy. In this context, a number of names are making the rounds and notable amongst them are Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, the former vice-presidential candidate for the NDC in the 2020 elections, Mr. Kingsley Kwame Awuah-Darko, former Managing Director of BOST and TOR, Mr. Sylvester Adinam Mensah, former Chief Executive Officer of the National Health Insurance Authority, Mr. Julius Debrah, the former Chief of Staff and Mr. Leslie Mensah Tamakloe, Chairman and CEO of Electromod Co Ltd.
Professor Opoku-Agyemang, who is 71 years old now, was born on November 22, 1951. Mr. Awuah-Darko, 54 years, was born on January 4, 1969 and Mr. Sylvester Mensah, born on December 28, 1963, is currently 59 years old. In the case of Mr. Julius Debrah, he is currently 57 years with date of birth, April 24, 1966, and 66 years old Leslie Mensah Tamakloe was born on April 18, 1957. As stated early on, under normal circumstances, age would not have been a restricting factor for the flagbearer because there is no constitutional upper age limit. As a result, JM is free to choose his running mate without giving much thought to the age of the person he chooses to partner him. But is the flagbearer indeed so “free” to treat age as just one of the flimsy factors in such a crucial choice? A resounding “No” is the obvious response! Indeed, the choice must consider among other factors, both the interests of the country and the party’s short, medium, and long-term ambitions for political administration.
Although the national constitution does not place much emphasis on upper age limit, the party’s succession plan and predictions for its political future must not overlook it. The scenario that would arise is that JM wins the 2024 elections and takes office as president. He serves a four-year term which expires in 2028. Eventually the vice president who becomes the more suitable candidate in accordance with long standing trend of the party must capably represent the NDC and serve a maximum of two four-year terms as president. This means that one of the five probable running mates—mentioned above—must be best qualified to effectively hold the fort and satisfy these expectations.
After JM departs in 2028, Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, who will then be the vice president should she be chosen as the running mate in 2024, might choose to run for president in the subsequent election. By that time, she will be 77 years old or close to, and will not be as formidable a candidate as the party would want to have to best position it into the years ahead. Chances are that her advanced age will significantly hurt her prospects of even winning the presidency in 2028. Given that it is highly improbable that Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang will be able to effectively lead the NDC for eight years following JM, her candidacy for vice president in 2024 poses a significant risk to future electoral victories for the NDC. Without doubt, Professor Opoku-Agyemang possesses all the traits of a running mate, including being incredibly intelligent, charming, having a lovely demeanor and being well-connected. She might also perform exceptionally well on other crucial criteria like marketability, gender, ethnic and regional balance.
However, when compared to the other contenders, Awuah-Darko, Sylvester Mensah, Julius Debrah, and Leslie Tamakloe—who are equally excellent with respect to some of the likely selection criteria stated above—Prof’s age, does not bode well for the NDC succession plan for the next 12 years and beyond. Therefore, it is obvious that Professor Opoku-Agyemang will respectfully not make a compelling vice-presidential candidate in 2024 due to her advanced age. It is also important to note that the harrowing experience of Ghanaians under the embarrassing presidency of President Nana Akufo Addo, is quickly affecting Ghanaians’ perceptions of the political competency of aged individuals, making the idea of electing an aged person to the presidency less appealing going forward. That impression would not vanish very soon.
If JM chooses our Lady Professor as his running mate once more in 2024, chances are that she may decide against running for president in 2028 or, if she decides to contest, her likelihood of losing the 2027 NDC presidential primaries will be high because by that time the NDC will be setting itself up to assume the presidency for at least another eight years after JM’s exit. The NDC might then be fielding a female presidential candidate for the first time but with an obvious age disadvantage. This political gamble might pose a great danger to the fortunes of the party. The party will face a dilemma and may have to get around it by presenting completely new faces for president and running mate in the 2028 presidential elections. That will, however, be extremely risky and will harm the NDC’s chances of winning elections in 2028 since the New Patriotic Party (NPP) may have younger candidates who the Ghanaian voter may already be very familiar with. The NDC party must not get to this brink!
Thus, to avoid going down this slippery road, the NDC’s future can be better planned with a running mate for 2024 who will preferably be in his or her fifties or at most mid-sixties by 2028. In addition to resolving the afore-mentioned potential obstacles, making a choice of a younger running mate will facilitate and smoothen party presidential transitions, ensure continuity, and guarantee victory in subsequent elections. Kwame Awuah-Darko will turn 59 and Sylvester Mensah will be 65 years old in 2028. Similarly, Julius Debrah will be 62 and Leslie Tamakloe will turn 71 years. The choice of anyone of the younger contenders is more appealing because of their age, among other factors. If one of these candidates is chosen as a running mate for the 2024 presidential elections, the NDC will be arguably in a strong position to continue to be very formidable for the presidency in several future electoral cycles.
Nonetheless, the party can decide to place less focus on the succession plan and instead pay more attention to marketability. However, given that the general mood of the country clearly points to an NDC victory in 2024, chances are that, that victory would depend much more on how hard the NDC will work to make the victory certain and not so much on who partners JM. In other words, achieving that victory will not be significantly impacted by the running mate’s marketability or popularity. This factor would, therefore, not serve so much as an advantage to the electoral fortunes of NDC in 2024. In fact, the NDC will still win the 2024 elections with a different presidential candidate even if, perish the thought, JM decides not to run. This is the extent to which the dynamics of election 2024 favour the NDC. The Party, therefore, has a fine opportunity to plan by giving more weight to the succession consideration than the marketability factor by choosing someone now who will strengthen the party’s position after 2028. At that time, more than now, the popularity or marketability of the Presidential candidate that the party will present will be very key in winning the 2028 elections.
Needless to state that every political party carefully considers who will succeed the president before he or she exits. It therefore behoves JM to lay out a clear succession plan as the Party’s leader before exiting, rather than leave the Party to contend with the risk of fielding completely new candidates when the time comes. As far as who he is comfortable working with is concerned, the leader of the NDC can work with anyone effectively, regardless of age or experience. So, retaining the Lady Professor will not be much of a problem and bringing on a new face will likewise not pose any burden to him. Certainly, there are those who may not be so keen on any succession plans for the party now because any attempt at that will clearly not favour the unveiling of their presidential ambitions in 2028 and beyond.
All said, H.E. John Mahama typically gets it right, and it is anticipated that he will do so once more during this crucial time in the NDC’s history.