Choosing A Running Mate

Ghanaians are waiting in anticipation to find out who the two leading presidential aspirants, John Mahama, and Mumuni Bawumia, would pick as running mates. Ghanaians are not going to get a lot of suspense from a second Mahama presidential campaign. Ghanaians know who John Mahamais, in excruciating detail; they know he stands for nothing, politically; they know what kind of campaign he runs; and they know that he is going to make some false promises, even if they don’t know what. So the most anticipated nomination is from Bawumia of the NPP.

The 1992 Constitution of Ghana mandates the presidential candidate to choose their running mate for the vice presidency. The process of selecting a vice presidential candidate has become highly personal to the presidential candidate, and the criteria for the choice has become personal by the presidential candidates as was the case in Kufour and Aliu Mahama, and Akufo Addo and Mumuni Bawumia for the NPP and Rawlings and Atta Mills. Normally, the vice president is just a sidekick and serves at the pleasure of the president.

. The running mates traditionally have been selectedby the presidential candidateson the basis of electoral considerations, typically in order to provide geographic, demographic, or ideological “ticket balancing”. It seems John Mahama has no problems choosing his running mate. He claims he has already chosen a certain man yet to be revealed. Bawumia has a few paths before him. One of the few outstanding questions is whom the NPP candidate, Mumuni Bawumia, might pick as a running mate, and when. It seems Ghanaians are very anxious to see whom he picks.

All the presidents have chosen their vice presidents to ‘balance’ the ticket in the eyes of the voters, a vice president has limited constitutional power and is more than an errand boy, however, it would be wrong to ridicule the office of the vice president. All running mates do not have actual political power except the one granted by the Constitution or the President. However, given the vice president’s limited constitutional powers, and the remote possibility of presidential succession, it would be wrong to ridicule the office of the vice-president.

The first and most important criterion is any candidate should have the requisite qualification of a president, including the ability to step up at a moment’s notice to be the president when the need arises. This means the person chosen should have the ability and be prepared to govern if something happens to the president.

The second is chemistry. The president should choose a candidate who he can work with amicably. The need for compatibility cannot be brushed aside.For the avoidance of doubt, Vice-presidential selections do not tend to have much electoral impact, but the choice normally reveals what the incoming president thinks it might take to beat the opposition party. A disagreeable pair can doom a candidate and the administration dysfunctional. We remember Rawlings and Arkaah.

Thirdly, there should be political balance. The balance in question could be geographic—a northern presidential candidate like John Mahama and Bawumia would pick a Southerner. He might try to balance out the ticket, and blunt his difficulties with religion by choosing a Christian female or male member of the party, which would be a handy rejoinder whenever anyone points out he is a religious bigot who does not like women in higher office. He might also make a similar electoral calculation and select a younger person, which would appeal to the youth.

He could try to unite the party and neutralise younger rivals by choosing a more established older candidate. Or, in the case of Buwumia, maybe, annoyed by certain elements in the Akufo-Addo regime,he would try to fortify his own strengths by choosing a completely new younger person who would let him alone.

Bawumiahas his needs, and ambitious NPP politicians have theirs. The same goes forMahama and his NDC. There will be no shortage of aspirants from both major parties. But caution is needed — and for good reason. Sometimes, as with Kufour and Aliu Mahama, John Mahama, and Amissah Arthur, these marriages of convenience (the relationship between president and vice president) work. But some do not work as with Rawlings and Arkaah.

All too often the dynamic between the president and vice president ran the range from cold and distantly cordial to outright hostile. The result is a vice president would be cut out of the action, relegated to trivial duties, or dispatched to attend funerals locally or abroad.

Fourth, intimidation. We have said we are not very much concerned about John Mahama and who he picks as his running mate. He is experienced and knows what to expect having done so on more than one occasion. Our concern is with Mumuni Bawumia of the NPP and who he chooses as his running mate.

We hope he would not allow himself to be intimidated to please the NPP’s Ashanti wing, which might presently, be not at all happy with certain internal party dynamics. Having an unpopular, arrogant person on the ticket might hurt him. Bawumia should select someone who appeals not only to NPP voters but also to those that make the difference between winning and losing campaigns—presumably, floating voters.

Fifth, loyalty. Bawumia should not be interested in a junior partner or co-president; he wants someone to have his back in all situations. Picking a proven loyalist without serious political ambitions might give him a sense of security and support and ease any paranoia he would have about a running mate trying to overtake him.

Sixth, experience. A vice president should have some years of national-level experience, including substantial knowledge in foreign policy, and industrial and science and technology policy. A vice president should bring to their tickets deep experience in governing and a recognition on the part of the presidential candidate that the person he chooses has anexperience needed. One of the gravest threats in choosing a compatible vice president is the perilous rise of narcissism among young politicians in Ghana, especially, leading to the fracturing of the NPP.

The disgruntled old base of the party has long gritted its teeth and gone along with the ‘me youth generation’ taking over the party. Many of the old members see the poor showing in 2020 as an indication that it is time to change the internal dynamics and fight the burgeoning, perpetual expansion of poisonous self-adulation creeping into every corner of Ghanaian politics and way of life.

By Kwadwo Afari

Editor’s note: Views expressed in this article do not represent that of The Chronicle


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