Dr Mahamudu Bawumia (right) and Dr Mathew Opoku Prempeh
Dr Mahamudu Bawumia (right) and Dr Mathew Opoku Prempeh

Election 2024: Dr Bawumia’s running mate

In a February 2024 op-ed piece (https://www.graphic.com.gh/news/politics/ghana-news-the-2024-elections-choosing-running-mate.html), I shared data from two surveys, supplemented it with elections results since 1992, and drew the following conclusions after my analysis.


The verdict of whether running mates influence the choice of presidential candidate in the Ghanaian context, at best, is mixed. From the two surveys, the verdict appears to be a) overall it does not matter and b) it if matters, it depends on the region or the candidate in question. From election outcomes, it appears that the selection of running mates from the Northern Region has had political payoffs for the New Patriotic Party (NPP), but the case does not appear to be so for the National Democratic Congress (NDC) in selecting running mates from the Central Region.

I further added this speculation by expressing the following – “Our two parties have traditionally done a regional balancing for the ticket. For the NPP, it has been South (Presidential Candidate) and North (Running Mate). With Dr Bawumia as the 2024 presidential candidate (North), my guess is the running mate will be picked from the south. Who from the South? We wait to see.”

There is confirmation that Dr Bawumia (NPP Flag bearer) has settled on a running mate, Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh, popularly known as NAPO, the current energy minister. The process requires his formal presentation to and approval by the National Council of the party. I expect a positive outcome. On that assumption we are back to the age-old question – “do running mates influence voter choice of presidential candidate?” 

Presidential candidates choose running mates for two primary reasons – a) help them win the election; and b) once victory is secured, help them govern. In this op-ed piece, I choose to focus on the former by examining what I perceive as the expected political role of NAPO in this election.

NAPO – An asset to Bawumia’s candidacy?

This question, in my opinion, can be answered by looking at three key issues.  First, although it is my contention that at the end of the day, it is the top of the ticket (president) that voters care the most about, we must keep in mind that running mates can be instrumental in shaping the choice. Most people will agree that the face and voice of the NPP’s campaign for successfully prosecuting the economic mismanagement case against the Mahama administration during the 2016 election was Dr Bawumia. Dr Bawumia must make his own case for his presidency and reconcile his 2016 arguments with current realities.

However, in the same way that he helped effectively make the case for a Nana Akufo-Addo presidency, it is the same way I expect his choice of running mate to help make the case. Is NAPO the right person for that job?

Second, anyone who has paid close attention to how voters have answered voting intention questions, as I have, from three important surveys (Afrobarometer Round 9, 2022; Global Info Analytics, April 2024; and Prof. Sarpong’s Baseline Study, June 2024) will notice that the strongest base of support for the party (Ashanti Region) is experiencing an enthusiasm gap. The percentage saying, “they would not vote” or are “undecided” gives no comfort to a party that knows it will win the region but must do so overwhelmingly. Running mates are selected because of their political capital, and how much of it when spent will bring in the needed dividends (votes)? Is NAPO the person to help bring in the political dividends especially from the Ashanti Region?

Third, when running mates have been part of an administration in whatever capacity, the consequences of that service can be used by their political opponents to create liabilities for the presidential candidate. NAPO has served as a minister in both education and energy. How will his political opponents construct narratives about his record in office in a way as to cause challenges for Dr Bawumia and create doubts in the minds of voters? Will NAPO be able to mitigate those narratives so that they do not chip support away from Dr Bawumia? 

In my opinion, I see no reason why the energy minister cannot a) help make the case for a Bawumia presidency; b) contribute to bring in the much-needed political dividends; and c) ensure that his record of service does not chip support away from Dr Bawumia.

But the Dr Bawumia campaign, and I am sure they are already aware, must fully embrace themselves for something I have come to realise about politics – the importance of the political temperaments of politicians. In the Ghanaian context, my favourite, often emphasised, is humility. This means that some of the inartful ways in which NAPO has expressed his views on matters of politics and policy will be brought into sharp focus. 

Well, good luck to both campaigns!

The writer is the Project Director, Democracy Project.

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