Dr Bawumia: NPP’s 2024 flag bearer
From a massive super delegates’ congress win in August to the promise of a showdown from one of the contestants, the long-awaited moment is finally here.
Dr Mahamudu Bawumia is the New Patriotic Party’s (NPP) flag bearer for the 2024 presidential election.
Significance of the win
The win is significant in several ways.
Let me highlight two in this piece.
First, never in the history of the 4th Republic has an incumbent Vice-President been selected as flag bearer through a competitive primary process.
In 2000, the incumbent party (NDC) selected its presidential candidate (Vice-President Mills) by popular acclamation in what became known as “The Swedru Declaration.”
In 2008, the incumbent party (NPP) witnessed its Vice-President Alhaji Aliu Mahama lose the primary, managing to garner a paltry 6.49 per cent of the vote.
There will be no competitive party primary in which an incumbent Vice-President contested till the NPP flagbearer race to select its presidential candidate for the 2024 election.
I am sure there are those who wondered whether Dr Bawumia may suffer the same fate as befell the late Alhaji Aliu Mahama (Kufuor’s Vice-President) in the race for 2008 flag bearer.
He avoided that fate.
The signs were clear from the beginning that Dr Bawumia was the party establishment’s preferred candidate, but it was impressive to watch him travel the entire length and breadth of the country to win the hearts and minds of party delegates.
In the end he won six out of ten (61.47%) valid votes cast.
For a party that has a history of very competitive primaries since 1992, this is commendable.
For the enthusiastic voices in Dr Bawumia’s camp who made certain emphatic declarations before last Saturday please try to “never count your chickens before they are hatched”.
Ours is a politics that never forgets, and these things can puncture the beauty of historic moments.
Dr Bawumia’s win is significant in another way.
It is no secret that the NPP has been perceived as not being an inclusive party.
It has been tagged as an “Akan Party.”
One of the ways the party has attempted to deal with this tag is by selecting a running mate from the Northern Region to balance its presidential ticket during elections.
Dr Bawumia’s win represents a historic breakthrough for the party and hopefully will go a long way to put to rest this perception.
But as I often advise in my work on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion work, this is just the first step.
The party must make sure that in touting this significant breakthrough it does not fail to acknowledge how it was achieved - by dint of hard work.
Most importantly, how all the voices in the party treats him as flag bearer will go a long way to reinforce the narrative that it is indeed an inclusive party.
Dr Bawumia said this in his acceptance speech “I have my own vision and my own priorities.
Given the opportunity by you the people of Ghana to lead, I shall govern as my own man with guidance from God Almighty.”
Every sitting Vice-President (not just in Ghana) faces this political dilemma as a presidential candidate.
They are often asked whether electing them as president will be the beginning of a truly new presidential term or a continuation of the term of their predecessor.
I am not surprised that Dr Bawumia addressed this in his speech by letting Ghanaians know that he will be his “own man”.
Keep in mind that this has already come up a few times from the main political opposition.
So, this is one narrative he will have to deal with as he campaigns for the presidency.
But that is the least of his headaches in my opinion.
His biggest challenge?
How to reconcile the force of the economic assertions and arguments he made during the 2016 elections with the economic and political realities over the last seven years.
To complicate this is the current perceptions of the party he will be leading.
Anytime I look at Afrobarometer data and the downward trajectory in 2019 and especially 2022, from the 2017 high, I ask myself – “what happened?”
For me, that is Dr Bawumia’s task.
To answer the question “what happened” and to convince Ghanaians how a Dr Bawumia presidency will be different.
I hope that the argument will not be “the alternative is scary” because I believe the force of that argument died in 2020.
I also believe the force of the Covid-19 and Russia-Ukraine war arguments has limitations.
To win the hearts and minds of voters he has to offer a more forceful argument while facing a difficult political terrain.
Congrats Dr Bawumia.
The battle for the highest political crown of the land this time is more than just the Lord’s.
The writer is a Democracy and Development Fellow at the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana).