Nana Konadu’s ‘Duku’ In The Political Ring: Matters Arising – By Rodney Nkrumah-Boateng

She has taken another tentative step towards what is probably the worst-kept secret in Ghana’s recent political history. Nana Konadu Rawlings, a former First Lady, has just declared her intention to challenge President Mills for the flagbearer position of  the NDC in next year’s presidential elections. Note: it is only an intention to contest, as she was at pains to explain in her speech. In other words, she may or may not actually contest. But let no one be fooled by the purported dipping of her dainty toes in the scalding, murky pool of Ghanaian politics-even a JHS student knows her coyness is only a mirage, and that it is only a matter of time before she takes a decisive dive.

So what says my cloudy crystal ball about the implications of Nana finally casting her famous ‘duku’ in NDC’s ring? What does it mean for President Mills, for the NDC and for the NPP in the electoral battle ahead, whether or not she wins the presidential candidacy of the NDC? Perhaps, as an NPP sympathiser, I should follow President Mills’  ‘Dzi Wo Fie Asem’, admonition and leave the NDC to paddle its own canoe, but the former First Lady’s political ambitions reverberate beyond the confines of her party, thereby providing me with some useful cover.

Nana Konadu, like any  member of the NDC and a citizen of Ghana, has every right to challenge the president for the NDC’s flag bearer position in 2012. Secondly, there is no doubt that she and her husband, former President Rawlings, enjoy some political capital within sections of the NDC. This is what has led to what some have referred to as the Castle v Ridge affair, with Rawlings publicly making clear his displeasure with some aspects of the Mills administration. No serious political observer can claim that all is well between the two camps.

Much as Nana is no lightweight NDC member, my view is that, as Kwaku Baako declared on radio recently, the NDC is likely to ‘go conservative’ and vote for Mills, especially since as sitting president he carries the huge advantage of political patronage within the party as well as the incumbency and is likely to use this to great effect. This is regardless of the dissatisfaction expressed by some NDC members about the Mills government, which must have buoyed Nana into believing that she stands a good chance of unseating the good professor.  She may have failed to notice that the foot soldiers, whom she claims to speak for, and whose support she taps into and relies on, do not have a vote in choosing a candidate.  Some in the NDC will see Nana’s entirely legitimate challenge as an affront to Mills’ authority, especially since no sitting president has ever been challenged in the run-up to a second term election since the beginning of the Fourth Republic.

If Nana loses, what next? Perhaps a bit of historical context would be helpful here. In the run-up to the 2008 elections, the NPP suffered a damaging split between the Nana Akuffo-Addo and Alan Kyeremateng camps.  Alan, whilst defeated for the presidential candidacy of the party, still carried a significant base within the party who took the defeat of their candidate rather badly. This acrimonious split contributed to the party’s defeat at the polls, with suggestions that former President Kufuor was so unhappy with Alan’s defeat that he developed a lukewarm approach to Nana’s campaign.

The possible parallel here is that with Nana Konadu being a high profile candidate and the contest being inevitably but understandably intense, the party could end up split even further along the current Ridge v Castle fault lines, especially if a stung Ridge feels that Castle has unduly influenced the election by the use of its huge advantages of incumbency, patronage and influence over the party structures. The party may possibly not recover in time for the Konadu camp to throw its full weight behind a Mills candidacy at next year’s elections. The million-dollar question would be whether JJ Rawlings would then campaign for Mills as vigorously as he did in 2008 and helped immensely in securing the NDC victory, especially given his public spats with the Castle. The possible result is that Candidate Mills could suffer a severe haemorrhage of NDC ‘footsoldier votes’ in 2012 as these voters develop an allergy to the ballot box altogether. This could immensely improve the NPP’s chances of snatching the presidency.

In the unlikely event of Nana Konadu winning the candidacy, the reverse could easily be the case, with the Castle camp in all likelihood retreating into its shell and failing to fully fall behind her after suffering such catastrophic and possibly unforgiveable humiliation and perceived treachery. This, more than Nana’s credentials as a candidate per se, is more likely to sink her presidential dreams were she to win the candidacy as she may fail to mop up the Mills votes within her party.

Of course the NPP cannot, and should not, sit back and fold its arms hoping the NDC will implode in the aftermath of their candidacy election, and then reap the political dividends arising. It has to work hard to sell its own message and vision to the electorate, and treat such dividend, if it happens, simply as political bonus. After all, whoever wins the flag bearer position, it is possible that the NDC will come together in a show of amazing unity and single purposefulness of mind, improbable as it appears in my view.

In the wilds of the savannah, the lioness, in order to maximise its chances of securing the nimble gazelle, has to learn the patient art of timing, lying low and springing into action at the right moment. The art of politics is not dissimilar, and whilst she has every right under her party’s rules to seek its nomination as presidential candidate, Nana Konadu may well ponder over learning a few lessons from the lioness and wait until the slate is clean in a post-Mills era.

Perhaps this morsel of advice comes too late and is unwelcome in any event, with all her gear in place and the lady itching to step up to the plate. The NDC cannot afford to ignore or discount her ambitions, for she is a political heavyweight within the party. Let’s face it: It is not as if it is Ms. Zita Okaikoi or Ms. Ama Benyiwa Doe contesting-with all due respect to the two noble ladies.

It clearly promises to be an interesting political season.