There are two main systems of democratic governance: we have the parliamentary system, like Ghana's Second Republican administration with Prof. K. A Busia as Prime Minister, and then we have the presidential system, like the Third Republican administration with Dr. Hilla Limann as President of Ghana.
In the parliamentary system, the president is a very ceremonial job, so there is no vice-president; but in the presidential system—the centre of political authority is the president, so vice-president is key.
Currently in Ghana's Fourth Republic, we are practising a hybrid of the two: a parliamentary cum presidential system—where the executive authority is the president but he is compelled by the Constitution to appoint more than half of his Cabinet ministers from Parliament.
Jerry Rawlings shot his way to the Castle on 31st December 1981 but after nearly 10 years of autocratic rule, pressure from all sides forced him to go constitutional to become Executive President, so he needed a vice-president.
Rawlings made history when one morning as Cabinet was in session he stormed the Cabinet Chamber and started beating up his vice-president, Nenyi Kow Nkensen Arkaah. Everybody present was so stunned that they looked on in horror, until a soldier, Commodore Steve Obimpeh, rose up to restrain the head of state from turning the vice-president into a punching bag.
According to a publication in The Free Press at the time, the heavily assaulted vice-president went straight from there to the Police Headquarters where he made a complaint of assault, battery and causing harm. In law, the death of a complainant does not mean the crime is “dead”.
It became necessary for President Rawlings to select another running mate for the 1996 elections and he selected another person from the Central Region, my lecturer in Commercial Law at Legon(1976-77) and later Company Law at the Ghana Law School (1984-85), Professor John Evans Atta Mills.
There was a very witty cartoon in The Chronicle in those days when Prof. Atta Mills was cartooned in a pair of boxer shorts in a boxing ring doing training with gloves and all and a question – “Prof, are you now a boxer?” Reply: “With what happened to Kow Arkaah, maybe I might need same boxing skills…”
When Prof. Mills became the NDC presidential candidate for the 2000 general elections, he selected my senior at the Law Faculty at Legon and his own student Martin Amidu as his running mate. They lost for 2004, he selected the MP for Kumbungu, Mohammed, but they lost, finally in 2008 Prof. Mills made a very brilliant choice for former assemblyman cum DCE cum PNDC Secretary cum MP cum Minister of Communications John Mahama as his running mate.
John Mahama is a politician, through and through. You remember the run-off in the 2008 general elections—the final race was at Tain and GTV showed vice-presidential candidate John Mahama standing at the roadside with NDC supporters waving and laughing good naturedly at an NPP pick-up load of NPP supporters.
When his boss died in July 2012, he picked up a financial technocrat, Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, from Central Region as his running mate, retained him for the 2016 general elections but most unfortunately the man died in 2018.
After his re-election by an overwhelming margin to become the NDC presidential candidate, John Mahama's headache was who to name as a running mate.
I have never been a presidential candidate, so I do not have the experience of having to select a 'running mate' but judging purely from history, I can say authoritatively that a good choice strengthens the ticket and a bad choice weakens the candidate.
Richard Nixon, a seasoned lawyer, was vice-president to General Eisenhower, lost the 1960 elections to John F Kennedy but came back strongly in 1968 to win the Presidency. Senator George Bush was vice-president to Ronald Reagan for eight years and went on to become president after him for one term.
Barack Obama made a brilliant choice of Joe Biden as his running mate, who is now today in a pole position to successfully challenge beleaguered Donald Trump come November 2020.
According to US history, one famous presidential candidate made a terrible mistake by naming somebody as his running mate who turned out—
from the media—to have once had a mental case at the Psychiatric Hospital— the two of them lost the elections miserably.
A classmate of mine from Achimota School Form one to Upper Six (together in Aggrey House and later together at Commonwealth Hall, Legon) was named a running mate for one of the presidential candidates in the 2000 general elections. After their defeat, he once came to Parliament, saw me as MP for Berekum and jokingly remarked, “Effah D, I have beaten you. I was a running mate!”
The point is solid: a good choice of a running mate strengthens the ticket and a bad choice weakens the candidate. Against this background, let us examine the choice of Prof. Jane Opoku-Agyeman by John Mahama as his running mate.
For purpose of gender, Prof. is a good choice but how strong is the gender argument in Ghana? At any rate, if Candidate John Mahama desperately wanted a female candidate from the Central Region, why not Ama Benyiwa Doe, four times MP, Central Regional Minister, younger in age and a politician through and through?
In terms of experience, Prof. is a technocrat—an educationist, former Vice-Chancellor, who was Minister of Education for four years, and incurred the displeasure of teacher trainee students with cancellation of their allowances— they should vote for her to become vice-president so that they cancel the allowance?
The perception is that the running mate must be physically younger in age than the boss, but Prof. is far older in age than John Mahama—is it a prudent decision?
Why does NDC like preserving Central Region as their production house for vice-presidents—Kow Arkaah, Prof. Mills, Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur and now…Prof. Jane Naana Opoku-Agyeman?
The Akans have a beautiful proverb: “nothing that a chicken will do will impress the eagle.” As an NPP politician, I will conclude that John Mahama's running mate is a bad choice.
BY Nkrabeah Effah-Dartey