His populist campaign message is simple: The NDC won, even if controversially, in 1992 and again in 1996, making it two wins. The NPP won in 2000 and again in 2004, making it two wins and the overall score line a 2:2 draw.
2008 is for the hat-trick, and he wants to be selected as the striker for the ruling New Patriotic Party.
And, he has an intriguing reason for thinking he is the man to put the winning goal in the NDC net. At the University of Ghana in the 1960s, his mate was one John Evans Atta Mills, an unassuming but equally enthusiastic athlete. For the university team, Prof Mills played in defence, and Nana Addo was a forward player, specifically an attacking midfielder.
The question he hopes Ghanaians would answer correctly to in 2008 is this: who would you trust to score the nation's goals - a defender or an attacker?
Unlike several others, Nana Akufo-Addo started his pre-campaign excursions after July last year. Since then, has toured virtually all the constituencies in the Upper West, Upper East, Northern, Brong Ahafo, Volta, Western and Central. His next major tour is to the Ashanti Region. However, since he"s very instrumental in the Golden Jubilee anniversary celebrations, that trip has been pushed to the middle of March.
According to Nana Akufo-Addo, "historically, currently and in the future, the NPP remains the most credible instrument for Ghana's development. We have the opportunity and the destiny to dominate the democratic, social and economic development of this country for a generation and more importantly, use that opportunity to bring the real benefits of good governance to every citizen in this country. We need to hold on steadfastly to our enviable tradition of courage, conviction, endurance, patience and hard work that has kept us together and striving purposefully ahead all these years. It is therefore important that the party recognises the paramount need for unity”.
He stresses, “The strength of the [Danquah-Busia] tradition is not something that just happened. This is a tradition that has known struggle since the UGCC days almost sixty years ago. From the movement and agitation to independence, through opposition to all forms and manner of oppressive rule till today, where the struggle now is mainly to erect fully, pillars of accountable governance, the rule of law, respect for human rights, create jobs and grow skills of our people for them to take full economic advantage of the conducive environment we are building”.
The man who fiercely challenged the President 8 years ago is now widely regarded as one of the President's most devoted servants.
In 1998, Nana Akufo-Addo posed this question before NPP delegates at Sunyani: “Can we in the NPP rise to the challenge and serve their needs? Can we then put behind us the era of defeats and disappointments, the era of dejections and frustrations, the era of excuses and explanations for failures of leadership and become winners for a change? For my part I am confident that we can say a firm yes! Yes, we can rise to the challenge and yes we can become winners this time”.
The party did rise to the challenge but they did not vote for Nana Akufo-Addo to lead them into the crucial 2000 battle. They chose John Agyekum Kufuor. Eight years after, with President Kufuor's second and final term ending in December 2008, the race is on for his successor in the ruling NPP. Already several high profile politicians, including the Vice President and Cabinet Ministers have hit the ground running.
The one contestant who is seen as the man to beat is the Foreign Minister, who put up a brave attempt to challenge his senior at the Bar, John Kufuor, to lead the New Patriotic Party in 1998. However, as President Kufuor reminded his party executives last December, his party is known to be of Liberal Conservatives. In 1998 they stuck with their 1996 candidate, Kufuor. Ironically, for Nana Akufo-Addo, the same tradition of seniority appears to be one of his trump cards today, being the most marketed of the current aspirants.
The NDC by sticking to Prof Mills for the third time, used the powerful argument that the former Vice President needs very little marketing because his product is already a household name. Nana Akufo-Addo's message to the NPP is that besides President Kufuor, he is the best known NPP politician both within the party and in the nation at large. And, with the NPP not expected to elect their flagbearer till a whole year after the NDC has done theirs, the NPP needn't be reminded that they have their marketing job cut out for them.
According to Victor Newman, a highly regarded NPP strategist and Chief Patron of FONAA, “Nana Addo has not only served the party with distinction, he has the leadership qualities to win that big electoral challenge. He is the only 'complete candidate'. You don't have to like him. You just have to accept that he is the only one who can deliver, period”. Mr Newman who has compared the Foreign Minister to Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown as the leader-in-waiting, says “the NPP needs to choose a winnable candidate; someone with vision, proven organisational skills, exceptional dynamism, towering political pedigree and unmatched international exposure, who can unite the party and who will easily be accepted by the rank and file of the party and the swing voters.”
But, the Foreign Minister is just not sitting pretty waiting for the delegates to come and court him, instead he is doing again what he did in getting the people to vote No to Gen Acheampong's Unigov idea, in getting the Danquah-Busia club off the ground and again in mobilising the ordinary people for the Kume Preko marches.
“The NPP is a house of gratitude,” says Mustapha Hamid, Nana Akufo-Addo's unofficial spokesperson. “They remember what Nana Addo did to build the party and get it elected. They are also seeing what he's doing for the nation, and invariably for the party, as Ghana's Foreign Minister.”
Nana Akufo-Addo's resourcefulness is as telling now as it was then. In 1992, when the time came for the newly founded party to organise the First National Delegates Congress to elect its presidential candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo provided the bulk of the funds required. This resourcefulness culminated in his founding membership, youthfulness and organisational skills being employed by Professor Adu Boahen, presidential candidate of the NPP for the 1992 elections, as his campaign manager. Nana Akufo-Addo has been consistent in marketing the NPP not as an elitist party, but as a party committed to bringing the greatest happiness to the greatest number of Ghanaians. In the aftermath of the gargantuan electoral fraud of 1992, Nana Akufo-Addo doubled as the team leader of the group that published the famous Stolen Verdict, whose arguments led to substantial reforms in the electoral system.
They say that he's broke, because he's not paying as much as the others. That may be true. But, this is a party that remembers those who came to its rescue when the chips were down and the coffers were empty. If others in recent years have gathered the resources to do more, that is good news. But, this campaign is not about who has the deepest pockets. It is about leadership, pure and simple.”
President Kufuor shares this view of the FONAA spokesman. Last week, he chose Koforidua and a meeting with Regional party executives to warn that the flagbearership of the NPP could not be bought with money.
But, Nana Akufo-Addo, seen as the clear favourite, as every opinion poll places him within the top two, has become canon for his challengers' folder. But, he has started hitting back at his critics, who are said to be throwing all shapes of mud at him. In his last three regional tours (to Volta, Central and Western Regions) some party executives complained to Nana Akufo-Addo of their worries about the pull-him-down messages that already seem to be defining the campaign strategy of some of the 16 reported aspirants.
The common charge is that, he is arrogant. This Nana Akufo-Addo has described as “baseless propaganda” with FONAA spokesperson Mustapha Hamid, explaining that “those who feel threatened by him are conveniently misinterpreting his self-confidence for arrogance. But, they know Nana is one of the simplest politicians you can come across in spite of his privileged upbringing.”
To those who fear the congested race could lead to a similar split as experienced by the Danquah-Busia family in 1979, Nana Akufo-Addo's response is a categorical no. “The NPP is bigger than any individual and more formidable and established than the PFP and UNC, which split up even before any election was contested under the then Third Republic. This is a party with a very long and hard history and a deep and memorable appreciation of that history. We showed that spirit of unity in 1998 after the contest. And, we will show it again after this year's contest.”
He believes the party, the various candidates and their loyalists can also do more to keep the campaign healthy and issue-based. The Foreign Minister is urging party loyalists not to entertain a campaign style that seeks to “attack opponents rather than tackle issues.”
He states, “I know people are saying all sorts of things about me. That I am arrogant… I've also got things to say about them! But, that is not where my interest is. There's serious work to be done.”
He continued: “When we were in the trenches and fighting on the side of the ordinary people of this country for democracy and good governance, they did not call us arrogant then.”
His message to the kingmakers in the party is, “We don't just need somebody to bear the party's flag, we need a winnable candidate and a political leader who can win victory for the party in 2008 and further more to inspire the millions of our people and take the country to the next stage of development from where President Kufuor will stop.”
His privileged upbringing is often cited as a minus. What many people do not know is that Nana Akufo-Addo was born in Swalaba, in the backstreets of Accra. He had his primary education at the Government Boys School (Syto) and later Rowe Road School (now Kinbu).
Nana Akufo-Addo is arguably the most popular living Ghanaian politician of this era after Presidents Kufuor and Rawlings. His background and professional qualities allow him to mix freely with everybody. At the same time, perhaps due to the fact that his father's imposing house was at the heart of downtown Nima in Accra, Nana Akufo-Addo feels equally at home in the midst of the people. In fact it is said that his father, a royal from Akropong Akuapem, gave up on stopping his son and first born from playing “gutter-to-gutter” (a popular football game) with the 'Nima boys'. Nana Addo was also a great sportsman, who went as far as to play for the Real Republikans.
His vision is one of getting Ghana to break the global jinx of no true black nation being able to stand up and be counted as among the developed world. His uncompromising confidence in the ability of the Ghanaian is seen as key to his task to inspire and motivate the people of Ghana onto greater heights. Nana Akufo-Addo can inspire. As spokesperson for the Alliance for Change, he led the inspirational drive that got a record half a million people on the streets of Accra and Kumasi to demonstrate against the NDC's economic policies.
Before that in 1977, at the age of 33, he was the first person to join General (Okatakyie) Akwasi Amankwa Afrifa to oppose Kutu Acheampong's attempts to form a one-party state under the guise of UNIGOV. Nana Akufo-Addo returned to Ghana after practicing law for five years in France to join the national struggle against military dictatorship, showing his political organisational and mobilisation skills as General Secretary of the broad-based People's Movement for Freedom and Justice, which led the successful “No” campaign in the UNIGOV referendum, ultimately bringing about the downfall of Acheampong and the restoration of multiparty democratic rule in the country in 1979.
The synergy of his conservatism, liberalism and his short flirtation with socialism, as a student, is obvious in his long-enduring popular appeal. The substance of this popular appeal is aptly encapsulated in his vision of “Indigenous Capitalism” as the way forward for Ghana's future. Ghanaians must adopt a “can do will do” attitude towards economic growth, the Foreign Minister has said and he has tremendous confidence in the ability of the Ghanaian. He makes no apologies for his philosophy of indigenous capitalism, which is all about economically empowering the greatest number of Ghanaians.
The Foreign Minister is seen as a politician with the charisma, intellect and populism that cuts across social lines.
In 1996, during the first competitive parliamentary elections of the Fourth Republic, Nana Akufo-Addo won the Abuakwa seat against considerable odds. Seen as the man most feared by then President Rawlings, all resources were marshalled to help Nana Akufo-Addo's cousin, the incumbent Owuraku Amofa, to prevail: anything to prevent this firebrand, intelligent, charismatic and eloquent lawyer and opposition politician from becoming a member of the legislature. The stop-Nana-Addo campaign failed and, since then, he has remained a thorn, perceived or real in the flesh of Rawlings.
He has been known to attract attention from both senior and junior counsel when on his feet at the superior courts of judicature.
It was therefore only natural that, after his party won power in December 2000, he was appointed by the President as the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice. He was given the unenviable task of reforming the legal system - bastardized after years of military suppression - and to prosecute a myriad of corruption cases against officials of the previous Government. Indeed, the first official to be prosecuted and convicted under the NPP was the first Minister of Sports of the new Kufuor administration in 2001. This was followed by a series of high profile cases which led to the conviction of the former NDC Finance Minister Kwame Peprah and others. He was also instrumental in initiating a series of reforms of the legal system and the Ministry of Justice, prominent amongst them being the establishment of the new Commercial Court and the Business Law Division of the Justice Ministry.
President Kufuor's first major cabinet reshuffle in March 2003 took Nana Akufo-Addo to the Foreign Ministry. His eloquence, command of the French language, and powerful negotiation skills made him a brilliant choice to implement President Kufuor's diplomatic initiatives, the successes of which are self-evident.
The image of the country has been considerably enhanced during his tenure as Foreign Minister. Effective involvements in Liberia and Guinea Bissau, and the leading role he is playing as a member of the International Working Group, whose work is helping to restore peace to troubled Cote d'Ivoire, attest to his excellent diplomatic skills which have raised aloft the diplomatic profile of Ghana.
The great respect, which is currently accorded Ghana, has also yielded significant economic dividends for the nation, notably the G-8 inspired cancellation of our multi-lateral debts and the impending access to some US$ 500 million under the Bush Administration MCA facility for the modernization of the country's agriculture. There are many who say that never since the early, heady days of independence has the flag of Ghana been so high.
Nana Akufo-Addo, the three-term MP, underscores the fact that John Agyekum Kufuor has so far been the most successful leader of the Danquah-Busia tradition. “Yes, we have had great leaders like J.B. Danquah, K.A. Busia, Victor Owusu, Paa Willie, Adu Boahen and others but it is President Kufuor who has led this party to two consecutive electoral victories and with increased margins. He remains, for us, the embodiment of the NPP's political maturity”.