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28.05.2007 Politics

Rawlings okay's John Mahama

By News Desk

Barring any last minute hitches, John Dramani Mahama, Member of Parliament for Bole Bamboi and Minority Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, will be the running mate of National Democratic Congress flagbearer John Evans Atta Mills.

This follows the reported acceptance of Mr Dramani's suitability by NDC founder and supremo, Jerry John Rawlings, after the rejection of his offer to Mohammed Ibn Chambas, President of the ECOWAS Commission, as exclusively revealed by The Saturday Statesman.

Mr Dramani is said to be one of the "Young Northern Turks” NDC founder Rawlings is uncomfortable with, to the extent of sometimes questioning their loyalty. Interestingly, the list includes Tamale Central MP Haruna Iddrisu, the subject of an alleged assassination plot, as well as Minority Leader Alban Bagbin, Bawku Central MP Mahama Ayariga, Minority Energy Spokesperson Moses Asaga, and Mustapha Ahmed, MP for Ayawaso Central.

Indeed, our sources say Mr Rawlings stopped his hand picked successor from naming John Mahama as running mate in 2004, and again stopped the urbane politician from running against Prof Mills for the flagbearership in last year"s NDC presidential primary.

But despite all his misgivings, Mr Rawlings has been forced to accept that the Bole Bamboi MP is the one most likely to pull floating voters, so crucial to winning an election, our sources at Kokomlemle, Kuku Hill and Ridge say. The possibility of replacing the reportedly ailing Prof Mills with Ekwow Spio-Garbrah is all but dead in the water, they add.

The problem though, is when to announce Mr Mahama's entry onto the ticket. The thinking among some hawks in the NDC is to do it now and get it over with. After all, if John Mahama is the man who can do the job, why delay his unveiling, the argument goes. However, another school of thought would rather wait until the NPP chooses its candidate in December, to better understand the dynamics that would come into play in the 2008 election campaign. Meanwhile, the Prof's door to door campaign has garnered more media attention than his press conferences, so why rock the boat now by introducing another person, who is probably more photogenic than the flagbearer, and detract attention from him?

Religion could also be a factor: while John Mahama, Communications Minister under the NDC and later Communications Director for the party in opposition, is a northerner, he is a Christian, appealing to two crucial blocks of votes. The debate has been fiercely joined, our sources say.

On Wednesday 23 May, two newspapers whose editors are known to have close links with each other, The Point and The Ghanaian Voice, speculated that Dr Ibn Chambas was being tipped to be nominated to partner Prof Mills.

Ibn Chambas, who for a long time was woefully underrated by the NDC, served as Deputy Foreign Minister under the NDC government. In 2002, he resigned as MP for Bimbilla after the Kufuor administration successfully lobbied for him to chair the sub-regional body.

Being a Moslem from the northern part of the country and a highly respected international diplomat, Ibn Chambas is very easily seen as carrying a hefty political punch, and would be an asset in any local election. But our sister paper reported intensive checks had indicated that the ECOWAS head is “not at all interested in joining the NDC again, let alone as running mate.”

A source very intimately close to him in politics said, “Ibn is politically and ideologically even closer to the NPP now than his former party.”

Indeed, he has even been hinted within the upper echelons of the NPP as a suitable running mate for the governing party, if a southerner is nominated as flagbearer.

“The sticky point may be the fact that he is on every scale of meritocracy a decent presidential material in his own right.”

The thinking, therefore, is that NPP loyalists are likely to resent the possibility of him quite simply slotting into the number one seat as flagbearer in subsequent elections in the event of the NPP winning in 2008, with him as Vice President.

The counter argument is that the NPP needs to reach out more and more and with Ibn in subsequent years they would be reaching out with a very credible candidate.

As to there being a long queue, some argue that, as it is being proven by the current Vice President Aliu Mahama, once you become the number two, it automatically shoots you to the front of the succession queue. The rest is up to you to show your worth.

Ibn Chambas has on occasions commented rather diplomatically but disparagingly about some of the negative happenings in the NDC over the last few years. He is also known to be vehemently against what he sees as Mr Rawlings' stranglehold of the party.

He has steadfastly refused to attend any NDC functions, even social ones.

“He simply does not want to be even considered in passing as a possible running mate,” the intimate source stated.

“In any event he has just been nominated as the first President of a reforming ECOWAS and he certainly wants to remain at post to reshape the sub-regional body. You can't expect him to throw it all away for a party which has long since lost hope of its viability as a credible vehicle for this country's transformation,” the source posed rhetorically.

John Mahama was appointed Minister of Communications in November 1998. From 1991 until 1996, he worked as the information, culture and research officer at the Japanese Embassy in Accra. In 1996, he moved to the Ghana country office of Plan International to serve as its international relations, sponsorship, communications, and grants manager.

He attended the University of Ghana from 1978 to 1981, earning a degree in history. In 1986 he graduated from the School of Communications Studies with a postgraduate certificate in communications.