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03.06.2007 Feature Article

Merit-Based Succession: An Unimpeachable Tradition

Merit-Based Succession: An Unimpeachable Tradition
As President John Agyekum Kufuor prepares to hand over the reins of Ghana's governance come 2008, vigorous, and also desperate, attempts continue to be made by either staunch supporters or sympathizers of the various declared presidential aspirants and candidates in a bid to having their favorite candidate replace the outgoing incumbent. This is all well and good, except in instances where some of these supporters and sympathizers vacuously attempt to cajole, or even outright hoodwink, their readers and audiences into accepting as cold and naked facts assertions that are historically unproven and thus, at best, warrant being legitimately characterized as sheer speculation. In fact, a May 30, 2007 posting to the website of the Accra Daily Mail (yours truly's favorite, privately-owned Ghanaian newspaper) carried one such pathetic speculation.

Imperiously and pontifically titled “The Succession: A Tested and Proven Tradition,” the anonymous author of the aforementioned article brazenly, albeit grossly ineffectually, attempted to cavalierly massage the salient facts of American presidential history by pretending that, perhaps, the most progressive leadership tradition in the modern world was modeled along the lines of what might be termed as a “Neo-Dynastic” regimen. Consequently, the anonymous author of the aforementioned article had the temerity to open his/her rather sheepish missive as follows: “Throughout the evolution of democracy in many nations they [Who? Democracy or the nations in which this political culture is practiced?] have repeatedly demonstrated the wisdom in supporting their Vice-Presidents to succeed outgoing or retiring Presidents. Ghana needs to study the rationale for this tradition and emulate [the] same.”

What, indeed, is quite interesting about the foregoing quote is the glaring fact that it brazenly contradicts the tradition doggedly pursued by the oldest democratic tradition in the modern, English-speaking world. And one gets the feeling that the writer of the said article clearly recognized this fact, and thus his/her quick attempt to adduce the proverbial “American [Political] Experience.” And here, we hasten to recall for our readers the fact that the oldest Anglophone democratic tradition is that of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, not the United States, as the writer would have his/her readers believe. And it is also significant to interject that there is no objective or scientific basis for the author's rather presumptuous assertion that American Democracy is the best of its kind in our contemporary world, merely because the United States is purported to be the sole remaining global superpower. No more, in fact, than the rather equally wild hypothetical assertion of the erstwhile Soviet Union having been the best specimen of a Socialist political culture, merely because of the Soviet Union having been a global superpower in its heydays, would be.

But even far more significant is the fact that in June 2007 when Britain's Prime Minister Blair is expected to stand down, as it were, the man who would be succeeding one of the longest-serving British leaders would not be Mr. Blair's nominal right-hand man and Deputy British Prime Minister, Mr. John Prescott but, rather, Britain's seasoned Chancellor-of-the-Exchequer, Mr. Gordon Brown, the man who holds the equivalent job of Ghana's Minister for Finance and Economic Planning, if the latter portfolio, indeed, remains the apt designation in a country notorious for its inordinate penchant for rampant cabinet portfolio re-labeling. Indeed, it must have been the immediate realization of this fact of Prime Minister Blair being succeeded by his Finance Minister, not his Deputy Prime Minister, that prompted the author of “The Succession: A Tested and Proven Tradition” to quickly shift gear by pretending as if Ghana's Fourth Republican presidential culture – or more aptly, Constitutional or Executive culture – were a replica (or Xerox copy) of its far more “tested and proven” American brand.

To be certain, many an astute political scientist would readily own that while, like its American counterpart, British Parliamentary Democracy may not be perfect, even by human standards, still, it is far and away the most civically responsive, in terms of the fact of the Prime Minister having to periodically and regularly report to Parliament and thus, obliquely, the electorate regarding the diurnal – or day-to-day – activities of ministerial management of the people's business or affairs. In the case of an Executive Presidential Culture or Regime, as that which prevails in the United States, no such burden, or responsibility, is imposed on the occupier of the White House.

But what is even more disturbing about the article titled “The Succession: A Tested and Proven Tradition,” is the author's apparently reckless willingness to play fast and loose with salient and incontrovertible historical facts and evidence. For, even though the author acknowledges that only 5 out of 12 American Vice-Presidents in recent times – and here one presumes the twentieth century – have gone on to clinch the presidency and temporary residency of the fabled White House, still s/he insists that the purported “tradition” of a Vice-President succeeding an incumbent President in the White House is both “proven” and “tested.” And here, one is forced to loudly wonder whether it is the words “proven” and “tested” which the author of the aforementioned article has a hard time comprehending, or it is that the writer, having willfully arrived at a withering, albeit hardly accurate, presumption about the crass ignorance of the average Ghanaian voter, for whatever reasons, is here curiously attempting, with anticipated impunity, to impugn the native intelligence of the proverbial average Ghanaian.

Indeed, if the author of “The Succession: A Tested and Proven Tradition” knew anything substantive about American presidential politics, s/he would have instructively, and constructively, observed, for example, that of the 7 elected U. S. presidents since 1960, excluding Mr. Gerald Ford who was appointed to both the vice-presidency as well as the presidency, of course, s/he would have noticed that of the 7 elected vice-presidents, only 2, Messrs. Lyndon Baines Johnson and George Bush I, went on to win the presidential election. But, perhaps, even more significantly must be recalled the fact that both Messrs. Johnson and Bush were only able to clinch a single term of office, with Mr. Johnson scuttling his chance for a second term of temporary White House occupancy, once it became apparent to the former United States senator from Texas that the odious baggage inherited from the protracted U. S. war with Vietnam was not going to readily wash – or fly – with American voters.

Thus going by the “Succession” author's own argument, the likelihood of President Kufuor's official right-hand man winning the 2008 presidential election glaringly becomes, at best, suspect. And here, also, readers ought to be seriously reminded, even as the author of “Succession” egregiously failed to remind his/her readers, that presidential and winsome politics is far more about the candidate's ability to decisively trounce his/her opponents at the polling booth, rather than merely being able to defeat his/her rivals for the party's coveted presidential nomination. Indeed, were the latter the case, Professor John Evans Atta-Mills would not be canvassing from house-to-house – which, by the way, is how true and serious politicians ought to campaign (more about this later) – seeking the mandate of the very people whom the former University of Ghana law school lecturer collaborated with Flt.-Lt. Jeremiah John Rawlings to both oppress and deprive.

Interesting and significant also must be pointed out the fact that even though he is the official right-hand man of President J. A. Kufuor, the Vice-President [Mind you: I have decided not to mention him by name primarily because the writer of “The Succession” had not deemed it either significant or necessary to do so] is still an “assistant” to Mr. Kufuor, whose Administration it is, just like any of the President's other cabinet members and senior officials and advisers. Also must be borne in mind the fact that nowhere in Ghana's Fourth Republican Constitution does it stipulate that come the season, or date, for a fresh presidential election, where the incumbent is a lame-duck or precluded from standing again, the incumbent Vice-President is automatically mandated to be nominated by the ruling party as its candidate for president.

Indeed, based on the “American Experience” extensively cited by the author of “The Succession” alone, automatically shooing in the presidential nomination of the incumbent Vice-President is almost certain to prove to be a recipe for disaster; and yours truly seriously doubts whether members and supporters of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) are willing to blithely risk the possibility of being shipped, limbs-bound, back to the unpardonably benighted era of the NDC's politics of systematic physical elimination of perceived opponents and adversaries.

In terms of Ghanaian politics, as yours truly has avidly followed it for the bulk of his existence, the appointment of a presidential running-mate is almost invariably predicated upon the nominee's ability to massively win potential regional voters into the membership register of the party concerned, all other things being equal. Thus the ability of Mr. Kufuor's purported “right-hand man” (for it is a starkly known fact that merely being appointed as Vice-President does not necessarily make the appointee the “right-hand man” or woman, for that matter, of any incumbent president) to commandingly win the hearts and minds of the NPP delegates and electors, come the December 2007 Convention, would likely be more dependent on whether the Veep was able, in 7 marathon years, to substantially add on to the Elephant's Party register, voters and patrons from his native region and presumed stronghold.

Of course, being the Vice-President also comes with the inherited baggage of formidable liabilities, such as potential voters' displeasure with frequent and erratic power outages. Add to the foregoing the fact that the individual achievements of the various cabinet members also vying to succeed President Kufuor would not necessarily or automatically redound to the credit or benefit of the Vice-President, who did not directly appoint these cabinet members.

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., teaches English and Journalism at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. His latest book-length publication on Ghanaian politics is “Dr. J. B. Danquah: Architect of Modern Ghana” (, 2005). E-mail: [email protected]
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., © 2007

This author has authored 4567 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: KwameOkoampaAhoofeJr

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