On “Good Evening Ghana” hosted by Paul Adom Otchere (on Metro TV) on Tuesday, March 11 2008, Nana Oye Lither, the usually eloquent human rights activist made two awesome endorsements of two incredibly gifted women in our nation's politics.
Even though she fell just shy of a full endorsement for Samia Nkrumah, daughter of Ghana's first President for the CPP, it was clear that she was sticking it out with the women. She endorsed Mrs. Betty Mould Iddrisu for the NDC and Hajia Alima Mahama for the NPP.
No matter what any one would say about it, even the most cynical critic would have to admit, even if grudgingly, that these are women with the full credentials to be running mate and ultimately Vice President of our republic. They are extremely gifted professionals, both are trained lawyers and both have been in the forefront of the issues that concern our country, i.e. the empowerment of women and children. While Mrs. Iddrisu adds to her column international exposure gained as a result of her work at the Commonwealth Office, Hajia Alima adds ministerial and legislative experience to her long list of credentials.
Based on qualification and experience alone, these women are extremely qualified to be anything they want to be.
Unfortunately, it takes much more that just a person's qualifications to be suitable for selection as running mate. In the case of case of Mrs. Iddrisu, I wonder if she would pass the test of giving the ticket a regional balance just by virtue of being married to a northerner. Would it be suitable to have two Fantes on the same ticket, even if one is a woman and the other is a man? Would she be able to attract new votes to the ticket that were not already consolidated for the NDC? How will a selection of women by all other political parties, especially the major ones, play out for Nana Oye's apparent wholesale endorsement of women? What block of voters is the target of Nana Oye's endorsement? In what form will this endorsement be manifested, will it be followed by some mobilisation by Nana Oye's outfit in cash or kind to support her candidate(s)? Or was it just a television opportunity to score notice as a gender activist?
These are critical questions that have to be answered in order to arrive at a decision, one way or the other.
Hajia Alima Mahama may well pass the test of regional balance, but her candidacy is bound to be a hard sell. As a northerner, she would face a serious challenge even among women who would be presumed to be her immediate constituents (going by Nana Oye's endorsements), because of her marital status. It is OK to dismiss it as one outlandish, cynical or backward view, but these are the very issues that influence the decisions of some voters in Northern and Muslim communities.
People see her as a role model for their daughters, even more so if she is named a running mate. But you would be hard pressed to find any one who would want their daughters to aspire to be a fifty-year-old single Hajia, even if she were the Vice President. It would have been much easier if Hajia had been a non-Muslim.
If coming events cast their shadows, then the NPP has enough warning in the form of the reactions the Ministry of Women and Children's Affairs received from Women in Tamale, during a sensitisation programme on the “Marital Rape” debate. Imagine a 50-year-old single mother on a campaign platform in the north preaching against early marriage. Do you get the picture? The question would be, how early is her early?
Whether we know it or not, the NPP's biggest challenge in election after election, has been how to break the jinx in the northern and Muslim communities, while not conceding the Volta Region to the NDC. It might be very difficult to break the losing streak to the NDC in Volta, but it is entirely possible to realign the voting patterns in the North and the Muslim communities. It would all depend on how we go about it. But certainly, taking counsel from a gender activist whose political motives are far from friendly is not where to begin.
I am absolutely, positively in favour of a woman for President but I am also very scared of any choice that would do very little to help the ticket. Invariably this is as much about votes as it is about qualifications and competence. So my lone view is this: The search should still be on and let's select the most appropriate candidate, male or female.
Moses DokuruguGumbihini, Tamale, N/R