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14.10.2008 Politics

Which John wants to be president? -President Kufuor wonders

By The Statesman

Ghana's largest opposition party, the National Democratic Congress, currently has a triumvirate of Johns jostling each other for the direction of the party's affairs.

There is John the Jerry Rawlings, former President and founder of the NDC; John the Mills, the party's perennial flagbearer since 2000, and John the Mahama, running mate to Mills in this year's election.

While it is expected that any political party's flagbearer would spearhead the party's campaign for electoral office, the campaign efforts of John Atta Mills have continuously been overshadowed by his running mate and his party's founder. A cursory glance at the media landscape shows the former law professor is easily beaten by a margin of two, sometimes three to one by his running mate or Mr Rawlings.

This situation has led to some amount of confusion as to who the real candidate for the NDC is, leading to all manner of speculation.

This situation has lent itself to various interpretations.

Speaking at a rally in the Abokobi Madina Constituency to launch the Greater Accra Region edition of the campaign of the New Patriotic Party, over the weekend, President John Agyekum Kufuor gave voice to the apparent concern of many Ghanaians when he questioned who the flagbearer of the main opposition party - the National Democratic Congress - really is.

Prior to the President's pronouncement, many Ghanaians over the months had expressed a similar concern in the media concerning the conspicuous absence of Prof John Evans Attah Mills - who has been elected as the Presidential aspirant of the NDC for the December 7 elections - from the party's campaign trail.

Many suspect that the Professor had lost interest in the race and as a result, had ceded the campaign to his running mate, John Dramani Mahama, which has given rise to concern, even among the NDC rank and file.

President Kufuor pointed out that the December 7 election is not for running mates but Presidential candidates. He noted that Atta Mills could not campaign throughout the country; unlike the NPP flagbearer, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

According to the President, the NDC campaign was now centred on John Mahama and former President Rawlings, with Mills missing in action.

He told the enthusiastic crowd that the NPP and the NDC are two different parties, with the NDC not knowing what they want. He said although during the NDC's tenure of office, those at the helm of affairs preached 'Vision 2020' - the year they earmarked for the country to attain a middle income status - "they did not know how to achieve it.'

He said under the NPP administration, the country was poised to achieve a middle income status by 2015, explaining that this is achievable because 'the NPP knows how to plan and handle the economy.'

According to President Kufuor, there would be no power sharing in Ghana. He said the NDC are so frustrated that they are craving for power, 'which they do not know how to use, and now they are touting for power sharing.'

He stressed that although the NDC claimed to be exploring oil during their administration, they rather invested in cocoa farming and a telecommunication company.

The President maintained that through proper planning, hard work, good leadership and diligence, the NPP was able to find oil for Ghana.

He promised the people that the NPP, under the administration of Nana Akufo-Addo, would use proceeds from the oil to continue moving the nation forward.  'I am not sad that I am leaving office; between me and Nana Akufo-Addo will be a seamless transfer of power,' he added. He therefore, appealed to the people to vote massively for the NPP to retain power, since this year's election is 'for the future of Ghana and for your children's future.'

Expressing his commitment to the people, Nana Akufo-Addo stressed that he was not a 'stomach' politician. He said he entered into politics to render service to his country. He reminded the people that most of the good works that had ever taken place in Ghana were under the NPP administration.

Touching on one of the legacies of the NDC government, Nana Addo recalled, 'They left a bankrupt economy and told us when we took over power that they were going to watch and see how we were going to run the economy with empty coffers.' He wondered what the opposition party wanted to come back to power for.

Nana Akufo Addo told the teeming crowd that one thing dear to his heart was education. He promised to take the Kufuor administration's free education policy further from the primary and Junior High levels to the Senior High. He said that the NDC had described this promise as a political gimmick and unachievable; but he observed, 'If the NDC could not do this in their time, it does not mean the NPP cannot also do it.'

Nana Akufo-Addo stressed that the programmes of the NPP are for all Ghanaians and not only a group of people, and called on the electorate to reject anyone who preaches ethnicity and violence. He noted that the whole of Africa is looking at Ghana to hold successful elections and as such it is very important that 'all of us help the Electoral Commission to organize peaceful elections.'

He described as ridiculous an assertion by former President Rawlings that the NPP is planning to rig this year's elections. According to Nana Akufo-Addo, the NPP has beaten the NDC twice and will continue to beat them at any general elections, and therefore there was no reason why the NPP should cheat.

Likening the elections to a football match, he said, 'We have beaten them in both home and away matches; away was in 2000 when we were in opposition and home was in 2004 when we were in power, we will beat them again at home.'