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25.03.2011 Opinion

A Tale of two First Ladies with eyes for the Presidency

By Ghanaian Chronicle
Ebo Quansah,The AuthorEbo Quansah,The Author
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Politics in the Third World is an interesting proposition. In the words of Obed Asamoah, the longest serving Attorney-General in the Republic of Ghana, 'In politics, you do not say yes or no.'  In Guatemala, the President and his wife have both filed divorce proceedings against each other. I do not believe politics anywhere would be more exciting than the President's wife seeking divorce so that she could replace her husband.

President Avaro Colon is nearing his two terms as head of state of this South American country. His wife, Sandra Torres, has announced her candidature to contest the presidential election in September. Guatemalan Constitution, meanwhile, bars close relatives of the President from succeeding him.

Husband and wife have hit on the brilliant idea of seeking divorce. If they are no more husband and wife, no one could point to them as being close relatives. It is an innovation in Third World politics.

According to BBC, 'the request for divorce by mutual consent was presented on March 11 to a judge at the second family court,' Supreme Court spokesman Edwin Escobar said.

Naturally, it is not everybody who is happy with this arranged divorce. Otto Perez Malona, leader of the opposition Patriot Party, has hit the roof, accusing the couple of 'seeking to defraud the system,' and vowing to use the law to spoil the party.

Sandra, according to those who have followed her mercurial rise to fame, wields considerable power over her husband. She was a key member of her husband's Presidency, supervising poverty relief programmes.

Critics say she wields even more power over her husband behind the scenes. What is not clear is what happens after the presidential elections. Win or lose, the wife would have to deal with a husband who was cast aside so the woman would be President.

The conventional wisdom is that she would have a tough time satisfying the constitutional requirement. She is also likely to face a tough challenge from Perez Molina, a former army general with an eye for the constitutional head of his country.

Ghana has its own version of the presidential love story. In the run-up to the elections of 2000, just before the Swedru Declaration sent Goozie Tanoh, Tweretwie Opoku, and other youthful members of the National Democratic Congress scattering away to form the Reform Party, the rumour mills were busy with information that the woman would declare.

Mrs. Konadu Agyeman Rawlings did not officially declare, until the former law lecturer's hand was raised at Swedru as the natural heir to the former junta head. Now, it looks like Madam is beginning to get the confidence to challenge the good old Professor.

The last I heard, Friends of Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings (FONKAR) were getting more serious. After exhibiting her posters in public, members of the pressure group are becoming more assertive, openly campaigning for the former First Lady.

Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings has many things in common with the Guatemalan First lady. Both have been recorded as being assertive in the rule of their husbands. From the key on the table during the Special Investigation Board's inquiry into the murder of three judges and an army officer, to the 'Identification Haircut,' the woman behind ex-President Rawlings has been vocal.

Members of the 31st December Women's Movement, with their red berets, became very regular at rallies of the party the husband founded while still occupying Government House.

In London to launch the Verandah Boys and Girls Club, in the run up to the vote of 2000, Dr. Obed Asamoah, then government chief legal officer, proclaimed the 31st December Movement as the women's wing of the party.

After living in her husband's shadows for most parts of the last 30 years, the Iron Lady is ready to challenge for honours. The challenge itself is causing a few ripples in the party though. The NDC, we are told, is split down the middle.

With state largesse at his disposal, the man who sits at the Castle seems to be calling the shots at the moment. You may not know, but the dismissal of some Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives is said to have its genesis in riding the districts of the President's representatives likely to root for the woman, when nomination officially opens.

Mr. Rawlings has said nothing so far about the political ambitions of his wife. But, attacks on the sitting President are not abating. When he told the story of 'Atta the Mortuary Man' and his obstinacy, Rawlings watchers interpreted it as an indirect reference to the President's inability to consult him.

When he described the President's men and women as 'Greedy Bastards,' he was sending a powerful message to the man he single-handedly picked to succeed him, that Mr. Rawlings was not happy with his governance style.

At Tamale, Mr. Rawlings gave the strongest hint that his wife deserved to lead the party from the front.  As usual, the affirmation was in the form of a narration of the woman's contribution to the party, in relation to some of the current President's men and women.

According to the Founder of the ruling party, at a time when his wife was running around organising for the revolution and heavily pregnant, some of those now reaping the rewards of office were babies.

At Tamale, he really descended on President Mills. He referred to the sitting President as 'Konongo Kaya.' In Akan lexicon, a 'Konongo Kaya' is someone who cannot do a job, but would not allow those who could execute the assignment do so.

When he asked President Atta Mills to tell those who would campaign for the NDC in the 2012 presidential elections, the kind of message to sell to the electorate, after such a disastrous performance in government, the die was cast.

Mrs. Rawlings is likely to take the family name into the ballot box. Whether she would succeed in dislodging the President is something that would interest connoisseurs of the political game across the globe.

Whatever happens, Sandra Torres of Guatemala and Mrs. Konadu Agyeman Rawlings have a lot in common. They are both First Ladies who want to wear the crown themselves.

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