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20.09.2004 Politics

Kufuor Beats Rawlings

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…As Aliu gets nod for Election 2004

PRESIDENT JOHN AGYEKUM Kufuor on Saturday nominated Vice President Aliu Mahama as his running mate for the 2004 Presidential elections, ending months of speculation and campaign by right wing members of his party to have his political partner changed.

The campaign to drop Aliu was loudly heralded on claims that the Veep failed to deliver votes from his home region at the last elections, and that he has become irrelevant to the electoral chances of the ruling party. In other words, even with a guinea pig as a running mate, the advocates believe President Kufuor would win the December elections.

Others honed in on the Dagbon issue and used government's inability to find the killers of Ya Na Yakubu Andani II and 40 other indigenes of the Vice's hometown as that of the Vice.

The true intent of the advocates, however, was that they wanted Aliu dropped before he stakes a claim to the presidency in 2008 as the lead candidate; something some activists within the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) who see him as not 'deep enough' and as an outsider in the Busia-Danquah tradition, dread.

Others wanted him out to ensure that once a new face is brought in, he would not have settled in by Congress date in 2006, thus evening out the race for the presidency. Again, some felt that it was the most tactical way of eliminating possible charges that could reinforce the latent perception of the NPP being an 'Akan' party should it drop Aliu in 2006 for another Akan candidate.

But the Vice, who has been effective in his constitutional role as second-in-command and a towering figure among a significant number of people of northern and Muslim extractions answering to the call of the NPP, received the blessings and praise of his boss in Kumasi Saturday, dampening the spirit of his opponents.

“He is a hard working and affable pillar of support for me; he has shown considerable grace under fire. I present to you my running mate for campaign 2004 and the next Vice President of Ghana, your own Vice President, Alhaji Aliu Mahama”, thundered President Kufuor to party loyalists.

The endorsement by Kufuor sets Aliu up as the immediate leader of the pack for the 2006 presidential primaries of the NPP, and the lead candidate for the 2008 elections should the NPP win this year's elections.

It was also a historic first under the 1992 Fourth Republican Constitution and saw Kufuor beating his predecessor to the title of being the first President to go into another election with his running mate.

His predecessor, Jerry John Rawlings, fell out with his Vice, the late Kow Nkensen Arkaah, during their first term in office and dropped him for the subsequent 1996 polls. Strangely, Arkaah became the running mate of Kufuor in the 1996 elections in the Danquah-Busia-Nkrumahist Great Alliance team that lost the elections to Rawlings and his then running mate and current NDC flagbearer Prof. Atta Mills (Atta Mills also lost out to the Kufuor-Aliu ticket in the 2000 elections).

But even before Aliu received the nod from his boss last Saturday, key party gurus and potential 2008 presidential aspirants, Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo and Dr Kofi Konadu Apraku, reportedly gave him their backing for the 2004 elections.

One of them however conditioned his support on the Veep dropping out of the 2008 race when the time comes; a condition many consider ill advised. Time will tell whether Aliu would heed it.

After Kufuor's endorsement of Aliu as his running mate, the delegates, who were in Kumasi for the national conference of the party for the first time in the history of the NPP, accepted the nomination with an acclamation and a standing ovation.

Earlier, Kufuor extended a hand of reconciliation and friendship to all within the party whom he said have been hurt during his first term in office.

“I reach out today to all who may have been wronged and ask for forgiveness. Let us all rally together at this time, as we recognise that our common cause of uplifting Ghana is greater than anyone of us”.

He called on Ghanaians, including those in the opposition parties, to join the Government “because we are moving with a vision that is not partisan. A vision that will propel our country into greatness and prosperity for all”.

To members of the party, Kufuor said “today we are attending a conference on the eve of victory 2004. Victory we are working for, victory that we deserve and a victory that will surely be ours”.

The Veep in his acceptance speech said “With humility and gratitude I accept your nomination as the running mate and the next Vice President of Ghana”.

He said about four years ago he was chosen by Kufuor as the running mate to seek the mandate of the good people of Ghana to bring Positive Change, vibrant economy, better health care, social services and greater job opportunities to Ghanaians. He said with responsible leadership and good governance, “We have delivered our promises and Ghanaians are greatly impressed by the humility, wisdom, vision and profound understanding with which we have tackled major issues of our country”.

He urged for another four more years to continue to care for the poor masses and vulnerable in society.

Mr Harona Esseku, National Chairman of the NPP, said the national executive committee had taken note of the difficulties and problems encountered during the primaries and would address them in future. He said the party deserved a second term in office and therefore urged all members and sympathisers to join in the campaign rail.

Esseku appealed to the members, supporters and sympathisers who have any problem with the Party to put them behind and refrain from “the skirt and blouse” idea of voting for President Kufuor and any parliamentary candidate of their choice other than the party's parliamentary candidate.

There were fraternal messages from the National Democratic Congress (NDC) delivered by Mr Baba Jamal, Deputy General Secretary and Mr Ludwig Hlodze, Special Assistant to the NDC flagbearer who presented a copy of the NDC manifesto “Better Ghana” to President Kufuor. Mr Mike Eghan, Second National Vice-Chairman of the Convention People's Party (CPP) delivered the Party's message while Mr John Ndebugre, First Vice-Chairman of the People's National Convention (PNC) delivered their message.