With about two years to go for the National Democratic Congress (NDC) to elect a flag bearer to lead it into the 2020 elections, there is already pushing and shoving on the frontlines of the party, as interest groups begin to test the waters for their preferred candidates.
Some appointees in the former President John Dramani Mahama administration have long indicated their preparedness to support him in the event that he decides to run again.
But others are not enthused about putting forward a candidate who will have only a term to run. Perhaps it is those people who are putting their foot in the door for new candidates.
The speculative mill has been busy, with names such as a former Trade and Industry Minister, Dr Ekow Spio-Garbrah; a former Vice-Chancelor of the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA), Prof. Joshua Alabi; a former Vice-President, Mr Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur; a former Chief Executive of the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), Mr Sylvester Mensah, and the current Minority Leader in Parliament, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, popping up as possible prospects.
But only one person, Nii Amasa Namoale, a former Member of Parliament (MP) for Dadekotopon, has been bold enough to state that he will contest the NDC flag-bearer race, on condition that the former President declines to join the race.
The latest name to be dropped in the rumour mill is that of the long-serving MP for Nadowli-Kaleo, Mr Alban Kingsford S. Bagbin.
Flyers advertising Mr Bagbin’s interest in the NDC’s presidential candidature for the 2020 polls have raised anxiety within the party, as internal stakeholders continue to gather the pieces from the December 2016 defeat at the polls.
Party executives in the Upper West Region, where Mr Bagbin is a parliamentarian, remain indifferent to what looks very much a jump-start campaign, apparently being championed by supposed admirers within the party.
It looks no different from the early mention of Dr Spio-Garbrah’s name following the party’s defeat in both the presidential and the parliamentary elections in 2016.
Indeed, the development appears to be the latest in the power play that threatens to tear the party into factions well before the processes for the election of its next flag bearer begin.
Mr Bagbin’s phone remained either switched off or out of service area when the Daily Graphic made efforts to reach him, while some close associates of his denied knowledge of his personal interest in the NDC’s presidential ticket.
Until that development, Mr Bagbin’s new portfolio as the Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament had elevated him into a quiet life that was not guaranteed by his previous roles as Minority Leader and later Majority Leader – all for 16 years.
As a seven-time parliamentarian, his vast experience in the House has earned him the nickname ‘Mugabe’ for surviving all elections, and if he gives the posters in circulation any credibility, it will justify the speculation that started when he seemed to criticise President Mahama when the NDC was in power.
But Mr Saani Mohammed, the Director of Elections of the NDC in the Upper West Region, has said the regional executives have nothing to do with the posters, since the issue of presidential primary was beyond the regional level.
He admitted to seeing some of those flyers on social media but said he had given little attention to the issue due to his involvement in the reorganisation of the party.
“As regional executives, we are concerned about and involved in the reorganisation of the party at our level. We are supervising the reorganisation at the constituency level in the region, too,” he said.
“All NDC parliamentarians like Mr Bagbin are also involved in the reorganisation at this point,” he stressed.
And Mahama’s dilemma
In January, just three days after the curtains closed on Mr Mahama’s tenure, there was a mounting debate between his family and a section of the party he had led into the 2016 elections over his political future.
While his immediate family insisted that the former President should call time on local politics, some leaders of the NDC, including Mr Kofi Adams, its National Organiser; Nii Lantey Vanderpuye, the MP for Odododiodoo, and more recently Ms Hanna Tetteh, a former Foreign Minister, rejected the idea, insisting that the Fourth Republic’s only one-term President was the NDC’s best bet for Election 2020.
However, in January, speaking to a group of senior journalists ahead of the swearing-in of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, former President Mahama’s younger brother and Chief Executive Officer of Engineers and Planners, Mr Ibrahim Mahama, said the former President’s family had advised him not to contest the NDC primary to select a candidate for 2020, adding: “He (former President Mahama) agreed with us.”
International diplomacy vs local politics
It is not clear whether former President Mahama agreed with his brother to allow the sun to set on his political career.
But while his family and some members of his party are poles apart on his future, the former President gave a hint of his future to his peers during an ECOWAS meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, in December last year.
“Many people have asked me what my plans are; I have no plans yet. My immediate intention is to take a well-deserved rest after three years of working without a single break. I guess that going forward I’ll be more engaged on sub-regional, continental and global matters,” he explained.
For those cautioning the President to forget about local politics, their argument is informed by Ghana’s voting trend since 1992 which gives two terms to every new government.
The NDC One ruled from1993 to 2000, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) One from 2001 to 2008, while and NDC Two ruled from 2009 2016.
They also consider the ex-President’s performance as Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
For those asking him to quit local politics, Mr Mahama’s image as a statesman may be crashed if he contests and loses the 2020 elections.
Rather, they hold the view that he should pursue international diplomacy in which he by far excelled, given the way he handled the Ebola crisis in West Africa, the Burkina Faso political crisis after the overthrow of President Blaise Campaore, the Togolese election crisis, as well as his appointment as a member of the group of West African leaders who mediated The Gambian crisis