Akufo-Addo’s leadership legacy: the tumultuous power struggle ahead

Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo,

The man Nana Akufo-Addo faces what may be the biggest test of his legacy as a leader of his party, the NPP and president in the journey over who succeeds him in his own party. On the balance of probabilities, there appears to be quite a few political strategic paths ahead. Either path presents its own nuanced sides – yet as a student of strategy and security studies, I submit that each pathway is inherently destined to be tumultuous, if not calamitous.  Within that context, the working proposition shall be: ‘Nana Akufo-Addo to step down gently, to preserve a positive leadership legacy’.

Akufo-Addo, ‘Nana Addo’ for short, is the current president of the Republic of Ghana in Ghana’s 4th constitutional dispensation. For the Danquah-Busia-Dombo tradition of the liberal-conservative centre-right party, which is predominantly what this discussion is about, Nana Addo is the second president in line after John A. Kufour in recent memory. Nana Addo can perhaps only be described as a man of many parts, and with mixed history loaded so much that this piece won’t be able to chronicle a third of it for want of time and space; and also to help move away from unintended distractions so that readers may focus on the central piece of this vital discussion.

Incontrovertibly, Nana Addo’s administration assumed the reins of office under incredible economic difficulties no objective political analyst will refute.  Then, after what appeared to be a modest sign of some macroeconomic stability, tangible social interventions on education, particularly, and political easiness, the global COVID-19 pandemic ravaged Ghana and the entire world on a scale never seen in human history since War World 2. COVID-19 brought manifest lockdowns and stricter travel restrictions in many countries, thereby dwarfing freedom of movements. Economies globally shrank miserably and impacted livelihoods and organizations tellingly. As all economies, Ghana’s GDP took unbelievable slaughter and witnessed overwhelming stress on the healthcare system, which was already struggling even in pre-pandemic era.

Although, there’s a serious vaccination campaign underway aimed at some herd-immunity, the pandemic continues to have very devastating effects on businesses across the Ghanaian economy and the entire globe. The offshoot is youth unemployment, hiked prices in general commodities (especially the fuel-related ones), supply chain restrictions, wage agitations, among others. This is a scary ball to keep eyes on into 2024, because I see a snowball effect.

While those episodic events unfold, Nana Addo in the meantime managed a second-term victory over his lead rival, former President Mahama. A victory some observers think was a less impressive show compared to that of 2016 – which was challenged at Ghana’s apex court for over one month until a victory verdict was upheld in March 2021 (Africa Report, 4 November 2021).  Nana is almost through with one-year out of the constitutionally allowed second term.

The less impressive electoral outturn means parliament this time is technically ‘hung’ and displays a near-split electorate if the balance of power in parliament is a reasonable mirror–image of underlying political currents. A hung parliament is a house in which no political party has enough seats to secure an overall majority in critical matters of legislative effect, and requires smart craftsmanship and bipartisan collaboration to get bills passed and approved for developments to continue so that the much-needed social goods can be provided for all – in line with the social contract envisaged in the constitution.

As was revealed by one of the ancient philosophers, Marcus Cicero, governing a country is like steering a ship, especially when the storm winds begin to blow; if the captain is not able to hold a steady course, the voyage will end in disaster. If Cicero’s metaphor of running either a state, business or party is conveniently contextualised into the NPP party activities ahead, and the most profound choice of who succeeds Nana after 2024, then one begins to smell a likely tumultuous power struggle in the offing, potentially dangerous for party cohesion, which could fertilise the ground for some calamitous outcomes – unless cool-heads and smart political strategic thinking prevail in time, speedily enough for the safest leadership landing.

First, political party succession is a normal part of Ghana’s constitutional democracy; and for that matter, all liberal democracies. In fact, several authoritative statutory documents require elections as a way of selecting party officers. For instance, Chapter Seven (Clause 55) of Ghana’s constitution makes big room for party succession mandatorily through elective principles. The Political Parties Act, 2000 (amended) and the respective parties’ internal constitutions all specify processes to follow in that light.

For the NPP alone, Articles 12 and 13(a) of the party’s constitution (2017 amended) outline the ground rules for selecting both parliamentary and presidential candidates. To re-enforce the ground rules, the NPP has as of 27 July, 2021 issued a new party code of conduct for what the party describes as “pre-presidential and parliamentary primaries ahead of the 2024 elections”. I argue that it’s important to draw this fine line, at least, to lay to rest the often-asked question why the party cannot simply ‘anoint’ the current Vice President, Bawumia, to take over where Nana Addo leaves off.  That thought technically violates the enabling rules of the game, unless there’s some true consensus.

Readers may recall the Swedru Declaration debacle many years ago, when former President Rawlings was leaving office in 1992, which nearly ripped the NDC party into shreds. That’s a suicide mission no progressive political party should cogitate today. I think it’s too lonely a path to walk because, by the sheer electoral rules of Ghana, no single party can circumvent competitive party elections as a means of appointing or replacing expiring or fresh officers.

That established, the substantive matter of this argument can now be fleshed out. Indeed, Nana Addo’s time (not term) is over, even if he were younger. The good and bad news, in this context only, is that age is also not on his side at the time of this article. The fervent prayer is that with God on his side, Nana Addo will exit the Jubilee House at 82 years. That’d be further historic, adding to the historic nature of the man Nana Addo as alluded to in the introduction of this paper. The million-dollar question, reformulated into three sub-questions, is:

  • What will Nana Addo’s exit strategy look like for the NPP?
  • Will his exit strategy bring tranquility and party cohesion, enough to inspire loyalists and independent voters?
  • Will that strategy be enduring enough to help the party break the ‘8-year cycle’ as it desperately desires, and make Nana’s legacy positive?

As an analyst, the best anticipation one can think of is a two-pronged approach. Admittedly, those approaches are inherently hazy and fraught with unique risks. Let’s examine the options calmly on two thematic areas:

  • Option one – Nana Addo to consider leaving office midway for his Vice President to finish the unexpired term to pave the way for some delicate political horse-trading (complex bargaining).
  • Option two – Nana Addo allows democracy to run its natural course, which means opting for acrimonious, bitter and combative party elections between the key actors (Allan, Bawumia, Agyarkoh, etc.) to succeed Nana Addo.

Well, on the surface, the first proposal appears to be naïve and wacky; yet in my mind’s mind, it would be a less costly option and most dramatic in the scheme of things to answer the three legacy questions posed above. However, I can hear a loud voice saying whaat! Nana is the best thing ever to happen to Ghana. Ghana is stable, Ghana has macroeconomic stability, 1D1F, Free SHS, digitisation, National Identification, NABCO, Pokuase Bridge, international honour, leadership and so on. These are evidence-based milestones and can’t be in doubt at all.  What may be in doubt is the degree of satisfaction among the electorate over these achievements.

The truth, though, is that these success stories can’t be attributed solely to Nana Addo for purposes of a sound argument. Who then can quantify the role of Dr. Bawumia? From the strategic leadership calculus, if Nana pursues this option he could potentially cure a very toxic and explosive soft issue some opponents will be waiting to cash-in on – that the NPP is an Akan party and anti-northerner. That, I submit, could be calamitous and avoidable. Avoidable because, Bawumia could choose Allan Kyerematen ‘Allan Cash’ immediately as his Vice and running-mate into 2024. How the two gentlemen learn fast from Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s experience is for another day. This offers a win-win to the party.

The second approach of allowing competitive elections may be fine for the textbooks and intuitively beautiful, signalling further that the NPP is democratic – yet the consequences thereof could be hugely costly and explosive, and crazily divisive beyond what post-Kufour offered. That scenario means regime-change quietly for the next big party in line (NDC). Given the winner-takes-all culture in the Ghanaian body politic, what then becomes of all the serious policies, projects and programmes (3Ps) underway? A lot would be shelved in that scenario.

At this point, let me issue a quick caveat and then conclude. The thrust of this article is not to advocate that those with loud voices against the proposal for Nana Addo to step down are to be ignored. Not at all! The experience is in politics we need both friends and enemies. Some friends are loyal, die-hards and sympathisers. Yet often they are unable to courageously have honest discussions about the hidden issues. Friends easily become ‘yes-men’, which ultimately costs a lot. Our enemies can also be crazily blunt, often hurting egos. Either way, a good leader must listen to both voices.

Undoubtedly, Nana Addo – the man with many parts and a good heart, confronts the single most important choice in his leadership: to leave an enduring legacy beyond “the battle is the Lord’s”. How that choice is executed to make his party break the ‘8-year cycle’ tradition in the midst of these difficult times and keep the NPP in power beyond 2024 to carry on policies, projects and programs depends overwhelming on one person, President Akufo-Addo.

The writer is a Global Security Analyst & Strategist.

(Ahenease, Larteh-Akwapim) [email protected]


Leave a Reply