The country may have only gone to the polls five months ago, but the ruling party is already fighting over who will succeed President Akufo-Addo in 2024. By Cliff Ekuful.
Faced with daunting economic challenges, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and Ghana’s rising cost of living, President Akufo-Addo's second term was never expected to be easy.
But the president, who has only just sworn in his cabinet following his December re-election, is also now having to deal with a party feud as ministers and party stalwarts jostle to replace him in 2024, despite the ruling New Patriotic Party’s (NPP) primaries being more than two years away.
It’s a situation that could easily derail not just the fortunes of the ruling party, but also the whole country, according to political observers.
Ghana is struggling to balance its books.
According to the Fiscal Monitor Report released in April by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the country’s deficit soared from 4.7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019 to 11.7 per cent in 2020 – a loss of more $350 million in revenue to the exchequer.
Meanwhile, the amount of money the country owes through borrowing currently stands at $50.35 billion (76.1 per cent of GDP).
It was expected to have reached more than $51.9 billion (82.6 per cent of GDP) by the close of the first quarter of 2021.
In addition to mounting debt, recent problems with Ghana’s electricity supply have caused parts of the country to experience intermittent power outages over recent weeks, further hampering the country’s economic output. While Ghanaians are complaining about inflation, with everything from food to building supplies rising rapidly in recent weeks.
'I bought a bag of cement for GHc36 ($6.23) in January,' said Accra resident Bannasco Ansah. 'On Friday, April 16, I bought same at a sale shop for GHc48 ($8.30) an increase of GHc12 ($2.07).'
Despite being confronted with challenges of such magnitude, individual and personal ambitions seem to have taken precedence within the ruling party.
All signs point to a likely repeat of the mistakes of the 2007 NPP primaries, during which more than 17 people, including President Akufo-Addo, contested an acrimonious election that created cracks in the party’s front, resulting in a shock defeat in the 2008 general elections.
Already, supporters of Vice President Mahammudu Bawumia, Trade Minister Alan Kyeremateng, Agriculture Minister Owusu Afriyie Akoto and former Railways Minister Joe Ghartey have kick-started intense campaigns.
While these are the names currently trending, with their supporters openly campaigning, insider sources say it is likely many others will join the frenzy in the coming weeks.
Two former ministers, Boakye Agyarko and Kofi Konadu Apraku, and a contender in the 2014 presidential primaries, Addai Nimo, are said to be keen to succeed President Akufo-Addo.
The timing of the internal wrangling has set party loyalists on edge.
President Akufo-Addo is not oblivious to the magnitude of the challenges confronting him in his second term of office.
A source at the NPP headquarters revealed that, even though the president was upbeat about his second term, he is worried that the early jostling will affect the performance of his government.
‘At a recently held cabinet meeting, the president was visibly upset with the development, especially with members of his cabinet who are rumoured to have joined in the fray,’ the source told NewsAfrica.
Perhaps the strongest indication of the president’s concerns is reflected in a statement attributed to John Boadu, the General Secretary of the NPP, who said the president has made it clear that he ‘will not hesitate’ to kick those looking to replace him ‘out of government, so that they can concentrate on their presidential ambition’.
He added: ‘Sometimes it is very difficult for me to talk about these things but it looks like that is what we have to do. So, we are putting forward some proposals to the [NPP] National Steering Committee quickly to fashion out some guidance in order to allow government work to go on.’
Meanwhile, Gabby Otchere-Darko, a cousin of President Akufo-Addo and viewed by many as the 'de-facto Prime Minister’, went even further, calling on those jostling for power ‘to move over to move on’.
‘The world is in crisis,’ he said in a recent Facebook post. ‘Ghana is part of the world. Therefore, Ghana is in crisis.'
‘Which part of this don’t you get, Mr Cabinet Member! Governments everywhere have a big multi-task of fighting the virus, fighting economic hardships, fighting for food and jobs, fighting the debt and deficit, and here in Ghana, we are also fighting for transformation. This is not the time to be planting for delegates and votes.’
NPP in-fighting has raised eyebrows beyond the president’s own family.
Professor Ransford Gyampo, a senior lecturer with the Political Science Department at the University of Ghana in Legon, described the struggle to succeed the president as ‘a show of selfishness’ and questioned why the party is focused on the 2024 election, when Ghana still lacks a fully functioning government following December’s vote.
‘Deputy Ministers haven’t been appointed. Boards and heads of other state institutions are yet to be appointed. Metropolitan Municipal and District Chief Executives haven’t been appointed.'
‘This is not the time to talk about who must replace or takeover from him,’ added Gyampo.
‘He needs all to work with him to right the wrongs in his previous administration and to do something drastic that will make his party still attractive to the citizenry after eight years in power. It is in the interest of those seeking to take over from him to ensure that he succeeds in his second term. For it is his success that would make things a bit easier for the NPP's 2024 [campaign].’
The vice-president's office has issued a statement distancing itself from the activities of some alleged supporters campaigning for Bawumia to succeed President Akufo-Addo.
If 2007’s hustings were nerve-breaking, the 2023 primaries are expected to be as bruising a battle for the NPP, with far-reaching consequences not only for the ruling party but also the fortunes of Ghana too.