The epiphanic moment during the recent National Democratic Congress’ flagbearership contest, which took place in Sunyani, Brong-Ahafo Region, between President John Atta Mills and Nana Konadu Rawlings, was when former President Jerry John Rawlings humbly raised the arm of President Mills in victory, after all the votes had been counted, which, for all intents and purposes, signified that the fight between the two contestants was over, and that unity was the new goal, if the party was to have a favorable showing in Election 2012. That scene is now seared into the memory of each Ghanaian alive today – the unspoken affirmation of President Mills as the right person to lead his party in Election 2012, and the concomitant rejection of his challenger, Nana Konadu Rawlings, who could not invoke the mystical powers that had propelled Jerry Rawlings to two Ghanaian presidencies in 1992 and 1996, respectively. No doubt, Nana Konadu Rawlings is no Jerry John Rawlings!
The canopy over the dais had shielded the buoyant Nana Konadu Rawlings from the scorching rays of the sun, but nothing – absolutely nothing! – could shield her from the tormenting arrows of defeat, an incredible 2,771 arrows that pierced and buffeted the former First Lady until she was forced to flee the scene for needed relief! At that moment, she must have felt like disappearing into a bottomless abyss, but, sadly, there was none to save her badly battered ego. I felt sorry for her. I truly did. The photographic images would capture, for posterity, a deflated Nana Konadu Rawlings departing the occasion without a word to anyone, a rather hasty exit and a violation of protocol that could lead to a substantial fine from the party’s leaders! Suddenly, the humiliation of the Rawlingses was complete! But we all saw it coming – Ghanaians had become tired of the erratic threats, the animated “boom” speeches, the irrational heckles of anyone not called Rawlings, the meaningless rants, and the dissonant calls for accountability.
The July 9, 2011, National Democratic Congress’ flagbearership contest reminds me of what Dick Morris, a political strategist and the man credited with the re-election of Bill Clinton to the U.S. presidency in 1996, once said about Hillary Clinton, during those thorny days of the U.S. Democratic Party primaries, prior to Election 2008: “Hillary is no Bill!” Dick Morris was at the time referring to the chances of Hillary Clinton against then-candidate Barack Obama for the right to lead the Democratic Party in Election 2008. Ultimately, Obama got the nod, and the rest, they say, is history. If Nana Konadu Rawlings had hoped to be the first former First Lady elected as president of Ghana, she truly misjudged the intelligence of Ghanaians. Mrs. Rawlings’ electoral defeat certainly reveals her lack of credibility among the members of her party, and the earlier she finds some other endeavor to occupy her time, the happier she will be in the long run.
If Nana Konadu Rawlings had envisioned herself firmly ensconced in the leather-upholstered chair in the president’s office at the Flagstaff House, the seat of government, in January 2013, then her dream – this dream that has effervesced so painfully into thin air – would have to wait four more years. But after this severe bruising to her credibility and ego, can the embers of Nana Konadu Rawlings’ political career ever be rekindled? For once, a section of Ghanaian voters had exhibited extreme maturity in deciding who was fit to lead their party into battle against a well-prepared, battle-ready National Patriotic Party, whose presidential candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo, has begun familiarization tours of the regions to personally hear from unhappy, disgruntled, starving Ghanaians who are unable to provide for their families one solid meal a day, afford basic medical care, and pay their children’s school fees.
Indeed, President Mills’ resounding victory in Sunyani must have taken the soft-spoken, genteel, affable leader of the nation by surprise, for no one foresaw this terrible drubbing of Nana Konadu Rawlings. Without a doubt, I feel some vindication for writing in a previous piece that Michael Nyaunu, the so-called leader of the Nana Konadu Rawlings for President campaign team, was not fit to lead anybody’s campaign, let alone the former First Lady’s. I am quite certain that Nyaunu is reeling from this embarrassing defeat and gradually freeing himself of the shrapnels of humiliation that he suffered as a result of his presiding over this rather violent political implosion.
The ferocious embarrassment of Nana Konadu Rawlings in Sunyani last weekend brings to the fore a number of factors. And we must be courageous enough to admit that nothing is ever going to be the same with the Rawlingses, going forward.
First, this unforgettable episode reveals the waning influence of the Rawlingses in both the National Democratic Congress and the nation. The avuncular and big-brother image that Jerry Rawlings had carved for himself in intra-party dealings over the years has suddenly been tarnished by this ill-informed political move by his wife.
Second, with the trouncing of Nana Konadu Rawlings comes the realization that she may not be a viable candidate in any future presidential contests under the banner of the National Democratic Congress. In fact, as argued by some political pundits, if this adventure by Nana Konadu Rawlings was a way to prepare her for her party’s flagbearership in 2016, then it is one of the most debilitating political crises in the annals of the nation.
Third, Nana Konadu Rawlings’ attempt to wrest power from President Mills was seen by political experts and some members of the former First Lady’s party as essential to winning the hearts and souls of many voters in the Ashanti Region, Mrs. Rawlings’ place of birth, as the region remains a veritable stronghold of the opposition National Patriotic Party. With her disastrous outing in Sunyani, however, comes the realization that Nana Konadu Rawlings’ own kith and kin may not care much about her political ambition, more so because her ambition is tied to a party that many Asantes loathe!
Fourth, while many of us had assumed at the outset that Jerry Rawlings was behind his wife’s entering the race to oust President Mills from the Flagstaff House, the seat of government, it now appears that the founder of the National Democratic Party had all along disapproved of his wife’s inordinate desire in private while feigning his support for her in public. We may never know the truth in this matter, but the absence of the complete facts will not stop the tabloids, gossip columns, and newspapers from doing what they do best: conjecturing!
While President John Atta Mills can now focus on the challenges facing his administration – raising literacy levels, meeting the basic healthcare needs of Ghanaians, protecting the public from police and military brutalities, providing jobs for the unemployed – he needs to know that he has approximately sixteen months to convince Ghanaians that he deserves a second shot at the Ghanaian presidency. Of course, Nana Akufo-Addo and the members of the National Patriotic Party will work hard to make sure that the president is sent into retirement in the Central Region after Election 2012, but that is another matter for another day!
The writer, Daniel K. Pryce, is pursuing a doctoral degree in Criminology, Law and Society at George Mason University. He holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from the same university. He is a member of the national honor society for public affairs and administration in the U.S.A. He can be reached at email@example.com.