There are signs that Ghana’s former President Jerry Rawlings is losing his influence. This is after delegates at the ruling National Democratic Congress’ (NDC) primary rejected his preferred candidate, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings’ who vied against incumbent President John Atta Mills.
Out of 2,861 votes, Nana Agyeman-Rawlings, who is Rawling's wife, could only poll 90 votes against President Mills’ 2,771.
If she had won, this would have been the first time that a serving president is changed after his first term in office since the country returned to Constitutional rule in 1992.
“This defeat was a clear sign that the NDC is fed up with Mr Rawlings,” said governance expert, Mr Jacob Manu.
Mr Rawlings does not only criticise President Mills. When former President John Kufuor was in power, Rawlings did not spare him. “Most Ghanaians have come to see Mr Rawlings as someone who thinks he is the only wise man in Ghana. This cannot be the case and a time would come when the people would kick against you,” Mr Manu said.
The massive show of support would definitely give President Mills some confidence because, Mr Rawlings would no longer have any basis to criticise him. Mr Manu said, “the defeat is overwhelming and it finally must show to Mr Rawlings that the grass-root supporters he had always claimed to be fighting for with his criticism against President Mills had lost faith in him.”
Nana Agyeman-Rawlings had always said on her campaign trail that it was the grass-root supporters who had pushed her to challenge President Mills in order to fight their cause. However, the same people failed to show their support to her challenge.
It was not only the result that gave the indication that, Mr Rawlings and his family’s hold on the party and the country had perhaps come to an end. They were booed when they entered the Coronation Park. There were also boos from where a group of ministers were seated when Nana Agyeman-Rawlings was addressing the delegates and she was forced to remark that, “minister are supposed to be disciplined people before they were appointed.”
Nana Agyeman-Rawlings defeat could be an indication that the ruling NDC is taking a different course for its survival. Since its formation, Mr Rawlings had been considered founder of the party and this is even entrenched in the party’s Constitution. Some analysts have suggested that, the position of founder of the party is likely to be espounged.
Besides, some of the appointees currently serving with President Mills who campaigned vigorously for his win were people very close to the Rawlings family. Thus, there have been suggestion that, these people were opportunists who were supporting President Mills because of the position they occupy. But minister of environment, science and technology, Miss Sherry Aryettey, a former close confindant of Nana Agyeman-Rawlings said after the election that, “old friends of the Rawlings’ have not deserted them. The result was just a signal that President Mills is doing things right.”
It is not like Nana Agyeman-Rawlings would lose some sleep over these people who have changed their allegiance because in a recent interview with Africa Review, she admitted that she does not keep friends. “All the people l have come to work with are associates and colleagues,” she added.
With this defeat, it is not clear whether, Mr Rawlings and the wife would remain with the party. Some people have suggested that they might decide to form another party because one of the reasons Mr Rawlings had given for his support for his wife was to take over the NDC that had been ‘hi-jacked’. The level of defeat would make it difficult for them to form any new party because the grass-root supporters they have always claim to be their support base have rejected the at the just ended primary.
Power of incumbency
The leading opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) is likely to be the winner should Mr Rawlings decide to leave the NDC because he was the one who campaigned round the country for President Mills. Besides, the margin of votes between President Mills and Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the NPP candidate at the 2008 election was about 40,000. The NDC is however counting on the fact that, no incumbent president had been voted out of office at the end of his first term. Like the decision to challenge a serving president, this logic is also going to be tested next year.