The former president John Dramani Mahama won his party’s nomination for the fourth time last month, on 13 May. His next assignment is to pick his running mate for the 2024 presidential election.
After his first race as flagbearer of the National Democratic Congress in 2012, John Mahama repeated his running mate in 2016.
But the then vice-president, his running mate, sadly died after the NDC lost the 2016 election. The same running mate was believed to be preparing to challenge his former boss for the leadership of the NDC in 2020.
This is suspected to have influenced John Mahama’s subsequent choice of running mate, making him prefer to choose an individual who was not seen as harbouring any special ambitions of her own.
However, there is no guarantee he will choose the same candidate for 2024. His running mate position is of additional interest because, in the event of the former president winning in 2024, the NDC would have to find a new presidential candidate for 2028, as Mahama by then would have exhausted the constitutional two-term limit.
This means that whoever is chosen is likely to be seen as the anointed successor, whether the NDC wins in 2024 or not. Will John Mahama choose a candidate whose focus is likely to be more about a succession or one who is focused on supporting John Mahama to succeed? That appears to be his dilemma.
Mahama, who served in office first as vice-president from 7 January 2009 until 24 July 2012 and then as president from 24 July 2012 to 7 January 2017, but lost two successive presidential election bids in 2016 and 2020, will stand again in the presidential election due to take place on 7 December 2024.
In December 2016, he stood for the presidency in the general election with the late Paa Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur (the then vice-president) as his running mate. Mahama lost to Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo with a vote difference of about one million.
After regrouping the troops, Mahama bounced back to contest the December 2020 presidential election with his former minister of education Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang as his running mate. But again, he lost to President Akufo-Addo with a vote difference of over 500,000.
After winning an overwhelming endorsement by the party faithful in the NDC’s presidential primaries on Saturday 13 May 2023, Mahama has gained a fourth opportunity to run for the Ghanaian presidency.
Speculations is rife about the likelihood of John Mahama renaming Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang (aged 71) as his running mate in the 2024 election, even though there are many other names that have popped up as potential running mates for Mahama.
Professor Opoku-Agyemang is seen as a safe bet. She may not necessarily be exciting, or bring anything special to the ticket, but what she is seen to bring is peace of mind for John Mahama.
She would be a running mate who apparently would be content with just that and will be focused entirely on serving her boss. Choosing her will also show that Mahama is not favouring anyone else for the succession, which some in the former president’s kitchen cabinet see as necessary to keep everybody on board.
Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang was born on 22 November 1951 in Cape Coast.
President John Mahama appointed her as his education minister in 2013 after the 2012 general election and she served in that role until January 2017, when the government of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo came into power.
She attended the Anglican Girls’ Secondary School in Koforidua and Aburi Presbyterian Girls’ School.
She then had her secondary education at Wesley Girls’ High School in Cape Coast between 1964 and 1971. She completed a BEd (Hons) in English and French at the University of Cape Coast in 1977 and obtained her Master’s degree (1980) and doctorate (1986) from York University in Toronto, Canada.
Opoku-Agyemang began teaching and working as an administrator at the University of Cape Coast in 1986. She held a string of academic positions at UCC, including head of the Department of English, dean of the Faculty of Arts, warden of Adehye Hall (the Valco Trust Fund postgraduate hostel) and dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Research.
Starting in 1997, she held the position of academic director of the School for International Training in the History and Cultures of the African Diaspora. From 2008 to 2012 she served as the university’s vice-chancellor. In March 2007, she was one of five scholars selected to deliver presentations during ceremonies to mark the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.
In October 2009, Professor Opoku-Agyemang was elected Ghana’s representative on the executive board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). In the lead-up to the 2012 general election, she moderated the presidential candidates’ debate with Kojo Oppong Nkrumah.
Professor Opoku-Agyemang served as the vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Coast, Ghana. She was the first female vice-chancellor of any state university in Ghana, assuming duty on 1 October 2008 and succeeding Emmanuel Addow-Obeng.
Opoku-Agyemang has been awarded honorary degrees by the University of the West Indies and Winston-Salem University. The University of South Florida in Tampa also gave her an award for global leadership. She is an officer of the Order of the Volta.
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