Ghana: The presidential candidates

December 26, 2008 12:00 am

, ACCRA, Dec 26 – Two candidates will compete in a run-off Sunday in the second round of Ghana’s presidential election.

Either Nana Akufo-Addo, a 64-year-old lawyer from the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) or John Atta-Mills, a law professor of the same age from the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), will emerge as president.

Following are short portraits:

Nana Akufo-Addo

Solemn behind rimless spectacles and looking younger than his 64 years, "Nana" as he is generally referred to, is the son of Edward Akufo-Addo who served as Ghana’s president – at the time a purely ceremonial role – back in the early 1970s.

Educated in the UK, as a boy Nana listed his interests as soccer and boxing. He is still keen on soccer and also likes squash, jazz and literature.

"Nana is very powerful in his own party. He is a very fine pan-africanist who could bring the country together …," said Emmanuel Akwetey, executive director of the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG).

He added that Akufo-Addo wants to be seen as the reincarnation of Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first leader at independence.

A cultured speaker with fluent French after five years as a lawyer in Paris, the NPP candidate appeals to the elite and is the darling of the investment community.

"He’s ahead of the pack," said one London-based investment banker, "and his choice of running mate is genius. I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have drive economic policy in that country".

The running mate, Mahamudu Bawumia, is an economist and deputy central bank governor.
A northerner, he was responsible for Ghana’s debut 750-million-dollar issue that was four times oversubscribed, and made Ghana the first sub-Saharan African country after South Africa to issue Eurobonds. He helped design and implement the redenomination of the cedi.

John Atta-Mills

Former vice president to the mercurial Jerry Rawlings in his last three years in office, John Atta-Mills, the soft-spoken law professor who lost twice to outgoing president John Kufuor in 2000 and 2004, is having his third try at the presidency.

"He is principled, you can’t move him easily, he is … not corruptible," IDEG’s Akwetey told AFP.

The NDC flagbearer, who came second to Akufo-Addo in the first round earlier this month, sees himself as a transparent, humble politician who has the courage to accept when he errs and is willing to learn from those mistakes.

"I am the leader of a party that has welfarism and people-centred approach to managing the affairs of state as its core values," Atta-Mills told a campaign meeting earlier this week.
Atta-Mills, who once headed the country’s revenue collection agency, made his campaign slogan a "better Ghana", after eight years of "miserable failure".

Despite Ghana being hailed as a model of prosperity and stability in impoverished west Africa, Mills, who studied law in London, says the economy is not doing well at all and the ruling NPP "are the only ones who can’t see it".

Popularly referred to as ‘the Prof’, he lost to Kufuor in 2004 with 44.6 percent of the vote.


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