The election of Vice-President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia as the flag bearer of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) has set the stage for a real showdown with former President John Mahama of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) for the Jubilee House in 2024.
Both presidential hopefuls hail from the northern part of the country and will be battling for electoral supremacy in the five regions of the north and the Zango areas which had remained faithful to the NDC since the inception of the Fourth Republic in 1992.
The margins had, however, reduced since the emergence of Dr Bawumia in the political space.
Instructively, both candidates come from regions that had been carved out of the Northern Region. While Dr Bawumia comes from the North East, Mr Mahama hails from the Savannah Region.
Political paternal lineages
Perhaps, it is not surprising that the two northern contenders had political paternal lineages that had paved the way for them in their political careers.
Former President John Mahama’s father, Emmanuel Adama Mahama, was a minister of state under Ghana’s first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah.
He was the first Member of Parliament for the West Gonja Constituency and the first Northern Regional Minister who later became a senior presidential advisor during Ghana’s Third Republic under Hilla Limann.
Dr Bawumia’s father, Alhaji Mumuni Bawumia, on the other hand, was a politician and lawyer who later became the chief of Kperiga, near Walewale, in the North East Region.
Before then, he was Chairman of the Council of State in the Fourth Republic from 1993 to 2000.
During his early political career, he was a member of the Northern People’s Party and later the United Party (UP).
He subsequently defected from the UP while still in parliament and cross-carpeted to the Convention People’s Party (CPP) in 1958.
The political contest between the two stalwarts is also expected to reignite the rivalry between two of Ghana’s most respected senior high schools in northern Ghana – Tamale SHS (Tamasco) and Ghana SHS (Ghanasco).
This prospect of having either John Mahama (Ghanasco) or Dr Mahamudu Bawumia (Tamasco) as President in January 2025 has fanned flames of a long-standing healthy rivalry between students and former students of these institutions in the Tamale metropolis.
And since both flag bearers are active members of their old students’ associations, the enthusiasm to have one of their own at the Jubilee House has intensified.
Dr Bawumia is the first northerner to lead a perceived dominant Akan party as the NPP pushes for greater ethnic diversity.
Indeed, the Vice-President in his victory speech reinforced that belief by saying: “For a boy, born in the heartland of Tamale, with a hometown in Walewale to be elected as presidential candidate of Ghana’s largest political party, speaks to the character of the NPP”.
The NPP is a party that is all-embracing. To our men and women in the Zangos scattered across the 16 regions of the country, I say to you that in the NPP, it is possible to rise to the top. I invite you to join me in this journey of possibilities. The NPP has a place for you,” he added.
Dr Bawumia’s main challenger, Mr Mahama and the NDC has had a jolly electoral ride in the northern and Zango communities since 1992, but his appointment as the running mate to President Atta Mills in 2008, contributed to the NDC’s win.
Mr Mahama’s subsequent emergence as top of the ticket of the NDC in 2012, nailed it for the party in the north and the Zangos.
Indeed, the emergence of the two presidential hopefuls from the northern part of the country makes the northern sector a must-watch in the December 7, 2024 general election.
For the records, in 1992 for example, the then Northern Region gave Jerry Rawlings of the NDC 62.97 per cent as against the 16.30 per cent for Prof. Albert Adu Boahen of the NPP.
In the Upper East and West regions, the NDC had 53.97 and 50.96 per cent respectively in 1992, as against the NPP’s 10.48 and 8.90 per cent in the same elections.
The situation was not different in the 1996 elections when the NPP, led by John Kufuor, trailed Jerry Rawlings of the NDC with 33.01, while the latter had 61.13 per cent in the Northern region.
The same victory was recorded in the Upper East and West regions in the 1996 elections when Jerry Rawlings of the NDC extended his margin by 68.99 and 74.61 per cent respectively, while the NPP again trailed in those regions with 17.35 and 11.19 per cent respectively.
After the exit of Rawlings in the 2000 general election, many thought that the dominance of the NDC in the northern part of the country would end, though the NDC lost the elections, the party maintained its electoral dominance in the entire northern sector.
In the 2000 elections, John Atta Mills of the NDC polled 50.76 per cent while his closest challenger, John Kufuor of the NPP, only mobilised 29.57 per cent.
In the Upper East and Upper West regions, the NPP again trailed with 18.99 and 15.51 as against the NDC’s figures of 49.82 and 62.29 per cent respectively.
In the 2004 elections, the NDC maintained its northern dominance by polling 57.83 and the NPP gathering 34.72 per cent. The story was the same in the Upper East and Upper West when the NDC gathered 53.26 and 56.65 per cent while the NPP recorded 31.69 and 32.22 per cent respectively.
The northern sector again powered the NDC, led by John Atta Mills and John Mahama as running mate to victory in the 2008 election when the Upper East and West gave the NDC 56.06 and 54.36 per cent. The NPP on the other hand only managed 35.25 and 37.72 per cent respectively.
In the Northern Region, the NDC got 57.37 while the NPP polled 37.79 per cent respectively.
In 2012, when John Mahama became the top ticket for the NDC and Bawumia was maintained as the running mate to Akufo-Addo, the Northern Region gave the NDC 58.59 while the NPP polled 38.78 per cent. The trend continued with the Upper East and Upper West regions when NPP trailed with 29.29 and 29.26 while the NDC gained 66.43 and 65.54 per cent respectively.
Even in 2016 when the NDC lost the elections, the northern sector again remained loyal. In that general election, the Upper East and West gave the NDC 60.32 and 58.37 per cent respectively, while the NPP recorded 34.93 and 35.94 per cent in that order. Again, the Northern Region was generous to the NDC with a reduced margin of 56.08 while the NPP polled 41.34 per cent.
In the 2020 elections when the Northern Region was divided, the NDC won in Mr Mahama’s home region of Savannah as the party polled 63.29 as against the NPP’s vote of 35.19 per cent.
The Upper East and Upper West again remained faithful to the NDC with 63.29 and 67.42 per cent while the NPP polled 34.44 and 29.89 per cent correspondingly.
In the North East, which is the home region of Dr Bawumia, the NPP won for the first time, giving the party 51.37 as against the NDC’s 47.0 per cent.
The Northern Region again returned its loyalty to the NDC with 52.93 as against the NPP’s 46.08 per cent respectively.
Critics say Dr Bawumia has a daunting task to clinch the presidency for the NPP to break the eight because of the economic challenges the country faces currently compared to John Mahama who points to some macroeconomic growth under his watch.
But Dr Bawumia has incumbency advantage, which many say can propel him to stay at the Jubilee House. It remains to be seen if Dr Bawumia can turn the northern votes against John Mahama of the NDC. Only time will tell, just time.