Kennedy Agyapong: The establishment’s antiestablishment candidate

She is my eighty-five-years-old mother. She began her career as a public-school teacher. In the early seventies she took up cocoa farming after she met and married my late father. She is one of the most partisan people you will ever meet. She is a diehard supporter of the New Patriotic Party (NPP). On September 16, she joined the health walk organised by the campaign team of Hon. Kennedy Agyapong.

Ever since she told me of her decision to support Mr Kennedy Agyapong in the NPP flagbearer race, I have been asking her why. Keep in mind, she is not a delegate and has no vote.

What makes him attractive to you? I asked my mother. She had this to say. “What have the book long people done for us anyway? He is afraid of no one; he is independent minded; he has shown extreme generosity to people in his constituency and beyond; he has created jobs, etc.”

I had one more question for her but I had to tread carefully because when it comes to my mother and her political preferences that is the safest approach. Are you not worried about his political temperament? She looked at me sternly and said “at this stage in our country’s political trajectory this is the kind of political temperament we need in our next president.” We agreed to disagree.

With those words my mother signalled strongly her break from the party’s establishment.
Ken for President?

The establishment’s antiestablishment candidate

I have nicknamed Kennedy Agyapong the establishment’s anti-establishment candidate. He was first elected to parliament in 2000 and has won re-election since. He has served on both parliamentary committees as well as board of public entities. He defends his political party fiercely. I tend to have a diplomatic approach to public discourse and therefore sometimes cringe at what I perceive as his adversarial approach to politics. There is no doubt in my mind that he is a politician who has been deeply involved in our duopoly politics since the beginning of the fourth republic.

But Kennedy Agyapong is intriguing in other ways. You can also find several examples of his antiestablishment posture. I am trying to think of one institution that has yet to face his strong rhetoric. Recall his words against a judge and his ruling in a land case. Or his reference to parliament once with words I cannot repeat here which earned him an invitation before the privileges’ committee. Or his constant assertion that the media establishment will plunge the country into trouble one day because of what he calls “false reportage.”

His own political party, of which no one will disagree that he is a staunch member, has not been spared his sharp rhetoric over the years. As the primaries heat up I am sure some of his statements give his own party people sleepless nights.

This deep connection to the political establishment while at the same time finding occasion to speak against it is what makes him an interesting political personality. I mean is it not curious that his enthusiastic supporters such as my mother do not see him as part of the political establishment?

Can he defeat the establishment?

When Kennedy Agyapong came in second during Super Delegates Saturday I was very surprised. The victory of the Vice-President, Dr Bawumia, was expected. However, the real story of that day was his second-place finish especially for a first-time contestant in an NPP primary. That day also gave us another example of his occasional “fights” with the establishment. In a video that went viral, he is seen and heard promising both the Vice-President and President, a “showdown.”

As I closely watch how the NPP primary is unfolding with November 4th drawing closer, I have been wondering if Kennedy Agyapong can mastermind a shocking victory over the establishment. The electorate on November 4th is much bigger and as his supporters tend to argue has a larger proportion of grassroots people. And it is at the grassroots level that he finds his broad appeal.

I have said that I will be surprised if the Vice-President fails to secure the party’s nomination. I still believe he is the establishment’s preference. Establishment candidates are typically difficult to defeat. This is not to say that there are no examples in history of the establishment being defeated. The possibility of it happening in this NPP primary is what I am not certain about.

The contest is heating up. The rhetoric is getting sharper as we draw closer to November 4. There are other candidates in the race for sure but for now it appears that it is a contest between the establishment (Dr Bawumia) and the establishment’s antiestablishment candidate (Hon. Kennedy Agyapong).

Interesting political times!

The writer is a Democracy and Development Fellow at the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana).