Happy 81st birthday, Kufuor
0n 29 August 1992, about 1980 delegates of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) met at Legon to elect their flagbearer. After the count of the ballot, Prof. Albert Adu Boahen won with some 57% votes. He was followed by Dr. Kofi Dsane Selby (17%), John Agyekum Kufuor (16%), Dr. Kwame Safo Adu (8%), Dr. John Atta Addison (1%) and Lawyer John Kwame Kodua (~ 0.4%). That was the first time I heard of Kufuor (JAK). His performance surprised many; in fact, the person to introduce him at the congress ditched him at the last minute. The next day, a Sunday, JAK joined Prof Adu Boahen at the thanksgiving service, the only losing candidate to do so.
Before giving a shot at the presidential slot, JAK had a deal with his party at the Atwima Nwabiagya constituency: in case he failed to lead the party at the national level, he would represent the constituency as a parliamentary candidate. So he became the party’s parliamentary candidate for the constituency (which he had represented in1969 and 1979).
However, his dream of becoming an MP for the third time was killed when the NPP leadership and other minority parties boycotted the 1992 parliamentary elections (held on a separate date from the presidential election), citing fraud in the presidential elections. The NPP would write the ‘Stolen Verdict.’
JAK’s quest to lead the party in 1996 began immediately. If you wanted to meet him, you had a great chance doing so at a funeral ground, be it in Tuobodom or Sukusuku. In April 1996, again at Legon, the Gentle Giant surprised many by defeating Prof Adu Boahen at the primaries. The NPP formed the Great Alliance with the CPP, and Kufuor had Ekow Arkaah (then sitting vice president) as his running mate. Kufuor lost the presidency to the incumbent, Jerry Rawlings. The night before the election, when campaigning was over, GTV aired a documentary, showing how Kufuor’s businesses failed and how he allegedly mismanaged Asante Kotoko as a chairman. It was distasteful; I have since disliked GTV.
For the 2000 general elections, the NPP decided to elect its flagbearer in 1998, to give the candidate enough time to raise funds. Sunyani was the venue. J H Mensah, a brother-in-law of Kufuor, was among the contestants. He questioned why the party would present an “unsold cassava” to the market again. He got three votes for his efforts. The main challenger was “a certain” Nana Akufo-Addo. Dr Kofi Konadu Apraku was a candidate; so was Alhaji Malik Yakubu and (again) Lawyer Kwame Koduah. Kufuor won comfortably. For the NDC, primaries was not necessary; by the “Swedru Declaration”, Prof John Mills had been “imposed” on the party as its flagbearer.
The 2000 general elections was initially scheduled for 8 December. The NDC, led by Dr Tony Aidoo, objected to the date on constitutional grounds. The NDC’s main worry, though, was that the chosen date is Kufuor’s birthday. The electoral commission changed the date to 7 December. Ghana had its first presidential debate, moderated by Kwaku Sakyi Addo and Prof Audrey Gadzekpo. Prof John Mills of the NDC boycotted it. Dan Lartey of the Great Consolidated Popular Party did his best to explain his “domestication” policy although halfway through answering one question, he paused and said: “Please the question again.” The star of the evening, though, was Goosie Tandoh of the Reformed Party, which was a breakaway from the NDC in protest against the Swedru Declaration.
Kufuor, one would imagine, enjoyed his birthday as the blowing wind of change was too strong to stop. When the results started coming in on the night of 7 December and the NPP had won, for the first time, in constituencies like Berekum, Techiman and Odododiodio, victory seemed inevitable. But Kufuor did not get the required minimum of 50% + 1 vote and had to go for a run-off before being declared the winner.
For eight years, JAK implemented his “positive change” agenda before bowing out as demanded by the Constitution. He has since positioned himself as Statesman, rising above partisan politics — sometimes to the chargrin of members of his party; his decision to attend the innauguration of John Mahama in 2012 despite his party’s decision to the contrary springs to mind.
On the ocassion of his 81st birthday, I join millions to wish Ama (da)Paa’s son good health and peace of mind. Enjoy your day, Kofi Diawuo! Time will prove that you are one of the best things to happen to Ghana.
Credit: Kwabena Antwi-Boasiako PhD