Former president John Mahama, in August, put speculation regarding his political future to bed and took his first concrete step towards competing in the 2020 presidential election.
The 59-year-old, who suffered a stunning defeat at the hand of Nana Akufo-Addo in the 2016 election, officially launched the process of giving the presidency another shot.
Defying calls by some high-profile Ghanaians for him to retire from active politics, the former president wrote officially to the National Democratic Congress (NDC) to confirm his participation in the party’s presidential primary.
The highly anticipated move came after nearly two years in which Mahama refused to publicly commit to a 2020 run. Until now, he had stated that he favoured helping to unite a fractured NDC and building an electoral machine that is capable of challenging the New Patriotic Party (NPP) before mulling a 2020 run.
“If you ride a lame horse into a race and you lose the race, your priority must be to cure the lameness of the horse and not about who will ride the horse,” he told former members of his administration in Accra last year.
But sources say Mahama had been privately working towards contesting in the 2020 election, since he came to terms with his defeat in 2016.
And in the absence of credible opposition within the NDC, Mahama will be the hot favourite to win the party’s primary and land the coveted nomination.
In a sign of what is to come, Mahama’s 2020 announcement quickly sparked mockery and derision from some Ghanaians, especially supporters of the governing NPP.
It also set off a debate on social and traditional media platforms on Mahama’s suitability for another term in office.
In a passionate appeal that quickly went viral on Facebook, Kojo Yankson, a former minister and popular educationist, called on Mahama to abandon his second term bid and retire gracefully.
“From my knowledge of history, no leader of any country has been able to solve all the problems of that country,” he wrote.
“John, my humble request is for you to give a second thought to your decision.”
For many NPP supporters, the decisive win Akufo-Addo secured over Mahama in the last election, makes a second term victory for his predecessor in 2020 unlikely, if not impossible. (The president secured more than one million votes more than his predecessor in that election.)
Echoing that view recently, Reverend Isaac Owusu Bempah, a popular pastor and friend of Akufo-Addo, said that Mahama was “finished” politically and would never win an election in Ghana.
“Bring him [Mahama] a thousand times and he will lose a thousand times,” Owusu Bempah said of the former president.
“He is done with his job …God removed him from the presidential seat and he is finished”.
But is Mahama really finished politically? Can he mount a solid opposition to Akufo-Addo in the 2020 presidential election? For an incumbent, Mahama’s performance in the last election was poor and unexpected (many polls had predicted a close race).
And the current government and its supporters have good reason to be confident going into the 2020 election.
However, there are several reasons why Akufo-Addo and the NPP must take Mahama’s 2020 ambition seriously.
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