John Dramani Mahama’s announcement that Prof Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang is his running mate for the 2020 Presidential Elections has brought quite a number of realities — about our general political gameplay, as well as our readiness to accord women their well-earned accolades — into perspective.
From the moment it became established that Prof Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang is the one to partner John Mahama on his bid to return to governing this country, a lot of things were said and emotions expressed. From the excitement of women visibility lobbyists — that there was going to be some qualified representation at the second-highest office of the land — to what can best be described as the skepticism of insecure men who went as far as questioning how qualified she was to occupy the Vice President’s office should her boss be voted into office.
There is a third group who voiced their opinion as well. The “she’s qualified but I’d rather she was the flagbearer, so until then, I’ll deny her my vote” group. All these groups provide the content for this article, with the focus being Prof Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang. Some have rejoiced that the glass ceiling has been shattered. Is that the case? Well, read on. It gets interesting.
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Prof Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang and our glass ceiling
From the visibility lobbyists
I understand the feminist and women visibility lobbyists. For many of them, this is long overdue. They have witnessed men acclaiming themselves as Affirmative Action advocates, but who woefully failed to champion the cause with their actions. So now that it is happening for real, they have to be on board.
However, even within that group, some skeptics are of the view that Prof Opoku-Agyemang is just a prop to sanitise John Mahama’s image. Well, I won’t fault them for thinking that because it is a common practice here in Ghana.
If you want evidence of the prop aesthetic, look no further than the governing NPP party, whose formula needs a Muslim from the Northern parts of Ghana as the running mate. It’s a tried, tested, and successful formula such that any change might be resisted like Man Utd fans resist anything other than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s established first-team — even when it’s an exhausted team.
In fact, in marriage, people choose spouses who add some shine to their public image. Think about the English royal family, and you’ll see how until recently, it was unheard of for a royal to pair up with a commoner. So I get it. While their fears are unfounded, I understand their reasoning.
From the insecure men
I understand where these too are coming from; if not ideologically, then politically, at least. The words some of them used would leave you wondering if they had women at home who could step in their shoes and competently execute an agenda to perfection. Because when you have women of such calibre surrounding you, and you come across another who once served as the Vice-Chancellor of a University, you wouldn’t open your mouth to make certain pronouncements aimed at downplaying her relevance because you’d know that you’d only be outing yourself as a partisan bigot and misogynist.
They were the most embarrassing. And for such, there isn’t much to learn from or talk about.
The ‘indifferent until she’s flagbearer’ band
In my opinion, these are the people who pose the biggest threat to Prof Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang political career. Theirs is two-fold:
- We know you’re competent and worth it, but we don’t like the politician you’re attached to, so forget it.
- We know you ooo, but you’ll have our attention when you’re on the ballot for real.
These people are either missing something essential or merely apathetic. Quite a number of them do want a woman president and do think she could be the one. A lot of them acknowledge her as being competent, however, they’d rather she be a President in 2025, rather than Vice President in January 2021. And this is where they are getting it wrong.
As stated earlier, too many people are of the suspicion that Prof Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang is simply a prop to garner votes for the Mahama presidential bid. And that is wrong. If anything at all, they should be happy that she’s running on the NDC’s ticket. You know why? The NDC party is the only one whose Vice Presidents are groomed to be future presidents.
President Jerry John Rawlings gave us President Mills, who, in turn, gave us President Mahama. The evidence is out in the open. Unlike the governing NPP whose Vice Presidents have to share duties with Senior Ministers — effectively minimising their influence and experience — the NDC delegates full duties to whoever stands beside the President as his Veep. That is how you prepare someone you intend to relay the leadership baton to in the future.
And this is why I’m of the firm belief that Prof Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, an accomplished educator, rather than serving as a mere prop to John Mahama, is going to be our first female President in the near future; if she’s successful in the 2020 elections — because that’s where her preparation begins.
There is excitement about Prof Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang and the NDC ticket. However, while some think that it’s shattered glass ceilings for women, it isn’t that. The ceiling has merely developed cracks if we can be honest with our women.
We’ve had women elevated to positions of importance only for loud-mouthed men and some female associates to accuse them of sleeping their way to the top. From the former EC chair, Charlotte Osei to Prof Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, among many others, women in this country have had first to defend why they were qualified (sometimes more qualified than the men) to hold offices they’ve been elevated or nominated to.
People have a right to choose, and sometimes their choices may not make sense to you, but it’s well within their rights. However, for you to acknowledge someone’s all-round ability and competence to carry out a role, yet be willing to deny her your support because of whose ticket she’s running on, is not so different from being denied a job or promotion you’re well-qualified for simply because your surname reminds someone of another person they have unresolved issues with. You wouldn’t like it so, why dish it out?
Now, I’m not campaigning for Prof Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang and John Mahama here even if it looks like that. While it’s alright to refuse to vote for the NDC’s candidate because you don’t believe Prof Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang’s presence alone is enough to earn your vote, you need to understand why representation matters; why her presence at the top is good news for Ghanaian women and girls beyond 2020.
In the future, when your daughters attend career day events at school and say they intend to occupy the highest office of the land, they won’t draw smirks and laughter of ridicule from the boys. Because by then, everyone would know how valid her aspiration is; because a capable woman was given the opportunity, and she paved the way for her and many others. And that is even the minimum.
Until we get to that point where women like Prof Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang are embraced and protected from the rabid political and corporate culture we’ve nurtured here, the glass ceiling remains anything other than shattered. It is still intact — even if it’s cracked.