The need to get a formidable running mate for the National Democratic Congress flagbearer for next year’s presidential election has become more than critical considering the fact that the party requires a strong performance to snatch power at the first ask.
As the race for the running mate slot is obviously down to a two-horse race between the ‘ubiquitous’ Julius Debrah and the ‘anonymous’ Jane Naana, a careful comparative analysis is proffered below for consideration.
POLITICAL EXPERIENCE & GOVERNANCE
It is no debate comparing the two when it comes to political experience. While Jane Naana appears to be a relatively new on the scene, having been introduced only when chosen as running mate in 2020, Julius Debrah is a hegemonic presence for a long time consistently. He has travailed on the scene since the formative days of the party. He is an embodiment of the fourth republic of Ghana.
In active politics, Julius has held positions as the Propaganda Secretary and the Regional Chairman of his party (National Democratic Congress) at the Eastern Region from 2001 -2012. He rose from there to become the party’s parliamentary candidate for the Suhum constituency during the 2000, 2004 and 2012 parliamentary elections and nearly won the elusive seat for the party in the last attempt.
It is superfluous to mention his exploits as Eastern Regional Minister, Greater Accra Regional Minister and later Minister for Local Government and Rural Development Minister. Although his time in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development was rather short, his achievements during the period were phenomenal and includes the following:
As an ice-breaker, Julius commenced work in the Ministry with a retreat in Akosombo to primarily define his vision and focus for the sector. It was also to provide the right atmosphere among senior staff of the Ministry and its agencies for team- work to achieve the goals of the Ministry. The Akosombo retreat produced a short- and medium-term agenda themed “Our Life Changers”. The Agenda hinges on four (4) strategic areas, namely Environmental Sanitation, Decentralization and Empowerment of District Assemblies, Small and Micro Enterprise Development, and Social Housing.
He also championed the development of the first Consolidated Local Government Bill. The Bill, which was eventually passed in 2016 as Local Governance Act, 2016 Act 936 sought to harmonize conflicting laws and consolidate five major legislations on decentralization into one Act. The legislations are: District Assemblies Common Fund Act, 1993, (Act 455), Local Government Act, 1993, (Act 462), National Development Planning (System) Act, 1994, (Act 480), Local Government Service Act, 2003, (Act 656), Internal Audit Agency Act, 2003, (Act 658) (sections affecting MMDAs). He commenced and led consultations on the draft bill to secure input and acceptance among the stakeholders.
Street Naming and Property Addressing: He supervised the formulation of the Policy Guidelines and Operational Manual for Street Naming and Property Addressing (SNPA) to assist MMDAs execute street naming and property addressing and ensured the provision of logistics to all MMDAs to execute a Presidential Directives to complete the implementation of the Street Naming and Property Addressing (SNPA) exercise within an 18- month period from 28th March 2013. The logistics included various equipment including GIS machines, plotters, motorbikes and computers and accessories were provided to all Assemblies to speed up work on the street naming.
He led the establishment of the Greater Accra Passenger Transport Executive (GAPTE) and registered it with the Registrar General’s Department as a limited liability Company by Guarantee. GAPTE sought to coordinate the roll out of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Pilot B in Accra. During his time, he negotiated and secured the support of private transport operators- GPRTU, PROTOA and Cooperative, incorporate private limited liability companies to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the public mass transit operations. GAPTE signed an MOU with these Companies to operationalize the BRT on the Accra (Tudu) – Amasaman corridor.
Tour of Hope: His leadership led to the roll-out of the Tour of Hope program. Taking advantage of the 115 assorted construction equipment procured by Government of Ghana, he established zonal centers in Tamale, Kumasi and Accra and allocated this equipment to these centers for MMDAs to use for the maintenance of roads. The program saved MMDAs of the pressure of having to purchase this equipment for the purpose of road maintenance. It also saved them the cost of maintenance.
National Sanitation Day: He crafted the National Sanitation Day to create awareness and whip-up communal action for water, sanitation and hygiene. The day was observed during the last Saturday of every month across the country. With his ingenuity, he fashioned out rotation system where the Ministry relocates operationally, to a region during the last week of the month and commemorated it with the observance of the sanitation day. Also, 60 Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) were trained in Environmental Health Prosecution, which aims at enhancing the prosecution skills of EHOs to ensure proper enforcement of sanitation laws at the local and community level.
Markets developments: Julius knew that small scale businesses were essential to decentralization as they provide jobs for the youth and income for the District Assembly. He also knew the impact of formalization on the growth of these small businesses. Accordingly, he championed the redevelopment of our markets to provide affordable and decent trading centers for small businesses. The redevelopment of the Kumasi market and the Kotokuraba markets are symbolic of his commitments to markets formalization and creating the enabling environment within local governments for small businesses to grow.
Superintending Government Staff: Many observers have applauded Julius for his critical hard work when he was appointed Chief of Staff at the Presidency under HE John Mahama. There was a time when it became conspicuous there was a widening gap between the presidency and the party. He skillfully and diplomatically closed that gap to enable the president focus on troubling national issues at the time. As the Chief of Staff, he was credited with enhancing the functionality and reestablishment of the integrity of the Flagstaff House.
OTHER PUBLIC SERVICE
It is important to mention here that both candidates have been involved in public service in their respective fields. However one will agree Prof. Jane Naana was limited to the education sector while Julius’ tentacles cut across and exposed him to more sectors than Jane. Many consider Prof. Naana as a bridge between mass party followers and the academia. She has been the Minister of Education from 2013 to 2017 and performed creditably well. As the first female Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast, one cannot forget her excellent leadership. She critically however is not known to grassroots concerns. Again the deposition can be made that she can pull floating voters. This point also favours Julius in this respect because he shares humble aptitudes and intelligence on common grounds.
Julius tops again with his excellent work as the CEO of the Ghana Tourism Authority. It was his efforts that culminated in the popularization of the Kwahu Easter Festival. It is instructive to mention that he led processes to upgrade the Ghana Tourism Board to and Authority and eventually got the Tourism Development Fund established to promote tourism in Ghana.
One of the critical issues the party will consider in accepting a choice is how appealing the choice is among the party rank and file. That common political constituency question can be answered easily by Julius while Prof. will have or no answer at all. Julius has several footsoldiers who are willing to criss-cross every nook and cranny to get out the votes. Not less than fifty (50) people visit his office throughout each day in each week for deliberations. He understands the modern political game more. Senior figures such as Obed Asamoah have noticed these and voiced their support for replacing Naana.
It is noteworthy other stalwarts like the Ahwois are also loud in canvassing for her retention. They believed her stature in Ghana politics having come from the academia with exposure to many intellectuals will endear her to become the first female president of Ghana after JM. This gender debate even though laudable at first instance, a careful dissection will render it weak. In the 2020 elections it was expected that her gender will pull female votes to enable the party win easily. This sadly was not the case. The results showed there was no gender influence on the outcome. In fact Obed Asamoah anger emanated from the fact the party could not win Prof. Naana’s constituency KEEA.
Furthermore gender activists seem to have departed that stance realzing the robust terrain of politics. Nana Aba Anamoah for instance has gone out vocally to push for support for Julius to be named the running mate. This call definitely did not come out of a vacuum for a toad does not run in a day time for nothing. They might have realized that the Prof. is not a good learner when it comes to modern politics. The ultimate party goal therefore cannot be sacrificed.
Middle ground, the youth and party executive in private conversations favour a change. This change being a long serving experienced man is an effective tool to enhance our machinery for 2024. Julius is accepted largely among the youth and the party executive. He is considered their representation into the future looking at his youthful age of 58 at the time of voting compared to about 71 for Prof. Jane.
On the other hand party executives at all levels are looking beyond 2028 where a strong candidate is required to carry on the mantle to lead the party into a second term after JM is done. The ideal candidate in their considered view is one who is further groomed as vice to JM who would have been essentially marketed for battle in 2028. This is where Julius is a popular consideration in positive light.
Again the cordiality with the flagbearer by the two comes into consideration. Notwithstanding the very good relationship between the ticket bearers of our 2020 elections, majority of Ghanaians attest to the fact that the cordiality between John Mahama and Julius Debrah is one that is almost supernatural; it is an Atsu and Etse situation as Ewes will explain it. This profound telepathy is welcomed as an essential ingredient in forming a formidable pair for the 2024 battle.
When we assess his interpersonal relationships, many will accept that the personality of Julius Debrah endeared him to many people across the political divide. He is an affable personality who is warm and receptive and gives meaning to humanity at every opportunity. Young ones who are close to him attest to the fact that he takes delight in nurturing young talents into beneficial maturity.
DEMOGRAPHIC POLITICAL INFLUENCE
The most critical political knot to be untied to unlock the party’s misfortunes in NPP dominated areas is where the running mate should come from all other vital ingredients being equal. Many have argued that the party has stuck with the Central Region for too long and needed to move to another region. This is particularly based on the fact that the last running mate did not do well in her own constituency in the Central region.
Now the party struggles in the Akan dominated Eastern and Ashanti regions. It is projected that if the NDC can amass up to 30% of Ashanti vote in addition to maintaining its votes in other regions, it can win the presidential elections straightforward. The two regions mentioned above represent the biggest strongholds of the NPP which if broken will inure to the benefit of the NDC. In this regard chosing Julius Debrah from the Eastern region is more likely to deal a major blow to the NPP’s chances than retaining Jane Naana. Julius is an Okwahu/Akim hybrid who is highly esteemed in the Eastern region. His choice will not only draw the Eastern region to the NDC but only influence Asantes to consider him as their close relative. This occurrence will be an assault on the engine room of the NPP that should ruffle their feathers.
RELATIONSHIP WITH TRADITIONAL AUTHORITIES
From his past portfolios, Julius has dealt with and struck cordial relationships with most traditional authorities than Prof. Jane Naana has managed in her short period as running mate. The working relationships have vital consequences for him as they influence knowledge about him and his acceptability in the minds of chiefs and elders. Even though it is not automatic, chiefs are effective judges of political leaders. He who has done a good work before in their estimation is more likely to repeat it. Julius’ magnanimity towards traditional authorities cannot be underestimated here. Little is however known about the extent to which Prof. Jane is engaged with traditional authorities.
While Prof. Jane is glued to the academia, Julius has been a business focused since early 1990s. Prior to joining active politics Julius started and developed several businesses in Tourism & Hospitality, Insurance, Automobile Inspectorate, Banking, Construction, Water & Beverages, Real Estate ,Broadcasting and Agricultural Sectors. He continues to work with other entrepreneurs to create more jobs for the youth. He is exposed to many influential forces in the business who will be important in driving youth employment in Ghana.
His interest in Tourism Development and promotion led him into the study of Sociology & Archaeology at the University of Ghana and his further studies of Archaeology at the Masters level with specialization in Museums and Heritage studies. He has led and conducted many tours in Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, Guinea, Senegal and the Gambia.
He is one of the most sort after Tour leaders in the tourism circles in West Africa. Subsequently, he became a JICA alumnus and studied Sustainable Tourism Development in African Countries at the University of Ryukus in Okinawa, Japan in 2011 under the TICAD IV sponsorship. He also did further studies and excavations in Norway at the Norwegian University of Science & Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, Norway in 2018.
Julius as a leader believes in team work and the act of tapping on the potential of his subordinates to achieve results. The Julius Debrah approach is to identify a problem at stake and profess a practical solution to it by adopting the “what can I get effectively done today” method. An important role required for the execution of campaign towards the 2024 victory will be fund raising. A man with business background and connections is more probable to mobilize funds for the party than the woman from the academia where funds are not likely to flow. Personal resources contribution will be critical in this regard too.
On the part of Prof. Naana we can share her influence through literature. She was a distinguished scholar who served on the Executive Board of UNESCO, delivered a presentation at the UN HQ during the 200th Anniversary of the Abolition Slavery. Prior to becoming the vice chancellor of the University of Cape Coast, she served as Hall Warden, Head of Department, Dean of Faculty and Postgraduate Studies at UCC. These positions enabled her to train many young minds and shape their orientation and building them for future leadership.
As time passes, there will have to be a decision made on the issue. So much lobbying is going on but the Flagbearer has the final say in the matter. Our job is not to decide for him but to remind him of issues on the ground to guide his final settlement. In the corporate party his choice will determine the amount of energy the grassroots will lend to him toward the battle. We do not expect everyone to agree with him when he eventually comes out with a choice. However we expect him to apply the utilitarian principle in making the choice. We have proposed the practical solution for him to weigh. We hope it meets him well for our common good.
By Anonymous Writer