Prof. Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang
The long wait—full of vacillations and speculations—is over as former Education Minister Prof. Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang becomes the running mate of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) flag bearer John Mahama in the December polls.
She did not stand a dog’s chance of making it in the reckoning of political pundits as they worked the possibilities, but as fate would have it, she has won the heart of the flag bearer— if indeed the final say rested with him.
The media occasionally came up with speculative stories and one occasion the flag bearer simply rubbished the efforts somewhat perfunctorily.
For many observers who flaunted names of possibilities, they expected the final choice to be one grounded in economics, the thought being getting a person with clout in fiscal matters enough to call the bluff of the ruling party’s ‘wizard’, Alhaji Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia.
A day or so before the final say on John Mahama’s electoral partner, the pundits got it right with the following ratings: Prof. Opoku-Agyemang (60%), Dr. Kwabena Duffour (30%) and Nii Moi Thompson (10%).
The Bawumia benchmark for many was a factor in what the NDC would finally settle on. The party wants someone with the economics pedigree of Dr. Bawumia or more.
Not so, however, with the choice of Prof. Opoku-Agyemang, the woman whose name evokes memories as Education Minister—good or bad.
She was prominent during the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) novelty, the Presidential Debate Series, when she was accused of giving a heads-up to the NDC flag bearer, then Vice-President John Mahama in 2012, following the sad passing of then President Prof. John Evans Atta Mills.
The appointment she grabbed as Education Minister immediately after that controversial election was thought to be what her critics said is a form of gratification “for a job well done.”
It was during that Presidential Debate Series which she co-hosted with current Information Minister Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, then with Joy FM, at the Banquet Hall, that then presidential candidate for People’s National Convention (PNC) was ‘made’ to cough incessantly whenever then candidate Nana Akufo-Addo of the NPP was making his submission, as part of the NDC strategy to confuse the NPP strongman who would go on to defeat Mr. Mahama four years later in 2016.
There is no gainsaying that with her choice, the NDC has entered another phase in its campaign towards the December polls.
Even as the media toyed with the story as it were, many were being careful because of the ‘fire on the mountain’ situation that had engulfed the party over the choice.
The division was marked as one side went for the Prof. as others resisted it both sides putting forth their reasons.
For those pressed for her choice, they said rightly that her gender would pull for the party a leverage her opposite cannot land for the party and unlike them, she does not carry an integrity baggage of sorts.
Eventually, though, those for Prof. Opoku-Agyemang won the day. Now sealed and delivered there is, of course, no turning back and both sides must work for the chemistry of a John Mahama and Prof. Jane Naana Agyeman to blend for positive effect.
It would be recalled that speaking during his second live ‘Digital Conversation’ on Facebook on Thursday night on April 30, ex-President Mahama had stated that he was ‘clear’ in his mind the person who will partner him for the presidential election, and gave a clue that it would be a man.
It made people even speculate that it takes away from the equation that former Attorney General Marietta Brew Appiah Opong, former Education Minister Prof. Opoku-Agyemang, and or even Klottey-Korle NDC MP, Dr. Zanetor Agyemang-Rawlings, daughter of the founder of the party, would partner the NDC flag bearer.
He had said specifically that “in the midst of Covid-19, what is the use of naming a running mate when you can’t outdoor the person and all that. But let me assure you I have a fair idea who will partner me and for the elections.”
“After the necessary consultation with the national executives and Council of Elders are done, we will do. I can assure you that he will make a significant contribution to the development of our nation,” Mr. Mahama said in a response to a questioner who asked him about the running mate issue.
He has not been able to make it a ‘he’, perhaps because of an overwhelming counsel that he picks a ‘she’ or because of indecision.
Her critics have been quick to point out her ‘faults’ in the political arena.
She made unenviable headlines when she signed the petition to have the infamous Montie 3 released.
This is reference to the three NDC supporters Salifu Maase (aka Mugabe), Alistair Tairo Nelson and Godwin Ako Gun, who were jailed for making disparaging remarks about the then Chief Justice Georgina Theodora Wood and even threats.
Eventually, then President Mahama pardoned and released the convicts, a move that sparked public outrage.
It was during her tenure as Education Minister that fresh teachers could work for 20 months and the NDC government paid them only three months’ salary.
It was during her tenure that allowances for nursing trainees and teacher trainees were cancelled.
She supervised the four continuous years of non-increment of Capitation Grant and she also stands accused of supervising the ‘no chalk, no register, no assessment books’ for basic schools in Ghana.
She is also being ‘credited’ for cancelling book and research allowance for lecturers in the public tertiary institutions.
Social Media Posts
Posts on social media are pregnant with opinions, with some expressing concerns.
While some are outright antagonistic towards the choice, others are less so and take consolation such as “OK well but remember he has promised to grant the allawa (trainee allowance) so it would bail out.”
Another post read, “After all the President makes the final decision not the vice, so let’s keep hopes high and do the best to sell her to the nation.”
In yet another post, an NDC person stated “Let’s push her with some good stuff.”
More posts read, “Well I think being a woman, it might work out for the good because if I’m not mistaken she would be the first vice woman president right?”
A rather angry voice read, “My brother this thing don’t work like that ooh…we’ve seen her work before how was her communication skills…at her ministry how did she perform we should just be honest to ourselves….”
Another said cynically that “if as is being speculated Mahama settles on Prof. Opoku-Agyemang it would not be because she’s the most eligible but only because Mahama has been left with no choice. It has not been easy getting anyone to partner Mahama’s toxic candidacy.”
Profile of the Prof.
Prof. Opoku-Agyemang was born on November 22, 1951 at Cape Coast in the Central Region but hails from Komenda.
She attended Anglican Girls’ Secondary School at Koforidua and Aburi Presbyterian Girls’ School.
She had her secondary education at the Wesley Girls’ High School in Cape Coast from 1964 to 1971 where she was the school prefect in her final year.
Prof. Opoku-Agyemang has a Diplôme Supérieur d’Etudes Françaises from the University of Dakar, Senegal in 1976 and B. A. (Hons) with a Diploma in Education at the University of Cape Coast in 1977 and obtained her Master’s and Doctorate degrees from York University in Toronto, Canada in 1980 and 1986 respectively.
She taught and worked at the University of Cape Coast from 1986 and held various academic positions, including Head of the Department of English, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Warden of Adehye Hall, Valco Trust Fund Post-Graduate Hostel, and the Founding Dean of School of Graduate Studies and Research.
Prof. Opoku-Agyemang in 1997 held the position of Academic Director of the School for International Training in the History and Cultures of the African Diaspora.
She chaired over 20 boards and committees, including the Council of the University College of Education, Winneba 1998-2002; Joint Co-coordinator of the Specialist Programme in English Language and Ghanaian Culture for Japan Overseas Co-operation Volunteers 1991-1993.
Unconfirmed reports say Prof. Opoku-Agyemang is believed to be married to CPP stalwart Kwaw Ansah, the veteran filmmaker who founded TV Africa to project African values.
By A.R. Gomda