Nana Addo told me ‘only Akan will lead NPP’ – Haruna Atta

Nana Akufo- Addo

Nana Akufo- Addo

Ghana’s ambassador to Namibia, Mr. Haruna Atta, who used to be a staunch NPP leading member and a former journalist has alleged that he was chastised by Nana Akufo- Addo  for supporting the late Alieu Mahama during the 2008 NPP presidential primary.

Below is his full statement:

“Ethnocentricity” – President Mahama has a valid point!
There comes a time in a person’s life when as a matter of conscience and fair play, he/she has to take a stand. The time has come for me to take just such a stand on an issue I had prayed and hoped would not come to that.

President Mahama has recently been targeted by all sorts of critics for allegedly making ethnocentric comments in his campaign trip up North.

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), which is usually measured in its approach to issues, joined the litany this week with a strangely one-sided statement rudely entitled: “Prez Mahama’s Comments: Ethnocentric, Divisive and Condemnable”.

According to the MFWA, “…while campaigning in the Upper West Region, the President of Ghana and leader of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), His Excellency John Dramani Mahama opted to use very ethnocentric and divisive campaign language. The President, while addressing party supporters in Lawra as part of his campaign tour of the Region, made comments to suggest that the New Patriotic Party (NPP) only “uses northerners” to win power and “dump” them afterwards.”

And if I may ask, what is wrong with that? The President was only stating an obvious and historical fact known to many people with a sound knowledge of Ghana’s politics since Independence.

My relationship with the late Vice President Alhaji Aliu Mahama (May He Rest In Peace), just like the one I have with President, John Dramani Mahama, cannot be denied. I shared a lot of private moments with the late Vice President and he often poured his laments about the politics of the system to me. It was a privilege I still cherish. He was most gracious in allowing me to also share my own insights with him. He is now dead and gone and whatever he disclosed to me are interred with his bones and my own living memory, but one issue I once brought to his attention, I feel I must now disclose to set the records straight in the memory of this noble man and also defend the name of another noble man, John Dramani Mahama.

After the almost 20 presidential aspirants run against him – as a sitting Vice President – in the NPP primaries for the 2008 Elections, Alhaji Aliu Mahama with much humility, conceded to Nana Akufo-Addo who emerged winner, sort of…

I do recollect very clearly, as if it happened only yesterday, Nana Addo Dankwah Akufo-Addo invited me to his office at Ridge near the offices of the Electoral Commission. I honoured the invitation, not knowing what to expect. The outcome was one of the most revealing encounters I have ever had with a Ghanaian politician. He raised a number of issues and concluded on my “support” for the late Vice President. On that, this is what he told me.

The words have been indelibly etched on my conscience: “Harruna, your support for Aliu was flawed. If you think our party will cede its Akan leadership, you are wrong.” He went on to expatiate on the theme, but with my mind reeling at this blatant and brazen ethnocentricity, nothing else really mattered to me again. When I left, I confided in a few people, mainly family and friends, as witnesses. I received all manner of suggestions on how to handle this “bombshell” and indeed one family member high up in the NPP even suggested that I take it up with President Kufuor. The frightening fundamental message was clear: No non-Akan should dream of leading the NPP as Presidential Candidate.

Not only that, Mr. Hackman Owusu Agyeman, going beyond Nana Akufo-Addo’s ethnicity, used religion as his anti-Aliu stance. He confronted me in the presence of a witness: “Abdul-Rahman, with a nation of about 70% Christians, do you think it will be fair to have a Muslim President?” He was referring to Alhaji Aliu Mahama, a Muslim. I answered calmly that in all the major hotspots of the world, it is when some groups think they are dominant and go on to marginalize groups they regard as minorities that the minorities also rise up to assert themselves, by whatever means.

Dr. Addo-Kufuor, President Kufuor’s brother had his turn too. At a funeral at the Trade Fair Centre in Accra, he also railed against my “support” for Aliu and threatened that “You are working yourself out of reckoning in any future NPP government.” I replied that history would vindicate me. I could go on and on…

The late Vice President after he was dumped by the NPP took it all with equanimity only occasionally going through heart-breaking introspection.

NPP Presidential Candidate Nana Akufo-Addo’s virulent opposition to an Aliu Presidency was so intense that he once openly tongue lashed me at a dinner party where the host had to come to my defence and his daughter even asked me what I had done to her father…Ironically she asked: “Are you NDC?”

The “Akan leadership” of the NPP is something the Party will have to confront one way or another and hopefully the time would come when it can be ceded, but clearly not now. Nana Akufo-Addo is one of the architects of that doctrine and he is in charge.

These are very delicate times, so the MFWA and others that are jumping into issues without adequate historical perspectives must be even more circumspect about things they publish, than the people they seek to condemn. They must know that their ignorance or perhaps arrogance could be more harmful to our polity than the truth and honesty of those that would hold up the mirror to reflect the reality. President Mahama was only reflecting that reality. It was neither hate speech nor divisive. It was the painful (to those whom the cap fits) truth…

The MFWA, I believe would, in light of the foregoing, use its vast resources to research more into ethnicity in Ghana so as to play the honest arbiter and perhaps also find in its professional heart some room to apologize to President Mahama.


By Osei Agyena