Like or not, the man John Dramani Mahama is the candidate to beat in the National Democratic Congress' impending conference to elect flag bearer for the 2020 election. Put differently, John Mahama is undoubtedly the front runner in the flag bearer contest. It cannot be gainsaid that his support base has, before his official announcement to stage a comeback, transcended NDC delegates to include non-NDC members.
Regardless of the former President's popularity within the NDC and the goodwill he is enjoying as a result of the abysmal performance of the New Patriotic Party, delegates may decide to turn against him in the dyeing embers of the contest if any of his opponents put up a strong fight weaved on a strategic and well rehearsed pattern.
Unfortunately, none of John Dramani Mahama's opponents have so far demonstrated any crafty strategy to pull a surprise. It appears all his opponents have the same campaign pattern; throw shades at the former President and lower his public rating while telling delegates he was the chief architect of the NDC's excruciating defeat in the 2020 elections.
From the word go, it was obvious John Mahama will be the target of all the flag bearer aspirants. Before he started his campaign, Prof Joshua Alabi, Sylvester Mensah and Dr Ekow Spio Gabrah enjoyed all the media attention so far as meeting with delegates is concerned. When the former President started his campaign in the Central region, the focus is now on him.
Smart as he is, he is not either directly or indirectly responding to all the negative things his internal opponents have said about him. He has rather directed his arsenals at the Akufo Addo government. He is doing two things; renew his marriage with the grassroots while assuring them that mistakes of the past will not be repeated, and also exposing the hollowness of the present government.
With this, John Dramani Mahama has set into motion a campaign theme that will make his job in 2020 easy if he is elected flag bearer for the biggest opposition Party. He is doing more of campaign for a National election rather than internal contest. This style is as a result of the expanded Electoral College which allows Branch executives to vote in the flag bearer election.
As a result of this, John Dramani Mahama now have two categories of political opponents which he is cleverly dealing with. He has his colleague flag bearer aspirants and the ruling party as his opponents. Since he started his campaign, the NPP and government spokespersons have had to stop to respond to his piercing messages. Surprisingly, all kinds of fake news websites have been purposely created to twist almost every statements that he makes. The fact that these fake news portals have surfaced immediately John Mahama hit the campaign trail is indicative that he is the candidate his two opponents dread having.
For the past four or five days, government communicators and the NPP communication machinery have been sharpened to respond to Mahama instead of trumpeting Akufo Addo's achievement, that is, if there is any. He has ended up setting agenda for government. The NPP government has become reactionary instead being proactive. They have been stopped from playing according to their game plan.
What government communicators have failed to learn and are not learning is that, the more you seek to denigrate Mahama, the more you make him popular while at the same time incurring the wrath of people who expect you to work to better their lives. A clear example was how the Trades Union Congress harshly responded to the Energy Minister when he drew Mahama's name into his naive explanation of hikes in petroleum products. Vice President Dr Bawumia faced similar bashing when he turned a supposed policy summit into a political rally to attack Mahama and the NDC.
Clearly, Ghanaians are tired with 'Mahama has done this, Mahama has done that' politics. Sadly, the communication wing of the NPP has not realized it. As a communicator himself, John Mahama has realized that his campaign pattern is working for him so he keeps firing hard at the NPP. Knowing very well his opponents will come after him, he has set a very 'sharp' communication wing of his campaign led by James Agyenim Boateng in full gear.
One of the admirable things he has done so far is to drop some of his allies that party gurus and supporters have complained about their behavior. The membership of the campaign team suggest that the ever powerful Ahwoi brothers have firm control over him now. Indeed, the inclusion of Kwesi Ahwoi in the campaign team, and the open endorsement by Prof Kwamena Ahwoi is a major boost to Mahama's comeback. This development has douse rumor that the Party elders or Mills' men are against Mahama's comeback.
This is what the NPP hardliners do not understand, and before they realize it, Mahama would have almost crossed the finishing line. Mahama, as it stands now, have good managers compared to when he was President. His Achilles Heel was his handlers but he has successfully solved that problem. What the NPP needs to do, which they are not doing, is to focus all their energies to delivering on their promises to lift the country from the doldrums they have send it. If they continue to throw shades at Mahama while their promises remain unfulfilled to the chagrin of Ghanaians, the man they are wasting so much time to denigrate will have smooth sailing in 2020 if he gets the flag bearer post.
The former President's "internal" opponents are not doing any better in terms of how to checkmate him. The man has cleverly decided not to respond to their 'diatribes', and instead of them to device a way to knock him off the road, they are competing over who will best rundown Mahama. Their campaign is centered on John Mahama. So you would realize that when they are on the campaign trail, they will be busily taking a dig at Mahama while the latter keeps "watering down" the emotions of the delegates, particularly those he might have offended.
Since John Mahama started his campaign, Prof Alabi's social media "army", for instance, have been busy finding ways to punch holes into Mahama's message. They do this to the neglect of their own candidate's campaign. Gradually, the John Mahama campaign is dwarfing all the vigorous work the other candidates have done so far, making the contest point to a possible acclamation of the former President.
What they must do, which they are not doing, is to take their minds and lenses off Mahama and focus on their campaign messages. Their style of campaign coupled with the NPP’s behavior has further confirmed already known fact that John Mahama is a threat to the NPP's second term. And also that the other aspirants are playing second fiddle.
John Mahama can be beaten in this flag bearer contest, but with the campaign style and strategy his opponents have adopted, a repeat of the Mills/Konadu Sunyani will not be surprising. I wish all the candidates well!
NB: dedicated to Dr Etse Sikanku