With some few months to the NPP presidential primaries, some leading members of the party have started playing some very dangerous tribal and religious politics as if they are oblivious of the party’s history and tradition. I would not want to go into their trivialities but I would want to answer some few questions often asked since it is clear that Alhaji Dr. Mahamud Bawumia would emerge as the flagbearer of the NPP and the next president of Ghana, In sha Allah.
1. Are there Christian majority countries in Africa that have Muslims elected as presidents:
Ans: Yes. Tanzanian has a 63% Christian population as against 34.1 % for the Muslims and yet a Muslim, Samia Suluhu Hassan is their president since 2021. Before her, Ali Hassan Mwinyi was president for 10years between 1985 to 1995. Finally, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete was a Muslim president of Tanzania between 2005 to 2015.
Gabon has a Christian population of 75.6% with 12.2% being Muslims and yet their elected president, Ali Bongo, is a Muslim. In fact, the Muslims have been ruling Gabon for the past 50years despite they being in the extreme minority.
Though not a country, London with it’s huge Christian population recently elected a Muslim, Sadiq Khan, as its mayor. The first Muslim to ever hold that position.
2. Are there Muslim majority countries with Christian presidents?
And: Yes. Senegal with 96.6% Muslims and 3.3% Christians have voted for a Christian, Macky Sall, to be their president since 2012 to date. Before him, a devoted Catholic, Leopold Sedar Senghor, was elected president between 1960 to 1980. A period of 20 years.
Nigeria with a Muslim population of 50% and a 40% Christian population had on three occasions elected Christians as their presidents since their return to democracy in 1999. Olusegun Obasanjo was elected twice from 1999 to 2007 and Goodluck Jonathan was also elected from 2011 to 2015.
In Ivory Coast, there is a Muslim majority of 42.5% as against a Christian population of 39.8% yet they had three different Christians ruling them at different stages. Laurent Gbagbo, a Christian was voted for and before him, Felix Houphouet Boigny, a Catholic, was also voted for a period of 33years between 1960 to 1993. There was also the 6years presidency of another Catholic, Aime Henry Konan Bedie, between 1993 to 1999.
To our north, Burkina Faso has a Muslim population of 64% yet they voted for a Christian, Roch March Christian Kabore, between 2015 to 2022.
Outside Africa, Lebanon is a Muslim majority country and in fact an Arab country but voted for a Christian, Michel Suleiman, to be their president between 2008 to 2014.
3. In Ghana, have there been situations Muslims have won in Christian majority constituencies?
Ans: Yes. There are many cases since our independence but there are some few I would mention that happened in recent times. Hon. Baba Jamal is a Muslim that won in the Christian majority Akwatia constituency in 2012. Hon. KT Hammond is another Muslim that has been winning in the Adansi Asokwa constituency in the Ashanti Region.
4. In Ghana, have there been situations Christians have won in Muslim majority constituencies?
Ans: Yes and there are many examples. Hon. Henry Quartey has been winning in the Muslim dominated Ayawaso Central constituency since 2008. At Adenta, Hon. Yaw Buabeng Asamoah, a Christian won the seat in 2016 though the Muslims are the majority there. Hon. Abu Jinapor is a Christian but he’s the MP for Muslim dominated Damongo. The same applies to his brother Hon. John Jinapor. Former president John Mahama was MP for 12years in one of the oldest Muslim communities in West Africa, Bole Bamboi, and yet he is a Christian. At Madina, Hon. Francis Xavier Sosu defeated a committed Muslim in a Muslim majority constituency in 2020. Between 2000 to 2008, the Sissala East constituency voted for a Christian, Hon. Moses Dani Baah, as our MP. There are many more examples I can add like that of Wa East in 2008 and 2016 among others. These victories cuts across the political divide.
5. What has been the contributions of the northern zone to the cause of the NPP?
Ans: Presently, of the 137 seats held by the NPP in parliament, 20 are from the northern zone (Muslim MPs from any other parts of Ghana are excluded). The combination of Western, Western North and Central Regions gave the NPP 22 seats. The Greater Accra, Volta and Oti Regions also gave 15seats whilst the Ahafo, Bono and Bono East has 13seats. The rest of the seats are from the Ashanti and Eastern Regions.
That aside the five Northern Regions gave president Nana Akufo-Addo a total of 883,765 votes in the 2020 presidential elections. These votes are exclusive of the northern, Zongo and Muslims votes that are found in the 11 Regions of Southern Ghana and the Volta and Oti Regions. President Nana Akufo-Addo won the 2020 presidential elections with a little over 500,000 votes. Meaning without the votes from the Northern, Zongo and Muslim communities, the NDC and former president John Mahama would have won the 2020 elections. The same applies to the 2016 elections. Even in the 2000 presidential elections, then candidate Kuffuor won in tough Zongo areas like Ayawaso East with 48.35%, Ashaiman with 58.2% and Ayawaso Central with 56.99%.
6. Do Ghanaians vote based on religion and ethnicity?
And: The facts from the political history of Ghana don’t support this. Dr. Nkrumah though from a minority even among the Akans ruled Ghana for 16years. The same applies to former president Rawlings and Dr. Hilla Limann.
7. Can the votes of only one ethnic group make you president in Ghana?
Ans: It cannot. President Akufo Addo won massively in the Ashanti and Eastern Regions in 2012 but it couldn’t translate into a presidential victory. The same applied to president Kuffuor in 1996 and Prof. Adu Boahen in 1992. That is why the NPP believe in a religious and ethnic hybrid presidential candidates in every election since 1992.
8. What is the performance of the NPP in the Northern Regions since the political incursion of Dr. Bawumia in 2008?
Ans: The NPP dropped from the 39.8% we had in 1996 to 35.6% in 2004 in the Northern Region for example. But since the selection of Dr. Bawumia as a running mate to then candidate Nana Akufo-Addo, the NPP has cut down the gains of the NDC and are on the way to having a majority and total control of the Region. The NPP increased from the 35.6% we had in 2004 to 38.1% in 2008, 38.8% in 2012, 41.3% in 2016 and 46.4% in 2020.
At Parliament in 2004, of the 26seats available in the then Northern Region, the NDC took 17 as against 8 for the NPP. The situation worsened in 2008 with the NDC taking 20 as against 4 for the NPP. In the newly designed Northern Region, the NPP had 6seats as against the NDC 11 in 2012. But in 2016 and 2020, the two political parties are at par with 9seats each. The NPP however had more seats than the NDC in the North East Constituency and just 1 seat below the NDC in John Mahama’s own Savannah Region.
9. Are Muslims and northerners the dominant ministers in the Akufo Addo government?
Ans: The Nana Akufo-Addo government has done well in giving a lot of ministerial appointments to people of northern descent but they aren’t the majority. Of the over 80 ministers appointed, we currently have 13 plus 5 regional ministers making a total of 18 coming from all the five Northern Regions. The overwhelming majority of the ministers are from the Ashanti and Eastern Regions. It’s completely out of place for a leading member of the party to try to create the impression as though the North is one region with this number of ministers.
10. Are there lessons for the NPP in the ongoing tribal and religious campaign?
Ans: Many. The NPP are yet to convince the people of the Volta and Oti Regions after the infamous Victor Owusu statement of Ewes being inward looking. That aside Dr Busia’s policy of Aliens Compliance Order in the 1970s chased a lot of zongo people away from the NPP. It took the inclusive policies and pleadings from former president Kuffuor before they started voting the NPP. Remember former president Kuffuor won many zongo communities in 2000 including the most populous zongo constituency in Ghana, East Ayawaso compromising Nima, Maamobi, 441, parts of Kotobabi and Accra Newtown . If care is not taken, the current tribal and religious campaign against Dr. Bawumia and the people of northern descent and Muslims would draw back all these gains. There is no evidence to suggest Ghanaians don’t want a Muslim president as being portrayed by a few wayward and desperate politicians who think that is the weapon they can use to win NPP internal elections
Let me emphasize that the North and Muslims are a relevant minority in the NPP. It’s a fact that the NPP gets it’s majority votes from the Akan areas but the NPP can’t win elections if you take out the Northern and Muslim votes. A clear case is the 2020 elections we won the presidential by a little over 500,000 and the North gave us over 800,000 So if you take away the 800,000 NPP would have lost with it’s majority votes from the Akans.
I would conclude by emphasising that Ghana is a very tolerant country and is respected worldwide due to its unity inspite of our religious and ethnic diversity. Aspirants and their supporters should campaign on the merits of their messages instead of instigating religious and ethnic tensions. The NPP has the 2024 presidential elections to win and we should not cause problems that would prevent us from breaking the 8.
Let every aspirant and supporters campaign on issues and leave out ethnicity and religion else we will have ourselves to blame.
By Hon. Amidu Chinnia Issahaku, Sissala East MP
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