On Saturday, 17 December 2022, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) held its National Delegates Conference at the Accra Sports Stadium. The hugely anticipated event had about 9,000 delegates taking turns to cast their votes for their preferred candidate for various positions within the party. This survey was conducted during the period of the conference to gauge the pulse of the grassroots on key important issues.
To ensure that the sample size was achieved, data was collected just before the start of the conference and continued till the next morning when the conference ended. The 5 – minutes survey had only 5 questions that sought the opinion of the grassroots on just three issues – the flagbearer, the running mate, and the ability of the national leadership to shepherd the party to victory in the 2024 elections.
The survey had only five (5) questions which included the region being represented by the delegate, their constituency, and their views on the three issues, stating their reasons for their preference. A sample of 3,147, weighted based on the regional distribution of the Ghanaian population in the 2021 Population and Housing Census, and with a margin of error of 1.75%, was achieved by the end of the conference, and this included open-ended responses, which were analysed and organized into several thematic areas.
Regional Distribution of Delegates
Weighted based on the regional distribution in the 2021 Population and Housing Census
The above table depicts the regional distribution of delegates that were interviewed in the survey. To ensure that the sample was nationally representative, the percentages were matched to those obtained from the 2021 Population and Housing Census. The three key questions of the survey were statements that were placed on a rating scale starting from Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Neutral, Agree and Strongly agree, each of them with weights 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, respectively.
The first statement was that John Dramani Mahama deserves to return as the presidential candidate of the NDC. The below chart indicates how the question was answered:
123 delegates, representing 3.9% and 51 delegates, representing 1.6% of the sample, strongly agree or disagreed, respectively, that John Mahama deserves to return as Presidential Candidate of the National Democratic Congress (NDC). 247 delegates, representing 7.8% of the sample neither agreed nor disagreed with the statement. 1, 318 delegates, representing 41.9% and 1,408 representing 44.7% of the sample, agreed or strongly agreed, respectively that John Mahama deserves to return as Presidential Candidate of the party. This implies that the majority of delegates (86.6% in all) at the National Delegates Conference were of the view that John Dramani Mahama deserves to be retained as the flagbearer of the party. The reasons given by delegates for their preferences for John Mahama are presented in the analysis of verbatim responses.
The next question asked to respondents was on the choice of running mate to the presidential candidate. Respondents were presented with the statement ‘Professor Jane Naana Opoku Agyeman deserves to return as the running mate of the NDC’. The below chart indicates how the delegates answered the question, based on the rating scale.
Out of the total sample of 3,147 delegates interviewed, 1, 572, representing half of the sample strongly disagreed that Professor Jane Naana Opoku Agyeman deserves to return as the running mate of the NDC. In addition, 818 delegates, representing 26.0% of the sample, disagreed with the statement that the Professor deserves to return as the running mate of the NDC. However, 390 delegates, representing 12.4% of the delegates remained neutral on whether she deserved to return. A total of 629 respondents representing 11.6% of the sample were, however, in support of the Professor’s return as the running mate of the party. This includes 239 (7.6%) and 128 (4.0%) who strongly agreed, respectively, to the statement. The reasons given by the delegates for their choices are presented in the analysis of the verbatim.
The last question asked to the delegates was to gauge the competence of the leadership of the NDC to shepherd the party to victory in the 2024 elections.
2,020 delegates, representing 64.2% of the sample, strongly agreed that the leadership of the NDC are competent enough to lead the party to victory in the 2024 elections. In addition, 828 delegates, representing 26.3% of the sample, agreed with the statement, whilst 254 remained neutral. A total of 45 delegates, representing 1.5% of the sample, did not agree that the leadership of the party are competent enough to lead the party to victory in the 2024 elections. The reasons given by delegates for their response to this question are presented in the analysis verbatim.
Analysis of Open-Ended Responses
Using NVivo, a qualitative data analysis software, verbatim responses from delegates were analysed into several broad themes. These themes are based on all three questions asked to the delegates, and not on any specific one in particular.
Current State of the Country – Ghana at the crossroads
Some of the delegates interviewed painted a picture of Ghana being at a crossroads, and that the next election was crucial to the survival of the NDC. The argument was that the leadership should put parochial interests aside and work to wrestle power from the NPP come the next elections.
“We in the NDC must put our act together and not take the next election for granted. Look at where the country is heading…everything is in a mess; we are in a downward spiral and if we are not careful things will get worse because the incompetent NPP administration is at its wit's end. They have nothing to offer. Now that Ghanaians have seen their true colours, it is time we all rallied around JM and his running mate and achieve victory for the party come 2024. I urge the leadership of the party to listen to the grassroots and meet their demands” – Delegate from
“Ghanaians know why they rejected Akufo Addo 3 times, look at the way everything is sinking, the cedis, IMF bailout, haircut, etc. They even wanted to touch our pension funds. We need to come together as a party and rally around our leaders and rescue this sinking ship. We should save this country from this clueless and incompetent bunch of Akufo Addo and his cronies. Where are the men? – Delegate from Western North.
Current State of Affairs in the NDC
Another theme that emerged from the open-ended responses was the current state of affairs in the party in terms of reported infighting or the existence of factions within the party, with individuals in certain quarters said to be bidding their time to enter the leadership race and hence not willing to throw their weight behind some executives. According to some respondents, if divisions in the party are not checked, it might lead to deep cracks heading into the next election without its founder Flt Jerry John Rawlings for the first time.
“The NDC is a human institution and as such will have its fair share of problems. But we should work beyond our differences and ensure that we cruise to victory in the next election. Anything but a win will not be good for us. Whoever is selected as the new national executives should make party unity one of their key agendas” – Constituency Executive from Accra.
“I want to remind the leadership of the party to consider what is at stake in the election 2024. The NPP know that they cannot win the election. Their time is up. So, they are stealing left right and centre. There is a lot at stake, and we need to select competent leaders to lead the party to victory next year” – Constituency executive from Western Region
The Running Mate Debate and Succession Planning
Another broad theme emerging from the open-ended data was the issue of the party’s running mate and the need for succession planning. Given that most of the delegates saw Mr Mahama as the most favoured to lead the party to the 2024 elections, there were concerns about his choice of running mate. This is due to the constitutional limit which allows Mr Mahama to govern for only one four-year term, and most of the delegates were of the view that Mahama would be essentially choosing his successor or endorsing the next presidential candidate of the party whether he likes it or not. And given that some party bigwigs are pushing for Professor Jane Naana Opoku Agyemang to be maintained as the running mate, some delegates have questioned whether she is the right person given her age, and how it plays out within the calculus of the 2028 election. The view is that marketing her and making her popular would not benefit the party in the long run. Delegates questioned whether she could withstand the exigencies of governing when inching close to 80 years in 2029. Despite her strong academic background and not being tagged as corrupt, there were questions about her charisma, and how she connects with the youth, especially the grassroots. Some delegates also warned that the 2024 elections were so crucial that now is not the time to toy with being politically correct in fielding a running mate that would check the box of the party being woke to feminist demands.
“The learned Professor has done her part. She should step aside. Maintaining her as the running mate would not help the chances of our party in 2024. We hope that the leadership of the party would listen to the voice of the grassroots. Most people are against maintaining the woman as the running mate. She has done well. The circumstances prevailing in 2020 are not the same as we are dealing with now. Ghanaians are yearning for a change, and we need a formidable team to wrestle power from the NPP. We should be looking at what is best for the party and not individual interests” – a delegate from Ketu South
“If JDM comes only to fulfil his one-term bid and leaves the party in tatters, then he better gives way. As a beneficiary of a succession plan, he will go down the history of the party as a visionless leader who crashed the party because of the parochial interest of his brother and other interest groups” – a delegate from the Oti region.
Historical Antecedents in Running Mate Selection in the NDC
Several political watchers have waded into the deeply sensitive issue of a running mate for both the ruling NPP and the NDC. Some believe that historically, the NDC ticket has been such that it grabs the attention of Ghanaians, especially floating voters to sway them into voting for the party. Analysis of the open-ended responses shows that several delegates are not in favour of maintaining the professor because she does not bring much to the ticket in terms of charisma and arresting the attention of Ghanaians.
“We tried her in the last election, and it did not work, why are we bringing her again? She is not the first woman to have been selected as the running mate of any political party, and she will not be the last. Go into our history and you would see that there have been others before her. The question is whether we need her now, considering her age, and other factors. We need a young fresh mind to run with our flagbearer. People are rooting for her because they know what they stand to gain when she runs. We will resist any attempt to bring her back as the running mate of the party. She has no charisma. She is too old. She cannot stand the venom of this election. The country and the party are at a crossroads, and we cannot risk or gamble our chances. This is the time to get a solid tick to blend with the youth who form the majority of the pollution of this nation. We want a young, fresh, and energetic person to stand with JM. We can’t gamble with the ticket, especially when we are competing with a party in power that is bent on doing anything to remain in power, including rigging the elections” – Delegate from Upper West.
The Voice of the Grassroots
The verbatim also suggests that some delegates thought the running mate slot should be someone who would be able to appeal not only to the base but to the masses who would be voting for the party. Some argued that the grassroots accounts for about 44% of the grassroots, and hence their voice should be heard.
“Akufo Addo and his people are not interested in reshuffling their ministers. But from Papa J to Kufour, and Atta Mills, there was a lot of reshuffling, to which JM himself became a beneficiary and got into the political limelight. So, he should change the woman, and not bow to pressure from other parochial interests” – a delegate from Northeast
Impact of a Female Running mate in Party Electoral Fortunes – The Case of Ghana
Though Professor Jane Naana Opoku Agyemang is not the first to have featured as the running mate of a political party in Ghana, some delegates were of the view that the choice of a female running mate has no significant impact on party electoral fortunes.
“With the professor, she was not able even to deliver her home region to the NDC in the last election, hence she did not add anything to the party in 2020. I strongly urge JM not to maintain her.”
John Dramani Mahama is the most marketed candidate in NDC, but with a caveat.
Most of the delegates saw John Mahama as the most marketed and also most charismatic within the political spectrum of the NDC. Several of them were of the view that he should be given the chance to complete his other four-year term, but that was with a caveat…that he will not run with the previous running mate, ie Professor Jane Naana Opoku Agyemang. They believe that doing so will not inure to the benefit of the party looking ahead into the 2028 elections. According to them, JDM must not put the Professor up to contest in the 2028 elections but a younger successor to avoid an open contest as it was in the case of the NPP’s famous 17 contestants that lead to the defeat of the NPP after the president Kufour’s rule.
“JM must follow the party’s tradition of choosing a successor as his running mate to avoid needless contestation after his exit. Leaving the choice of a running mate to a flagbearer is a serious mistake on the part of the party, and in the future must be looked at to reflect the voice of the grassroots. This is because the choice of running mate in 2020 was poorly done, which lead to our defeat” – a delegate from Upper East.
This grassroots research report was conducted during the National Delegates Conference of the NDC held at the Accra Sports Stadium on 17 December 2022. A representative sample of 3,147 was achieved by the end of the conference. The 5-question, 5-minute survey was focused on the delegates' preferences and reasons for their preference for the presidential candidate, running mate and the leadership of the party, following questions on their region and constituency information. The sample size was achieved by random interviews of delegates using quotas based on the 2021 Population and Housing Census. The recorded interviews were transcribed and analysed using NVivo, a qualitative data analysis software. The findings showed that the majority of delegates would vote for John Mahama in the primaries, viewing him as the forerunner to all other candidates as he is the most marketed or marketable of all contenders for the slot. Again, a significant number of delegates rejected the idea of Prof. Jane Naana Opoku Agyemang as the running mate in the 2024 elections. The reasons given include the fact that she was too old, and her candidature would not be in the party’s interests in the long run. They argued that choosing her would be tantamount to endorsing a possible 2028 presidential bid by her, something they believe will not be feasible due to her advanced age.
On their confidence that the leadership of the party are competent enough to steer the party to victory come 2024, the delegates were unequivocal, as most of them believe that the NDC has a competent team to lead the party to victory. There were however concerns about factionalism in the party, and the general lack of unity among the rank and file of the party. There were also concerns that parochial interests are sometimes put in place of the general membership of the party.
The overarching message from the short survey is that the grassroots believe that John Mahama is the forerunner who would lead the party to victory in 2024. Though the study was not a census and did not seek the views of all the over 8,000 to 9,000 delegates who attended the conference, what was clear was that the views shared by respondents were representative of the total population of delegates considering the sampling approach used in the survey. There was also a high vote of confidence in the party hierarchy in leading the party to victory in 2024. Concerns about the lack of unity and factionalism within the party were also raised.
These recommendations are made based on the findings of the study, and it is hoped that the party hierarchy would consider them in their quest to wrestle power from the governing New Patriotic Party.
1. Retain John Dramani Mahama as the presidential candidate of the party
2. Consult widely, including the grassroots and start having discussions about the best replacement for Professor Jane Naana Opoku Agyemang
3. Do not take the confidence the grassroots have in the party hierarchy for granted but work to iron out differences and foster greater unity among members.
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