First Woman Vice-President? for the First Time in 51 Years of Its Post-Independence History, Ghana Is Likely to Get a Woman Vice-Presidential Running Mate in the Upcoming December General Elections. Stephen Gyasi Jnr Reports from Accra

Article excerpt

Hajia Alima Mahama is a barrister at law and the current minister for women and children's affairs. A soft-spoken, affable lady liked by all, she is one of only four women in President John Kufuor's cabinet. And if the grapevine is any guide, she is likely to be the running mate of the ruling National Patriotic Party (NPP) presidential candidate, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

The official announcement had not been made at the time of going to press, but NPP insiders had told New African that Hajia Mahama, 51, was the "anointed one". The "official announcement is expected soon, but it will be a mere formality," said one NPP source.

Hajia Mahama herself has been quoted as having said: "I would gladly accept to be the running mate of our presidential candidate if I was to be offered the opportunity. First of all, I am a true blue member of the NPP who has been part of its struggles from the days of opposition. But more importantly, I have the requisite experience and competence to handle the job of vice-president of the Republic of Ghana."

Apart from being a seasoned barrister (she was called to the Bar in 1982), Hajia Mahama also holds an MA in development studies with a specialisation in regional development planning. She has served in three portfolios under President Kufuor--first, as deputy minister for local government and rural development; then as deputy minister for trade and industry; and since January 2005 as a full minister of women and children's affairs.

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Born on 17 November 1957 in the Northern Region, Hajia Mahama is a "true blue NPP", having followed the footsteps of her father, Mahama Tampurie, himself a long time MP of the NPP-UP political tradition.

Her father was a key member of the Northern People's Party that later linked up with the National Liberation Movement and others to form the United Party (UP)--which has today metamorphosed into the NPP. At independence in March 1957, Mahama Tampurie became a UP member of parliament for the Nalerigu-Gambaga constituency, the same seat held today by her daughter, Hajia Alima Mahama.

According to NPP insiders, Hajia Mahama is in strong contention to be Akufo-Addo's running mate, and if they win in December, she will make history for being the first ever woman to be vice-president of Ghana.

There is currently a strong Northern and women's lobby working to convince Akufo-Addo that Hajia Mahama is the best deal for the NPP. As minister for women and children's affairs, she is credited with successfully presenting and defending Ghana's record on women's advancement at the United Nations. She has also provided leadership on the passage of both the Domestic Violence Act and the Human Trafficking Act.

Under her leadership, gender equality has been actively mainstreamed in all government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), with the establishment of core gender groups to support gender related activities. Her strong advocacy has ensured that "gender budgeting" is now a core government policy and all MDAs are required to incorporate it in their planning, programmes and annual budgets.

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"Hajia Mahama is very committed to her job, her cause and her mission," says Nana Oye-Lithur, a popular gender advocate in Accra. "Above all, she is very committed to enhancing the status of the Ghanaian woman. She is worth her weight in gold."

In the meantime, some NPP members are incensed with President Kufuor's recent decision to nominate the main opposition leader and former vice-president, Prof John Atta Mills, for the country's highest honour, as part of Ghana's Republic Day celebrations which fall on 1 July. Atta Mills is the presidential candidate of the main opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), the party of ex-President Jerry Rawlings.

While some NPP members say the honour will have no bearing on the upcoming December polls, some have accused President Kufuor of covertly endorsing the NDC's candidate with the prestigious award, especially coming six months before the crucial December elections. …