Nana Akufo-Addo, the long-serving leader of Ghana’s opposition, is determined to run again for president in 2016—so he declared before a boisterous crowd in the front garden of his home in Accra, the country’s capital.
Even though the polls are two-and-a-half years away, it feels as if a starting-gun has been fired.
Ghana has had six fair elections since 1992, with power twice changing hands between the two main parties, Mr Akufo-Addo’s New Patriotic Party (NPP) and President John Dramani Mahama’s National Democratic Congress (NDC).
For Mr Mahama, Mr Akufo-Addo, now 70, is a familiar foe. Mr Mahama’s predecessor as president and NDC leader, John Atta Mills, defeated Mr Akufo-Addo, previously foreign minister, in the election of 2008. Mr Akufo-Addo then lost again in 2012, to Mr Mahama, after the latter had stepped up from vice-president to president following Mr Mills’s death in office earlier that year.
Mr Akufo-Addo then withdrew to France and Britain to lick his wounds, returning home in March, having evidently decided that he was ready to do battle again. Few politicians in the NPP have his clout and national recognition, so he is favoured to fend off anyone within the party when nominations to bear the NPP standard are considered. If he gets it, could it be third time lucky in his bid for the nation’s top spot?
The contest between the old rivals in 2016 may have begun already. Mr Mahama recently announced that he would seek to provide high-school education free, the very promise that Mr Akufo-Addo put at the heart of his campaign in 2012. Mr Mahama may have been trying to ensure that his dogged foe would not pledge the same again.
Meanwhile, Mr Akufo-Addo’s running-mate last time round, Mahamudu Bawumia, recently slammed Mr Mahama’s handling of the economy in a well-publicised speech, blaming him for everything from the depreciation by 30% of the cedi, the national currency, to the government’s faltering efforts to slim the budget deficit, which reached 11% of GDP in 2013, prompting ratings agencies to downgrade the country.
But Mr Akufo-Addo’s biggest challenge will be to offset the advantage of incumbency: no Ghanaian president has been voted out of office since democracy was restored 22 years ago. That record, if the resilient Mr Akufo-Addo gets his party’s nomination, will not deter him.