Haruna Iddrisu and the presidency: Politically ripe or should he bide his time?

Haruna Iddrisu is minority leader in parliament and Tamale South[/caption] The political chess game of who leads the NDC is hot and alive. Some may shout their voices hoarse that it’s too early but the permutations, prognostications and pontifications are certainly rife. Though it is widely believed that Hon. Haruna Iddrisu has come out to say he wouldn’t contest (assuming this is true), this exercise is simply based on some identifiable potential candidates—whether they’ve announced or not. The well respected and professor emeritus of political commentary Kwaku Baako Jnr., for instance, thinks Haruna Iddrisu should not contest for now. In politics timing is key. Waiting could either go for or against him. The dynamics could always change. Jeb Bush passed up the 2012 elections when he was red-hot only to be eviscerated in 2016. Hillary passed up 2004 and had Obama to contend with in 2008—and lost. She had to wait till 2016 and even then had a Bernie Sanders on her heels and then lost the general election because the time and season suited Mr. Trump. Some might say this is not the United States of America but comparative analysis exists for a reason. Taken from another viewpoint, jumping the gun could derail his future chances if he’s seen as over-ambitious or opportunistic. There are two scenarios for Hon. Haruna Iddrisu: either he strikes when it’s hot or he may live to regret it. Second school of thought goes like this: “bid your time, don’t jump the gun and the right moment would present itself”.No matter where you stand, we offer a pro-cons analysis of a potential Haruna bid.


Politically Gifted Out of all the presidential candidates contesting on the side of the NDC, Hon. HarunaIddrisu has the best chance of claiming the Obama mantle. He is young, savvy and agile. Like Obama, Haruna has carved a dazzling legislative career. He is now the Minority Leader in Parliament. Many would remember his admirable work and astuteness in the parliamentary chamber dating back to the Kufuor era. He’s simply a natural when it comes to politics. He is a smart operator, a gifted orator and a persuasive analyst. If there was such a college course as political analytics, Haruna would be its foremost student, and if he wasn’t a politician, Haruna would most definitely make a solid university professor.  Paragon of knowledge, well-schooled in the politics of Ghana, quick on the feet, emboldened by the love of his constituents, gifted with a lethargic capacity to remember history and detail, the Hon. Minority Leader of Ghana’s now biggest opposition party is an astounding politician of depth, wit and talent.
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Inspirational    There are many young Ghanaians both from the NDC and the NPP who deeply admire HarunaIddrisu. He is seen as an inspiration to the youth and an example of what is possible in a working democracy. He is an intellectual with a common-man-story who appeals to the grassroots. That’s a rare combination to pull off. He hasn’t always been the darling boy of Ghanaian politics, but his work as a minister and parliamentary leader, his personal dispositions and his contributions to politics have been noticed. Overtime, it seems Haruna has not only burnished his credentials but also has managed to appeal to a broad swath of divides or camps, within the NDC, across party lines, and beyond demographic or identity groups. On the appointments committee he has often struck a compromising tone. He appears to have a sense (or at least attempts) to have a genuine sense of humour though sometimes it seems either forced, dry or falls flat but at least he tries. On serious note though, perhaps the minority leader position and his work with the parliamentary leadership has afforded him the chance to look a bit more moderate or nationalistic. Or maybe it’s just political gamesmanship but whatever it is, it appears Haruna has worked his way into the hearts of the Ghanaian populace. For this piece I spoke to one or two people—think of it as a key informant or citizen interview— and one respondent (let’s call him Respondent A) summed it up this way: “…seems pretty well respected by most….” Leadership and Experience Hon. Haruna Iddrisu has a solid and long-running trait of leadership. From his days as student leader to party executive, to Member of Parliament to government minister to minority leader, this is someone who clearly has the leadership gene. Hopefully he has gathered enough experience and qualifications to lead the country at the highest levels. If Haruna does not run for president, he will be a favourite number two on a non-Mahama ticket. Respondent A from my interview also said: “He has the political clout and the fortitude to run for president. He has the right educational background and the political experience to run for president.” Another respondent in the key-informant and citizen interview SelasieKwasiDzakamani (International Educator) stated: “Well I think Mr Iddrisu comes across as a credible candidate, if he chooses to join the race. He’s relatively young and has good political experience…. I think he cuts a fine figure and comes to the political table with appreciable understanding of the workings of government and he certainly has the ability to give the NPP a good run for their money.” He’s got the “Big Mo”: Momentum. Global replica in the offing HarunaIddrisu’s most glorious days in his political career are here. You can almost feel the weight of momentum behind him. He might want to cease the moment.  He has the charisma and eloquence of Barack Obama, the youth of Emmanuel Macron, the smartness of Bill Clinton, the grit of Hillary Clinton (that is on the NDC side), and common man appeal of Bernie Sanders. To cap it off, Haruna has a base! That is extremely crucial for any political career to have any chance of taking off. It’s one thing that might hamper potential candidates like former VP Amissah-Arthur or someone like Betty Mould-Iddrisu though they may not contest. They’re simply being used as potentials in this exercise. Back to Haruna: he has a political base, he is an effective campaigner and a fierce politician. If he manages things well and hires good professional campaign consultants, he could be on his way to pulling off a Macron or an Obama.
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Career politician Hon. HarunaIddrissu has spent a lifetime in politics. He is your prototype politician’s politician. This could open him up to criticisms associated with most career politicians: someone in for power, position and glamour. Career politicians also face the criticism of using “politics” as a decoy for personal gratification. This may or may not be the case for Haruna but a lifetime in politics means he has to work extra hard to counter this demerit. In a global era where people are shying from long term politicians or establishment candidates, Haruna will have a Hillary Clinton problem to contend with if he chooses to run. As my good friend, Selasie Dzakamani, puts it, “I …wonder if he won’t be considered part of the old guards who created the mess the NDC finds itself in…and I can’t say for sure if he has the political support on the ground to pull a Macron style win in the NDC.” Baggage Political position comes with goodies such as name recognition, experience, access and popularity—which Hon. Iddrisu has a good measure of—but it also gifts you with one thing: baggage! Haruna’s lifespan in politics means there is a track record of not just achievements but derailments. It would be up to voters to decide which supersedes the other. However, he should be ready for the usual gun fights associated with this job: he would have allegations of corruption to contend with, he would have a record to defend as a government official. In politics, the past, they say, is prologue. As a former student leader, youth organizer and party activist, he may also have to deal with perceptions of his aggressiveness—right or wrong. A good campaign professional/adviser should be able to address this but they can’t be completely avoided.
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Appointments committee &Ayarigate Haruna’s performance on the appointments committee raised his national profile but it came with side effects. The allegations of bribery and corruption by his colleague Hon. MahamaAyariga against a nominee and the political imbroglio that followed put a dent in an otherwise flying career. Though Haruna was not personally implicated, the accusations put blight on parliament and the appointments committee where Haruna serves in leadership roles. More than that, it demonstrated a crack in the minority side and left people wondering if the Minority Leader had the total support of his troops. Hon. Iddrisu’s leadership credentials were questioned and that eroded some of the shine. Plagiarism-gate The accusation of plagiarism against HarunaIddrisu is a well-known trope. There are debates regarding how much of an issue this would be should the Tamale South MP ever run for the presidency. While some think the venom from this occurrence has dissipated over time, others perceive it as something that would always haunt him.  Vice President Joe Biden’s first presidential attempt was derailed by findings of plagiarism in a speech in 1988. Karl-Theoderzu Guttenberg, former German defence minister, who was seen as rising political star, resigned in 2011 after portions of his PhD thesis was deemed plagiarized. In 2014, a candidate in the Montana Senate race in the United States, John Walsh, resigned over findings of plagiarism in a research paper he wrote while at the Army War College. However Joe Biden went on to become Vice President of the United States through another route. Haruna should be prepared for some negative campaign publicity regarding this issue. By Etse Sikanku|TV3|Ghana Twitter: @3newsgh]]>