By Charles McCarthy
As Ghana approaches its next presidential election, discussions about potential candidates are in full swing. One name frequently making headlines is Kennedy Ohene Agyapong, a Member of Parliament and prominent businessman. While his supporters laud his boldness and assertiveness, concerns about his potential candidacy are growing due to controversies that could cast a shadow on his bid for Ghana’s highest office. This has prompted calls for an evaluation of his presidential readiness that goes beyond the legal framework outlined in Article 62 of the Ghanaian Constitution.
Article 62 of Ghana’s Constitution outlines the qualifications and disqualifications for a person seeking the presidency. It stipulates that a presidential candidate must be a citizen of Ghana by birth, at least forty years old, a registered voter, of sound mind, not sentenced to death or imprisonment exceeding ten years, and not declared insolvent or bankrupt. While Article 62 sets legal criteria, some argue that assessing Agyapong’s suitability requires a more comprehensive analysis.
Comparing legal qualifications
Among the three branches of government, the qualifications for the office of the president seem to be comparatively less stringent. This raises the question of whether we should demand less from an individual entrusted with executive state power.
In contrast, the appointment of the Chief Judge in the judiciary, as outlined in Article 148, places a significant emphasis on moral character and proven integrity. Article 128(4) explicitly states that a person must possess high moral character and proven integrity to be appointed as a Justice of the Supreme Court. These qualities are expected to be evident to all.
Article 4(2)(a) of the New Patriotic Party constitution, subject to and secondary the 1992 Constitution, vehemently opposes and forbids individuals with a dishonest and morally questionable character from pursuing election under the party’s banner.
Absence of moral character requirement
Regrettably, the framers of our Constitution did not include morality as a requirement for those seeking election as members of parliament or president, as reflected in Articles 62 and 94, which remain silent on this aspect.
It raises the question of why the office of the President, vested with executive authority to appoint judges, including the Chief Judge under Article 148, and managers of state agencies, possesses qualifications that appear less comprehensive, especially when compared to the more stringent age requirement.
Call for consistency
If such a stringent moral requirement is considered necessary for the appointment of the Chief Judge, it would logically follow that the executive and parliamentary branches, the second and third arms of government, should not be exempt from a similar standard.
From the preceding discussion, it becomes apparent that the qualifications outlined in Article 62 and 94 for the office of the president are inadequate, lacking in substance, and notably devoid of a consideration for moral character.
Questions about presidential qualifications
Merely being a member of parliament, as prescribed under Article 94, does not provide sufficient fortifications for individuals aspiring to hold the highest office in the Republic of Ghana. Under the current constitutional framework, a person remains qualified by law to stand for election as president until convicted. This implies that someone facing charges of a serious crime or possessing questionable moral character could potentially seek the presidency.
Consider the scenario where an individual, despite being the subject of a grave crime and lacking imprisonment, could stand for election as president because the law only requires a conviction for disqualification. This raises concerns about the standards we apply.
The question arises: Why should the qualifications for a parliamentarian be only marginally different from those for the president? How can we justify this?
It appears that the principle of checks and balances, which is fundamental to our system of government, is not adequately reflected in the qualifications of those aspiring to serve in both the executive and legislative branches.
A legacy of controversy and candidacy
Kennedy Agyapong’s political journey has been marked by both fervent support and vocal criticism. As a prominent Member of Parliament representing the Assin Central constituency, he has consistently made headlines with his outspoken views and confrontational style.
Agyapong’s track record includes confrontations with judges, allegations of recruiting political thugs, and divisive rhetoric. While some see his fearlessness and ability to connect with grassroots voters as strengths, others question his readiness for the presidency.
A recollection of some of his notable instances as a public official reveals a pattern of bold statements and actions that have raised eyebrows:
1. Recruitment of Thugs (2008 General Elections): He openly admitted to recruiting thugs during the 2008 General Elections, sparking concerns about electoral misconduct.
2. Threat to Rawlings and His Household (2008): Agyapong faced backlash for purportedly threatening that former President Rawlings and his household would face harm during the elections.
3. Declaration of War on Gas and Ewes (2012): Agyapong made controversial remarks by declaring war on Gas and Ewes in the Ashanti Region in 2012, igniting ethnic tensions.
4. Accusation of NPP Leadership as Thieves (2014): In 2014, he publicly referred to the leadership of the NPP as thieves, causing division within the party.
5. Accusation Against Charlotte Osei (2016): Agyapong accused Charlotte Osei, the former Chair of the Electoral Commission, of trading sex for her position in 2016.
6. Doubt Over 2016 Election Fairness (2017): In 2017, he cast doubt on whether Nana Akufo-Addo won the 2016 General Elections fairly.
7. In 2016, Kennedy Agyapong and Kofi Adams engaged in a heated exchange of insults during a live TV broadcast.
8. In 2019, Agyapong revealed the identity of Ahmed Suale, a journalist, inciting the public against him, which is believed to have played a role in Suale’s tragic murder. Furthermore, in the same year, he declared Ahmed persona non grata, further contributing to the hostile environment that led to the journalist’s tragic demise.
9. Criticism of Parliament (2019): He described Ghana’s Parliament as cheap and useless in 2019, undermining the institution’s integrity.
10. Verbal Abuse of a Judge (2020): Agyapong faced criticism for verbally abusing a judge of the superior court in 2020, raising questions about his respect for the rule of law.
11. Call for Assault on Erastus Asare Donkor (2021): He called for journalist Erastus Asare Donkor to be beaten in 2021, a stance that drew widespread condemnation.
12. Generalized Accusation of Rich Politicians (2021): Agyapong’s statement in 2021 that “every rich politician is a thief” stirred controversy, painting all wealthy politicians with the same brush.
13. “E Bi President We Go Chop” Remark (2021): In 2021, he made a statement suggesting that they don’t feed on the presidency, seemingly dismissing the relevance of the office.
14. In 2020, Manasseh Azure received death threats for expressing his opinion.
15. In 2020, Kennedy Agyapong publicly admitted to spreading false information about Tracey Boakye and allegations concerning Mahama’s personal life.
16. In 2021, Ken Agyapong’s baby mama expressed her frustration, wishing him no joy due to perceived neglect.
17. In 2022, Ken Agyapong criticized his baby mama, Sarah Adwoa Safo, stating, “That woman has failed in life.”
Evaluating leadership beyond Article 62
Assessing Kennedy Agyapong’s presidential readiness requires a nuanced analysis that goes beyond sentiments, emotions and legal qualifications. Several key factors come into play:
1. Leadership Experience: Agyapong’s extensive experience as a parliamentarian is an asset, but the presidency demands a broader range of leadership skills, including diplomacy, crisis management, and international relations.
2. Ability to Unify: The presidency requires the capacity to unite a diverse nation. Some critics argue that Agyapong’s polarizing rhetoric may hinder his ability to bridge divisions within the country.
3.Diplomacy and Statesmanship: Diplomatic finesse is vital in international relations. Agyapong’s confrontational style could have implications for Ghana’s relationships with other nations.
4.Commitment to Rule of Law: Presidential leadership demands a strong commitment to upholding the rule of law. Evaluations of Agyapong’s public conduct have raised questions about his respect for legal institutions.
Beyond his public conduct, Kennedy Agyapong has exhibited instances of what some perceive as a notable lack of self-control. His emotional responses to various situations have drawn attention and have led to concerns about his suitability for a presidential role.
Impulsiveness in Public Statements: Agyapong’s propensity to make impulsive and controversial statements in public forums has raised eyebrows. Whether it’s openly criticizing individuals or using derogatory language, his comments have sometimes lacked the measured and diplomatic tone expected of a presidential candidate.
Emotional Outbursts: On multiple occasions, he has been observed engaging in emotional outbursts during public appearances or on media platforms. These outbursts can erode the perception of a leader’s calm and collected demeanour, which is often associated with effective leadership.
Handling of Criticism: A key attribute of a leader is the ability to handle criticism gracefully and respond to it thoughtfully. Some argue that Agyapong’s reactions to criticism, including personal attacks and insults, suggest a lack of emotional resilience and an inability to engage in constructive discourse.
Polarizing Rhetoric: Agyapong’s communication style has been described as polarizing, with a tendency to stoke divisions rather than promote unity. Presidential leadership often requires the ability to bridge divides and build consensus, qualities that some argue he may lack.
In the realm of politics, where complex and sensitive issues often arise, maintaining composure, emotional balance, and a diplomatic demeanour are considered essential attributes for a presidential candidate. Critics argue that Kennedy Agyapong’s public conduct and emotional responses may not align with these expectations, potentially diminishing his suitability for the role of the President of Ghana. However, it is ultimately up to the voters to weigh these considerations when deciding whether he is the right candidate to lead the nation.
As the nation approaches the forthcoming presidential election, the question of Kennedy Agyapong’s presidential readiness will continue to be a topic of intense debate. Ultimately, it will be the voters who decide whether his candidature extends beyond the legal framework and whether he possesses the qualities necessary to lead Ghana as its President.
The political discourse surrounding Kennedy Agyapong serves as a reminder that presidential elections are about more than just legal qualifications. They are about the vision, leadership, and character of the candidates and their ability to guide the nation toward a prosperous future. In the coming months, Ghanaians will have the opportunity to weigh these considerations as they make their crucial choice for the nation’s highest office.