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Samira – one lady’s journey to political stardom

Samira Bawumia, the second lady, is among Ghana’s most prominent figures, shaping the paradigm for the youth, especially girls, and young women

Though Ghana’s second lady, Samira Bawumia, never imagined that she would become a politician, she has stamped her name in the history books as an accomplished figure in the realm of politics.

Having made her mark, the second lady attributes her achievements to her parents’ influence, and particularly that of her father, who made a great impact on her life and those of her five brothers.

At home when they were children, she told Nana Yaa Mensah in an exclusive interview for Asaase Radio’s Sunday Night, their father steered the family towards attaching more importance than usual to discussing matters of national development.

A politically rich life

Samira’s journey to the very public life she now leads began at an early age. She was born on 20 August 1979 to Ahmed Ramadan, a veteran of the People’s National Convention (PNC) who eventually retired from active politics in 2015, and Ayesha Ramadan, a homemaker.

Her father made history when he was sworn in by President Nana Akufo-Addo as Ghana’s first ambassador to the United Arab Emirates in 2017.

Coming from a family tradition so deeply immersed in national life, it is not surprising that Samira’s five siblings are also politically active. Two of her brothers, Abu Ramadan and Mohammed Adamu Ramadan, are well-known personalities in politics.

Abu, a former national youth organiser for the PNC, defected to the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in 2016 and is now the deputy director general of the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO).

Mohammed Adamu, on the other hand, is standing as the parliamentary candidate for the National Democratic Congress (NDC) in Election 2020 in Adentan, Greater Accra.

Bright young button

Samira Bawumia received her early education at the Answarudeen Islamic School in Fadama, Accra. She proceeded to Alsyd Academy and then gained admission to Akosombo International School (AIS) at the unusually early age of ten to sit for her Ordinary Level (O’-level) examinations.

Moving to Mfantsiman Girls’ Secondary School in Saltpond, Central Region, for her sixth-form education, she passed out with A-levels at the age of 14.

Despite initial pressure from her father, Samira decided not to become a doctor and shied away from the sciences. A Bachelor of Arts degree in social science in law and sociology degree followed at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi.

She made her mark when she was named Best Student and given the “Professor Agyemang Badu Academic Scholarship Award” as she took a Master’s degree in business administration in 2012 at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA). Her specialisation was project management.

Today Mrs Bawumia says she still credits access to education for her success in life. She counts herself lucky, she told the Sunday Night host, when she reflects on how life has turned out for some of her close female relations who did not have the opportunity to stay in school.

Married life and politics

Samira Ramadan met Dr Mahamadu Bawumia, then a banker, in May 2003. They exchanged vows and became husband and wife officially in 2004. They have four children.

Samira Bawumia emerged into the political limelight after the NPP named her husband the running mate of the then Candidate Akufo-Addo, the immediate past minister of foreign affairs, for the 2008 election. Nana Akufo-Addo went on to choose Dr Bawumia to partner him on the NPP ticket in 2012, 2016 and 2020 general elections.

She shot to fame after a memorable speech in 2016 in which she labelled the then flagbearer of the NDC, John Dramani Mahama, as ‘‘incompetent’’. Together with other members of the NPP, she championed the party’s “Positive Change” agenda that eventually led to the NPP’s electoral victory in 2016.

Having won the election, Nana Akufo-Addo and Mahamudu Bawumia were sworn in as President and Vice-President of the Republic of Ghana.

High-achieving

Samira Bawumia is the founder of the Samira Empowerment and Humanitarian Projects (SEHP), a non-profit-making organisation which aims to help disadvantaged groups, mostly involving women, to improve their livelihoods. SEHP also works to expand beneficiaries’ educational and health opportunities.

The organisation runs everything from shea processing co-operatives to Mrs Bawumia’s Library in a Box initiative, which brings complete sets of reading books to poor schools.

She is the patron of the Samira Bawumia Literature Prize, an annual prize first awarded in 2020. Unlike many other high-profile awards for African writing, it reserves its attention to Ghana, aiming to recognise the best fiction, poetry and prose non-fiction written by young Ghanaians in Ghana.

Clear-eyed determination

Speaking to Mensah for Sunday Night on Asaase Radio, the second lady responded to questions about her home life and career, her impact on Ghana’s fashion industry and young stylists, and Ghana’s political future.

And she made the headlines all over again when she declared that she feels no regret about that comment about incompetence.

Asked whether, four years on, she regrets calling John Mahama incompetent, the second lady said: “No, I didn’t mean it as an insult, especially now.

“It is not even in my nature to insult,” she explained. “All we were saying is that he didn’t do his job as was expected. Politics is not about insults and that is why I say we take what we are doing seriously. I’m proud of what my government has done in the last three and a half years.”

She believes that the NPP government has performed creditably well during its first term in office.

“The government has done so much in its first term. It is incredible. From day one, how we were able to even keep faith to start the Free Senior High School policy in the first place! It’s incredible [given] what the government inherited,” she said.

Nathaniel Crabbe

* Catch tonight’s repeat of “Sunday Night” on Asaase Radio 99.5 now (starts 7pm). Also live streaming on Facebook and YouTube.
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