The former first lady of the Republic and wife of the founder of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings, has revealed that Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang rejected an offer to join the NDC when it was being formed in the lead-up to the 1992 general election, citing her strong ties to the United Party (UP) tradition.
The news that the 2020 running mate of the NDC’s presidential candidate refused to help form the party which has rewarded her with its number-two position will come as a surprise to many rank-and-file members.
Until the party’s defeat in the 2016 general election, she served as education minister under the then president, John Dramani Mahama, who is now the 2020 candidate for the NDC.
Failed recruitment drive
Agyeman-Rawlings revealed the running mate’s history with the UP tradition, which is the foundation of the governing New Patriotic Party, during a recent media appearance.
The National Democratic Party (NDP) flagbearer, who was instrumental in founding the NDC, made this disclosure on Asaase Radio’s Sunday Night when she featured as a guest of Nana Yaa Mensah.
Responding to a question about whether or not it is a matter of record that the NDC running mate ever rejected any such offer from the NDC, Mrs Agyeman-Rawlings confirmed that the university lecturer at the time did refuse to become a grass-roots organiser for the NDC in Cape Coast, where she was based.
Chairman Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings had ruled with his Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) since his coup d’état on 31 December 1981. As first lady, Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings also formed the 31st December Women’s Movement (DWM) shortly thereafter to campaign for empowerment of women in Ghana.
At the time, Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang was regarded as a good organiser for the 31st DWM on the University of Cape Coast campus, especially in the 1980s and into 1990-92.
But, with the move to return the country to constitutional rule and the legalisation of political parties, the military regime and its affiliates were preparing to form a political party to stay in power and were on a frantic recruitment drive.
However, even though she was a leading member of the women’s group in the Central Region, Naana Opoku-Agyemang rejected point blank the invitation from the First Lady and her group to transition from the 31st DWM.
The movement served as the de facto women’s wing of the revolution, as the PNDC dropped the “P” to become the NDC (National Democratic Congress), a fully fledged political party.
“The ladies in Central Region brought her name up as somebody who could help in organising the NDC at the lowest level because she was helping the ‘31st’ in Cape Coast University,” Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings told Asaase Radio.
“So I thought, ‘Oh, brilliant.’ But that was when she said, ‘No, they [meaning her family] belonged to the UP tradition.’ That is what I was told. I think it is a long time ago … 1990/1991.”
Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang
Professor Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang was nominated as the running mate of the flagbearer of the National Democratic Congress on 6 July 2020. She is the current Africa Board chairperson of the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE).
She has been a member of FAWE since 2014.
She served as minister of education in Ghana in the John Mahama government from 7 January 2013 to 7 January 2017. In 2008 Opoku-Agyemang was appointed to serve as the vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Coast by President John Agyekum Kufuor, the first female vice-chancellor of a public university in Ghana.
Before leading the university, she had served since 1986 as head of the English department, dean of the Faculty of Arts, dean of the Board of Graduate Studies and founding dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Research in Cape Coast.
She was also the academic director of the African Diaspora Studies programme of the School for International Training (Study Abroad). In October 2009 she was elected as Ghana’s representative on UNESCO’s executive board. She has been re-elected to serve a second term on the board.
Click on the link below to listen to excerpts from the interview.
Wilberforce Asare / Asaase Radio