John Dramani Mahama (/məˈhɑːmə/; born 29 November 1958) is a Ghanaian politician who has been President of Ghana since July 2012. He was the Vice President of Ghana from 2009 to 2012, and he took office as President on 24 July 2012 following the death of his predecessor, President John Atta Mills. He was elected to serve his first term as president in December 2012 following a peaceful election. A communication expert, historian, and writer, Mahama was a Member of Parliament from 1997 to 2009 and Minister of Communications from 1998 to 2001.
A member of the Gonja ethnic group, he hails from Bole. Mahama was born in Damongo, in the Damango-Daboya constituency of Ghana into a political tradition dating back to the country’s First Republic. His father, Emmanuel Adama Mahama, a wealthy rice farmer and teacher, was the first Member of Parliament for the West Gonja Constituency and the first Regional Commissioner of the Northern Region during Ghana’s First Republic under his first president, Kwame Nkrumah.
Mahama had his early education at Achimota School and then proceeded to Ghana Secondary School (Tamale, Northern Region of Ghana) and the University of Ghana, Legon, receiving a bachelor’s degree in history in 1981 and a postgraduate diploma in communication studies in 1986. He also studied at the Institute of Social Sciences, Moscow in the then Soviet Union, specializing in social psychology, obtaining a postgraduate degree in 1988.
After completing his undergraduate education, Mahama taught History at the secondary school level for a few years. Upon his return to Ghana after studying in Moscow, he worked as the Information, Culture and Research Officer at the Embassy of Japan in Accra between 1991 and 1995. He credits this period in his life for instilling in him the Japanese work ethic which reinforced in his mind the importance of focus and commitment and reflects in his actions, effort and dynamism. From there he moved to the anti-poverty non-governmental organisation (NGO) Plan International’s Ghana Country Office, where he worked as International Relations, Sponsorship Communications and Grants Manager between 1995 and 1996. In 1993, he participated in a professional training course for Overseas Public Relations Staff, organized by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo, Japan. He also participated in a management development course organized by Plan International (RESA) in Nairobi, Kenya.
As Member of Parliament
Mahama was first elected to the Parliament of Ghana in the 1996 elections to represent the Bole/Bamboi Constituency for a four-year term. In April 1997, Mahama was appointed Deputy Minister of Communications. He became the substantive Minister of Communications in November 1998; a position he held until January 2001 when the National Democratic Congress (NDC), the then ruling party, handed over power to the New Patriotic Party’s government.
In 2000, Mahama was re-elected for another four-year term as the Member of Parliament for the Bole/Bamboi Constituency. He was again re-elected in 2004 for a third term. From 2001 to 2004, Mahama served as the Minority Parliamentary Spokesman for Communications. In 2002, he was appointed the Director of Communications for the NDC. That same year, he served as a member of the team of International Observers selected to monitor Zimbabwe’s Parliamentary Elections.
As Minister and Vice-President
During his tenure as Minister of Communications, Mahama also served as the Chairman of the National Communications Authority, in which capacity he played a key role in stabilising Ghana’s telecommunications sector after it was deregulated in 1997., As a minister, he was a founding member of the Ghana AIDS Commission, a member of the implementation committee of the 2000 National Population Census and a deputy chairman of the Publicity Committee for the re-introduction of the Value Added Tax (VAT).
Continuing to expand his interest and involvement in international affairs, in 2003 Mahama became a member of the Pan-African Parliament, serving as the Chairperson of the West African Caucus until 2011. He was also a member of European and Pan African Parliaments’ Ad-hoc Committee. In 2005 he was, additionally, appointed the Minority Spokesman for Foreign Affairs. He is a member of the UNDP Advisory Committee on Conflict Resolution in Ghana.
On 7 January 2009, Mahama became the Vice-President of Ghana. He also served as the Chairman of the National Economic Management Team, the Armed Forces Council of Ghana, the Decentralisation and Implementation Committee and the Police Council of Ghana in this capacity.
In line with Ghana’s constitution, Mahama became President of Ghana on 24 July 2012 on the death of his predecessor, John Atta Mills. He said in parliament upon being sworn in:
This is the saddest day in our nation’s history. Tears have engulfed our nation and we are deeply saddened and distraught…. I’m personally devastated, I’ve lost a father, I’ve lost a friend, I’ve lost a mentor and a senior comrade. Ghana is united in grief at this time for our departed president.
As a result of his elevation to the presidency, Mahama (born in 1958) made political history by becoming the first Ghanaian leader to have been born after Ghana’s attainment of independence from British colonial rule on 6 March 1957. This passing on of the mantle of leadership to a relatively younger Mahama symbolised changing paradigms from the old paternalism characteristic of African politics to a new generation of post-independence born, innovative and entrepreneurial thinkers battle-ready to take on pressing challenges such as climate change and food security facing modern democracies in an idea-driven 21st century. The National Democratic Congress (NDC) held a Special National Delegates Congress, on 30 August 2012 and endorsed President John Dramani Mahama, as the 2012 presidential candidate. President Mahama, the sole candidate of the party, polled 2, 767 votes, representing 99.5% of total votes cast, to pick the slot for the party. Mahama has stated that his administration is deeply committed to continuing the Better Ghana Agenda started under late President Mills.
Mahama won the December 2012 general election with 50.70% of the total valid votes cast and a 3% winning margin beating his nearest rival, Nana Akufo-Addo of the main opposition, New Patriotic Party who polled a close 47.74%. Thirteen African Heads of State, one Prime Minister, 2 Vice-Presidents and 18 government delegations across the world attended his inaugural ceremony at the Independence Square in Accra on 7 January 2013 when Mahama was sworn-in to begin his own four-year term.
Mahama is Africa’s fourth most-followed leaders on Twitter, with 11,134 followers.
Personal life and interests
He is married to Lordina Mahama and has seven children. He is a Christian, born and raised a Presbyterian but is now a member of Assemblies of God, Ghana due to marriage. His family is multi-faith consisting of Christians and Muslims. Mahama is also a polyglot, fluent in six languages, specifically, English, Akan (Twi and Fante), Ga, Gonja, Dagbani and Hausa and proficient in Ewe and Russian Being a staunch campaigner for sustainability, he has a keen interest in environmental affairs, particularly the problem of single-use plastic waste pollution in Africa, which he committed himself to addressing during his tenure as Vice President.
Over the course of his career he has written for several newspapers and other publications. As a Parliamentarian, Mahama wrote Mahama’s Hammer, a popular semi-regular column in a local Ghanaian newspaper.
His essays have also been published in the Huffington Post, the Louisville Courier-Journal and TheRoot.com Additionally, he was a featured speaker at the TEDx Great Pacific Garbage Patch Conference in Santa Monica, California, U.S.A.. Mahama is also a devotee of Afrobeat music and a big fan of Nigerian legend, Fela Kuti, explaining that the iconic musician’s criticism of corruption and military brutality “gave us an outlet for our outrage and frustrations.” Apart from his love of reading and acquiring knowledge, President Mahama also has a passionate interest in innovation particularly the use of technology in agriculture being a farmer himself.
In particular, he is interested in finding the most effective ways to improve agricultural productivity and works to encourage more young people to see farming as a viable business and not a subsistence activity. This has translated into his passion to see the Savanna Accelerated Development Authority (known by the acronym SADA) create new opportunities for people living in the Savanna areas of the country, which includes the three Northern Regions, and the Volta Region.
Even on official assignments outside of the country, the President likes to take advantage of opportunities to visit agricultural establishments and update himself on current trends and developments. He also takes keen interest in the opportunities for simplifying and making tasks easier with the use of information and communications technology, and considers the ICT industry one of the sectors that can play a significant role in economic transformation and job creation.
Mahama’s first book, a memoir called My First Coup d’État and Other True Stories From the Lost Decades of Africa, was published by Bloomsbury on 3 July 2012. A child of privilege, Mahama is the most promising son of a relatively affluent minister, spending his time shuttling in a chauffeur-driven car between his elite boarding school and his various houses.He recalls in its first chapter the day in 1966 when he learned of the ousting of Ghana’s founding president, Kwame Nkrumah, in a military coup: “When I look back on my life it’s clear to me that this moment marked the awakening of my consciousness. It changed my life and influenced all the moments that followed.”
Awards and honours
Widely acclaimed both locally and internationally for his natural charisma, affable, down to earth personality and sterling leadership qualities, he is arguably the first Ghanaian leader to have served at all levels of political office (Ghanaian and Pan-African MP, Deputy Minister, Minister, Vice-President and President).
He received an honorary doctorate in the field of Public Administration, by the Ekiti State University of Nigeria, formally known as the Obafemi Awolowo University in “recognition of his politico-socio economic development of Ghana and Africa at various stages of his political career.” The Cuban government, recognising his relentless advocacy for the Cuban cause, namely the lifting of the 50-year economic embargo on the communist country and for the freedom of the detained Cuban five by the United States government, conferred on him the Friendship Medal.
The Graduate School of Governance and Leadership also awarded him the African Servant Leadership Award while the Institute of Public Relations recognized Mr. Mahama with a prize for his leadership acumen and technocratic flair.Furthermore, the General Council of Assemblies of God, Ghana honoured Mahama with its prestigious honour the “Daniel Award “for his exceptional leadership qualities.
Mr. Mahama has also attended numerous conferences and won many fellowships, including a study as a visiting scholar at The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA. He is also a Gates Fellow. After the death of his predecessor, John Atta Mills, his political supporters christened[clarification needed] him Ahobrasehene meaning ‘King of Humility’ in the Akan language to crown his accolades.