Ghana’s Vice President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, celebrates his 59th birthday on this day, October 7th 2022.
A relative unknown in Ghanaian politics just a decade and a half ago, Bawumia has undergone an incredibly meteoric rise to stardom in just under two decades, a trajectory that has never been seen and would probably never be matched.
From a cushy job as a banker, Bawumia ventured into politics after being called upon to serve his country and immediately excelled.
Now, on the back of his intelligence, political acumen, business savvy and impeccable public speaking, he has become an ubiquitous part of our political discourse and has consequently written his name into the history books.
To celebrate him on his big day, we take you on a tour through the brilliant life and career of the man who has become known as Mr Digital.
Early Life and Education
Mahamudu Bawumia was born on the 7th of October, 1963 to Alhaji Mumuni Bawumia and Hajia Mariama Bawumia. He was named after the late Ya-Naa Mahamadu Bila.
Bawumia was the twelfth of his father’s eighteen children and the second of his mother’s five.
His father, Alhaji Mumuni Bawumia was a teacher, lawyer and politician, a Mamprugu Royal and Chief of the Kpariga Traditional Area. He was a founding member of the Northern Peoples’ Party alongside Chief S. D. Dombo, Chief Abeifa Karbo, Yakubu Tali, the Tolon Naa, and J. A. Braimah, Kabachewura.
He held numerous positions in government including member of the Northern Territories Council, the Gold Coast Legislative Assembly, a Member of Parliament of the First Republic, Northern Regional Minister, and Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. He also served as chairman of the Council of State under the presidency of J. J. Rawlings from 1993 to 2000 in the 4th republic.
Bawumia started his education at the Sakasaka Primary school in Tamale. He later gained admission to Tamale Secondary School in 1975 and after graduating, went to the United Kingdom where he studied banking and obtained the Chartered Institute of Bankers Diploma (ACIB).
He took a First Class Honours Degree in Economics at Buckingham University in 1987. He then obtained a master’s degree in Economics at Lincoln College, Oxford, and obtained a Ph.D. in Economics at the Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada in 1995.
Academician and Banker
Following his education, the future Vice President held various roles in academia and banking.
From 1988 to 1990, Bawumia worked as a lecturer in Monetary Economics, and International Finance at the Emile Woolf College of Accountancy in London, England. He also served as an economist at the Research Department of the International Monetary Fund in Washington, DC, USA.
Between 1996 and 2000, Bawumia served as an Assistant Professor of Economics at the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, USA.
He returned to Ghana in the year 2000 to work as an economist and banker with the Central Bank, the Bank of Ghana.
He rose from Senior Economist to Head of Department, and subsequently as Special Assistant to the Governor of the Bank.
In June 2006, former President John Agyekum Kuffour appointed Bawumia as the Deputy Governor of the Bank of Ghana.
Bawumia oversaw several significant reforms at the Bank of Ghana during his time there, including spearheading the establishment of the Ghana Interbank Payment Systems (GHIPPS) common platform for all banks, savings and loans companies and rural banks, offering interoperability across different financial institutions.
That was an important precursor to the later mobile interoperability facet of his digital agenda.
Bawumia notched other achievements at the Bank of Ghana, including heading the Monetary Policy and Financial Stability Department which designed and implemented the inflation-targeting framework that continues to guide monetary policy and the workings of the Monetary Policy Committee at the Bank of Ghana.
The inflation-targeting framework established reduced inflation from over 40% in 2000 to 10.2% by 2007.
He was part of the team that designed and implemented the successful redenomination of the cedi and also led the Bank of Ghana’s technical negotiation team and was on the government team that negotiated with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund since 2001 through HIPC and PRGF.
Rise to Political Stardom
Bawumia’s rise to national prominence kicked off in 2007, after he was tapped by then New Patriotic Party (NPP) Presidential candidate for the 2008 elections, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, to be his running mate.
Akufo-Addo had been enthralled by the brilliant academic credentials of the Deputy Bank of Ghana governor and realised his analytical mind and love for figures could be put to use in the political arena.
It helped immensely that Bawumia was also a gifted public speaker and took to politics like a duck to water.
Despite losing the 2008 elections after a run-off, the NPP significantly increased their vote share across all three Northern Regions due to the Bawumia factor.
However, the legend of Bawumia only became most established after the contentious 2012 elections which the NPP lost but heavily contested in court.
The party argued, convincingly in court, that the electoral process had been wrought with irregularities.
Dr Bawumia excelled as the NPP’s star witness, going toe-to-toe with lawyer for the respondents and universally acclaimed as one of Ghana’s most brilliant lawyers, Tsatsu Tsikata.
Bawumia more than held his own and was hailed all over the country for his brilliance, eloquence and calmness under pressure. His insistence on sticking to facts on the ‘face of the pinksheet’ earned him the affectionate nickname, Dr Pinksheet.
His stock soared ever higher after the 2012 petition despite the NPP losing, and when it was time for the 2016 elections there was no question whom Nana Akufo-Addo would choose once more as his running mate.
Speaking at the NPP headquarters in October 2014 on his choice, Akufo-Addo said: “I have been very lucky to have Mahamudu by my side since 2008. His credentials as top-notch economist were always known to all and have been reinforced by his analytical work and performance in this sector in the past five years earning him the sobriquet of Dr Prophet.
“It has been a joy to see him blossom as a consummate politician as well and win the affection of Ghanaians, and we all know how the nation took to his performance in the witness box in the Supreme Court during the historic election petition. Dr. Pinksheet is yet another of his names.
“…There is real chemistry between the two of us as well and I look forward to us leading the team that will ensure an NPP victory in 2016.”
The statements turned out to be prophetic, as the Akufo-Addo-Bawumia tandem finally tasted victory in 2016 and has been ruling Ghana since.
A Transformative Veep
Since taking over in 2017, Dr Bawumia has completely transformed the role of the Veep and made it relevant and consequential once again in Ghanaian political discourse.
In the five short years he has been in office, the Vice President has boldly spearheaded numerous initiatives, putting his neck on the line multiple times to push for what he believes in.
Bawumia takes a systems approach to governannce and often offers macro solutions to challenges, solutions that will not just tackle one aspect of the problem but be able to weed it out by root and stem.
In that vein, he boldly put forward his digitalisation agenda after taking over power and set about getting it implemented.
After five years, the agenda is firmly underway and has transformed almost all aspects of life in Ghana from banking to property addresses, healthcare, agriculture, commerce etc.
More specifically, the Ghana card has widened the tax net and finally introduced a biotremic identity card that is unique to each Ghanaian.
The digital property address system has improved online commerce whilst simultaneously expanding the property tax net.
The National Electronic Pharmacy Platform (NEPP) has made it possible to buy drugs online.
The medical drone service is helping to save lives by delivering life saving supplies to rural communities.
The ghana.gov platform has made it easy to obtain public services such as a birth certificate, passport, drivers licence etc.
The benefits to the digital revolution are massive and continue to expand day-by-day.
Away from digitalisation, Bawumia was instrumental in the financial sector clean-up, a $7bn bailout of distressed financial institutions in Ghana that saved the deposits of over 4.6m Ghanaians.
Prior to the quadruple whammy, the Ghanaian economy was on a rising trajectory, such as when Ghana’s economy was adjudged the fastest growing economy in the world in 2019 under the guidance of Bawumia’s economic management.
Perhaps most important of all, Bawumia has been an asset as a communicator unlike any other in Ghanaian political history. Prior to the 2016 elections, he constantly roasted the then President, relentlessly attacking him unitl the ‘incompetent Mahama’ moniker stuck.
Bawumia has made a habit of humorous witticisms in his political speeches that often stick and knock out political opponents, a trait which has helped the NPP win in both the 2016 and 2020 elections.
Less well known but no less important, Bawumia is an avowed philanthropist with a dedication to uplifting the less priviledged.
In October 2020, he formally commissioned an ultramodern mosque built and fully funded by him for use by the people of Prang in the Bono East area.
In June 2020, the Vice President settled over nearly 6 decades land lease arrears for the Kumasi Central Mosque.
Many Ghanaians would remember when he donated Ghc 50,000 for the upkeep of the late actor Psalm Adjeteyfio when his challenges were presented to the public.
In one of the most heartwarming stories ever, Dr Bawumia built an entirely new house for an over 80-year old woman who had been shunned by her community as a leper.
Following a gut-wrenching Joy News report, the Vice President stepped in and provided lasting aid to the octogenarian and her caretaker including cash, food and a brand new house.
A man with a big heart and a man for all seasons, Dr Bawumia massively deserves celebrating on his big day.
Happy 59th birthday to Ghana’s Vice President, a worthy leader.
This article first appeared on theGhanaianVoice.Com