Nana Akufo Addo was born on March 29, 1944, in Swalaba, Accra. He was raised in Ga Maami (Accra Central) and in the Nima area of Accra. His father's residence, Betty House at Korle Wokon in Accra, was effectively the headquarters of the country's first political party, the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), after it was formed at Saltpond on August 4, 1947. Three of the Big Six (founding fathers of Ghana) were Nana's blood relatives: J.B Danquah (grand uncle), William Ofori Atta (uncle) and Edward Akufo-Addo, who became the third Chief Justice of Ghana and later ceremonial President of the Republic from 1969-72, was his father.
Nana had his primary education at the Government Boys School and later Rowe Road School (now Kinbu) both in Accra Central. Nana went on to England to study for his O- Level and A- Level examinations. He returned to Ghana in 1962 to teach at the Accra Academy before going to the University of Ghana in 1964 to read Economics. After graduating as an Economist, he went on to read Law in the UK and was called to the English Bar (Middle Temple) in July 1971 and the Ghana Bar in 1975.
Legal and Business Career
After his call to the English Bar, he went to work in Paris, France as a lawyer with a renowned international US law firm, Coudert Freres, for a period of five years. Apart from the welcome exposure to the dynamics of international corporate transactions, his stay in France also made him fluent in French, attributes which have stood him in good stead.
In 1975, he returned home to Accra to continue with his legal career. He joined the chambers of U.V Campbell from 1975-1979 and in 1979, co-founded the law firm, Akufo-Addo, Prempeh & Co, which has become one of the most prominent law firms in Ghana. He is acknowledged as one of the most brilliant advocates of his day, if not in the history of the Ghanaian Bar.
Some Ghanaian lawyers who passed through his law firm are among the most outstanding lawyers at the Ghanaian Bar today. They include Sophia Akuffo, Justice of the Supreme Court, Joyce Darko, Daniel Afari Yeboah, Philip Addison, Joe Ghartey, a former Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Alex Quaynor, Frank Davies, Ursula Owusu, Atta Akyea, Nana’s successor as MP for Abuakwa South Constituency, Akoto Ampaw, Yoni Kulendi, Kwame Akuffo and Godfrey Dame.
Nana Akufo-Addo has served on the boards and committees of a number of political, legal and social organizations in the country. He was the first Chairperson of DHL, Ghana Limited; Chairperson, Kinesec Communications Company Limited, publishers of the Statesman and the first Chairperson of the Ghana Committee on Human and Peoples Rights.
Like the “Doyen of Gold Coast politics”, J.B Danquah, and others before him, Nana used his law practice to champion the cause of human rights, rule of law, justice, freedom and democracy. He was well-known for giving free legal assistance to the poor and fought for the rights and liberties of the Ghanaian people. Indeed, many of the important constitutional cases of the modern era, which, inter alia, protected the independence of the judiciary and the right of the citizen to demonstrate without police permit, were undertaken by him. He is acknowledged as one of the leaders of the pro-democracy movement in Ghana, through whose courageous efforts Ghana has come to embrace democracy in a manner which has made her a beacon of democratic governance in Africa.
At age 33, Nana became the General Secretary of the broad-based People’s Movement for Freedom and Justice (PMFJ), which was composed of political stalwarts such as Akwasi Amankwa Afrifa, William Ofori-Atta, Komla Agbeli Gbedemah, Adu Boahen, Sam Okudzeto, Obed Asamoah, Godfrey Agama, K.S.P. Jantuah, Jones Ofori-Atta, Johnny Hanson and Nii Amaah Amartefio (Mr. No). This group led the "NO" campaign in the UNIGOV referendum of 1978, ultimately bringing about the downfall of the Acheampong military government on 5th July, 1978, and the restoration of multi-party democratic rule to the country in 1979. Nana had to go briefly into exile after the referendum, when his life was in danger. But, from Europe, he could be heard constantly on BBC World Service, fighting against the military rulers back in Ghana and calling for a return to democracy.
In 1991, Akufo-Addo was the chairman of the Organising Committee of the Danquah-Busia Memorial Club, a club dedicated to the preservation of the memory and ideals of the two great advocates of Ghanaian democracy, J. B Danquah and K. A Busia, Prime Minister of the Progress Party government of the 2nd Republic of Ghana. He took the risk and travelled the length and breadth of Ghana to establish branches of the Club all over the country in the grassroots style for which he is known. These branches eventually transformed into local organs of the NPP after the ban on party politics was lifted, prior to the elections of 1992.
In 1992, he became the first national organiser of the NPP and, later that year, campaign manager of the party's first presidential candidate, Prof. Albert Adu Boahen, the man of courage who broke the “culture of silence” in Ghana.
In 1992, he set up and financed “The Statesman” newspaper, which has become the unofficial mouthpiece of the NPP.
In 1995, Nana led the famous “Kume Preko” demonstrations of the Alliance For Change (AFC), a broad-based political pressure group, which mobilised more than a million people onto the streets of Ghana to protest the harsh political and economic conditions of the Rawlings era. It is well established that those demonstrations helped create the environment for the victory of the NPP in the 2000 elections.
Akufo-Addo was elected three times between 1996 and 2004 as Member of Parliament for the Abuakwa South constituency in the Eastern region of Ghana.
From 2001 to 2007, as Cabinet Minister, first as Attorney General and Minister for Justice and later as Foreign Minister for five years, Nana served President Kufuor with brilliance and distinction.
As Attorney General, he was responsible for the repeal of the Criminal Libel Law, a law that had hitherto been used to intimidate the media and criminalise free speech. The repeal has enabled the Ghanaian media become one of the most vibrant and freest in Africa. Under his chairmanship of the Legal Sector Reform Committee, the implementation of the court automation programme was initiated.
As Foreign Minister, he was fully involved in the successful ECOWAS peace efforts in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea Bissau, and was chairman of the ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council in 2003.
In 2004, Ghana was elected one of the 15 pioneer members of the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council, a mandate which was renewed at the AU Summit in Khartoum in January 2006. Nana Akufo-Addo was chosen by his peers on the AU Executive Council to chair the Ministerial Committee of 15 that fashioned the “Ezulwini Consensus” which defined Africa’s common position on UN Reforms. He negotiated for the 2007 AU Summit to be held in Accra as part of Ghana’s Golden Jubilee celebrations, and chaired the AU Executive Council in 2007.
Ghana was elected by her peers to take the non-permanent West African seat on the UN Security Council for 2006-2007. In August 2006, Nana Akufo-Addo chaired the meeting of the Security Council which took the decision that halted Israel’s massive incursions into Lebanon.
Again, Ghana was elected to the new UN body, the Human Rights Council, with the highest number of votes – 183 out of 191 - of any country, and as a pioneer member of another UN body, the Peace Building Commission.
Nana resigned from the Kufuor government in July 2007 to contest for the position of presidential candidate and flagbearer of his party, the New Patriotic Party (NPP), the then ruling party of Ghana, for the 2008 elections. Competing against 16 others, Nana won 48% of the votes in the first round of that election, but was given a unanimous endorsement in the second round, making him the party’s candidate for the 2008 presidential election. In the Dec 7, 2008 presidential race, Nana beat Prof Mills, the eventual winner, who was contesting for the third time, with 102,805 votes in the first round. Nana got 4,159,439 representing 49.13% of the total votes cast, placing him first but fell 74,000 votes short of the more than 50% needed for an outright victory. It was the best ever performance for a first time presidential candidate in the Fourth Republic. The eventual winner of the elections, Prof Mills obtained 4,056,634 representing 47.92% in the first round and 4,521,032 votes, representing 50.23% in the run-off elections.
Nana, who received 4,480,446 votes in the Dec 28 run-off, lost to Candidate Mills by a margin of 40,586 votes, representing 0.46% - the smallest margin of defeat ever in Africa’s political history and yet Nana accepted the results without calling even for a recount, thereby helping to preserve the peace, freedom and stability of Ghana.
On August 7, 2010 Nana was re-elected presidential candidate of the NPP for the 2012 general elections, with 106,590 valid votes from delegates in that election as a result of the party expanding its electoral college from the previous number of 2300 delegates. Nana obtained 84,100 of the votes in that election, representing 79%, the biggest endorsement given any leader in Ghana’s political history by his party. The electoral college was also the largest any political party has ever convened in Ghana or in any African state.
Akufo-Addo is a keen sportsman, who still trains regularly on the treadmill. His stamina for campaigning is legendary, campaigning sometimes from 8am to 2am. He was, in his youth, an excellent footballer and played for the famous Ghanaian club of the time, Real Republikans, with well-known Ghanaian stars like Jones Attuquayefio, Anue Cofie, Edward Boateng and others. He was Ghana’s squash champion for a period in the 1970s. He is an avid reader, particularly of political biographies, history books and novels. He loves highlife, jazz and classical music and is a big fan of movies.
Nana Akufo-Addo is married to Rebecca Akufo-Addo (nee Griffiths-Randolph). They have five daughters and two grandchildren.