Opinions Mon, 17 Nov 2008

IEA Debates Will Not Help Ghanaians Elect A Good President

The recent IEA Presidential debates in Ghana have failed to ask the presidential candidates pertinent questions that have occupied the airwaves and the minds of many Ghanaians. That is not to say the questions that were asked on general policy directions and ideas (they were not even asked about plans, but rather about ideas) to achieve specific developmental goals were unnecessary. But the questions only elicited well-rehearsed answers, and rehashing of beautifully written “wishful thinking” (which are not necessarily executable) in the manifestos of the parties. The questions sound too academic and have not helped Ghanaians to know which of the candidates is more honest, morally upright, and better-positioned to fight corruption and the rampant waste that has become part and parcel of our politics. The debates would not change much about how Ghanaians will vote in the December elections. Both debates—in a shallow manner—probed the candidates only about the general ideas in their manifestos. As someone suggested somewhere on the internet, I believe the moderators were not ready to read manifestos of 400 pages or more to design questions that would really put the candidates on the defensive. ON PARTIES’ MANIFESTOS AND PROMISES ON CAMPAIGN TRAIL:

On the parties’ manifestos and the promises the candidates are making through the length and breadth of Ghana in the campaign trail, couldn’t the IEA moderators have asked them difficult questions about why they made the promises and how they intended to achieve them? For instance, Prof. Mills has promised to develop an airport in Cape Coast. Couldn’t the IEA moderators have asked Prof. Mills if there was really the need for an airport in Cape Coast and what those needs were? Couldn’t they have asked him how he intended to find money to build the airport? Prof. Mills and John Mahama are also promising that the School Feeding Program would be extended to cover all basic and primary schools in Ghana and school uniforms would also be provided free-of-charge to pupils. Couldn’t the IEA moderators have asked for proper clarification on the coverage of this intention and how the party intended to fund the policy?

Nana Akufo-Addo has promised Ghanaians that he would build one public university in each region of Ghana. Couldn’t the IEA moderators have asked him if indeed there was the need for one public university in each region of Ghana? Couldn’t they have asked him how many such universities the present NPP government has established in 8 years? Couldn’t they have also asked Nana Akufo-Addo if he had already identified the locations in the regions for the universities and where he would find money to build them? Nana Akufo-Addo has again promised to build a manufacturing industry in each district of Ghana. The last time I checked, Ghana had at least 110 districts. So, Nana Akufo-Addo promises to build at least 110 manufacturing industries during his tenure as Ghana’s President if he is elected. Couldn’t the IEA moderators have asked him if his government was going to build the industries directly instead of allowing the private sector to develop them? Couldn’t they have asked him what kind of manufacturing industry he envisaged for a few named districts? Couldn’t they have asked him if it was prudent for government to invest in such ventures when government is selling Ghana Telecom, VALCO and other state-owned enterprises? Couldn’t they have asked him where he intended to find money to build these industries all over Ghana?

Nana Akufo-Addo has also promised to change Ghana into a FIRST WORLD country during his tenure as President. Couldn’t the IEA moderators have asked him if he had meant that he would turn Ghana into something like America, England, Canada, Germany, Japan, etc. in his 8 years in office assuming he got elected twice? Couldn’t they have asked him how he was going to achieve this remarkable feat? Nana Akufo-Addo promised also that he would completely erase illiteracy in Ghana during his tenure of office. Couldn’t the IEA moderators have asked him how he was going to do that in 8 years? Nana also promised $1billion for artisans in Kumasi. Couldn’t the IEA moderators have asked for clarification for us to know if he intended that he would give them the money in loans or equipment, and over what period of time? Couldn’t they have asked him what the present NPP government has done for artisans in that direction?


The questions discussed above were just a few that I thought should have been asked of the candidates based on their manifestos and their utterances on the campaign trail. But the most important issues that occupy the airwaves and the minds of Ghanaians, which the IEA debates should have grilled the candidates of, must have been the activities and actions of previous regimes under our present Constitution. Also, the candidates must have been asked issues that their opponents are discussing about them daily on radio, at drinking bars, etc. etc.

PROFESSOR MILLS: For instance, they could have asked Prof. Mills if he knew anything about the shaving of Selassie Djentu and if he supported the action. Ghanaians would be interested in learning about the candidate’s opinion on something like this. He could be asked why he did nothing about it if he was against it and how he would behave presently if confronted with such a situation. Prof. Mills could also have been asked questions about his role in guaranteeing the Quality Grain loan to Ms. Julliet Cotton, and what steps he took as a Veep to ensure that Ghana did not lose money in the deal. All that we have heard on this issue is twisted propaganda from court proceedings that are not easily comprehensible by the average Ghanaian. Any other controversial events that border on good governance that might have occurred during the NDC regime when Prof. Mills was a vice President would have also been a fair game. Prof. Mills could have been asked about what he thought about his opponents’ fear or propaganda that he was a sick man who must not be entrusted with the destiny of the nation. Finally, Prof. Mills could have been asked about his opponents’ speculation that by allowing President Rawlings to campaign for him, he was not going to be his own man if he won the elections.

NANA AKUFO-ADDO: Having been a top official in Kufuor’s administration, Nana Akufo-Addo could have been asked about his views on the purchase of Hotel Kufuor in less than 2 years of Kufuor’s presidency. He could have been asked if he thought the purchase was prudent. Nana could have been asked if he was satisfied with the investigation of the matter by CHRAJ; particularly, when CHRAJ had failed to contact Gizelle who was prepared to come down and testify. Nana Akufo-Addo could also have been asked about the circumstances surrounding the missing 77 parcels of cocaine and if he thought the NPP government had acted prudently. He could have been asked if he thought the Georgina Wood Commission had done a good job in investigating the matter and what their finding was. He could have been asked if he thought the appointment of Mrs. Wood as Ghana’s Chief Justice immediately after that investigation was a prudent action of the NPP government, which he was part of.

Nana Akufo-Addo could still have been asked whether he thought it was a good idea for a government to ask a Supreme Court to overturn an earlier decision in favor of an ordinary citizen to one in favour of the government even if the Constitution allows for requests for reviews. He could have been asked if it was prudent for a government to appoint a new justice to the bench of the Supreme Court when an important case of which that government is a party to is coming up for hearing. The IEA could have developed scores of questions from this area. What about Nana’s role as Ghana’s Attorney General? The IEA could have simply stated to Nana that that it had been published in the Daily Graphic that some NPP women executive from Dzorwulo had been arrested at KIA when they had attempted to export narcotics drugs out of the country but the case never came up for prosecution. They could have then asked him why the suspects had not been prosecuted and if that would not confuse Ghanaians that there was selective justice when he was Ghana’s A-G.

The moderators could have also explained to Nana Akufo-Addo that since the current spate of drug abuse and drug trafficking in Ghana was worrying, it was important for him to address the rumor that he uses drugs and deals in them, and has many drug-dealer friends who are contributing money to his campaign. They could have made a perfect case for why Nana must not focus on the source of the rumor but rather clear his name if the rumors are false. Where the specific questions, which I have raised are general, the questions could be asked of all the other candidates as well. That is the only way Ghanaians could have identified which of the candidates would be honest when given our mandate. As it were, the IEA moderators have treated the candidates like babies that require extreme care or, like the Pope, who deserves total reverence. In the end, the Ghanaian voter remains the loser he or she has always been. Never mind that a lot of Ghanaians seem to be happy with the IEA debates. One friend of mine explained that as a result of the “general mediocrity” in our society. It makes a lot of sense to me, but I also think that there has been a little improvement upon the 2000 and 2004 debates. On the whole, however, I am disappointed in the IEA debates. There are too many cowards in Ghana. That is why it is taking us too long to have a real change in how we do most of our things. BUT, OUR OBAMA WILL COME SOMEDAY SOON.

BISHOP Dela efodela@bishop.com

Columnist: Bishop Dela