by Samuel Awuku (UK)
The presidential debate of 30th October 2012 in Tamale between four of the presidential aspirant of our beloved country is another giant step in enveloping our democratic literacy. All participants in my opinion carried themselves very responsibly and demonstrated their true personality and intellectual capability. Whilst it will be difficult to declare anyone of the aspirants a winner, it is however prudent to analyse some of the responses provided by each candidate.
There was a clear indication that from the debate that our country needs to develop and it is developing but needs robust and tried economic policies to accelerate such development. Pivotal to this is the fact that as a country, we are so good at borrowing policies from elsewhere without the know-how to implement them. Therefore, the call from all aspirant for manpower and human resources and skills development as a necessary and sufficient step in implementing our development agenda is 100% +1 as welcomed. One important thing that was missing out which in my view is central to enhancing and developing our human resource potential is change of attitude and mentality of our people. Frankly, the way we perceive and analyse social, economic and political issues as Ghanaians generally is a barrier to any developmental effort of any individual political party or group of political parties. We find it difficult to distance issues from personality and view them objectively in national interest. Our understanding of party politicking is below par and our motives are generally self-centred. These are are reality which we must all face and challenged if we really want to move this country from low middle income to high middle income status which we so deserve.
Another thing that I found somewhat worrying is the approach that the NPP aspirant Hon. Nana Akuffo-Addo was using; rarely did he made any point without attacking the NDC. Nana also refused whether intentionally or unintentionally to engage with the issues as practical and real as possible. He seemed to deliberately distort fact for political expediency. A case in point is the conscious effort to delink the unemployment challenges facing Ghana and the level of debt the NPP government handed over to the NDC from the global financial and economic crises. The reality is that globally unemployment and debt is a problem facing even developed countries such as USA and the UK; so trying to gain a political advantage from this is unethical. Also, to declare the 14% growth as a windfall is unfortunate to say the least. Would Hon. Nana Akuffo-Addo or Dr. Michael Abu Sakara have said the same thing if this growth gain was under the leadership of the NPP or CPP respectively? What is the empirical evidence for statements such ; Ghanaians have lost confidence in the NHIS and Agriculture losing its strategic importance with the discovery of oil? In my view, such statements are just rhetorics for party gains but not in the national interest and should be avoided.
Also worrying is this idea of free SHS that the CPP and NPP are propagating. This is worrying because, it is devoid of realism. I remember when Nana was questioned about this idea (I will not call it a vision) which is actually enshrined in the UN Convention on the Right of the Child (UNCRC) he was not able to provide a cogent and tangible answer. The truth is that all countries that bought into the UNCRC would in one point in their development address all the provisions including right to free education. So, the 'when' of such implementation is essential taking into into consideration all other factors. Mr Hassan Ayariga was desperately trying to unveil the unrealistic nature of the free SHS propaganda from the CPP and NPP but was short of clarity. I am with what he was try to say: Ghana as a nation is not ready for free SHS. This is because our schools need for resources, and quality teachers who are well paid. Information Communication Technologies (ICT) need to be provided every school and use as a tool and a resource for effective teaching and learning. Our educational system should aim for quality and not quantity. Hence the foundation for this is important. This is why also concurred with the President John Mahama on prioritising the Basic Education provision at this point in our development. At least one can trust the NDC when it comes to taking bold and robust decisions regarding education. Personally, I will go for more resourcing of our schools rather than providing free SHS. Centrally, I will prioritise quality teaching through sound teacher training and competitive renumeration for teachers and all those who work in education. Probably, Nana Akuffo-Addo is basing his promise on replicating Mr. Tony Blair's message of "Education, Education, Education" that brought the Labour Party into power in 1997. However, Tony's message was informed by years of empirical evidence and pivot of which was educational resourcing including teacher training and retention, ICT and infrastructure provision. Has Nana and Sakara any evidence that the priority of our country at this point in time is free SHS? If yes, then they should go for it but I doubt if it is. So, it is still not late for them to change course on this issue of education for as it is, it is too utopia.
In the next debate I will like all participant to adopt more nationalistic approach rather than partisan. They should take clues from the way President Mahama engaged, interacted and interrogated the issues at stake and do the same. It is obvious, that CPP will not win but in my opinion Dr Sakara is a great asset to our nation and could be involved in the strategic side of things in any Government and I can see President Mahama doing this because of what he said in his closing remark; involving all Ghanaians respective of their political affiliation, gender and ethnicity in harnessing our resources for accelerated development. If I have a vote, this is what I will vote for. I am keenly looking forward to the next debate. I love Ghana.