S. Kwaku Asare, New Achimota
President John Mills’ 4 "I" versus Nana Addo's 4 "E," over to you!
An election year provides a platform for political parties and their leadership to engage the electorate in a conversation about the issues facing the nation and how they intend to govern.
Expectedly, the party in power (incumbent) seeks to convince the electorate to stay the course. Typically, the incumbent anchors this argument by touting its achievements, if it has any, or demonstrating to the electorate that it has fulfilled its prior campaign promises. An exceptional incumbent leader will not only showcase his achievements but will also chart a path forward.
In contrast, the opposition party seeks to convince the electorate to change course. It does this by showing that the incumbent has failed to fulfill its promises, worsen the standard of living, or run out of ideas. Exceptional opposition parties will also chart a path forward for the country.
As a general rule, therefore, an election puts an incumbent on trial. The opposition is analogous to a plaintiff, the incumbent is analogous to a defendant and the voters are analogous to a jury.
Continuing the metaphor of the political trial, the defendant (incumbent) has the burden of persuasion and must carry this burden by a preponderance of the evidence. Indeed, the opposition needs not do much but to show that the incumbent has failed to perform. For if the electorate concludes that the incumbent has failed, they should and will vote it out of power.
One of the by-products of this electoral reality is that opposition parties can win on sheer propaganda while incumbents must show concrete achievements. This explains the surprising defeat of NPP at the 2008 polls, which NDC won by highlighting the failings of the NPP.
President Mills, as the incumbent, and Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo, as the challenger, have both made their opening arguments to herald the opening of the 2012 election and campaign year.
The incumbent appears to be emphasizing an "I" strategy. From his arguments as well as those of his surrogates, the incumbent’s strategy is going to be based on "Insults, Invectives, Insinuations and Innuendos." This is evident from their focus on insulting Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo. One day, they accuse him of "peeing" behind a mosque. The next day they release a video of him allegedly fondling a woman in front of several studio artists. Followed by allegations that he has freed drug barons and provided diplomatic passports to people. Sadly, these allegations are prima facie senseless and have always been quickly disproved.
But Nana Addo is not the only target of the “I” bombs. Farmers are “kokoase nkurasefuo.” Nurses are “stupid and are on probation.” Chairman Jerry Rawlings and ex President Kuffuor have had their fair share of the invectives and insults. Indeed, not even our traditional authorities have been spared as the Volta chiefs recently found it.
Perhaps, President Mills and his strategists have forgotten that they are no longer in opposition. Perhaps, they do not realize that the burden of an incumbent in an election year is to showcase accomplishments. Perhaps, they have learnt the wrong lessons from their victory in 2008 or perhaps they cannot find accomplishments to run on.
The most disturbing aspect of this strategy is the number of paid ministers who are peddling these lies, hence violating their oaths of office by bringing their offices into disrepute.
Ironically, the opposition that could win on sheer propaganda has chosen to campaign on ideas and has emphasized an "E" strategy. In opening arguments, Nana Addo has indicated that should he be elected, his focus will be on "Education, Enablers, Enterprise and Employment."
Nana Addo has boldly claimed that pre-tertiary education is a natural right of all Ghanaians. Accordingly, he is going to redirect resources to assure that all Ghanaians of pre-tertiary education age are in school acquiring critical skills that will make them competitive in today's global economy. He is also going to revamp the pre-tertiary educational sector by attracting, rewarding and retaining highly qualified teachers who can use cutting edge pedagogical devices and technology to educate the future entrants into the labor market.
Nana Addo has also argued that government has an important role to create an enabling environment for economic development and growth. As a result, he is going to bring our laws, courts, and law enforcement to the 21st century. He has properly noted that without law and law enforcement, only a spot market will thrive but the nation needs a credit market to sustain growth. He also understands and has noted that the property laws of the country must be revamped to eliminate land guards and the headaches incidental to acquiring property.
But enablers are not only laws under Nana Addo's platform, they include a comprehensive framework to bring the country's WETT (Water, Electricity, Toilet and Traffic) into the 21st century. Accordingly, reminiscent of the 1971 Busia's plan, he plans to invest heavily and massively in the country's transport, irrigation and sewage sectors.
The massive infrastructural drive under WETT is the gateway to Nana Addo's third E, which is employment. He has said that unless our citizens are employed, they cannot play their proper roles as citizens. The WETT program will create thousands of direct jobs to be filled by the well-trained graduates coming out of the schools under his education program. In addition, it is expected that even more indirect jobs will follow from this WETT infrastructure.
Finally, Nana Addo understands that the private sector is the real engine of growth. That is why he has proposed the creation of "Enterprise" zones in the rural areas. The cornerstone of the plan is to provide tax holidays to enterprises that set up industries in the rural areas to utilize local raw materials and employ local labor.
It is expected that the enterprise zones will transform our export sector from its primary emphasis to a manufacturing emphasis within 10 years, while expanding the service sector. And these transformations will occur, while simultaneously increasing agricultural production, by the reliance on modern agricultural technology.
The electorate must constantly remind itself that elections are an expensive exercise. The expense is only justified if those who seek their votes present competing views of how to improve their lives. They must listen to the arguments and cast a vote that rewards those who present a forward-looking vision while punishing those who abuse the electoral platform.
President John Mills’ 4 "I" versus Nana Addo's 4 "E," over to you!