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Stealing Akufo-Addo’s Policy on Free Senior High Schools?

Sun, 2 Mar 2014 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Folks, there is a new wave of calumny against President Mahama following his announcement last Tuesday that his government would soon introduce a progressively free Day SHS education even as it turns attention to improving infrastructure.

He has just been reported as saying that the fee-free education will be extended to cover boarding schools too. Now, the NPP must really feel threatened, apparently because the wind in its political sail is being blown away by this strategic move by the government.

Fee-free SHS at this time means disarming the NPP and reducing its electioneering campaigns for Election 2016 to rubble even before that time comes. No new buzz-word for it!!

But some of us were quick to take on President Mahama because we felt his announcement raised more questions than answers to his government’s handling of affairs. We did so on the basis of our concerns about the weak economy and fears that such a policy may entail further expenditure and risk being unsustainable. We fear that not enough exists for the policy to begin being implemented.

Of course, we also condemned the use of promises as a political trump-card, especially at a time that fulfilling such promises has been difficult. In other words, the promises have become double-edged swords that are cutting the government apart in the estimation of the public.

Now, a new twist given to the President’s announcement has surfaced to throw everything out of gear. Critics of President Mahama have begun accusing him of “stealing Akufo-Addo’s idea/policy” regarding the fee-free SHS even though he had disparaged it when Akufo-Addo stood on it for the 2012 electioneering campaign stunts.

Some NPP activists have condemned President Mahama for double-dealing and charged him with lack of vision. Others such as Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, Osei Asibey, and many more have expressed concerns that “an incompetent NDC government” would not be able to implement the policy successfully and that it would only mess it up for the NPP.

Another critic, Gaby Otchere Darko, has taken matters further to say that by deciding to implement this policy, the NDC administration was derailing the NPP’s campaign for Election 2016 because it still considers the fee-free SHS education as its flagship policy initiative. Now that their arch political rival has decided to go ahead with its implementation, what else will the NPP have to hammer on to grab the attention of the electorate? That is their own cup of tea, though.

A political strategist at the University of Ghana, Dr. Kobby Mensah, says the NPP) owns the free Senior High School idea on which the 2012 elections were fought. Speaking today on Radio XYZ’s news analysis programme (“The Analyst”), he: “When it comes to campaign strategy, they [NPP] can lay claim to the free SHS because it was sitting in the constitution, nobody made noise about it, they picked it up and told Ghanaians that they could actually offer them free SHS.

“So they can rightly own the message of free SHS as opposed to the NDC. So I’m actually saying that although the NDC is actually drawn the battle ground on free SHS, you can rightly say that that message actually belongs to the NPP and as a result the NDC has actually given credence that free SHS is possible”.

But the main rub is this: Should such a policy not be implemented by the incumbent government if it can just because it is not its own brain-child? Or, should the policy be left on the shelf to gather dust, hoping that it will be implemented only if the NPP wins political power?

More importantly, wherein lies the theft that President Mahama’s critics are accusing him of? Is it strange (or even wrong) for his government to implement ideas formulated by political opponents who couldn’t win the elections?

I remember very well suggesting sometime ago that the policy statements made by the various Presidential Candidates at the Institute of Economic Affairs’ pre-elections “Presidential Debates” should be assessed and feasible ones adopted for implementation by the incumbent government. If what President Mahama has announced happens to be one of such policies, wherein lies the wrongdoing to warrant his being labelled as a thief of Akufo-Addo’s policy?

Is it more beneficial for such ideas to remain in the heads of the originators or on shelves as party manifestoes or to be adopted and implemented by the government of the day for the good of the country and its people?

This justification for implementing ideas/policies of political rivals does not in any way accentuate my support for just anything. I still have serious concerns about this fee-free SHS policy and will remain skeptical (or even cynical) unless I see clear signs of proper management of affairs to change my stance.

There is too much laxity in the system to warrant my stance. Not until the economy is better managed for it to grow and the necessary durable parameters set, I doubt whether rushing to implement such a policy isn’t merely politically motivated.

To those bad-mouthing President Mahama over this SHS issue, I say ”Hold your breath” because he is no thief of Akufo-Addo’s ideas. The 1992 Constitution provides for it. Interestingly, when Akufo-Addo harped on it, his political opponents accused him of stealing it from that Constitution.

President Mahama himself has rebuffed such an accusation, telling people in the Central Region that “nobody owns the copyright” to free SHS education.

According to him, the idea of free SHS has not been copyrighted at the Registrar General’s Department by any one individual. Thus, his government is only seeking to comply with the Constitution which provides that education be made progressively free.

Even as the NPP activists credit Akufo-Addo with that policy statement, they need not look far ahead to see the other side of the coin. Madam Akua Donkor, founder of the Ghana Freedom Party, has claimed that policy as her brain-child, and loudly accused Akufo-Addo as a thief of it. She claims she is readying herself to sue him as such.

Now, the controversy is thickening: The NPP people claim President Mahama has stolen Akufo-Addo’s ideas on fee-free SHS; President Mahama says the 1992 Constitution is the source of that idea; Madam Akua Donkor is jumping on Akufo-Addo as a thief of her ideas.

Who is really stealing whose ideas? And are the ideas in and of themselves really worth anything unless implemented? And is implementing them by whoever is in power tantamount to their being stolen? Ghanaian politics is, indeed, full of nonsense.

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.