A picture of Prof. Jane Naana Opoku Agyemang, holding a little girl on an open-top campaign vehicle, one of her talking to a little boy and another with a girl on her lap are all on my mind.
What also keeps playing in my mind is that remarkable maiden speech she made when she was outdoors as the Vice-Presidential candidate of the NDC.
I can imagine what was going through Naana Jane’s mind as she looked in the eyes of those children, who, in turn, fixed their gaze on her. What does the future hold for them? As a woman, as a mother, she must have been feeling the powerful impulses to ensure that these children will grow up into a better world in which the resources of the country are used for the benefit of all and not just to enrich a few. Naana Jane has said: “Villages and towns across our country are full of stories like mine. They are full of parents making untold sacrifices for the sake of their children and their futures. They are full of market women, fisherwomen and farmers toiling in the sun to feed the children on their backs and those they have left behind at home. They are full of young mothers and fathers who are balancing family life, work obligations, and entrepreneurial ambitions; the young mother and, yes, the young father, who often has to manage family life, employment or entrepreneurship seamlessly. We are people who jump over many hurdles.“
Being with those children, she must have been thinking to herself, how can I explain to them the situation of our country today, including the corruption that is depleting resources that should be used for development. So many in the country are being left out of the development process. Naana Jane said in her maiden speech: “The 21st century is nearly 20 per cent over and we shouldn’t be here as a country, living with inexcusable unsanitary conditions, with our babies still dying of malaria; our women delivering on the bare floor, our youth bewildered and unable to see their way ahead, parents confused about the future their children face and the quality of education they are getting…, we shouldn’t be here, the very foundations of our democracy so threatened by unimaginable levels of arrogance, intolerance and violence; humans playing God; our economy is struggling, our tongues tied to the roof of our mouths; our citizens feeling unsafe; our farmers unsure of when to plant crops due to climate change; our environments under severe threats; our youths perishing on their way to find better lives; .. .”
Education is said to be free, but some children are not free enough from the challenges of their socio-economic existence to fully benefit from what is their right. This is a country where some people are being disenfranchised and excluded just because they happen to be from a certain part of the country. Naana also alluded to incidents during the voter registration exercise- “violence, brute force, bloodletting and sheer breakdown of law and order in an otherwise straightforward act of registering to vote.” This descent she attributes to: “when there appears to be selective justice; when some offenders are not even placed on the hook but are hailed and promoted for being nasty and violent”.
Naana Jane must again have been thinking, how do I answer if these children pose their favourite question: “Why”, or if they add a few words and ask the storyteller: “So what did you do?” or “What did you say to that?”
In the midst of the realities confronting the nation, Naana Jane has chosen to work with a leader and a party that is determined to change the narrative. “I am excited to make the case to the good people of Ghana as to why the J&J ticket is best poised to confront the daunting challenges of our time and usher Ghana into recovery and prosperity”. The National Democratic Congress, a people-centred party, born out of a passion and commitment -ignited by the Founder, Flt. Lt Jerry John Rawlings (may he rest in peace!) - to ensuring inclusiveness and prosperity for all. That is definitely where Naana Jane belongs!
As she says, as a teacher, her responsibility has included ensuring that all children in her class do well. She painstakingly seeks to understand the needs of each student so she can work with them to bring out and deploy the potential in them. She is determined to look out for all and work for the good of all. She insists, “Obiara ka ho” (everyone matters, everyone is involved). Which is why she has gone around the country talking about what the NDC Manifesto offers -Jobs and Prosperity for All!
She puts the choice before the country very directly: “The choice we have in this election is clear: we can either build a Ghana where every citizen regardless of background is afforded equal opportunity to become their best selves. Or we can continue on a path where a few people attempt to control and dictate the destiny of the people who have given them the privilege to govern.”
Naana also says, “It is clear that with the right direction and resolve, with all of us being part of the forward march, our country is destined for greatness. We can and must right the course of our country. We all admit that we can put our country on a firmer, more sustainable path, a path of peace in order to move forth in ways that are meaningful and clear.”
She would have been saying to those children as they looked into her eyes: “.. dream big; remain focused. You can grow to become anything you want to be.” Because, as Naana proudly stated: “Truth be told, despite all our challenges, Ghana remains a special place where any dream is possible, ..and where anyone -be it a little boy from Bole or a little girl from Komenda -can grow up to be anything they want to be. Even President. Even Vice-President!”
Mindful that 60% of the population will be under the age of 30 in a few years, she rightly focuses on youth and the need to systematically reform all our systems to effectively address the aspirations of our youth and country. She recognizes the need for meaningful quality and comprehensive education that responds to the future we can actualize. Her priorities, aligned with those of the NDC, include:
o Leveraging vocational and technical training to equip many into meaningful and fulfilling work.
o Providing opportunities that transcend political patronage, “connection” and the practice of whom-you know,
o A shift to equal and fair opportunities based on merit – an imperative for sustainable economic growth.
In respect of all the young people, Naana says, “Clearing the hurdles in their path, giving them a hand up and not just a hand out; and offering them plans and not promises, these must be the immediate priorities of our national agenda”.
This woman is certainly determined to help address the needs of this country and she does not take anything for granted. She even openly addresses what it took for her to get on board the ticket. She says, ‘In the past and more recently, I have had extensive discussions with HE John Mahama about issues confronting our country and his vision for the coming years. These have been broad, passionate and engaging. In John Mahama, you find a person who is thoughtful, visionary, makes no claim to perfection and admits to mistakes and valuable lessons learnt. Our society will be better served with such down to earth, considerate and reflective leadership.“
John Mahama and Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang offer the right leadership - Servant leadership, transformational leadership -that can be trusted to deliver the people development as well as the infrastructure development the nation needs. John and Jane! - a new combination for the Presidency in Ghana. A man and a woman. A fresh combination.
The power of women must be harnessed for the good of our country. Naana reminds females, particularly, that they have an opportunity through her being on the NDC Presidential ticket to contribute immensely to changing the fortunes of this country.
“To my daughters and sisters: we are in this together ... we can do it”.
Naana Jane beckons all Ghanaians to work with the unique John and Jane combination to restore the fortunes of our dear country: “I extend a hand to everyone, no matter how disappointed you have become; no matter the depth of your frustration, your anger, your despair. Come! Let’s chart a path for our country built on values of merit, trust, responsible citizenship, caring, putting others first, simple polite language…..
As a country, Ghana has been poised for far too long. Ghana must be in full flight …Forth in the name of our country we will go.”
The time is NOW! Let’s make it happen!