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Feature Article of Friday, 23 March 2012

Columnist: Mensah, Nana Akyea

On Education, “Is Akufo-Addo Doing A 419?”

Part One

by Nana Akyea Mensah, The Odikro.

INTRODUCTION:

I listened to Nana Akufo-Addo, Ghana's 2012 presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party, the NPP, talking hard on the BBC World Service radio, on his campaign promise of free secondary school education for all, and I was utterly disappointed. To be honest and frank about it, it even made me smell a very unusual rat. For the purposes of this article, the relevant part of the interview begins from the eighteenth minute into the conversation in the 24 minute interview he gave to HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur, on Monday, 5 March, 2012. It is the part that deals with his educational policy.
The reason why I paid attention to this part of the interview is because, like many Ghanaians, I am deeply troubled with the mess our educational system is in right now. Unfortunately, it was literally a mind-blowing experience! I have since been wondering if it was even a very good idea at all, to have listened him. This is because, I suspect, I have been traumatised by the experience.
For those of you who might be familiar with the symptoms, mine include an intrusive and repetitive need to wonder aloud as to whether or not Nana Akufo-Addo really thought he could get away with such a lugubrious drollery? You see, I have not been able to sleep properly after hearing what I heard! The only solution is to wonder aloud and clearly. But more of those later...

BBC's HARDtalk INTERVIEW: On Education:
First of all, I do not wish to prejudice the reader until the bare facts are clearly ascertained. I do encourage the readers to study first the interview for themselves, and form their own conclusions. I remain confident that most will agree with mine, stated below. You may listen to the relevant portion from the interview on BBC's HARDtalk: Nana Akufo Addo 05 Mar 12 from the 18.59th minute to 20.33. [1] I have also provided a transcript of the relevant portion to facilitate the analysis.
Transcript of BBC's HARDtalk, by the Odikro:
Nana Akufo Addo 05 March, 2012 from the 19.59th minute to 20.33:
PRESENTER: The greatest indictment, frankly, of your government, is the way in which you squandered money and left this huge hole in the budget deficit and I think you would now acknowledge that that was a profound problem the last time your party was in power?
NANA AKUFO-ADDO: No, I don't believe... I don't believe... I think that... No, I don't accept this proposition at all.
PRESENTER: I think what the Ghanaian people, it seems to me, from reading a lot of stuff from the Ghanaian press, want to know is, where exactly is the money going to come from next time around if you are in power, for some of the very extravagant promises you've made? You for example have offered free secondary schooling for all Ghanaians. A promise you say you would absolutely deliver in your four years in power?
NANA AKUFO-ADDO: Absolutely! Absolutely! Absolutely.
PRESENTER: So have you costed it? How much will it cost?”
NANA AKUFO-ADDO: The costing... the costing... is being... is being done. I mean very very soon we will be in the position.
PRESENTER: No, you must have costed it! You can't make a promise like that without costing it?
NANA AKUFO-ADDO: No, no, no, very, very soon we are going to be...
PRESENTER: How much?
NANA AKUFO-ADDO: Very, very soon, we are going to be... put it together. I prefer...
PRESENTER: You don't know how much?
NANA AKUFO-ADDO: I do know how much, understand, but...
PRESENTER: Oh, then tell me that?
NANA AKUFO-ADDO: I will prefer to tell the people of Ghana directly before I tell you.
PRESENTER: What do you m...? Many of them are on HARDtalk, you can tell me and they will know?
NANA AKUFO-ADDO: No, it doesn't matter, I prefer to make that statement to the people of Ghana directly first, as to the cost, and any time...
PRESENTER: So you do know the cost?
NANA AKUFO-ADDO: Oh, we do. We have a very good idea how... and how also we are going to finance it.
PRESENTER: Well Okay, you are obviously not going to give me the figures but just tell me how you are going to pay for it. Because clearly, it is going to be a great cost if you are going to train teachers, going to build new schools... ?
NANA AKUFO-ADDO: All of that have been adequately costed and we believe that first of all, the new revenues will help, more efficient management of what we have now, growth in the Ghanaian economy - these are the three sources which are going to enable us to fulfil that promise. And it is a promise that has been made solemnly to the Ghanaian people, and it is going to be solemnly kept. Not because it is a campaign promise, but because it is a necessity for the future of our country to educate all our young people...
PRESENTER: Indeed...

COMMENTS...
As I was saying earlier, the “only solution is to wonder aloud and clearly”. And that is exactly what I set out to do: wonder aloud, and give my reasons for cause to this wonder. Apart from that, I was also deeply saddened by the fact that listening to Akufo-Addo, an important politician in Ghana, on the radio, automatically reminded me of the 419 e-mail scams that we have all become familiar with. The thought came to my mind effortlessly. I think it was an instinctive warning or a reminder that there really are desperate people out there, with doubtful intentions and abilities, ready to ruthlessly swindle anyone lowering their guard!
Particularly, I realized the stunning similarities between these 419 scams and the performance of Akufo-Addo, vis-a-vis his campaign promise of “free education for all”, how he is going about it, and the equivocations and self-contradictions within such a short space of time, and I did not like what I found in common between the two. My thesis is that Akufo-Addo has been around for some time. We have not known him at any other time championing free education in the past. Even as a Presidential candidate in the 2008 Presidential election, we did not hear any of that.
So what explains this new passion? And why does he not want to share the details for a national discussion? Making a promise of free education for all without providing a single detail, is exactly what we mean by an empty promise. The only reason a politician in a campaign year would do that is to reduce the sacred hopes and yearnings of our struggling youth for a decent future, into a cynical political joke of an opportunist who is ready to dupe everyone, even our deepest wishes and the most cherished of aspirations, for the sake of political power.

1. AKUFO-ADDO Shows That He Is Not Serious...
First, Akufo-Addo is clearly fumbling. He has been promising free secondary education without even bothering to figure out how much it was going to cost. He answers the simple question as though he had never thought of it before. He shifts positions until he has made a complete about turn in just a couple of minutes apart! Proving clearly that he is making “a promise like that without knowing how much it would cost”! And surprisingly and timidly, he stammers out the fact that he was not in a position to answer a simple question, “How much will it cost?”
Indeed, what he says initially is that “the costing is being done”, and that “very, very soon we will be in the position”, plus, “Very very soon, we are going to be... put it together”, and then all of a sudden, “I do know how much”! This type of behaviour is known in the Akan language as “Ore totow paapaa do.” It literally means “he is throwing it, one on top of the other”. Where “one” here refers to not just any normal lie, but exclusively to type of lies lacking in intelligence, which is the hallmark of a typical “419”.
This 419 threshold is more than being at the end of one's wits. It is also a good barometer of how desperate Akufo-Addo is becoming, and the lengths he is ready to go. It made me to feel angry and frustrated because I find it nauseating to hear a politician trying to pull our legs and toying with an issue as sensitive as education. Don't get me wrong, it is not that Akufo-Addo has no right to promise us free education. On the contrary, I like very much the idea of free education coming from Akufo-Addo of late, what gives me the creeps is the way he is going about it.
The only positive thing about this newly-found focus on education, is the hope that this might facilitate a national consensus on free education. I dare say that perhaps, if this had been a product of a lifetime of demonstrable passionate commitment to education on his part, it would have made a difference in not raising too many eye-brows in the first place, and also in the quality of the answers he gave at the interview. For example, some NPP politicians like Mr. Dan Botwe or Dr. Arthur Kennedy could most probably do better one day, if they continue with a path that both started as student leaders and continued as politicians. All is not entirely lost, but Akufo-Addo cannot be serious!

2. AKUFO-ADDO Contradicts Himself...
Akufo-Addo is asked a simple question:
PRESENTER: So have you costed it? How much will it cost?
NANA AKUFO-ADDO: The costing... the costing... is being... is being done. I mean very very soon we will be in the position.
It is quite understandable that in conducting a gargantuan operation of this scale, and providing what Akufo-Addo calls, “true value for money”, costing it would certainly take all the time for the campaign, and it might not suffice. What I found strange is the change from the future tense, to the past tense, when the costing came up in the end of the same interview. It is a change of grammar showcasing a monumental lie:
PRESENTER: Well Okay, you are obviously not going to give me the figures but just tell me how you are going to pay for it. Because clearly, it is going to be a great cost if you are going to train teachers, going to build new schools... ?
NANA AKUFO-ADDO: All of that have been adequately costed and we believe that first of all, the new revenues will help, more efficient management of what we have now, growth in the Ghanaian economy - these are the three sources which are going to enable us to fulfil that promise.
The jump from "The costing... the costing... is being... is being done. I mean very very soon we will be in the position." to "All of that have been adequately costed", is absolutely symptomatic of a self-conscious liar with a very short memory bordering on the Alzheimer condition. You cannot be in the process of gathering the relevant information and at the same time be clear about the cost! More so , when you yourself claim clearly that you are yet to "put it together"! It makes him come off as someone with the easy manners of a confidence trickster. It is when this is accompanied by an abject lack of coherence and or, basic intelligence that we have, what I call, the 419 syndrome. It normally attacks desperadoes, or potential criminals, who do not have the mental wherewithal to carry out their nefarious activities.
The “costing is being done”, and “the costing has been done” do not have the same meaning!

3. AKUFO-ADDO Is Really Not Ready With The Figures, But Willing To Lie About It...
One sure way of confirming, whether or not Akufo-Addo is suffering from the 419 syndrome is to find out about his own views concerning his performance in the interview. If he is deeply remorseful and embarrassed with his inept performance, then perhaps it is another problem other than the 419 condition. If however, he believes that he did very well, then he would have passed the litmus test, as a fully qualified 419 politician! It is pathetic how most of these so-called confidence tricksters are not even aware when they have betrayed their own trade with their own clumsiness.
I see as the only reason accounting for Akufo-Addo's swift abandoning of his initial position of "the costing is being done" to:
PRESENTER: You don't know how much?
NANA AKUFO-ADDO: I do know how much...
The only material explanation for this shift in position is to avoid the menace of the looming charge that he is making such a promise without costing it. Yet from his performance, that is exactly what he is doing in reality. He felt the need to tell the lie in order to beg the question:
NANA AKUFO-ADDO: The costing... the costing... is being... is being done. I mean very very soon we will be in the position.
"PRESENTER: No, you must have costed it! You can't make a promise like that without costing it?"
This is where the whole trouble began: “You can't make a promise like that without costing it?" So of course, just as the Presenter said, “No, you must have costed it!” Akufo-Addo must have immediately sensed danger, and therefore “got to know” the cost immediately he understood the implications of admitting he did not know. Akufo-Addo must have felt intimidated enough to rapidly massage the facts just after this question by saying immediately after this confession that he had costed it already, even though he just admitted that costing was not ready!
He did not have the self-confidence to maintain the original position which is more likely to be true and easier to believe and defend. Like a low-grade 419 con artist, he was pre-occupied by the need to appear and sound confident, ready and capable, so he ends up boxing himself into a hole of equivocations, stammering, and contradictions, making a mockery of himself. His troubles would have ended if he had admitted that he was just talking thin air with nothing yet on paper, even though he could already identify the general direction.
And then he could have swayed the aggressive questioner from trying to reduce him into a laughing-stock, and rather spare with him on the feasibility of the venture. Had he done that, he would have walked out of HARDtalk with high marks. This is a big pity because, considering the level of mediocrity now plaguing the leadership of the NPP, the National Chairman who is living in his own world, the General Secretary, a comedian whose comedies are not even funny, Akufo-Addo was really the last hope of the party, and he flunked it!
Perhaps, it is only Akufo-Addo who thinks that people believe his free education promise is not a campaign promise, simply because he says so. Is this clearly not a statement known by its maker to be untrue and made only in order to deceive? Mother nature usually has ways of protecting her own against the evil one, as they can often be smelt from afar. I certainly smell the 419 rat here! Is it not amazing the way by which they remain completely oblivious of the fact that one could see through their obvious tricks? Let God be praised! A regular occupational hazard of charlatans of this nature is the fact that they keep bumping into people far more intelligent than their types. How can a person less intelligent than the average Ghanaian, propose himself for the high office of the President? Is it because he grew up as a young man seeing his father as a President, and liked the money he must have stolen?

4. AKUFO-ADDO Plays With The Sentiments...
Finding the right solutions to what ails our educational system is certainly no easy task. What no politician should be allowed to do and get away with, is to begin making promises of free education, without any preparations whatsoever, as we see so clearly in this interview. I have been informed that Akufo-Addo reads my articles attentively, thus if he is reading this article, I am putting it directly to him that he is making these promises simply because he feels it will make him look good. It is a campaign décor, a “419” gimmick from someone who does seem to know what campaign message to adopt, and desperate enough to try anything!
The last time around, in the 2008 elections, Nana Akufo-Addo's major campaign message was that he was going to double the police force, if elected. He went through the length and breadth of statistics to prove that even though the country faces more alarming inadequacies in the teaching, medical, and other fields, the doubling of the police force was the most important, and the most urgent of our problems. Without any explanations, we do not hear anything about doubling the police force, what we hear are three things: Education, Education, and unlike Rick Perry, he did not forget the third one, except that, just like the “doubling of the police force,” he clearly has no clue about how much all this is going to cost, and is ready to lie about it.
He conducted this charade of doubling the police force, without ever being confronted about costing issues. This time around, his luck run out! Going by what we know about the Akufo-Addo campaign, as revealed by Otchere-Darko is that, they have no convictions of their own. They normally tailor their campaign messages in the way commercial products are advertised. Thus, if you discover that people will vote for a government that will provide public toilets, they automatically include in their manifesto the building of public toilets as a priority. This is good for our democracy, but it can also breed charlatans. Where candidates have no convictions of their own except “electoral indices” and what is “marketable”, politics based on principles fly through the window!
For instance, Otchere-Darko gives us a hint from the Akufo-Addo-camp version of the Holy Grail, a report supposedly written by Professor Larry Gibson, kept as a top secret by the selected few in the Akufo-Addo campaign team. He writes: “There is a lot of talk these days that the NPP lost the 2008 elections because the party did not market well the achievements of President Kufuor. Yet, Larry Gibson's polls had shown that Ghanaians simply were not convinced about the NPP record on the economy – the most important indicator on all the electoral indices. Until Larry Gibson's findings, we were all looking at the major indices concerning the significant reduction of incidents of poverty and the expansion of people's purchasing power, high GDP, etc.” Therefore, the necessary changes were made to bait their political hooks to suit the electoral fish!

5. AKUFO-ADDO Resorts To An Obvious Subterfuge...
If Nana Akufo-Addo were sincere about free education,, he would certainly seize each platform to talk passionately, sincerely, and openly talk about it and not beg for the opportunity to “talk directly to Ghanaians first” about whatsoever, like an American pleading “the Fifth Amendment”, or a criminal who wants to first “speak to his lawyer”! The “I want to talk directly first to Ghanaians” is nothing but a deceptive stratagem aimed at wriggling his way out of an inconvenient predicament of being exposed to all as a hoax! A mere 419.
The word “subterfuge” is variously defined as, “That to which one resorts for escape or concealment; an artifice employed to escape censure or the force of an argument” or “...an artifice or expedient used to evade a rule, escape a consequence, hide something. We all know what Akufo-Addo is hiding from! Why did he not tell Ghanaians directly, about the cost, the first time he announced the policy? What prevented him to show that he was making these promises after having carefully costed it in the first place? Does a serious politician need a lame plea about the need to “speak directly to Ghanaians first”, in order to escape a simple question, “No, you must have costed it! You can't make a promise like that without costing it?"
Indeed, in his shoes, I would have striven by now to have given this campaign a national ownership by encouraging national brain-storming, collecting and collating ideas, and striving to even develop a bi-partisan approach to ensure effectiveness and continuity. That way you take the politics out of it, and save it from becoming a mere campaign gimmick. If that had been the case, he would have avoided the need to equivocate about the obviously non-existent details.
What makes this even more pathetic is the fact that Nana Akufo-Addo announced the free secondary education the same week he promised that he was not going to make campaign promises. Just after saying he was not going to be like the NDC, that promised everything and is doing nothing. At the same time, he also said he was going to follow the strategy the NDC used to take power from the NPP. Then all of a sudden he started the “house-to-house” campaign, then a very big campaign promise - free education for all! - without even thinking about how much this would cost!
"The voters understand that they are electing a person more than they are electing a program.” Larry Gibson is reported to have counselled Akufo-Addo. “That´s universal,... Far more important is the assessment of what type of person this is,... Policies are important, but for elections people want a sense of the person, the more successful candidates are not necessarily those with the most popular policies" [3], and if I might add, those who sound sincere and intelligent. What we saw and heard in this interview was the exact opposite.
And to add insults unto injuries, Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo even wants us to believe that his campaign promise is not a campaign promise! This type of arrant taradiddle is not new in Ghanaian politics, even though it is mercifully rare. The nearest gaffe that is comparable to this was made as far back as 1978 by Colonel Ignatius Kutu Acheampong. Thus this clearly brings Nana Akufo-Addo to the ranks of a semi-literate former Ghanaian military ruler, whose mental acumen was equally seen to be well below par, in the way he pleaded for the consent of Ghanaians to help him to kindly prolong his military dictatorship with a plea for his Union Government: “The unity that I am talking of, is not about the Unity of one person. No, how can one person be united? It is about the unity, of the individual”!
Fortunately, Ghanaians know how to deal with jokers and charlatans of this sort. They have done it before, and will do it again!
Forward Ever! Backwards Never!!!

REFERENCES:
[1] Nana Akufo Addo, HARDtalk, BBC, 05 Mar 12, Mon, 5 Mar 12, Duration: 24 mins, Updated: Daily, Episodes available: Indefinitely: http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/ht#playepisode2
[2] Misrepresenting Larry Gibson Misrepresenting Larry Gibson, 29 July 2010, Daily Guide Editorial, by Qanawu Gabby, ModernGhana.com http://bit.ly/xaduxv]
[3] Tell them that they may know Feature Article | 21 December 2008 - ModernGhana.com http://bit.ly/w3TPiK

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