Feature Article of Thursday, 28 June 2012

Columnist: Sulemana, Iddisah

Why Mills must partake in the IEA encounters and debates

Permit me to start by congratulating the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) and Myjoyonline.com for the live broadcast of the IEA Presidential encounter with Dr. Abu Sakara. It is the hope of many (like me) that this would continue. It feels good to sit elsewhere far away from home, and be able to watch a live broadcast of such important national issues at home via the web.

At this encounter, many pressing issues were raised. And I am particularly happy that the encounter was based fully on issues of national interest. After laying out his vision for the country, Dr. Abu Sakara was bombarded with very intelligent questions from representatives of various institutions and agencies on issues including but not limited to unemployment (and job creation); cost of living; health care and health insurance; mental health; nutrition; access to portable water; creating knowledge and technology driven economy; dual citizenship; youth empowerment; framework for social investments; discrimination against women; women, small scale farming and food security; data and statistics generation; and education. I must say that I was highly impressed by Dr. Sakara’s submissions and his responses to the questions.

Myjoy (June 26, 2012) reports that neither President Mills nor Vice President John Mahama will participate in this year’s IEA Presidential encounters and debates. The decision by the government is based on the fact that “no sitting president or vice president in the 4th republic has participated in these debates. It is the party’s position to uphold that convention. The NDC wishes the IEA well and will continue to collaborate with it in other matters of mutual interest”

Who made that decision? How was it reached? Which are the “other matters of mutual interest” that the NDC is willing to collaborate with the IEA on? As pointed out above, all the issues raised and discussed at the Abu Sakara encounter were pressing national issues. And if the president cannot avail himself for such an encounter, then what issues is the NDC willing to collaborate on?

The word “unprecedented” has become an NDC-monopolized jargon for describing achievements. So, in the spirit of unprecedented achievements, the President must avail himself (very respectfully) for the discussion of national issues. The said convention that no sitting president or vice president in the 4th republic has participated in these debates is very wrong. President Mills must right that wrong. He must change that convention. We’re becoming an increasingly literate electorate, and issue based campaigns must take center-stage and be encouraged, whilst strongly discouraging politics of insults, tribes, religion, and lies.

These encounters and debates are a very great campaign platform to market and sell your ideas to Ghananains, and to convince us why we should vote for you and not the “other guys”. I appreciate that there are those who think politics is about life and death, and would continue to belong where they are no matter what. But there are also many floating and discerning voters who would decide where their votes go based on their impressions and beliefs about the ability and willingness of a candidate to help grow our economy, create jobs, and alleviate poverty, inter alia.

The decision to participate in such encounters and debates should not be a matter of choice and/or prerogative. We need to make it mandatory for all candidates. If you want to lead this country, you must be willing to avail yourself for public scrutiny of your ideas and policies, and how you can positively move our dear nation forward. The President is both the president of Ghana and the flagbearer of the NDC. If an event is organized for Presidential candidates, he must submit himself to that event in his capacity as the NDC Presidential candidate, because in the eyes of the electorate, and technically speaking, all presidential candidates are equal. If other candidates are willing to participate, the president must be willing to participate too. And if he can be coerced to participate, then he should be coerced to participate in the event that he is unwilling to freely avail himself!

It is in the interest of the President and his party to rescind that not-well-thought-through decision, and participate in the encounters and debates. We are earnestly looking forward to seeing the President, Nana Addo, and all other candidates take their turns as the Presidential encounter and debates come live on our tv and computer screens, and on our radio waves.

God bless our homeland Ghana!!

Iddisah Sulemana

Columbia, MO