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Opinions of Sunday, 4 November 2012

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

Can Akufo-Addo steal back his thunder?

By George Sydney Abugri

Thanks to NPP presidential candidate Nana Akufo-Addo, a nine-letter word recently jumped out of the Basic English Learners’ Dictionary into election campaign vocabulary and was threatening to drown out the messages of all the other campaigning candidates, but luckily, the Institute of Economic Affairs came to their temporary rescue on Tuesday night.

The word is education, Jomo. By merely making a pledge that an Akufo-Addo administration will make senior high school education free, the NPP presidential candidate had wittingly or unwittingly hijacked the rest of the campaign all to himself.

In a bid to wrench back their campaigns, most of the other parties and their campaign strategists appear to have taken the wrong highway, expending too much campaign energy trying to prove that the NPP candidate’s free senior high school education promise is not feasible.

So obsessed have all the other candidates been with Akufo-Addo’s campaign promise, that they appear to have forgotten to concentrate on outlining their own visions for the benefit of voters!

A reasonable assumption, if not a logically obvious one, is that the other candidates think the NPP candidate’s free SHS education promise is one likely to appeal to voters who may not be in a position to determine the budgetary cost implications of such an ambitious programme.

A televised debate hosted by the Institute of Economic Affairs for some presidential candidates on Tuesday night in Tamale, brought the other presidential candidates great respite and an opportunity to sell their policy visions and campaign messages.

The IEA’s presidential debates which presumably enable voters to take a hard and close look at presidential candidates, are a novel development in Ghana’s politics with the potential to help develop democracy in the country or are they?

At the end of every session those who watch the televised debates tend to score the candidates marks for quality of delivery. It was however argued by someone on the Internet the other day, that eloquence and oratory offer no guarantee of a capacity for leadership and problem solution in particular.

Someone else called the forum a time and financial resource-wasting, unnecessary and pointless imposition of Western “democratic frivolities” on Ghana’s politics.

It was generally agreed in the case of last Tuesday night’s encounter though, that President Mahama, Nana Akufo-Addo, Dr. Abu Sakara of the Convention Peoples Party all scored good marks in varying degrees, for depth of ideas, grasp of issues and fluidity of delivery with Dr. Sakara leading the four participating candidates on the informal cards, even if he sounded rather too theoretical in some people’s view.

The IEA’s policy of fielding only candidates of parties with representatives in parliament has left the other political parties angry. A passionate orator Like the PPP’s Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom who loves every single opportunity to outline his vision is certainly far from happy with the policy.

The presidential debates are certainly helping the nation to refocus attention on what democracy is NOT: What manner of presumably sane partisan politics is it, whose code says democracy means: cling tightly, stubbornly and condescendingly to your opinions and adamantly refuse to listen to other point of view?

To have characters so disposed playing active roles in partisan politics can be very dangerous for national cohesion and singleness of purpose in the pursuit of national progress yet they abound in the nation’s politics:

They must have the last word in every discussion and debate. They must have their way in every situation or else there will be a world war. Totally blindfolded by their sense of superiority in thought and word, they cannot see anyone else but their good selves. Is that the way to promote democracy and freedom of thought and expression?

Education is a certainly a critical foundation for building progressive modern societies. Take education away from a nation in this millennium and that nation will be walking the pitch-dark broad way to collapse.

My raw beef in this matter is that dead men don’t go to school: The ever worsening road accidents fatalities {some of the highest in the world}, armed robbers, highway brigands, grinding poverty, cardiovascular and sanitation-related diseases are killing large sections of the population by the dozen by the minute by the day.

Reading SHS books under moonlight is as tough a proposition as trying to power school computers on shea-butter oil or kerosene. Yet the energy sector is in a rut and nation-wide cuts in electricity supply have remained a galloping nightmare for domestic and industrial consumers for nearly 30 years now.

You wonder in the name of mystery, why these concerns are not given prominence by the candidates as thematic areas for incorporation in policy formulation.

If you sought my opinion in the matter of education, this is what I would say to you old chap: Invest in the strengthening of basic education as a foundation on which subsequent stages of formal education will be built. Invest in the provision of adequate teaching and learning materials and equipment.

Invest in adequate infrastructure at all levels of formal education. Invest in the training of and remuneration of highly qualified teachers as a prerequisite for improving the quality of teaching and the rewards will take care of the rest while you continue to discuss possible strategies for making education accessible to one and all.

The leaders of all political parties are presumably working toward the achievement of the same goal of national development. The difference lies in diversity of opinions regarding how the goal might be reached. Unless it is the case that there is something more sinister to the pursuit of political power than meets the voter’s eye, why should those differences lead to the rancor that permeates politics in the country, do you know?

After Tuesday’s debate I am beside myself with curiosity to see if Nana Akufo-Addo will get his campaign thunder back with a return to the rumpus over his free SHS education pledge.

In the mean time, it is uncertain whether the campaigning presidential and parliamentary candidates are aware of the bizarre wars some poltical activists are waging on their behalf.

Across vast areas of Accra and Tema, nocturnal vandals are snooping around paint and brush in hand, defacing campaign posters. Black paint has been used to blot out the eyes of parliamentary and presidential candidates on campaign posters. How that is supposed to win the elections for their preferred candidates is the puzzle.

The police may consider going out under cover of darkness, trailing, apprehending and dragging them by the scruffs of their necks before a court judge, who will demonstrate to them precisely how the country’s electoral laws work. Anaa..? Website: Email: