General News of Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Source: Daily Graphic

4 battle for presidency at IEA debate

The Ghanaian electorates were last night given another opportunity to make up their minds on who to vote for on December 7, when four presidential candidates of political parties with representation in parliament engaged in a battle of wits and policies in a national debate in Tamale.

Although it was the first of two presidential debates, the event offered ordinary voters a fair idea of which of the candidates has the grasp of both local and international issues, the power to articulate them and the composure to think through national problems on his feat.

The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) organised debate saw the candidates- President John Mahama of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Dr. Abu Sakara Foster of the Convention People's Party (CPP), Mr. Hassan Ayariga of the People's National Convention (PNC) and Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP)-engaged in tough talk, mutual respect for one another, deep thinking and occasional rebuttals.

Social network site, facebook, was agog with commentary by viewers and listeners offering their judgement on the performance of the candidates as well as quotes of the evening, bringing more excitement and offering perspectives to the electorate.

Welcoming the candidates and august audience to the debate, Mrs. Jean Mensa, Executive Director of IEA, described the event as historic because it was the first time a sitting president was taking part in the debate and expressed the hope that the example would be emulated in future.

According to the rules of engagement, three minutes were allowed for each contender to answer a question during the three rounds while they were given three opportunities for a rebuttal for each candidate.

With Professor Jane Naana Opoku Agyeman, immediate past Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast (UCC) and Mr. Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, a broadcaster and entrepreneur, firing conversation on the thematic areas including the economy and social sector.

At the end of each round each candidate was given three minutes within which to appeal to Ghanaians. The members of the audience were not allowed to use their cell phones neither were they supposed to cheer on the contenders until the end of each round of the debate.

Shortly after the candidates introduced themselves to the public and state their visions for Ghana, they were plunged into questions an answer session.

Prof. Opoku-Agyeman had occasion to raise concerns with the timers and requested that they acted fairly.

In response to the first question for candidates to explain their broad vision for the country, President Mahama underscored the need for Ghana to open up economic opportunities to tell Ghanaians, irrespective of gender, ethnicity and political association in order for them to realise their full potential.

He said an NDC government would continue to invest in education and in health to ensure that mothers did not die at child birth.

He gave the assurance that he would use his influence to bring the nation together rather than rather than divide it and place Ghana as the model of democracy and good governance in the comity of nations.

For his part, Dr. Sakara said the CPP's vision was for Ghana to be a shining example for Africa. That, he explained, demanded that institutions were made to work again.

He said when the institutions worked effectively “Ghana will begin to work again”. He said Ghana's natural resources would be exploited in the national interest, saying that, “I will invest in agriculture and in the private sector to create jobs for the people. Ghana must change the path of focusing on macro economic figures and depend micro issues.”

The PNC's candidate, Mr. Ayariga said his government, if voted into office, would make good use of natural resources, empower the youth and bring back operation feed yourself to feed the 24 million Ghanaians to end food importation.

“We will provide water and improve upon health delivery across the country. There must also be a politics of togetherness and share the national cake equally. We want to restore hope and confidence in the people,” he said.

For his part, Nana Akufo-Addo said the NPP's vision was to ensure a thriving democracy and a country where the rule of law thrived.

“We need a prosperous nation. We have been a raw material production country. We need to become a country that will transform its economy structurally and add value to the raw materials. The development of human capital will be crucial and that is why education is needed and that is why we are committed to free education. To make Ghana that beacon, a shining city which was the vision of those who won independence for Ghana,” he said.