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Opinions of Friday, 18 November 2011

Columnist: Tawiah-Benjamin, Kwesi

President Mills in Ottawa: My Ten Good Questions

“Atta-Mills is familiar with Canada’s geography and its citizens”, writes the International Development and Research Centre (IDRC), one of many organisations that funded the Fulbright Scholar’s fellowship and visiting scholarship at the Liu Centre for the Study of Global Issues at the University of British Columbia, Canada. The Centre reports on his excellent work on NEPAD and other important academic exploits while in Canada in 2001.

When Professor Mills was elected president, IDRC was one of the first to congratulate him, expressing confidence in the professor’s ability to transform the poor West-African nation. Next week, the Ghanaian president returns to what was once home to him–to meet and greet and share the policies of his better Ghana agenda with Ghanaians in Canada. What do Canadians wish to know about their president and his government?

Atta-Mills the academic is an accomplished man. But when Ottawans host him at the Amphitheatre of the St Paul’s University, his academic credentials would not feature on the question menu; Ghanaians want to know whether he has prosecuted his programmes creditably enough to deserve a renewal of his mandate. From his locally admired but internationally unpalatable stance on gay aid, to the enfranchisement of prisoners, folks would like to have answers to searching questions. What is the position of Kufour’s ROPAL, and also the rather inconsequential issues of the number of houses ex-presidents deserve to have after serving Ghana?

There would be equally important questions as whether the president would still do so much God when he wins a second term. On my part, I would ask my former teacher the same questions I would ask any African president:

1. Sir, the academic establishment in Canada has a lot of confidence in your academic prowess. Many respected institutions, including the IDRC and the Liu Centre for Global Issues in BC, have expressed faith in you as a scholar who has potential to transform his country. Sir, would you say Professor Atta-Mills the politician has proven as effective and accomplished as Prof Mills the Scholar?

2. It is said that sensibility changes from generation to generation, but expression is only altered by a man of ideas. African governments have mostly been accused of repeating the same mistakes of the past, and not coming forth with fresh ideas to liberate their people from poverty. Sir, how different has your government been?

3. Your Nigerian counterpart, President Goodluck Jonathan, recently moved for an extension of the 4 and 5 year presidential terms, to a one term eight year period, to save us money and also give presidents time to prosecute their programmes. What are your thoughts on this?

4. A former British Prime Minister summed up his political philosophy and entire economic policy in three words: Education, Education, Education. Sir, what exactly defines your Better Ghana Agenda?

5. Your vice president recently promised to convert all schools held under trees into classrooms. We understand these schools run into several hundreds. At the same time, there has been talk of building universities in the Volta and Brong Ahafo regions. Limited resources do not permit us to effectively develop primary and tertiary education at the same time. Sir, where is your government’s focus on education?

6. Your admirers have proudly touted your incorruptible nature as a person. But mostly they have referred to financial, and perhaps, moral corruption. Others, however, think the absence of financial corruption does not explain away non performance in other important areas of governance. How would you rate your government’s performance?

7. You haven’t exactly presided over a united NDC. The founder of your party, the man under whom you served as Vice-president, has openly switched camp, rooting for the candidature of another person as leader of the party. Very few politicians survive these divisions. How have these events affected your performance?

8. Experts say a political organism typically goes through five stages of development: Denial, anger, bargaining, despair and acceptance. At what stage is President Atta-Mills at the moment?

9. A former Ghanaian president recently said his government has been the best in Ghana. Could yours be our second best?

10. If you were to change one thing about President Atta-Mills, what could that possibly be?

Kwesi Tawiah-Benjamin is a freelance journalist. His articles have appeared in the USA Today, the Toronto Star, the Guardian (UK), The Voice,, and other notable publications.

He lives in Ottawa, Canada, where he works in partner relations and outreach management.