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Opinions of Thursday, 14 April 2011

Columnist: Jeffrey, Peter

Samia set to run for President in 2016.

Samia Yaba Christina Nkrumah was just six years old when her father, late President Dr Kwame Nkrumah, was over thrown in a joint military and police coup by a gang of armed criminals in uniform led by Akwasi Amakwa Afrifa (himself, executed by firing squad at Teshie firing range for crimes against humanity).

Now she has a very real chance of becoming Ghana’s first female president in 2016. Like her late father, Samia is widely admired across sub-Saharan Africa. Campaigning (to lead CPP) with the complex legacy of the man admired across Africa by all generations, she could be preparing a bid for the top job in response to popular demand for her to revive some of glory days under her father when every child was given the same opportunity to succeed.

Although she has said she won’t run against the current president, Professor John Evans Atta Mills, Samia’s aspirations were exposed when she put her name forward as candidate to lead the Convention Peoples Party. A leading member of NDC and former Young Pioneer said, “Samia is the right candidate to carry the torch of leadership in Ghana’s second wave of development”. He said since Samia entered Ghanaian politics in just over two years she has built bedrock of unwavering supporters across the country, who esteems her father putting education and development of the country before self.

For Nana Kwesi, a 70-year-old a retired businessman from Dormaa Ahenkro in the Brong Ahafo region, it was Dr Kwame Nkrumah who made it possible for him to become the first in his family to go to university. Nana said, “She will be just like her dad, ensure every Ghanaian child is given a fair opportunity”.

Since entering active politics just over two years ago, Samia has help raised the profile of CPP, which is now seen as a credible alternative to the ruling NDC and the opposition NPP. Samia, who still sees her father’s original 7 Year Development Plan as the blue print to develop her country, has promised to build on the development which her father started. Although Ghana has become more affluent in recent years due to her new found oil and good governance, there are still large pockets of poverty, especially among the rural folks and urban slum dwellers.

According to Samia’s aides, her key legislative initiatives since entering parliament were anchored on good governance through increased transparency and accountability. In a landmark speech she gave at Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia a few years back, Samia reminded the audience that under her father’s CPP administration more schools were built across the country with 100% record admittance.

In an interview she gave this writer last fall in Accra, Ghana, Samia said despite the economic boom, one in three live in poverty and said the boom has hardly benefited the poor.

Samia returned home in the late 2000s to focus her attention on poverty among her compatriots, calling the fight against it one of the great moral causes all stakeholders must address. Since her election as Member of Parliament for her hometown constituency of Jomorro, she has been traveling the country and speaking with the economically disadvantage to figure out what can be done to help them.

Like her father, the late president, she has look out for people without a voice and the two biggest issues that Dr Nkrumah stood for, which are the issues of equality and ending poverty. Samia said, “ I have heard heart breaking stories of people who have no access to health care, children who go to bed with no food, graduates who cannot find jobs almost three years after graduating from college – a circumstance she describe as “tragic”.

Samia admits that the causes of poverty are complex and entrenched, however her will to address them and restore the promises of the poor and the youth, those that she referred to as “her constituents”, and restore the promises of equality and social justice is just as strong.

Samia said as Ghana becomes more prosperous, it is time to equip Ghanaians with new tools of economic success and security – affordable homes, decent health care and education. She said Ghana must be a country of economic progress by giving more incentives to small medium enterprises to expand and hire more people, stating that, “fiscal discipline is fundamental to sustained economic growth as well as responsible government”. Like her father, Samia sees education as Ghana’s great equalizer and calls for the introduction of the old boarding school system, saying “we must not abandon our public boarding/day schools or tolerate their failure”.

She said, “A person’s education often lays the foundation for the kind of life they are able to live, hence the reason late President Nkrumah put much emphasis on education soon after independence”. Today education is a premium, often too high for the poor. Samia said there are potentially many able young children who have shown great excellent academic abilities in their early school years but unfortunately they come from families with poor financial circumstances, and are thus, unable to continue with their education. She said these children will be lost and could have been of potential benefit to the country. She called on the government to improve access for poor families.

To meet the demand in growth of education, she said the government must assist in the development of new school in rural areas and underdeveloped areas when more resources become available. She also called on the government to establish, as a matter of urgency, women literacy programmes in all the ten regions. On technical education, teacher and nurses training colleges, she repeated her call for amalgamation of the ten polytechnics into one “Institute of Technology”.

On family issues, she said, “There must policies to promote family and demand parental control as well as preventing crime and punishing criminals”.

On environmental issues, she said with the rapid expansion of extractive industry, there must be strengthening of environmental protection by giving district assemblies the flexibilities to tackle challenges’ such as oil spill or water contamination etc.

Although she is running for the chairmanship of Convention Peoples Party, unofficially her presidential campaign began when she began to speak on social and economic issues nationally. She has been building support essentially since her election to parliament.

Samia would promote economic stability if elected in 2016, her top economic adviser said Tuesday, emphasizing that economic stability is very important for consolidating growth. He said, “Samia does support voluntarily renegotiating some contracts (signed in the twilight days of NPP in 2008 when large contracts were given out for graft by the outgoing administration) held by mining and oil and gas companies, so they would pay more taxes and, in case of gas, promote more domestic use”.

Ghana, one of sub-Saharan Africa’s growing economies and the most stable, has pursued a free market economic policy under successive governments since the 1990s, when Ghana, with large inflows from the Bretton Woods Institutions, was deem as “Africa’s success story”. Flt Lt Rawlings implemented the austerity measures often referred to as “Structural Adjustment Programs”, a set of (IMF/World Bank) neo-liberal concerns including drastic cutbacks in public sector. Ghana enjoyed an economic growth of 5% plus during that decade, which also led to large inflows from Ghanaians in Diaspora, averaging $4 billion per annum. With more discoveries of oil and other natural resources, Ghana’s economy will triple in size over the coming years. Growth is forecast at 8% for the next five years, with over $60bn mining and oil investments are in the pipeline; Ghana would soon become the 3rd largest economy in the sub continent after South Africa and Nigeria. Many Ghanaians feel things are improving, but not at the rate they want, says a CPP youth activist. He said, “There hasn’t been adequate distribution of this growth”. He also said many poor people feel shut out from this progress, something Samia has capitalized on. Although many were not even born when the late president died, they still believe her only daughter is the one who can restore those glory years under CPP.

Although she is yet to declare, pollsters say over half of Ghanaians say they will vote for Samia if she run for the president. Latest polls have Ms Nkrumah ahead of President Mills by 5%points and Nana Akuffo Addo, the NPP presidential candidate by 11% points.

Indeed Samia, aided by President Mills’ Nkrumah Centenary celebrations and Ghana at 50 celebrations under John Kuffuor’s presidency, has focused on the legacy of her father. She said Dr Nkrumah’s 7 Year Development Plan has stood the test of time.

Peter Jeffrey London.