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Opinions of Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Columnist: Osagyefo Youth Forum

Who Can Bring Change in 2009?

Who Can Bring Change in 2009? A Question of Track Record

As countries around the world come together to elect their new leaders, a trend seems to be developing. Although it is expressed in a variety of ways, the people of the world seem to be agitating for change. A case in point is the United States. In the U.S.A., the presidential candidates campaigning with a message of change are experiencing unprecedented levels of broad support across a very diverse population, transcending a variety of boundaries: Barack Obama (Black), Hillary Clinton (Female), and Mitt Romney (Mormon), initially singled out and handicapped because they were different, are now 3 of the leading 4 Presidential hopefuls in the race for the White House. The United States is clearly ready for a change.

In Ghana, the situation is no different: almost every political commentator will agree that it is time for at least some sort of change. Although supporters of the NPP believe that Government should stay fundamentally the way it has been for the past 7 years, the need for a change in attitude towards corruption and national security seems widely acknowledged. NDC supporters say that the NPP government has been a failure and that change means a wholesale shift from capitalism to their brand of “social democracy”. The CPP supporter usually believes that both the policies of Government and fundamental principles underlying the practice of politics need to be completely rethought. These are clearly very different definitions. It is very clear, however, that Ghana, too, is ready for change.

The Osagyefo Youth Forum (OYF) believes that one of the critical questions for Ghanaians in the face of the upcoming Presidential elections is, “Who will bring about the change that Ghana needs?” Indeed, given that the very definition of “change” is subject to dispute, this question would be a difficult, if not impossible one to answer conclusively without making a variety of assumptions. What we can answer with some degree of objectivity, however, is the question of which candidate has the best qualifications (or “track record”), and by virtue of this distinction, is the most well equipped to lead the nation come January 2009. While answering this question will also require a number of assumptions, we believe that it is a much less difficult question to consider objectively. To that end, we respectfully submit our considered view of the subject matter.

In this essay, the OYF presents to you the reasoning behind our belief that among Professor Atta Mills, Nana Akuffo Addo, and Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom, Dr. Nduom is the most well equipped candidate to lead Ghana into its second 50 years of independence. In our analysis we have compared the candidates in three main areas: their political track records, their business track records, and their social track records (i.e., how they conduct themselves in public). It is clear to us that Dr. Nduom has a clear advantage over Atta Mills and Akufo Addo in all three areas and, coupled with his clear agenda for change, this makes a strong case for voting the CPP into power in 2008. We believe that our case is compelling, fair, and balanced; we welcome anyone who disagrees to present his or her reasons for the public to consider.

Political Track Record: Dr. Nduom, recognizing the importance of understanding the workings of the political system to successful and good governance, started his political career by becoming an assemblyman by election (not appointment) in his hometown of Elmina. As an active member of the CPP, he considered contesting in the flag bearer elections in 1992 and 1996 but decided that he was not ready. As his career in politics developed he contested for the Parliamentary seat in the KEEA district in 2000 in 2004, winning the latter contest. He was appointed to a number of roles in Government, including Minister of Economic Planning and Regional Cooperation, Minister of Energy and Minister of Public Sector Reforms. Each of these was a Cabinet level position. Dr. Nduom became flag bearer of the Convention People’s Party in the first round of the Party’s elections, garnering over 53% of the vote.

The political career of Professor Atta Mills has been limited to serving as the Vice President of Ghana during the period 1996-2000 and contesting to become president in 2000, 2004, and the current 2008 elections. In 2000, he became flag bearer without a contest, essentially through the edict of former President Rawlings. He earned the right to contest the general elections as the NDC representative in 2004, but lost to President Kufuor. Atta Mills most recently became flag bearer of the NDC after winning over 80% of his party’s votes at their congress.

Akufo Addo began his political career in 1992 when he earned the right to contest as a Parliamentary candidate for the Abuakwa constituency. Akufo Addo was victorious in 1996, and 2000. In 2005, the current NPP candidate became a Member of Parliament in Abuakwa South. Akufo Addo was appointed Attorney General in 2001. He was moved to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2003 in what many called a vote of no confidence. Akufo Addo was the only Presidential Candidate not to win a clear majority of his party’s votes in their elections for flag bearer. After garnering 47.2% of the votes in the first round of voting, Alan Kyeremanteng (in second place with approx. 32% of the votes) conceded, handing Akufo Addo victory without a runoff.

Summary: Both Dr. Nduom and Akufo Addo have both served as public servants elected by their constituents and as Ministers in the most recent administration, giving them an edge over Atta Mills in terms of relevant political experience. Between Akufo Addo and Nduom, Akufo Addo has served longer as MP but has not had any experience at the district level. In addition, his positions as Foreign Minister and Attorney General did not expose him to any significant tests of his ability to manage people and drive consensus. Indeed, although the Attorney General can have tremendous responsibility in terms of protecting the basic rights of the citizens of the Nation, it is essentially an enforcement role when those responsibilities are not tackled head on. We argue that Dr. Nduom was put in charge of Ministries that, as evidenced by their very titles, required problem solving, management, and organizational skills. They also required the ability to prioritize and act with a sense of urgency. By virtue of the long list of tangible accomplishments that Dr. Nduom achieved as Minister, we believe he comes out on top in this category. Most important, his tenure as an elected Assembly Member gives him a better understanding of issues facing the ordinary Ghanaian.

Business Track Record:

Dr. Nduom worked in the United States for nearly 20 years, returning to Ghana in 1991 after becoming Partner in Deliotte & Touche, a global accounting and consulting firm headquartered in the USA. Out of over 800 partners, he was one of the only 6 blacks. Upon his return, he established a strong presence for Deliotte in Africa, becoming Chairman of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Africa Region and Managing Partner for Deloitte & Touche, West Africa Consulting. In the private sector, Dr. Nduom and his wife, Yvonne, have directly created over 500 jobs through the establishment of companies in the financial services, consulting and hospitality industries.

Nana Akuffo-Addo, a lawyer by profession, is co-founder of Akuffo-Addo & Prempeh Associates, considered to be a very successful law firm in Ghana. Very little press exists and no website for the company was found.

Atta Mills’ tenure at the Internal Revenue Service is said to have brought remarkable success to the service. His ability to combine teaching at the University of Ghana with his busy schedule at the IRS is commendable. Until recently, the Prof. Mills was a visiting professor at University of British Columbia, Canada.

Summary: Both Dr. Nduom and Akuffo-Addo have professional services backgrounds in the private sector. Dr. Nduom passed rigorous international tests to earn the position of partner in a global partnership. The Osagyefo Youth Forum is not aware of what it is that justifies considering Akuffo-Addo’s company as a “prominent” firm, making it difficult to attach significance to firm. Dr. Nduom’s ventures, in industries ranging from Investment Banking to Hospitality, underscore an ability to thrive in a variety of environments. The flexibility shown in generating over 500 jobs in the private sector, mirrors that shown in Government by accepting Ministerial roles in Regional Integration, Energy, and Public Sector Reform without missing a beat.

Social Track Record:

Dr. Nduom is a vocal advocate of accountability in Government, demanding that transparency and efficiency be made priorities in all areas of Public Service. He has pledged to lead an insult-free campaign in the 2008 elections and is following through with this pledge, focusing on ideas instead of questioning the actions and words of his competitors. The CPP flag bearer has supported his community by sponsoring a community radio station, holding holiday parties for poor or orphaned children, and subsidizing the education of a number of school children through scholarships. Dr. Nduom even pays the salaries of the teachers of 5 community schools in the KEEA.

Dr. Nduom has been criticized by a small number of individuals within the CPP for serving the country as Minister in an NPP-led administration. He has been examined by the Serious Fraud Office – this is something that generated international condemnation in 1996 before it was dropped. After several rounds of vetting in Parliament in 2001, when the matter was dragged before the House by NDC Parliamentarians, any claims of wrong doing were dismissed as frivolous. As is said, an unexamined life is not worth living.

Professor Atta Mills is a distinguished professor of law. He is considered a fairly mild tempered and personable person, with a laissez-faire attitude that many consider a sign of weakness. Indeed, several questions surrounding his health have created the perception that Atta Mills would not be able to survive a vigorous campaign, hence his “door to door” strategy.

The NDC candidate has been attacked for being party to the failure of the NDC government to address rampant corruption and failing to improve infrastructure between 2000 and 2004. One might argue that, as a Vice President, one does not have significant power – this position, however, would also serve to diminish the significance of his political experience, which consists entirely of serving as Vice President under former President Jerry John Rawlings.

While fidelity is arguably not a determinant of leadership ability, the fact that Atta Mills bore a child out of wedlock is something that some used against him in 2004. Atta Mills has a lot to overcome regarding his reputation; questions surrounding the strength of his character and his health will undoubtedly have an impact in 2008.

Akufo Addo, a candidate considered to have “pedigree” due to the prominence of his father and uncle in Ghana’s political history, has a reputation for being an aggressive lobbyist and fierce competitor. He is unfortunately also considered to be extremely arrogant, an allegation that is argued vigorously on both sides. Reports of him bragging about his sexual prowess and receiving fines for the disrespect of chiefs on the campaign trail have led many to question whether he considers the Presidency to be a right and not a privilege. Allegations of drug abuse have been via various forms of media. Also circulating in the press are claims that Akufo Addo performed poorly in school and lacks a law degree, despite the establishment of a successful practice.

The political “pedigree” appears one of elitist politics and failure in elections considering the fact that whenever people from his political family contested elections in pre-1966 politics, they had been soundly defeated by the CPP.

Summary: All three candidates have been subject to a number of false allegations and slander. Dr. Nduom comes across as humble, respectful and eager to learn from his mistakes. The fact that the NPP and NDC are engaged in a war of insults, with threats, lies, and misrepresentation circulating throughout all forms of media makes Dr. Nduom the preferred candidate if Ghanaians want peace after the 2008 elections.

Interestingly, both Akuffo aAddo and Atta Mills claim to be Nkrumaists. If so, the question is why not go for the genuine article, Nduom.

Conclusion

We began this article arguing that Ghana is ready for change and that each party is promising that they will bring at least something new to the seat of Government in 2009. However, the battle between the NPP and NDC is no different than what we witnessed 4, 8, and 12 years ago, other than the fact that the attacks, profanity, and lies are also posted on the internet for the whole World to read.

In addition, while both the CPP and NPP refer to the historical figures of their parties’ past in their campaigns, the word “tradition” is used a great deal by the NPP. This, the above mentioned politics of personal destruction, the strong ties that the party’s flag bearer has to the NPP “old guard,” and the likelihood that many of the 17 aspirants (mostly former ministers) will be part of an Akufo Addo government come together to indicate that a vote for NPP is a vote for the status quo.

The NDC may also believe that change is needed. However, the party insists on attempting to win this election by engendering anger and hatred towards their enemies, even threatening to expand Nsawam Prison by arresting members of the present government – this is not comforting and we believe that a victory for NDC will mean a Government of “winner takes all” where one needs a party card to have a seat at the table.

The Osagyefo Youth Forum believes that Dr. Nduom is the only candidate that is bringing new ideas. His campaign is the only one that is focused on what he can do for the Ghanaians who can only afford to buy chicken for their families once a year. Dr. Nduom’s new ideas include separating the Attorney General’s office from the ministry of Justice, reducing the size of Government, the election of District Council Executives, and honoring our past Presidents. The CPP is the only party that is prepared to run the Nation with a true sense of urgency. This, we believe, will only become clearer over time.

Ghana recently won an award for Developing Economy of the Year. The juxtaposition of this impression of stability and prosperity (reflected via reduced inflation and GDP growth) against the struggles of the average Ghanaian (made worse with the advent of taxes that have an unfair burden on the poor such as the airtime tax) shows that change is needed for the average Ghanaian to truly prosper. The OYF believes that the CPP is the vehicle for this change.

Submitted by The Osagyefo Youth Forum Work. Happiness. Freedom.