Feature Article of Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Columnist: Mensah, Nana Akyea

IEA Debate: Is Akufo-Addo Of A Sound Mind?

By Nana Akyea Mensah, The Odikro.

There is no doubt that the kind of people Akufo-Addo has chosen to surround himself with, speak a lot about the man. Same old story of “show me your friend...”! Thus it came as no surprise to read a publication from the Akufo-Addo Communications Directorate claiming, “Akufo-Addo ‘whips’ PREZ Mahama at IEA debate”. The Akufo-Addo Communications team continues to commit blunder after blunder, to the apparent approval of Akufo-Addo himself. So, it is even more appropriate not to ask about the mental health of those working in the team, but the one who put them there and continues to applaud their sickening publications: Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo himself! Indeed, it is in the very manner and content of the presentation, his comprehension of the questions, attention span, self-organization, etc., that even make some of us seriously wonder if the old man is not suffering from some form of senile debility or something worse. Claiming a victory under those circumstances is out of the question, unless one is out of the mind.

The wild claim that “Akufo-Addo ‘whips’ PREZ Mahama at IEA debate” is the most ridiculous damage control strategy they have managed to put up so far. They must be at the end of their short wits. It singularly diminishes the disappearing credibility of the Akufo-Addo Communications Team as nothing but a time-wasting propaganda nuisance. This blunder was particularly unnecessary, since the debate was not held in camera, and we all saw what happened. This type of propaganda is not only tedious and offensive, but makes us question even more intensely, the mental health of their boss, who apparently approves of it. A very frank and honest damage control would have done the trick in explaining away the abysmal failure of Akufo-Addo at the debate. It would not only have heightened their credibility, but also helped to raise their own standards. We can tell who “whipped” who without such sugar-coated lies and distortions that have no semblance to what actually took place!

Akufo-Addo's performance at the presidential debate organised by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) in Tamale once more sees him as an empty barrel that he has been all this while. Indeed some of us have been suggesting all along that judging from the level of decibels emanating from that particular barrel, that it ought to be empty indeed! The IEA debate came as a confirmation. This debate gave the Ghanaian voter the opportunity to see how the candidates presenting themselves for the high office are able to think on their feet, select salient points, compose, and deliver their messages within the time allotted to them. It is a sort of IQ test, and it is not easy to cheat. It was not just to hear their policies, but their personal comportment, self-discipline, calmness, civility, firmness, and generosity of character, whilst under pressure. It thus serves as an insight into the character and mental acumen of the presenter.

In terms of personal organization of the time available, and control over information flow, Akufo-Addo was a disaster. He failed to compose his answers to fit into the time frame. As Alex Seshie-Vanderpuije notes in “IEA Debate Exposes Akufo Addo's Intellectual Bankruptcy”, Feature Article of Saturday, 3 November 2012: “When asked to tell Ghanaians three ways a future NPP government could help address the challenges in the health care system, Akufo Addo rather spent his allotted time to discuss the issues involving the NHIS which he claimed are leading the scheme to near collapse. The NPP presidential aspirant failed to recognise that the NHIS is only a component of the Ghana health care system. He failed to appreciate that other factors pertaining to the running of the health care system such as building of hospital infrastructure, staff emoluments and training and disease control measures were equally needed to be addressed in order to improve health care delivery in the country.” So bad was Akufo-Addo's answer, that the neutral moderator, Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah felt justified to point out: "Nana I was looking for three answers, you have given me one, the NHIS. What about access to health care and hospital infrastructure?"

This is either a symptom of a low IQ, hard of hearing, a dull individual lacking the ability to concentrate, suffering from a short attention span, senile debility, Alzheimer's disease, intoxication by alcohol, or high on marijuana, etc.,... Whatever it is, just as you would not trust a surgeon that is not sober to undertake a delicate life and death operation on you, or a drunk pilot from flying a commercial flight, the good people of Ghana cannot trust their destinies into the hands of a person who appears so mentally challenged as to even fail in his own self-presentation! No wonder many NPP supporters gave Dr. Sakara as the winner! When you see NPP supporters praising a flag-bearer of another political party, instead of their own, then you know there is something deeply wrong! The earliest sign yet, that the NPP flag-bearer even failed to convince his own supporters, came from a rather unexpected source, whose damage control exercise saw him presenting the CPP's Abu Sakara as the winner of the debate. This rather generous vote to the CPP, coming from Akufo-Addo's staunchest of supporters such as Justice Sarpong of the Ghanaweb crowd, is a measure of how badly the NPP flag-bearer performed. The damage control was obviously triggered by a panic. It was intended to attribute the winner to someone else and to downplay the superior performance of President Mahama!

In terms of the paradoxes of the debate, the race was, and has been, clearly between the NDC with the NPP as the challenger. But it appears the performance of the CPP flag-bearer brought the winner of debate between the NDC flag-bearer and Dr. Abu Sakara of the CPP, with the NPP relegated to the third position. The debate ended with the two, President Mahama and Dr. Abu Sakara within the top bracket of winners and Nana Akufo-Addo and Hassan Ayariga struggling it out as to who must take the bottom position. Considering the weight of the CPP on the field, it can be safely argued that the NDC has emerged as a clear top-dog in this debate. The NPP would have made a big deal out of this. It is interesting to note that the NDC is not even taking advantage of it. As a CPP man, I can only say I was proud of my candidate, even though I know the race is between the NPP and the NDC and my political sophistication helps me to look beyond my CPP nose!

Thus the following is focused on the two candidates of the front-runner political parties. And what I see is not very pretty for Akufo-Addo. In terms of delivery Akufo-Addo was only able to beat Ayariga, but in terms of fundamental blunders and even sounding confused and actually looking so, Akufo-Addo has no challenger. He was even beaten by Mr. Ayariga on that score! This raises the fundamental question concerning the intellectual acumen, or even the mental health of the NPP's Presidential candidate. Like the Obama team, some of us were expecting some form of acknowledgement in order to restore their own credibility and to direct attention to a better chance next time, but they simply declared Akufo-Addo the winner! Who do they think they are fooling apart from themselves? Akufo-Addo's fumbling began within the first two minutes given to each of the contestants introduce themselves.

President John Mahama is convincing when he asserts that he believes he is “of a sound mind”. The President was refreshingly, simple, calm, fluent, no affected foreign accents punctuated with the Twi “L” and “R” in perpetual combat for diphthong supremacy! He gave an admirably succinct, and an impressive summary of himself, his work experience, motivations, and what that has led him to the podium, as the President of Ghana, and the flag-bearer of the CPP. Dr. Abu Sakara Forster also made good use of his time, and did justice to the subject. Mr. Hassan Ayariga was also good at presenting himself. His composition of his biography and motivations were organized and delivered within time. Everything was going on well until it came to the turn of Akufo-Addo. A greeting in Hausa, a relatively long and disproportionate discussion of his experiences in Tamale, the warm welcome that both he and his wife had received in Tamale, including how he enjoyed his work in Tamale, even before mentioning his name, as the two minutes allocated to him ticked off!

Little wonder he was the only Presidential candidate who had to be belled-off in the middle of his presentation. It is like a student who could not only finish an examination paper, but had also included in the unfinished work, a lot of irrelevant materials. Apart from Akufo-Addo, all the other Presidential candidates decently finished their presentations within the time alloted. You just need to take the confrontation over the National Development Planning Commission, NDPC, as just one of the many inevitable instances, where you can see the wheat from the chaff. The use of the word "confused" to describe Mr. Akufo-Addo is apt. The President could even have been harsher, but a more appropriate word than "confused" is not easy to find, and remain diplomatic and as civil as possible. Nana Akufo-Addo plainly displayed he did not even know the laudable reasons behind the minds of the framers of our constitution.

It is clear that the over-politicization of the NDPC can spell nothing but disaster. It is not only a confused person who would take politics to where politics must not go, but also a person of an unsound mind. The question was very clear: “The 1992 constitution mandates the National Development Planning Commission to advice the President of the development Planning of the country among other things. The criticism is that the weakness of the commission is the reason for which every four years we take a different turn. What would you do to make the commission more effective?”

Even the PNC's Hassan Ayariga, despite all the buffoonery, understood the question and stated clearly the need for a non-partisan approach to ensure continuity of the National Development Plans irrespective of which party comes to power. Akufo-Addo said he was not going to wait for two years as stipulated in the constitution, before presenting the NPP development plans to Parliament. His diagnosis of the weakness facing the NDPC is to give it the highest level of political leadership. He wants his Vice-President to head it! This alone speaks volumes! People who say Mr. Ayariga needs to cut his teeth, are optimistic that the young man will learn as he plods on. But what do you say to an old man whose teeth has been cut and lost already, when he fumbles over issues in development continuity entrenched in our constitution? Refreshingly, all the three other Presidential candidates emphasised the need for continuity, except Akufo-Addo!

President Mahama's argument that the NPP’s position does not give room for imputation of ideas and policies from political parties and other interested groups to give the NDPC its national character and its plans binding on all is an A+++. Akufo-Addo scored a clear F here! In a highly competitive debate, you cannot commit such blunders and claim victory afterwards. It makes me wonder whether these people will ever concede defeat, even when such a defeat is obvious, just as what happened in 2008! There is no doubt that President Mahama put up a superior performance to Nana Akufo-Addo who struggles for the bottom position with Ayariga! So it was a bit too much of an amateurish political spin to claim victory even when he had lost. President Mahama got this very well, both in content, style and delivery. His rebuttal put him on top of the question:

“Indeed, I think that there is confusion in the mind of the NPP presidential candidate in the answer he gave. That is exactly the concern we have in this country: that, when a political party leaves government, the plans and visions that are instituted are thrown away. And so, if we assume that every four year cycle a government potentially could lose elections, it means every four years we will have a new national development planning framework. And that is why the CRC flagged that issue.” This was a technical knock-out!

In the first US Presidential debate, President Obama came out after he flunked the first debate with Romney. He admitted his mistake, and promised to do better the next time, which he did. Had he claimed victory the first time when he had clearly failed to perform, his second victory would not have been so spectacular. It is the duty of the Akufo-Addo Communications Directorate to be honest with the public, and not to be seen insulting their intelligence. One thing Akufo-Addo needs critically is honest feed-back. The type of sycophants who double as his communications team only tell him what they think he would like to hear. And that is obviously a problem. But in this particular case, if Akufo-Addo is himself of a sound mind, he does not need anyone to tell him that he failed miserably.

The very fact that he accepts what his communications team is saying, tells a lot not only about how low his standards are, but also his state of mind! if he himself agrees with them that he won the debate, it will be a clear sign that it is high time to wonder about the sanity of the old man who wants to be the President of the Republic of Ghana. Even those of us, humble citizens of Ghana, who want to simply exercise our franchise are required by the constitution to be of sound mind, so it is even unthinkable to imagine a member of Parliament who is of unsound mind, even though some of the utterances of Kennedy Agyapong are not so reassuring. One would have thought that the phenomenon would be impossible even at the level of a minister of state, but to see what I am seeing in someone who wants to be President, is alarming indeed! Are we safe?

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