Public Agenda (Accra)

Ghana: Youthful Ayariga Flies Pro-Youth Agenda

Mr Hassan Ayariga, flag bearer of the People's National Convention (PNC), has put himself up as the best presidential hopeful who can guarantee the welfare of the nation's young people.

The businessman-cum-chartered accountant, speaking in Accra on Tuesday night, promised to roll out an all-inclusive but youth-focused agenda to propel the nation's development, mentioning that the welfare of the youth would form the fulcrum for an Ayariga-headed government of the PNC.

At 40 years, Mr Ayariga is the youngest person to vie for the presidency since the fourth republic era began and the young person in him was evident as he took his turn at the Evening Encounter series, an initiative of the public policy think tank Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA).

Demonstrating a willingness and determination to stand by young people, he said: "As the youngest Presidential candidate of this nation, my paramount interest is to empower the youth and women as well as inspire them to take leadership as a tool for our economic and national development."

But he appears, for now, to have crash-landed his presidential ambition as he stuttered during the question-and-answer segment of the Encounter, exposing his frail ability in delivering thorough but precise on-the-spot solutions.

Strong start

Nonetheless, he got off to a great start, drawing applause from his audience with strong pronouncements on matters relating to hate speech and maladministration.

He also capitalised on his age to tailor the greater part of his message to young people and vulnerable groups such as women and Persons With Disabilities (PWDs). "I promise you, our government will initiate measures to ensure that the youth are involved in active participation in nation building... The youth form the majority of our unemployed, with an increased number being those who have completed their secondary and third cycle formal education and mostly those unskilled youth. My government will invest in the youth both able and disabled."

He also hinted of deliberate measures that would be taken to create job openings for young people. "We will set up special retirement packages for the aged so that, they will be willing to retire honourably without fear of not being cared for."

Mr Ayariga said a PNC administration would run on the pillars of rehabilitation, redirection, youth empowerment, and economic growth. In a speech lasting about 20 minutes, the presidential hopeful spelt out plans for education, agriculture, fishing, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), health, housing, among others.

He said he would rely on a long term development to execute policy interventions. "I will bring on board a long term national development plan for Ghana, which will be for the next twenty to thirty years period; it will include a development policy document that contains the national vision. It will be a document that will focus on rehabilitation of the various sectors of the economy, growth and a new direction for our Country."

His assurances come amidst public and civil society uproar about government's stance on Long Term Development Plan (LTDP).

In the White Paper gazetted on June 15, 2012, the government accepted 90 per cent of recommendations made by the Constitution Review Commission but threw away some well-founded recommendations such as the Commission's proposal that a long-term National Development Plan should be entrenched in the Constitution.

Mr Ayariga explained that the significance of long-term National Development Plan "for the Ghanaian is that it will encourage long term planning for all."

Besides, individuals, particularly students, could use information in the long-term development plan as a guide in planning for skills acquisition. "Also business people would have relevant information for prudent decision making...and for investors, the LTDP would provide the appropriate guide in investment decisions."

And it's going to be non-partisan development policy and would be drafted professionally with empirical facts on projections in all sectors of the economy in the long term.

That was after he had lamented that, "In Ghana, planning is a serious problem, as well as implementation and monitoring. As the saying goes 'he who fails to plan, plans to fail. And if you don't know where you are going you will never know when you get there."

On the other hand, the PNC torch bearer gave pro-transparency and accountability activists hope, stating: "I will lead a system of governance that will promote transparency in Government business... Those who represent us in government shall render accountability to us to uphold our trust, and we shall render accountability to those who hold us in trust."

Similarly, he had a message for the peace movement in the country: "In our vision to bring peace for election 2012, we the new PNC have ventured into preaching the politics of love, tolerance, fairness and transparency so that democracy will be deepened."

He then thanked all peace ambassadors and encouraged them to keep up the exercise of promoting peace in the upcoming general elections.

The premise for his persuasion was that Ghana has gained reputation as a peaceful and stable nation in a region that is notorious for political violence in the form of violent power takeovers and post-election violence. But pre- and post-2008 election events, coupled with the use of hate speech especially by the two main parties, have given rise to concerns that Ghana's peace is at risk.

In this regard, Mr Ayariga said, "We as a nation are worried about what is going to happen before, during and after elections. It is our prayer that the almighty GOD will see us throughout the election year peacefully and in harmony."

He then assured that he and the PNC "believes in the politics of togetherness rather than a divide and rule tactics" and "are keen on bringing all political heads, opinion leaders and the society together for a new Ghana..."

Crash-land

Soon however, Mr Ayariga was stuttering with his utterances as questioners began to quiz him in pursuit of more specific solutions. Often, he stayed away from elaborate answers, occasionally referring questioners to the statement he had delivered earlier.

Occasionally, he helped his audience shed off some of their stress with answers that drew laughter. A case in point was when he said: "In our national development plan, we have said that we are going to separate economic power from political power...We will look at it when we come to power...You see the issue is that when you don't enter a room you don't know what is inside."

The statement was in response to a question from the moderator for the evening, Bernard Avle of Accra-based Citi FM, who asked whether a PNC government under Hassan Ayariga would allow electorates to vote for Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs).

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