9 November 2012

Ghana: Amisah-Arthur's Flop Sums Up How the Economy Has Been Ran

Takoradi — There were no street carnivals in Takoradi like those that greeted the Presidential Debate in Tamale. Residents here chose to follow the event from their television sets, and celebrated their candidates' performances in drinking bars and other public places, where the outcome of the debate was debated far into the night.

With results of the American elections being beamed live by CNN, some bar keepers hit on the bright idea of putting televisions at the disposal of revelers, who followed the local debate and switched on to CNN to watch an insightful analysis of how President Barack Hussein Obama was winning.

Trust Ghanaians to attach their fortunes to foreign events. A few National Democratic Congress (NDC) followers, who braved the flop of the Vice-President at the debating floor to venture out, were of the view that the retention of the American President would rub off on President John Dramani Mahama, who was at a point in time, touted as the Obama of Ghana.

Followers of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) at a popular spot, House Two, led by former national Chairman Peter Mac Manu, and current Western Regional Vice-Chairman Kwesi Biney, were quick to point out that Obama owed his victory to the way and manner he had handled the controversial Medicare, the revival of the American economy, and getting Americans back to work.

In contrast, the NDC and its presidential candidate have presided over a collapsing National Health Insurance Scheme, a limping economy, with the national currency faltering badly against the major currencies. To them, the performance of Vice-President Paa Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur, who was in charge of the management of the cedi at the Bank of Ghana for most of the period of the NDC administration, told its own story that it was time for the NDC to vacate the old Slave Castle.

The performance of Mr. Amissah-Arthur is summed up in the response given by Local Government Minister Samuel Ofosu-Ampofo. The Minister, who is one of the most popular faces for propaganda in this administration, said: "The women candidates did far better than their male counterparts. They have no formal training in economics, but they provided practical solutions to economic issues on the debating floor."

It was a euphemism for admitting that his candidate was a flop. No one, as far as I know, has ever counted on Mr. Ofosu-Ampofo to applaud the efforts of Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, running mate to Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, who undoubtedly, is the main threat to the continued occupation of the NDC of Government House.

Dr. Bawumia had made Mr. Amissah-Arthur very uncomfortable, puncturing holes in the presentation of the immediate past Governor of the Bank of Ghana. It was Dr. Bawumia's submission that there is a disconnect between the Single Digit Inflation, that had been touted about for the best part of the last four years, and the cost of living, that brought the response from the Vice-President of the Republic of Ghana that noisy complaints about the Single Digit Inflation had got some banks and the general public confused.

Dr. Bawumia put it to the Vice-President that when the wife returns from the market and complains about high cost of commodities, the answer could not lie in presenting her as confused.

When Paa Kwesi said that he had never ever been to court, when asked about what he would do to bring down the long time it takes to clear goods at the ports, I saw Mr. Ato Ahwoi, until recently referred to as the de facto Prime Minister of Ghana, draw back his seat. His long face, after the debate, summed up the embarrassment NDC officials suffered at the Akroma Plaza.

At one of the drinking spots, after the debate, one of the major concerns of revelers was the image the performance of the Vice-President sends out there of Fantis, the largest ethnic group occupying the coastal belt of Ghana.

"The NDC fielded a Fanti President, who messed up the economy, failed to be candid about his own health, and became the first leader in the history of Ghana to die in office. Now, we have a Fanti Vice-President who cannot even debate women in his own professional field of economics. "I am afraid the performance of these people in the highest office of the land has condemned Fantis to be on the sidelines for a long time to come," one person said.

Another tried to play down on his fears, alluding to the fact that the two personalities could not be the right representation of Fantis generally. "There are many brilliant Fantis out there who could be relied upon to do a very good job in government," he stated.

NPP Chairman Jake Otanka Obetsebi-Lamptey had other ideas about why the Vice-President flopped. "The Vice-President has not been properly schooled on how to lie. The NDC is all about propaganda and lies. It is obvious, from the Vice-President's performance this evening that he is not properly schooled in the art of misleading the public."

The NPP Chairman was enthused about the performance of his own candidate. "Dr. Bawumia was on top of his brief. He debated all the issues and told it as it is." He was also full of praise for the two women contestants. "I think both women did well. They are not economists, but they gave very practical answers to difficult economic questions.

Like the Tamale debate, the contestants stood on their toes throughout the three and a half hours the event lasted. Like Tamale too, the various political parties had their vans going up and down the twin city with their campaign songs and messages. The Convention People's Party (CPP), for instance, left a party van adjacent to the Akroma Plaza with party songs blaring away loud and clear, as people made their way to the debate floor.

The Nananom Traditional Troupe from Sekondi performed at the forecourt of the hotel. Inside the auditorium, where the debate took place, the Winneba Youth Choir, brain-child of the late Mr. Kow Nkensen Arkaah, one-time Vice-President of the Republic of Ghana, kept the audience entertained with renditions of patriotic songs.

The choir sang the national anthem immediately after the participants - Mr. Paa Kwesi Bekoe Amissah Arthur, representing the NDC, Ms. Charita Sarpong Kumankoma, who is partnering Dr. Abu Sakara Foster of the CPP, Ms. Helen Samorita Dzatugbe Matrevi, running mate of Hassan Ayariga of the People's National Convention, and Dr. Bawumia of the NPP - were ushered in by cultural drummers and dancers.

Rev. Ofori-Donkoh of the Sekondi Methodist Church offered prayers for the event to begin at 7:05 p.m., followed by the appearance of Mrs. Jean Mensa, Executive Director of the Institute of Economic Affairs, who mounted the podium to welcome the participants and audience.

The Vice-Presidential Debate, she said, was to afford the candidates the opportunity to sell themselves to the nation on how they intended to partner the President move the nation forward.

According to the Executive Director, the unfortunate demise of former President John Evans Atta Mills had brought it home that the transition from the Vice-President to the highest office of the land was only a heartbeat away.

She was followed to the podium by Pastor Mensah Otabil, Chairman of the Presidential Debate Planning Committee, who said the Takoradi programme was the continuation of the process to aid the people of Ghana make an informed choice at the polls on December 7.

"A week ago, we were in Tamale. Today, we are in Takoradi. On November 20, we will be in Accra for the final Presidential Debate. These debates are about you and me," he explained.

When Mr. Kwadwo Oppong Nkrumah and Ms. Shamima Muslim took charge as moderators, everything was in place for a perfect take off. Unlike in Tamale, where there were chaotic scenes at the break, with the mass invasion on the podium by party officials, the security detail in Takoradi ensured that there were no more than two representatives each of the four political parties taking part in the debate conferring with their representatives on the debating floor.

The importance of the election to the youth of Ghana, especially, was summed up by a group of boys running down the main road to the Akroma Hotel after the debate, singing and dancing. When asked why they were so excited, their answer was simple.

"We learnt that the NPP man won the debate. That means free SHS," one of them explained. When asked to explain their action, further, the leader told this reporter, in the company of a number of people filing out of the Akromah Plaza, thus. "We are in JHS Two. If the NPP win the election, it would mean that we all can go to SHS free of charge. That is our prayer. We are happy that the NPP man won the debate."

Those opposing the free SHS concept should better beware!

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