When the bell tolled for the second Presidential Debate, sponsored by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) at the Banquet Hall, State House, Accra, many observers were keen to listen to the views of the four presidential candidates on governance, especially, with issues bordering on corruption.
Their expectations were met, as the New Patriotic Party (NPP), represented by Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), led by John Dramani Mahama, Dr. Abu Sakara Foster of the Convention People's Party (CPP), and the People's National Convention (PNC), represented by Hassan Ayariga, did not disappoint.
One key issue that also aroused the interest of Ghanaians, as far as the debate was concerned, was the country's relations with its neighbour, La Cote d'Ivoire.
Nana Akufo-Addo was a Foreign Minister under Kufuor's regime, and, therefore, has in-depth knowledge when it comes to foreign matters. When the question was posed to the candidates to share their foreign policy directives to Ghanaians, it was Nana Addo and Dr. Abu Sakara who went on the offensive, attacking President John Dramani Mahama and the NDC government for failing to uphold the country's good image at the international level.
According to the leader of the elephant family, the country's hard-earned exceptional reputation as a strong sub-regional leader had been dented, a situation, he attributed to the way and manner the late President John Evans Atta Mills and Mr. Mahama handled the Ivorian crisis.
In the opinion of Nana Addo, the 'Dzi wo fie asem' mantra, espoused by the late President in the heat of the Ivorian conflict, had cast a slur on the image of the country on the international level.
The 'Dzi wo fie asem' policy, he noted, was a political blunder committed by the Mills-Mahama administration. "Unfortunately, the one contribution of the Mills-Mahama administration in foreign policy making was, perhaps, the most disastrous invention so far - the dzi wo fie asem policy.
Your neighbour's house is on fire, and you will turn your back and concentrate on your own affairs, while you watch your neighbour's home go up in flames," the NPP flagbearer poked President Mahama.
He added: "That is why today, a major blot on our international reputation is that our country is being seen as a haven for people to act against a neighbouring country."
He buttressed his argument with a recent report released by the United Nations (UN), in which Ghana was cited for providing a base for harbouring supporters of former President Laurent Gbagbo for subversive activities.
Excerpts from the report established that supporters of Laurent Gbagbo had established a strategic command in Ghana, which purpose was to use to "destabilise" the government in Ivory Coast and return the previous Gbagbo government to power.
Such conduct, according to Nana Addo, had stigmatised Ghana as providing a place to breed miscreants to topple governments. When given the nod to rule the country, the NPP firebrand noted that his "government is going to bring to an immediate end and restore the traditional Ghanaian foreign policy position of co-operation and good neighbourliness."
He said Ghana, under his watch, would co-operate fully with all friendly nations to win back its glorious image. The flagbearer of the CPP, Dr. Sakara Foster, also accused the NDC government of failing to handle the Ivorian crisis well.
He said the way and manner President Mahama and the late President handled the situation had cost Ghana its glimmer as a champion of Pan-Africanism.
"We did not take our good neighbourly role in Ivory Coast seriously, and that resulted in a conflict that is still going on, and we are harbouring the refugees," he noted.
Dr. Sakara said a CPP government would not align itself to any unilateral action by any country, no matter how powerful it was, noting, "this is based on the principle of maintaining sovereignty; dignity for everybody everywhere in a world; where increasingly, other powerful nations want to take unilateral actions, we must stand firm."
But, in a sharp rebuttal, President Mahama said the pronouncements by his opponents were far from the truth, arguing, "Ghana is not being used to destabilise Cote d'Ivoire."
He said his government was doing everything possible to ensure that Ghana was not used as a base to destabilise its neighbouring countries. On a visit to Abidjan in early September this year, Mr. Mahama promised that he would not let Laurent Gbagbo's supporters hatch plots on Ghanaian territory.
He told Alassane Ouattara not to worry, since Ghana would not serve as a rear base for subversive activities. To back his promise, Mr. Mahama told Ghanaians at the IEA presidential debate that there was no frosty relationship between Ghana and neighbouring Cote d'Ivoire, as he was always in touch with his colleague President, Allassane Ouattara, on how to handle the impasse amicably.
"I talk to President Ouattara regularly. We share information, and recently, we arrested two people who were attempting to run arms to Cote d'Ivoire. We interrogated them, and handed them over to the Ivorian authority," he said, adding "relations between us are great. There is confidence between me and President Ouattara."
Continuing on his foreign policy for the country when elected, Mr. Mahama said the focal point of his policy would be to help in the global effort to make the world a better place to live.
He said his government would continue to push for the removal of trade barriers across the sub-region, which was hindering efforts at regional integration.