I was supposed to be chatting with my friends on the internet as we watched (and listened) to the second presidential debate organised by the Institute of Economic Affairs. Sadly, my internet connection went off just when the candidates were getting on stage. So I opened a ‘word pad’ and started typing away … Here is what happened, laced with my thoughts.
Jean Mensah, Administrator of the IEA sets the tone with a fine speech. She caps by saying, “May Ghana be the ultimate winner.”
That’s what the debate is all about, right?
All the candidates look very relaxed… but seriously, Nduom’s moustache is ‘disturbing’. He looks good in his ‘fugu’ and cap, though. In fact all the candidates seem very well dressed. Blue is my favourite colour and so, naturally, I like Nana Addo’s appearance better – not as dull as what he wore for the Accra debate.
Cardinal Turkson speaks about how the questions were selected. He likes to ‘slang’ small so he says, “Gad” instead of God! Call him the slanging cardinal.
As the rules of engagement are set forth, Mahamadu Bawumiah (Nana Addo’s running mate) is seen sharing a joke with Ivor Greenstreet, General Secretary of the CPP
My friend Isreal Laryea likes to say “exaggeration for emphasis”… hardly a week passes by without him saying it to my hearing and I’m not surprised that he says it on this occasion as he repeats the ground rules.
Let me say that the GTV pictures are very bad.
First question is to Nana Addo. Question has something to do with whether the country needs some democratic reforms. Nana mentions his proposal for the establishment of a Constitutional Review Commission. Nothing new exactly. But he has an opportunity to explain what this commission will actually do. And he answered within time. Good for him.
Nduom speaks next. He promises to work with the leadership of parliament to put the review process in motion. Decentralisation, he says, will be key. He promises “responsive governance” and promises to ensure clear separation of powers. DCEs will be elected, he promises.
Kufuor made a promise like this but changed his mind when he came to power.
Nduom talks too much and he’s belled out!
As Prof. Mills spoke, TV signal went off. But I’m listening on radio. He promises to look at the vice presidency.
He occupied that position once… and his predecessor was beaten to pulp by Rawlings. Remember Arkaah?
Well, Mills says he will also look at decentralisation.
We’ve heard all of this before, haven’t we?
Mills also belled out!
Mahama is not so sure the constitution is the problem. He speaks about amending the constitution to allow a “hold over” of the Council of State.
This is the first time I’m hearing such a suggestion and I’m impressed. It’s radical! The council of state is not as useful as it should be. Under Rawlings they were like errand boys and girls. Under Kufuor, well, they are just there… either they do not advise him or he doesn’t listen to wise counsel.
Mahama says “tampering” with the constitution will not do much to solve our problems. He’s also belled out as he speaks about how he will have DCEs elected.
Isreal’s first question is about why decentralisation is so hard to achieve.
Nduom takes it first and he speaks about “what is done in London”. “Decentralisation hasn’t happened,” he says.
But we know that, don’t we? If people travel from Tumu to come collect their pensions in Tema, then there is a problem.
Nduom promises more revenue for local governments. There is too much “at the centre”, he says. “The centrepiece is the election of the district chief executives. When they are elected you will see rapid development at the district level.”
I agree with him.
Mills raises the issue of demarcation of districts. The District assemblies must be accountable to the people.
Of course, they should.
Then he says something about amending the broadcasting law to announce decisions taken by the District Assemblies.
I think Mills didn’t properly think this point through. The district assemblies don’t need radio stations to function. They should just do their job and folk like me will do ours just fine…
Mills makes a point about decentralisation the administration of passports.
I agree with him on this. No need to travel to Accra from Paga just for a passport.
Mills mentions “compatibility and fidelity” as one of the reasons why he might be cautious about having DCEs elections. It seems to me like he has no intention of having DCEs elected. That’s a shame.
Mahama promises to move the money to the districts and the regions. He speaks very clearly about how he intends to decentralise. Mahama is really doing better in this debate than in the last.
Nana Addo agrees that DCEs will be elected. But claims that certain structures have to be in place first.
Not surprising! He thinks almost like Kufuor on this.
Nana says there is need to move rapidly towards electing DCEs. He mentions the “structure of regional governments” and talks about the creation of new regions.
Nduom mentions some truth that political parties sponsor candidates at the district level. Let’s stop the “charade”, he says. Let do partisan politics at the district level.
I support that.
Mills does too but he says a certain number of District Assembly seats should be reserved for Central government to fill – with people like experts and the marginalised.
Mahama agrees too.
I don’t think there is going to be any disagreement on this.
But the PNC man repeats the Kufuor argument that there will be problems if the party in charge of the central government is different from the one in charge at the district level. This doesn’t exactly wash with me!
Addae Mensah asks a question about corruption.
Atta Mills takes it first. He will not allow any of his ministers accused of corruption to go “scot-free”.
“You must be seen to be biting and not only barking,” he says.
If you ask me, “Zero-tolerance for corruption” sounded stronger but where did it take us.
Mahama says he will lead by example to check corruption. He mentions the Limann example and says not even a deputy minister was found guilty by any of Rawlings’ kangaroo courts.
He cracks the first joke, mentioning that ministers with hotels will not be allowed to take all tourism related seminars to their hotels.
Akuffo Addo starts his answer by mentioning that earlier government that claimed to be fighting corruption lost the battle and later sought help from the Queen of England and the UN.
I have no idea what he’s talking about.
Nana says it won’t be difficult for him to prosecute his ministers. He mentions that when he was Attorney General, he authorised the prosecution of a colleague.
Who was that? I don’t remember any minister under the Kufuor administration being prosecuted for corruption. Forgive my fickle mind. Or is it amnesia?
In any case, Nana says he will strengthen institutions like the SFO to fight corruption.
Nduom says “no party has a corner” on the issue of corruption. He will deal with perception.
He jokes about how police and other public officers demand money by saying: “it’s hot make me cool”. He will also bring in technology to check corruption. “We should deal with the institution.”
I like Nduom’s answer on this corruption issue better. The bit about CCTV camera’s is new.
Israel asks about assets declaration.
Mahama promises to lead by example whiles claiming that Nkrumah stole nothing.
Akuffo-Addo promises to publicise his assets. Makes a jibe about Mahama’s claim that Nkrumah wasn’t corrupt. He says there are commissions of enquiry that found otherwise.
Hmmmm…. like Kufuor likes to say, corruption is indeed from Adam. Nana sounds more confident in this debate. This is the Nana I know.
He says publicising assets could be the law of the nation… not just a gesture of the president.
Nduom says assets declaration forms should not be a secret. It should apply to MPs as well and he mentions that he will pass Freedom of Information legislation. He mentions the law that the president should not pay taxes. This is an “anomally”, he says.
And I agree. What the heck. Even on my few hundreds of Ghana cedis, I pay taxes and the president doesn’t pay taxes on his thousands?
Mills also draws some laughter as he speaks about the need to verify assets that have been declared. He spouses of public officials should also be made to declare their asset and so much “surrogates” and “people who are close enough”. He insinuates about the spate of corruption in Ghana today.
I agree with him: it’s very bad…
Mahama makes an interjection about publicising assets that have been declared as an example of his plan to lead by example.
But Nana Addo mentioned this earlier and added that we should go further and make it a law for assets to be compulsorily publicised – not just a “gesture”. I don’t know where Mahama was coming from on this. But hey, he seems to be firing on all cylinders.
So far it seems to be an even debate. But Mahama seems to be slightly on top.
I like Nduom’s remark that “we are where we are.” Fine quote. Easy to remember.
He says we must stop making references to the past and deal with the issues that confront us. But Mills comes in and says the comparison is not that “odious”.
Israel asks a provocative question: “how many homes to you have?”
Nana has three, Nduom has one (in addition to other “commercial assets”), Mills has two and Mahama has two.
Nana wants to comment on Mills charge that corruption is getting progressively worse. He’s told to wait.
End of round one. It’s quite even here but in terms of clarity and conviction, I think Mahama is slightly on top – except for that question he asked Akuffo-Addo about publicising assets.
I thought the break was for just three minutes. Such tardiness! I wish the moderators will ask the candidates about being late for assignment. The current president hardly ever shows up on time for anything.
Back in the auditorium (or the hall) despite several calls on people to “please be seated”, supposedly sensible human beings are still walking around as if their ears are filled with wax. Dr. Ed Mahama is even exchanges pleasantries with someone who just happened to have jumped on the stage. What a shame?
When people finally sit, Israel asks about transforming or modernising the rural environment.
Nana Akufo-Addo says it’s a “huge question”. He says we need to “open up the rural areas”.
Nana is speaking like the Nana I know – more confident, with his trademark gestures.
Education is the “overarching” area, he says and repeats the promise providing of free basic and secondary education.
Nduom says “matters social belongs in the realm of the state.” What the heck does that mean?
He relates the story of a certain Issa guy he met and cites the example of agricultural modernisation as a means of transforming rural communities. Water will be priority along with electricity, education and jobs. “The jobs will come and the rural economy will be transformed,” he says.
Mills sees water and health as priority areas. Education will also feature prominently. “Agriculture is the mainstay,” he says and asks about whether we can give “donkey carts” to farmers.
“Donkey carts”? So much for modernisation, huh? In any case, why does this sound to me like an idea from the manifesto of the party I belong to? You know – Noko Fio Party!
Mahama get on the offensive: “my three or four other colleagues have hard collectively 16 years in power. They haven’t done any of this.”
He seems to be suggesting that if Mills and Nana Addo (as well as Nduom, who served in the Kufuor administration) had any good intentions, they would have implemented their ideas long ago. Good point!
When he starts speaking about his own ideas though, Mahama appears to be saying nothing different from what Nduom, Mills and Akufo-Addo had said. Hmmm…
Prof. Ivan Addae-Mensah says many people use “free range” for the disposal of waste. And asks about waste management and disposal.
In case you didn’t know, “free range” is when people squat along the beaches and in busy areas (even along the Accra-Tema Motorway) to deposit the by-products of digestion. I’ve done it before. The feeling is good, with the breeze and all. But it’s a bad habit. And it’s dangerous too… Just imagine a snake grabbing your nuts as you “free range”. Ouch!
Nduom says until DCEs are elected, all those he appoints will be told to get rid of the garbage or lose their jobs. He speaks about proper town planning and enforcing codes. Within his first 100 days (if he gets to power) one of his priorities will be the disposal of garbage.
He answers the questions well.
Mills takes a jibe: government has neglected its responsibility, he claims. He will put together a team (yet another committee, of course) to study our waste management problems.
Do we need another committee?
Mills speaks about how those responsible for waste management are not being paid.
I can’t make head or tail of what he’s talking about. Maybe it’s because he’s the professor… my mind is not as developed to firmly grasp the complicated thought processes of a learned professor. Forgive me.
Mills mentions the enforcement of the rules and the use of local expertise, from KNUST for example, for waste management and disposal.
This point, I grasp very easily.
Mahama speaks about his plans of forming a government which will make sure that every house has toilet facilities so that people don’t use “free range” at the beach!
Akufo Addo will launch a “clean Ghana initiative” that will make the country the cleanest in West Africa within five years.
Big dreams, indeed! But the spectre of another set of presidential initiatives really scares the hell out of me. Maybe, Nana will be different.
Nana also talks about the appalling shortage of water even in Accra and claims that the taps are being turned on. What the heck? Where?
Nana will also put 20,000 town council (or sanitary) inspectors on the streets every year to make sure that they enforce planning and sanitation laws.
Were these people responsible for planning too?
Israel asks about poverty in the three northern regions.
Mills will not go in for any fanciful ideas. He will do what is practical.
Seriously, truth be told Mills doesn’t look so well. His lips appear to be twitching involuntarily.
Mills mentions “opening up the country” but largely, he hasn’t answered the question coherently.
Mahama says “both the NPP and NPP have had their chance”. He says all northerners want is “equal access to what the nation has to offer.”
He speaks with deep knowledge and passion on this issue. Which is expected, isn’t it. He’s a son of the north. He should know better than the others.
Mahama’s delivery is laced with some humour. I like that.
“Edward Mahama will have to win an election first,” Nana Addo says and adds that “finger pointing is not going to help us.” He speaks about a co-ordinated, comprehensive plan for developing the three northern regions.
Here, I’m not surprised that he mentions the Northern Development Fund, the bill for which has just recently been passed by parliament.
Nana Addo promises a significant transformation of the north within five years if he comes to power with the Northern Development Authority in place.
“Money doesn’t like noise,” Nduom says and makes the very good point that the senseless conflicts up north do not auger well for development.
Good point! Spot on.
He promises to use personal involvement to work on the matter of peace, stressing that he will personally visit conflict areas.
JAK, are you listening?
“I will be the peacemaker,” he says. I am with Nduom on this.
Addae Mensah asks about housing and urban planning.
Mahama mentions the example of Tema – a model city. He would do the same in Bawku.
Sounds like a good idea. Too bad he will never be president!
Largely, Mahama didn’t answer this question quite to my satisfaction, veering off into sermon on peace.
Nana Addo says he will revive the Town and Country Planning Department. Nana mentions the use of local materials for building more, cheaper, stronger houses.
Great answer! I just hope the local materials will not include thatch!
Nduom advocates acting “with discipline.” Take communities that will be easier to develop. He mentions the oil zone in the Western Region as an example. He will go back to plans from the 50s for redeveloping Accra and other areas. It’s all a matter of discipline, he says – promising to insist on the clear demarcation of residential and commercial areas.
I agree with him on this too. I am not very amused that an foreign