MAHAMA FIRES, NANA RESPONDS…Over viability of SHS and running of economy
By Emmanuel Akli & Daniel Nonor
That did not however douse the fire burning in him, as he went back to the drawing board to repackage his message, and came out strongly this year.
This time, the presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, is not only promising free basic education, but also to redefine basic education to include Senior High Schools (SHSs), and make them free.
The policy statement has become a topical issue which is currently being debated across the length and breadth of the country each passing day, with the National Democratic Congress (NDC) puncturing holes in the claim that it is not workable.
To the NDC, the basic infrastructure should first be put in place before one could talk about free education. When the whistle was, therefore, blown last night for the start of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) sponsored Presidential Debate in Tamale, many expected most of the heated discussions to be centered mainly on the free SHS policy, and that was precisely what happened.
After playing the National Anthem and speeches by Jean Mensa, Chief Executive of the IEA, and Professor Addai Mensah, a member of the Presidential Debate Committee respectively, the stage was set for the real battle to begin, but not without conditions.
The audience in the hall was barred from clapping and also booing at any of the candidates. Unfortunately, this gentlemanly agreement was breached, as the audience started clapping for their preferred candidates, forcing Professor Naana Opoku Agyeman, one of the moderators, to give a strong warning about the development.
When President Mahama was given the opportunity to start the debate, after all the candidates had introduced themselves, on his vision for the country, his first point of call was education, promising to improve upon the sector, and also give the opportunity to every Ghanaian, irrespective of his or her tribe.
He promised to provide a solid foundation for education at the basic level. The mention of education set the stage for the discussion on the free SHS policy.
Hansan Ayariga, for instance, was not happy with the free education being trumpeted. To him, quality education was what must occupy our minds “and not free, free.”
Nana Addo, on his part, seized the opportunity to highlight on the policy.
According to him, it was his vision to industrialise the country, and also entrench the rule of law, but this could only be possible if the human capital is developed, hence his desire to introduce the free SHS policy under his presidency, which would make Ghana a beacon of hope for Africa. It is a most important policy that must be addressed.
The hot exchange of words, however, begun when President Mahama told the audience that there was confusion in what Nana Addo said, when asked to espouse his vision for the country.
Nana had stated that he would pursue the vision of his party when he assumes office as mandated by the Constitution, but Mahama thought the answer was wrong, because, according to him, there was already the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy II (GPRSII), put together by all stakeholders, and which his government was pursuing.
To him, therefore, if Nana was going to implement his own vision, it meant he was going to abandon programmes already initiated under the GPRS, a decision that would not serve the best interest of the nation.
To President Mahama, policies and programmes put in place by the National Development Commission (NDPC) should be allowed to continue without any truncation.
When given the opportunity to rebut what the President had stated, Nana Addo insisted that there was no confusion in what he said, and that if indeed, there was any ambiguity, it should be blamed on the Constitution, which gives every government the opportunity to initiate its own programmes.
Nana Addo also argued that if the NDPC policies should be binding on successive governments, then there was no need for the NDC government to have rejected the recommendation by the Constitution Review Commission that NDPC programmes should be binding on all governments.
Visions for Ghana
Sharing his vision for the country, President John Mahama said his vision was influenced by the strong African and Ghanaian nationalism to create opportunities for all, by utilising effectively the natural resources of the country.
He also mentioned his resolve to invest heavily in education, quality health care delivery, and reduce child and maternal mortality.
The President said it was in his vision to project the Ghana’s image abroad, and bring it up to a position where she can stand shoulder to shoulder with her peers across the globe.
The Convention People’s Party (CPP’s) Dr. Abu Sakara had in his vision to bring Ghana to a point where she becomes a shining example of what Africans have achieved over the years.
He has the desire to make institutions work once again in the country, to building a self reliant economy.
He said he would invest in free quality education, exploit natural resources for the benefit of all citizens, and also invest in the private sector.
The People’s National Convention’s (PNC’s) Hassan Ayariga is looking at running a transparent and accountable government, and utilising the country’s rich natural resources for socially useful ends.
He has, as part of his vision for the country, the instituting of a national development agenda and restoring hope and confidence in the Ghanaian.
He also mentioned quality health delivery and food security as top on the agenda for making a better Ghana.
The NPP’s Nana Addo’s vision for the country was that of supervising a thriving democracy and a prosperous state, brought about through the transformation of the national economy.
Building the knowledge base of the country’s human resource by investing in education to make Ghana a shining example was also embedded in Nana’s vision.
Responding to questions on how to make agriculture a top priority of governments and not neglected, Nana Addo said he would encourage agricultural development, projects and investments in infrastructure for the sector for improved agricultural development.
He bemoaned the current situation where the agric sector was suffering neglect to the oil sector –a Dutch disease phenomenon.
John Mahama, in response, said his government was already in the business of improving seeds, proving extension services, and had made significant gains in agricultural improvement, and wondered where the NPP got the idea of a Dutch disease in Ghana from.
Enter Abu Sakara, who indicated that the country’s oil find should place Ghana to accelerate its development and spur agricultural development.
Hassan Ayariga entered with the idea of ‘Operation Feed Yourself’ to grow enough to feed the country.
He mentioned mechanisation of agriculture, promising that his government would raise cocoa to two million tonnes from the current one million tonnes.
The Chronicle would bring to readers full details of the debate tomorrow.
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