John Mahama: Why I’m coming back

In this wide-ranging interview in July, John Dramani Mahama, Ghana’s former president and leader of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), explains why he finds it necessary to run again for president. The “poor performance,” as Mahama puts it, of the government of President Nana Akufo-Addo and the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) necessitates its rejection at the polls by the electorate come December 7, 2020. “We had made significant progress in many sectors of our national life which needed to be built upon. This has not happened and has left Ghanaians disillusioned,” Mahama says, adding: “there was a lot that we had going across various sectors, which have not been seen to fruition by this government, rather regrettably … I was laying down a vision, carefully and methodically, but this was truncated by the loss of the 2016 elections, and I believe that another opportunity at the leadership of Ghana will enable us to take that vision a step further and deliver real improvements in the lives of our people.” We hope our readers will take in all that is offered here at this momentous turning point in Ghana’s political history.

Former President John Mahama

Former President John Mahama

Q: Why do you want to come back as President?

A: There is a lot wrong with our country today. Many of the gains made during our time in office have been eroded through the poor governance of the Akufo-Addo government. This has resulted in severe economic difficulties and stagnation for a majority of Ghanaians, and massive unemployment and job losses due to business closures and institutional decay at all levels.

We had made significant progress in many sectors of our national life which needed to be built upon. This has not happened and has left Ghanaians disillusioned. I was laying down a vision, carefully and methodically, but this was truncated by the loss of the 2016 elections, and I believe that another opportunity at the leadership of Ghana will enable us to take that vision a step further and deliver real improvements in the lives of our people.

Q: Do you see a sense of destiny in what you are doing? Or is it merely the lure of power and its trappings that are driving you?

A: It is a sense of duty to my country and people that is driving my bid for the presidency. I have thrown my hat in the ring to help salvage the ship of state, which now is wildly off-course and heading for a ditch. I have never viewed the opportunity to serve as a reward for longevity in the public space or a right that anyone is entitled to. It is all about service for me and making what contributions can be made to push Ghana into the ranks of prosperous countries.

Q: By wanting to stage a “Second Coming,” you are saying you have unfinished business. What is this unfinished business?

A: As I indicated earlier, there was a lot that we had going across various sectors, which have not been seen to fruition by this government, rather regrettably. We had made investments in the energy sector, for instance, which we had intended to anchor very rapid economic development. We had plans for education and health, which would have stood us in better stead to address the COVID-19 pandemic, whose handling has been bungled by this government.

We also committed a lot of resources to upgrading the country’s infrastructure to ease the lives of our people and hasten the pace of development. This level of progress has been pegged back by the misguided policies of the current government, and there is the need to bring in fresh impetus to the governance of the country and pick up the pieces to take us where we should be.

Importantly, I cannot abandon the call of my people.

Q: Why do you think Ghanaians should vote for you again?

A: Every election is first and foremost a referendum on the incumbent government. People give you a mandate for four years based on clear commitments you make to them. At the end of the four years, you need to account for the use of that mandate, and if they find that you have failed to execute that mandate in a manner consistent with the commitments made to them or in a manner that has brought tangible improvements in their lives, they weigh another option.

Based on the extremely poor performance of the Akufo-Addo administration alone, there needs to be an urgent change, as their continued stay beyond the current mandate has become untenable. I do not see a glimmer of hope that this government would be able to turn things around. They have not delivered the economic miracle they promised, taxes are very high, our national debt has reached unsustainable levels, and our currency continues to lose value. We cannot point to any significant improvement in the living conditions of the people.

Compounding this bad situation is a very polarizing style of governance that continues to divide our nation. State institutions are no longer held sacred, as they have been heavily politicized to the point where the security of tenure guaranteed certain categories of state officials have virtually been removed. There is currently a controversy over efforts to remove the Auditor General for taking the fight against corruption to the doorstep of the presidency, which exemplifies the sort of environment we have been ushered into.

In addition, there has been an upsurge in government-sponsored lawlessness and impunity, abuse of the rights of citizens, curtailment of some basic freedoms, including media freedoms, and a general sense of creeping dictatorship, though we are supposed to be in a democratic dispensation.

Second, we will offer what I consider to be a vastly superior vision and governance plan to the people of Ghana that will address the biggest challenges confronting our people, including unemployment, jump-starting the economy, fixing the multiple problems with education and health, as well as tackling, in a comprehensive fashion, the complex problems that have be- deviled us for many years.

Finally, we have a much better record of governance than the Akufo-Addo government, and I am sure the people of Ghana appreciate this and know that I will do a much better job leading this country than we are currently witnessing.

These three make a compelling case for why I should be voted for.

Q: You and the NDC are deeply disappointed and strongly disagree with the Supreme Court over its ruling to outlaw the old voters’ card and birth certificates as identification documents for registering to vote in the country. You have called it a “grand conspiracy” to deprive Ghanaians of their inalienable right to vote. What more do you think lies behind the Electoral Commission’s stubborn insistence that the old and established identification documents should not be used this time?

A: There is, without question, a desire to skew the election in favor of the NPP even before it has taken place. All the steps taken up to this point by the Electoral Commission have tended to mirror the exact position and wish of the NPP. The decision to compile a register was completely without foundation. We had a register that had not been proven to be defective in any way. At best it required the regular update that has been undertaken towards every election.

This is the same register that was used to elect President Akufo-Addo and all the 275 MPs in Parliament. This same Electoral Commission has used the register to conduct regional referenda and District Level elections that produced 6,000 Assembly members and 35,000 Unit Committee members. If the President accepts the mandate bestowed on him and accepts the legitimacy of our MPs, on what basis can he and his government instigate the compilation of a new register?

The other aspect of this matter relates to the removal of the existing voter ID card as a primary form of identification for the compilation of a new register. It is by far the most widespread form of identification in the country, held by almost half of our population and used for important transactions. Outlawing it was going to make it difficult for vast sections of our population to get their names on a new register.

The NDC was not alone in the struggle against the new register. A broad coalition of over 20 Civil Society Organizations, prominent traditional rulers, religious bodies, and I dare say, a majority of Ghanaians agreed with our position. We felt strongly that the law, common sense, and prudence were on our side, and had hoped the Supreme Court would uphold the writ filed against the Electoral Commission.

We were extremely disappointed at the outcome and it is even more disappointing reading the full judgment, which sheds light on the reasoning behind the verdict.

Q: You have said that the NPP has, since its assumption of power in 2017, consistently put in place measures that seek to systematically disenfranchise eligible citizens. Can you expand on that?

A: From the get-go, the Akufo-Addo government and the NPP made their intentions clear to manipulate the outcome of future elections to the extent that they had power. One only needs to look at the sequence of events so far to be convinced about the grand conspiracy.

The first order of business for them was the removal of the then chairperson of the Electoral Commission and two of her deputies. This has never happened in our history. We have managed to build that institution into one of the most credible and respected electoral bodies not only in Africa, but in the world.

The manner of the removal of the leadership of the EC [Electoral Commission] and the appointment of replacements who have acted in ways that show partisanship has dealt a blow to the image and neutrality of that body. Soon after this began the issuance of national identity cards whose acquisition was made cumbersome for many Ghanaians, and had always been designed to be one of two primary requirements for voter registration.

Then came the bizarre decision to compile a new register. The justification given by the Electoral Commission for this is essentially the same unfounded claims the NPP have made about the existence of foreigners on the old register. They have not been able to provide any credible evidence of this, yet it has formed the basis of the move for a new register.

The new register is a longstanding demand of the NPP, and it does not take much to see from the chronology of events that they have worked in concert with the EC to achieve that objective. This includes the misuse of the military and other security agencies to intimidate, harass, and molest people in identified communities, intended to prevent them from coming out to register.

There is obviously also a grand agenda underpinning this, which is to suppress the number of registered voters in areas that are strongholds of the NDC. How are they doing this? In places like the Volta Region, these security personnel are harassing innocent citizens and preventing their registration by classifying them as Togolese or non-Ghanaians. The BVR machines deployed to many of our strongholds by the EC are very slow compared to other areas, including the Ashanti Region. Can that be a coincidence?

January 7, 2013: John Dramani Mahama is sworn in for his first term as president, but that power slipped through his hands at the 2016 elections. Can he make a successful comeback in this year’s elections? Ghanaians will decide in December.

January 7, 2013: John Dramani Mahama is sworn in for his first term as president, but that power slipped through his hands at the 2016 elections. Can he make a successful comeback in this year’s elections? Ghanaians will decide in December.

Q: Maybe the question must be thrown back to you: Is it a coincidence? Added to that is your earlier assertion that the EC, which should be independent, has made itself a willing tool in the execution of a “most diabolic agenda.” Do you therefore trust that the EC can deliver a free and fair election?

A: At the moment, a lot depends on our own vigilance. Vigilance has always been required even in normal times. Current happenings at the Electoral Commission and other state institutions mean that the playing field would hardly be level. It is an unfortunate development given how far we have come in our electoral history as a country. We need to restore full confidence in the electoral process and the Electoral Commission has a duty to lead the way by acting transparently and in good faith. Consensus building needs to return to the electoral process, and all stakeholders must feel a part of the system.

I hope sincerely that the EC would see the need to conduct this election in a credible manner devoid of partisanship and fraud, so that the outcome would be acceptable to both the victors and vanquished. We have every reason in the NDC to heighten vigilance in view of all that has happened.

Q: In June 2020, you said the following: “We shall do all in our part to make sure that the country remains peaceful and that the electoral process proceeds smoothly. But, let nobody assume that we will accept the results of a flawed election.” What were you pushing at with that statement?

A: We have carved an enviable reputation for ourselves as one of Africa’s leading democracies. This will be our eighth election since 1992, and we have always emerged peacefully from them. Many countries have been unable to do this. We cannot take that for granted and begin to act in ways that undermine the peace we have enjoyed for almost three decades after the return to democracy. We in the NDC have committed ourselves to peace before, during, and after the elections. Recent developments, however, suggest a certain approach by the NPP and other state actors, which can disturb the peace we enjoy.

A case in point was the clear state- sponsored terror which occurred during the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election, where thugs belonging to the NPP were recruited into national security and armed to attack innocent NDC members who were only helping with our election-day activities.

This, coupled with the unfair practices of the EC, poses a grave threat to the peace and security of the country. I do hope that these occurrences will not recur, and that we will emerge from the 2020 elections a united and peaceful country.

Q: The massive deployment of military and other security personnel at the end of June in the Volta, Oti, Upper East, and Upper West regions prior to the voter registration exercise, according to you, was meant to create panic and anxiety among residents of those regions. “It was part of a larger strategy,” as you put it, “to intimidate them into abstaining from the registration exercise.” Can you expand that?

A: The example of Ayawaso West Wuogon and other attacks by NPP agents suggest clearly that this government will not shrink from using violence and intimidation as a tool to achieve undue advantage at the polls. For some time now, a very divisive rhetoric with ethnic undertones has come from leading figures within the administration and the NPP. A certain dangerous narrative, which seeks to brand some of our kith and kin from the Volta Region as Togolese who come to shore up our electoral numbers, has gained currency.

It is widely believed that this is the main motivation for compiling a new register so that the numbers there can be reduced. The NPP rather falsely perceives that reducing the numbers will give them victory ab initio in the elections.

In pursuit of this, there have been un- justified deployments of military personnel in numbers that cannot be acceptable during a time of normalcy and peace. There have been reports of abuses and acts of intimidation, and the timing of these deployments leaves us in no doubt that it has been done to suppress registration numbers and prevent Ghanaians living in Togo and those who commute between the two countries for trading and economic purposes, from registering.

There have been similar deployments in the Upper East and Upper West regions which share borders with Burkina Faso and Togo, all clearly aimed at the same objective.

Q: According to you, “a government that can put fear in some of its citizens just to rig elections is a clear and present danger to all citizens.” This is not the Ghana we know. Why is the government going down this slippery road? Is it just to hold on to power, or something more besides?

A: For some reason, this government believes that the mandate of the people can be usurped without submitting to their will and winning their trust through proper governance and real work. In the absence of significant evidence of achievement and an improvement in the living conditions of the people, perhaps they see the only viable path to staying in power to be suppressing votes in opposition strongholds through intimidation, hence these actions.

Q: You have accused the government of a “shameless abuse of state power” by attacking the very citizens whose safety and security the government should be protecting. You said “it is becoming evident by the day that the Akufo-Addo government perceives political power as an end in itself, hence the resort to crude and high-handed measures to usurp the mandate of the people.” Can you explain further?

A: The first responsibility of every government is to ensure the safety and security of its people. At no point must a government become a threat to the peace and security of the same people it is supposed to protect. The sad events at Ayawaso West Wuogon come to mind here and give indication that we are dealing with a government that is prepared to use unlawful violence against citizens in pursuit of political power. This was a government that had no compunction, arming thugs to unleash gun violence on its own citizens just so they could hang on to a Parliamentary seat. We have begun to see signs of the misuse of state security agents to intimidate NDC supporters in the various regions during the voter registration exercise. This falls far below acceptable democratic standards and must be watched.

Q: You have described the government’s handling of COVID-19 cases as chaotic. The high number of cases is a reflection of how the government has tackled the pandemic, you insist. “It is a sad testament of the bungling in-efficiency that has characterized the handling of the pandemic from the very beginning.” Are you not being hyper-critical?

A: At the last count, there were over 26,000 recorded cases of COVID-19 since the first two cases were reported on March 12, and over 130 deaths have been recorded. This late in the fight, health professionals do not have access to PPE and mass testing. Contact tracing is lagging behind, schools have been reopened, and scores of students have been infected with the disease, exposing thousands more to the risk of contracting it. It is fair to say this government has lost control of the pandemic and Ghanaians are very much on their own.

And that is putting it mildly. The government could have been more proactive in the steps taken so we could be ahead of the disease. We set up a team made up of some of the finest brains in the field of health and crisis management that made several recommendations, which have largely been ignored. It is really a shame that we are where we are now when we could have done much better at handling this crisis.

Q: While you were in office as president, the NPP famously used the tag of “incompetence” to denigrate you and your government. They have been in government for nearly four years now. Have they been competent?

A: There is no objective analyst or fair-minded person out there who can come to that conclusion after an evaluation of our work in government. We made giant strides in just about every sector of national life. Take the health sector for instance. We made the biggest contribution to building the health-care system during our tenure. Most of what we did has sustained the fight against COVID-19. One can only imagine what the situation would have been but for those investments we made. As far as I am concerned that claim is part of the regular verbal jousting that happens in politics, except this one had no substance to it.

Q: You were severely criticized for appointing your relative, only one relative, as deputy minister. Akufo-Addo has about 30 family members in various positions in government and government agencies, with some of them being full ministers. Not much has been said about this high level of nepotism in the country. Is it a case of four legs good, two legs bad? Do you think Ghanaians have been fair to you when it comes to nepotism in government?

A: That was yet another falsehood by the NPP. Based on that, Nana Akufo-Addo promised not to practice a family-and-friends government. He has completely violated that promise and installed the most nepotistic government in Ghana’s history, brimming with close relatives. I am certain the people of Ghana have taken note of this and would factor it into their voting decisions come December.

Q: Your government was also tagged by the NPP as corrupt. You have said you intend to address all the allegations of corruption made against you over the years, and you will also take on President Akufo-Addo fully on his own record of corruption. What are some of the salvos you will be firing in this battle?

A: We made measurable efforts towards fighting corruption and I initiated prosecution against some appointees. I had no difficulty taking direct action in such cases. The thing with Ghanaian politics is that corruption is a favored tool for hitting at governments, and the NPP takes delight in fabricating such claims to win power. When it comes to taking real action against corruption, they are found wanting, and this has been on display under this government. There have been countless cases of corruption in this government, many of which come with clear evidence, and yet not a single one of them have been prosecuted.

This government’s idea of fighting corruption is the sponsoring of vicious smear campaigns against me. We have been quite robust in stating our case and dispelling the falsehoods. If the President spent half of the effort and resources put into these smear campaigns on ridding his government of corruption, and stopped shielding corrupt appointees, we would be much better off as a people.

Q: If you were to become president again, what would you do to ensure that similar cases of corruption do not recur?

A: Corruption is best fought with a “systems and processes” approach where a clear mechanism is established to deal with preventing, detecting, and punishing corruption. That is, it will be less about individuals and more about an objective, impartial regime that deals with corruption. The key to doing that is strengthening existing institutions and guaranteeing their independence so that they can serve as a counterweight to other arms of government in the fight against corruption.

The exact opposite is happening now, and we have all seen how the hardworking Auditor-General has been victimized and effectively removed in order for a cover-up of the Kroll scandal to be made, and the Akufo-Addo government has been quite brazen about it. They have shown open hostility towards leading anti-corruption officials and have not shrunk from taking vindictive actions against them.

That is not how to fight corruption and it will not happen under my watch as President that people are removed because they did their work. I will introduce several reforms, and I have already announced the streamlining of the asset-declaration regime with the view to making it more transparent and subject to the scrutiny of the Ghanaian public.

Q: Can corruption ever be defeated in Ghana?

A: I believe corruption can be defeated, but it won’t come easy. As we know, it fights back, so the effort to defeat it must be consistent and unrelenting. At the very least, we should reduce it to the barest minimum and make it a high-risk activity with severe consequences for anyone involved in it.

Q: What do you think about how the NPP has run the economy? They say it is better now than when you were in power. How do you respond?

A: By all accounts and the facts available, the economy is in shambles. This year, we are projected to grow at 1.5%, which is the lowest in 37 years; inflation is back to double digits; our deficit is projected to hit 9.5%; our public debt is set to hit GH¢230 billion (about US$40 billion) from GH¢120 billion in 2016. The debt-to-GDP ratio will hit the critical 70% mark, from 56% in 2016, the Ghana cedi is almost at GH¢6 to one US dollar, from around GH¢4 in 2016. These benchmarks show clearly that our economy is in distress and requires urgent attention.

I am aware, of course, that in keeping with their penchant for spin and not taking responsibility for anything, this government will shift all blame for this onto COVID-19. While COVID-19 has had some impact on our economy, this government has had more resources even in this COVID-19 period to have done better. I have looked at the IMF data on other countries, and you will find that countries that are much smaller than Ghana, like Benin, Gambia, and Guinea, will be growing at higher rates than Ghana despite being hit also by COVID-19. The COVID-19 argument must therefore be de-emphasized and the Akufo-Addo government must take responsibility for the poor economic performance.

Put together, they have had, per our estimation, about GH¢250 billion in resources in the last four years, which is more than any government has received. Between 2009 and 2016, the NDC received roughly the same amount and has so much to show in each sector.

The effect of this mismanagement of the economy has been the near-collapse of many sectors of our economy, shut down of businesses, massive job losses, rising unemployment, and a chaotic financial sector worsened by a vindictive collapse of some major Ghanaian businesses in the sector under the guise of a clean-up. These must be addressed quickly to restore progress and prosperity for all.

Q: You have said going back to the IMF during the first weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic is a sign that Ghana’s economy has been run down by the NPP government. Can you explain?

A: The IMF bailout in the first few weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak is the clearest indication yet that the economy was in shambles. The money was to be used for direct budget and balance of payment support. It was a rapid credit facility, which meant that it had to be front-loaded and quickly, lest the economy collapses. If the economy was doing as well as the Akufo-Addo government claimed, why would this speedy bailout be necessary?

When they said we won’t go back to the IMF, they offered no caveats. It was just the usual empty rhetoric that they have come to be known for. Mind you, in addition to the US$1 billion from the IMF, they also received US$100 million from the World Bank, took over US$200 million from the stabilization fund, which we had built up considerably before leaving power, and have recently got GH¢10 billion in financing from the Bank of Ghana, something we did not do when in power.

These are the tell-tale signs that the economy is on its knees. Three weeks into a pandemic, a supposedly strong economy cannot capitulate in the fashion that ours did.

Q: You have accused Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta of having engaged in what you call “creative accounting.” Tell us more about it.

A: We have provided evidence which shows quite clearly that this government has been concealing the true state of the Ghanaian economy, especially in the reporting of the budget deficit. What has happened is that they have arrogated to themselves what expenditure to add to the calculation of the deficit when they are required to add all expenditures. For instance, they claim to be treating energy-sector payments and financial-sector bailout as below-the-line items. There is no law of practice within our setting which permits that. All expenditures must be accounted for and reported in the deficit calculation.

To conceal the high deficit numbers, which were 7% in 2018 and 7.5% in 2019, they reported 4.7% and 5.2% respectively in the budget, and were compelled to provide the true figures of 7% and 7.5% to the IMF. This is the thrust of our case as far as the concealment of economic figures are concerned.

Q: It has been said that apart from Ghana’s first president, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, no other president in the country has built more infrastructure than you and your government. Do you agree?

A: Our record speaks for itself, and we are quite gratified that the people of Ghana appreciate the contributions we made in the area of social and economic infrastructure development.

Q: Tell us what drove you, in the space of four years, to build all that infrastructure for the country?

A: The infrastructure investments were very necessary at the time. Across all sectors of national life, there were huge gaps in the provision of important social services like health, education, electricity, water, and communications, among others. For instance, if we were to improve access to quality education, we could no longer live with the situation where our children sat under trees to receive their education, or if we were to improve upon the health-care system, it was not tenable that people had to travel over long distances to access health-care because of the lack of health facilities in their communities. When we came into office, almost half of Ghanaians did not have access to a basic necessity like water, and we needed to work to address that problem.

The infrastructure program was aimed at enhancing the quality of life of our people first and foremost, and also catalyzing rapid economic development through investments in transportation, roads, and other areas.

John Mahama: “Every election is first and foremost a referendum on the incumbent government. Based on the extremely poor performance of the Akufo-Addo administration alone, there needs to be an urgent change, as their continued stay beyond the current mandate has become untenable. I do not see a glimmer of hope that this government would be able to turn things around.”

John Mahama: “Every election is first and foremost a referendum on the incumbent government. Based on the extremely poor performance of the Akufo-Addo administration alone, there needs to be an urgent change, as their continued stay beyond the current mandate has become untenable. I do not see a glimmer of hope that this government would be able to turn things around.”

Q: Unfortunately for you, instead of Ghanaians appreciating your efforts to leave them with a healthy legacy of infrastructure, they received it with ambivalence. “We can’t eat roads,” they said, and indeed they voted you out of office. Did you feel betrayed?

A: That is attributable to the kind of politics practiced here. The NPP saw the infrastructure program as a threat to their electoral chances and waged a war of attrition against it in a bid to convince people that it was not what they needed. Even where these projects are so visible and imposing for everyone to see, it has been possible for Nana Akufo-Addo to claim that they do not exist. We have documented these projects and there can be no doubt about their existence.

Despite all that was done to downplay the importance of these investments, we know that the overwhelming majority of Ghanaians appreciate these investments and the improvements they have brought to their lives.

Q: It is said that President Akufo-Addo would not go and officially open the Accra airport’s new Terminal Three because it was built by you. In fact, Terminal 3 is still not opened officially, though it is in use. What goes through your mind when you see such an attitude from a sitting president?

A: The refusal to officially commission Terminal 3 is most unfortunate and amusing at the same time. It is such a vital piece of infrastructure that is currently at the heart of our aviation industry. It is not clear to me why the President chose not to open it officially though it has been in use for close to three years now. I guess that is the most important thing at this moment, the fact that its importance and benefit to the country cannot be in doubt and that it is serving a very useful purpose.

Rather surprisingly, Akufo-Addo has packaged the Terminal 3 airport to be handed over to his chosen friends to ostensibly manage. The workers and unions are protesting, responsibly, against this bad decision. The airport can be managed by the GACL and by Ghanaians.

Q: In the 2016 election campaign, candidate Akufo-Addo and the NPP made many lofty promises, such as one district-one factory, one village-one dam, and one constituency-one million US dollars for projects of the constituencies’ choosing. Have you seen anything to impress you in this regard?

A: We in the NDC have only recently conducted a detailed analysis of the NPP manifesto and promises made in 2016 and found through a very thorough and objective process that the fulfilment rate of the promises is just about 14%. It was quite obvious at the time that some of the promises being made were going to be broken because they were poorly thought through. They have simply not been able to deliver what they promised the people of Ghana, and the evidence is there for all to see. No constituency has received US$1 million every year as promised, we do not have a factory in every district four years after the promise was made, and dams have not been constructed in every village.

Q: What do you say about the NPP government’s broken promises?

A: The 2016 promises of the NPP have proven to be the most deceptive under the 4th Republic if not the entire history of Ghana. One only needs to read their manifesto and assess it against what has been achieved, and you would be left in no doubt that the promises have not been fulfilled. This has deepened skepticism among the populace about politicians, and we must draw useful lessons from it and take our people more seriously. There is no point putting together promises that cannot be achieved only to win elections.

Q: Some people claim that the NPP’s performance in the last four years outweighs yours. What do you say?

A: I can say with a great degree of confidence that this claim is inaccurate. There is hardly any sector of national life that the NDC has not outperformed the NPP, and the evidence is there for all to see. Be it education, health, transportation, energy and all the other important sectors.

Q: You have promised to review the Akufo-Addo government’s Free-SHS Policy within 90 days of becoming president again, by calling for a broad stakeholder and consultative meeting on the way forward for a better free SHS. What will that meeting do that Akufo-Addo’s government is not doing?

A: We are at a stage where we need to agree as a nation on how to approach the issue of access to quality education. The current ad hoc approach where we chop and change policies has not yielded the kind of results required. There has been a hot debate and criticism among stakeholders over the handling of education by this government. I believe that it is time to forge a national consensus on the matter and have a unified position on the matter.

That is why I have proposed the holding of a stakeholders’ forum to discuss the matter and determine the way forward. I am committed to delivering a better, improved and beneficial Free SHS program, tackling the challenges we are presently confronted with, especially overcrowding in schools due to the non-provision of critical infrastructure to create space before the program started.

This led to the double-track system where senior high school students go to school in batches, effectively introducing a shift system. Many Ghanaians disagree with the system as it has a negative effect on education, so one of the things we will do is to end that system as soon as possible to restore normalcy to the education system.

Q: You are also not happy with the Public Universities Bill. You have in fact said: “Our academics and students need support to focus on their core mandates of creating and sharing knowledge, not a Public Universities Bill that seeks to control and undermine the independence of our intellectuals and other researchers in state-owned universities.” Can you expand on this?

A: The Public Universities Bill is a clear and present danger to academic freedoms and seeks to introduce governmental control in the running of our universities. It represents one more effort to weaken public institutions for reasons best known to the Akufo-Addo government. I believe just as many stakeholders do, that the universities should be allowed their autonomy so they can remain the bedrock of knowledge acquisition and human-resource development.

Q: You have also said you will repeal the Public Universities Bill when you become president again. Do you really mean it?

A: I mean it when I say I will repeal the Public Universities Bill if it has been passed by the time I come into office.

Q: Technical and vocational education has a special place in your plans for the Second Coming. What precisely will you do to improve TVET program if you are elected again?

A: We view technical and vocational education as the next big thing in education. It is that which will help address the middle-level human-resource needs of the country, especially in the area of technical skills.

It can also help address the worsening unemployment situation by providing our young people with the requisite skills set that enables them to chart a path of self-employment, instead of relying on government for employment.

To this end, I have said that technical and vocational education shall be made free from second cycle to tertiary level, and we will make the needed investment to bring this to fruition.

Q: How do you see your and NDC’s chances of winning the 2020 elections?

A: The NDC chances in this election are as bright as all the four elections we have won since 1992. This is down mainly to the fact that we have a superior program which we have been sharing with the people of Ghana. Our manifesto is ready and we will soon launch it. Second, the Akufo-Addo government has been completely abysmal and have failed to deliver what they promised. We also do have a much better record of governance than the NPP, and I am quite certain that the people of Ghana are aware of this and will give us a mandate to govern this country come December 7th.

Q: If you and the NDC win the elections, what will it portend for Ghana?

A: An NDC victory is essential for the future of this country. The current trajectory we are on can only lead to doom. I have said that this election will probably be the most defining for our country’s future. We can no longer be saddled with the poor governance of Nana Akufo-Addo that has reversed the major gains chalked up in every aspect of life. The NDC will form a government that will work for the people and address their most pressing concerns. We will also position this country on the path to prosperity and safeguard its future in a way that prioritizes social justice, equity, and fairness to all.

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