Ghana po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties lack so­cial peace – Addo

Daily Trust - - INTERNATIONAL INTERVIEW - From Nu­rudeen Oye­wole, La­gos

Nana Akufo-Ado has con­tested twice and lost pres­i­den­tial elec­tions in Ghana un­der the plat­form of New Pa­tri­otic Party (NPP). A for­mer At­tor­ney Gen­eral and Min­is­ter of for­eign af­fairs, Akufo-Addo was in­vited to Nigeria re­cently to deliver a lec­ture or­ga­nized by Ver­dant Zeal In­no­va­tion Se­ries. At a pre-lec­ture in­ter­ac­tion with jour­nal­ists, he opened up on num­ber of is­sues in­clud­ing rea­sons he will be con­test­ing in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Ex­cerpts

How will you rate so­cio-po­lit­i­cal events in Ghana? One thing that we will con­tinue to be grate­ful for in Ghana is peace and sta­bil­ity. The po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­ity in the coun­try is very vi­brant, but largely lack­ing in so­cial peace and that is an im­por­tant mat­ter to us. But as you can imag­ine, I am on the other side, so my view of what is go­ing on in Ghana is not very com­pli­men­tary. I think there are ma­jor dif­fi­cul­ties con­fronting our coun­try and I don’t think the ad­min­is­tra­tion is do­ing a very good job in han­dling the prob­lems. The elec­tions of 2012 are now his­tory, our party and the pop­u­la­tion are get­ting ready to look at the next elec­tion which will be in two years time. Yes, the sit­u­a­tion is quite ac­tive and we are hear­ing dif­fer­ent voices. So, apart from the po­lit­i­cal par­ties as you would ex­pect, civil so­ci­ety in Ghana to­day is very ac­tive in com­ment­ing on what is go­ing on in our coun­try.

Can you tell us some of the chal­lenges?

The econ­omy is poorly man­aged and that is bring­ing dif­fi­cul­ties to the people. We have had sig­nif­i­cant de­pre­ci­a­tion of our cur­rency; it ap­pears govern­ment is in a very se­ri­ous fi­nan­cial cri­sis, statu­tory pay­ments that should be go­ing to pub­lic bod­ies in Ghana are not be­ing made. Teach­ers, nurses and im­por­tant seg­ments of so­ci­ety are not be­ing paid. There are ar­rears of salaries be­ing owed for many months, es­ca­lat­ing cost of liv­ing, prices go­ing up and in some cases be­ing dou­bled, and se­ri­ous bal­ance of pay­ment prob­lems. Gen­er­ally, the man­age­ment of the econ­omy is not the best and it is bring­ing a lot of dif­fi­cul­ties for the or­di­nary people. That’s our con­cern.

Is there power black­out now in Ghana too?

Un­for­tu­nately, we used to think that it was a La­gos prob­lem, but it is also an Ac­cra prob­lem. We have some­thing we call ‘doom­saw-doom­saw’, and that is black­out.

But there is this im­pres­sion that power sup­ply is un­in­ter­rupted in Ghana, what hap­pened?

It is not true. We have not man­aged very well, the bring­ing up of our gas de­posits and, gen­er­ally, the fi­nanc­ing of the en­ergy sec­tor have proved dif­fi­cult for this ad­min­is­tra­tion such that the de­vel­op­ment of the in­fra­struc­ture that we need is not tak­ing place. So, you have a great deal of dif­fi­cul­ties for our in­dus­tries get­ting un­in­ter­rupted power sup­ply, hav­ing a great deal of dif­fi­cul­ties for do­mes­tic con­sumers; we are go­ing through this process of load shed­ding and, gen­er­ally, the sit­u­a­tion at the en­ergy front is very dif­fi­cult and very dif­fi­cult for the or­di­nary people of the coun­try as well as the busi­ness com­mu­nity be­cause, not be­ing able to func­tion means the coun­try is not func­tion­ing well. These are the is­sues that are an­i­mat­ing the po­lit­i­cal de­bate in Ghana.

It is in the news that you are run­ning for the next pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in 2016. If that is the case, how do you hope to ad­dress some of chal­lenges you have raised about your coun­try and the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion?

I am com­ing from a party that has a track record which is very pos­i­tive; that is the track record of the Kuf­for era. When we came into of­fice in 2001, many of the same phe­nom­ena that we are see­ing to­day ex­isted then. But within a pe­riod of eight years, a very ma­jor ef­fort was made to bring sta­bil­ity into our ex­change rate, bring sta­bil­ity into the rate of in­fla­tion and an en­vi­ron­ment that al­lowed businesses to func­tion bet­ter than they are do­ing now. The is­sues are sim­ple. First of all, we are bor­row­ing in Ghana at a rate that is com­pro­mis­ing the fu­ture of our coun­try. To­day, in­ter­est pay­ments on govern­ment debts are four times the oil rev­enue that we are get­ting. That is very, very dra­matic statistic be­cause it means that go­ing for­ward, look­ing at the fu­ture, we can’t even be look­ing at this par­tic­u­lar source of rev­enue for the de­vel­op­ment of our coun­try.

You have just turned 70 and the de­bate is rag­ing al­ready in your coun­try whether at your age you can still func­tion well as a Pres­i­dent?

Hon­estly I don’t think so. And I think there is lots of his­tory in Africa and else­where in the world where po­lit­i­cal lead­ers who are older than me have held or still hold­ing pub­lic of­fice. I think it re­ally de­pend on the per­son who the people re­ally want. It was the for­mer Amer­i­can Pres­i­dent, John Kennedy; the for­mer Amer­i­can Pres­i­dent said you can nei­ther be too young or too old for pub­lic of­fice. Next door to Ghana is a leader who is con­sid­ered as one of the most suc­cess­ful in West Africa, Alasanne Watara of Coted’voire. So if he can do it there, I can also do it in Ghana. So for me, age is not a fac­tor.

The dire pic­ture you paint, is it not be­cause you are in op­po­si­tion?

No, the sta­tis­tics are there. They are not my sta­tis­tics. Make the in­ves­ti­ga­tions for yourself. It is dif­fi­cult to mas­sage sta­tis­tics; rate of in­ter­est, rate of in­fla­tion, deficit and all those things are not things that can’t be man­u­fac­tured. They are there in the pub­lic do­main.

What do you think Ghana and Nigeria can learn from each other?

I think the most im­por­tant thing that we have been able to do in Ghana is to grow our democ­racy to the ex­tent that twice in a decade we have been able to su­per­vise peace­ful trans­fer of power be­tween the two main con­tend­ing par­ties, from the NDC to the NPP and from the NPP back to the NDC. Those two events in 2000 and 2008 have re­ally given a big im­pe­tus to the de­vel­op­ment of our democ­racy and shown our people that it is pos­si­ble, with­out vi­o­lence, with­out in­ter­ven­tion of soldiers to change govern­ment if the govern­ment is, in the view of the ma­jor­ity, not go­ing in the right way. You have not had that ex­pe­ri­ence here; it has been so far one way. People are telling us that this time around, it is go­ing to be a closer con­test, but I don’t know, I am not pre­pared to com­ment on that, but I think that is an im­por­tant phe­nom­e­non that na­tions need to go through and I be­lieve that next time or the time af­ter, it would be a good thing to see that hap­pen here in Nigeria. I think that is the big­gest les­son so far that Ghana can give and I think that is why people are talk­ing about Ghana as a beacon of democ­racy.

What then can Ghana learn from Nigeria of to­day?

This may not be very flat­tery to Nigeria, but I think that the most im­por­tant thing that we can learn is how best to make sure that re­sources that we have in our coun­try are used for the ben­e­fit of our people. Some of us still find it dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand how come Nigeria, with all its wealth, oil and all that, still has black­outs and these things that you know about. I think what we have to try and do is to make sure that we don’t go down that way!

Nana Akufo-Ado

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