Ghana political activities lack social peace – Addo
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!