The air would be awash with excitement as early results
trickle in. Some giants in parliament would still be standing. Other giants in
parliament would already have been swept away by the electoral hurricane. New giants in parliament would be born and all
over the country, tears of joy and of sorrow will flow in equal measure.
Under normal circumstances, we would expect that periods of
national elections would offer exciting moments when we look forward to
electing a national leadership that will steer the affairs of state. Not only
that; we would elect a leadership that would be able to harness the enormous
resources God has given this country to move it from a state of
under-development to a developed one.
One of my heroes is Nelson Mandela.In his book, Long Walk to Freedom, he wrote
that: “Without language, one cannot talk to people and understand them; one
cannot share their hopes and aspirations, grasp their history, appreciate their
poetry or savour their songs.” This quote has been coming to mind a lot lately.
In a matter of six long days, it will hopefully be all over,
Jomo: The brisk and thriving trade in verbal abuse, the attacks and counter
attacks, the accusations and counter accusations, the skullduggery and the
annoyance of self-perceived custodians of eternal wisdom and infinite knowledge
trying to ram their own subjective opinions down our throats from dawn to dusk
on media platforms.
The time is always right to do what is right. Dr Martin Luther King.
In the last stages of the Provisional National Defence
Council (PNDC) era, I courted anger and rejection from a number of public
officials, including one who appeared to be a friend, for daring to criticise a
full-time party executive who was given ministerial appointment in
government. The thrust of an article I
wrote was that beyond conflict of interest, the state was subsidising a
If you are a parent with a child below the age of 18 years
and this child registered to vote, whether intentional or by mistake, you will
do your child, yourself, your family and the nation a great deal of good if you
asked that child not to attempt to vote on December 7th 2012.
The presidential debates initiated by the Institute of
Economic Affairs (IEA) have been welcomed by many. They at least push us towards the more
entrenched democracies where candidates appear before well-informed audiences
to respond to serious national issues.
Whenever I am compelled by this thing called political
correctness to beat about the grasses and shrubs in order not to cause offense,
my conscience suffers some disquiet so darned it, Jomo, I have no alternative
than to respectfully place the eight candidates who each would be Ghana’s next
president under three headings:
The incumbent, the incumbent’s nearest and most powerful
contender and the candidates who unless they are inclined to play children’s
games adults choose to play, are aware that they have no realistic expectation
of becoming president number seven on December seven.
For all they have been worth in terms of possible influence
on voter choices and likely impact on the elections, the so called presidential
debates hosted by the Institute of Economic Affairs have come and gone. The
second televised debate on Wednesday night brought the candidates up close for
public scrutiny for the last time.
The apparently most popular candidate in both debates, I
dare say, was paradoxically the candidate I suspect, scored the least on the
score sheets: To some people, People’s National Convention presidential
candidate Mr. Hassan Ayariga is a very smart young man who to the puzzlement of
many, materialized out of nowhere and managed to snatch the party’s
presidential candidature from known and politically more experienced
Those least charitable to him think he is a political clown
of sorts who could justifiably stake a claim to having given the televised
debates some entertainment value.
Having complained to the IEA about an irritating cough the
day before the debate, the PNC presidential candidate had an excellent excuse
to rock Wednesday night’s televised debate every few minutes with exploding
coughs many suspect, were feigned as part of a grand act best placed in the
realm of the weird.
Yet others think that far from being a political jester, the
man could be in cahoots with the NDC to try and pull off an electoral coup.
Candidate Ayariga’s throwing jibes at and digging into the
ribs of NPP presidential candidate Nana Akufo-Addo during the debate was viewed
by some as evidence of the suspected clandestine collaboration. It is all
speculation of course, old chap. Mere speculation.
One opinion about Convention People’s Party candidate Dr.
Michael Abu Sakara is that he sounds idealistic somewhat in his vision for
national development and progress. Methinks he is the president Ghana will
never get on account of the unlikelihood of the CPP coming to power any time
Anyhow, it is now less than a fortnight to December 7 and
the front runners’ hearts must be racing like comets through space. We are
bracing ourselves for the high voltage electricity that will inevitably charge
the air the moment the first voter has cast a ballot and subdued excitement,
tension and some apprehension take over.
In the meantime, apparently now well and truly fed up that
every Jack in the street has made a pastime of dragging him to court morning
noon and night as if for sheer sport, the Electoral Commissioner has turned the
tables and is dragging Mr. Nobody to court.
His is one of the most bizarre cases in the history of
elections in Africa: Believe it or not, Dr. Afari-Gyan’s own EC it was which
registered toddlers to vote. Surely even a bat-blind registration official
stoned to the bone can see that he is taking the photograph of a toddler
crawling on all fours and not an adult.
Yet Dr. Afari-Gyan’s this week exhibited at a meeting with
parliamentary candidates in the Volta Region like prized trophies the EC had
won, Voter ID cards bearing the photographs of children who cannot be older
Dr. Gyan apparently foresees the possibility of chaos and
violence should officials and party representatives try to stop the toddlers
from voting. What technical reasons would they advance for stopping little
human creatures with valid voters cards from voting? That they don’t look like
So Dr. Gyan is heading to court to ask a judge to declare
the infants he registered as voters ineligible to vote! Wacky, Jomo. Incredibly
wacky to the chore.
The incumbent and his neck-to-neck contender? We have no
doubt that they have prepared adequately enough to each give the other a
splendid sprint for his cedis, so that a straight and fair win spares us
disputes or even a tension-driven second ballot with the potential to ruin
First the incumbent: Sworn into office to replace his late
predecessor only four months to the end of his party’s term, he has had to cram
a year’s campaign into the last quarter of the election year.
It has meant driving his campaign with near super human
physical and emotional endurance, a non-stop, rigorous, taxing and quite
killing trek back and forth across the country’s entire land mass along all
four compass points.
His has been probably, the most punishing presidential
campaign ever in our electoral history. The human body can only take so much in
extreme punishment and then something must give physiologically and it probably
just as well, that the mantel to lead the NDC in four months to the next
election did not fall on a much older candidate.
The incumbent’s potential Nemesis: Nana Akufo-Addo’s
campaign which has taken him to many of the areas where his closest contender
has gone vote-hunting with a singular hunger, has not lacked vigour of its own,
although it has been comparatively more measured.
Thanks to the colossal and unrelenting media and propaganda
over-hype and its own very contentious nature in the very first place however,
Nana Akufo-Addo’s free senior high school education over-hype has all but eaten
up his other very important campaign messages.
Sober, calm, outgoing: That was Alhaji Aliu Mahama the
former Vice-President of the mighty republic who walked off into the sunset at
66 this week.
The late former Vice-President was the Northern Regional
Manager of the now defunct state builder, the State Construction Corporation
when I was the Northern Regional Editor of the Graphic in 1982. The Regional
Photo Editor Mr. Anthony Tawiah was a friend of Alui’s, so Tony and I made a
past time of raiding Alui’s office at our fancy. He was the kind of official some
journalists often refer to as a friend of the press.
The last time I met the late Vice-President was early in
2003 in his office at the presidency in the presence of his then Special
Assistant, Mr. Andrews Awuni.
Appalled by the lawlessness and chaos in the capital, the
late Vice-President embarked upon a project to use public education about civic
responsibility, to try and rein in a city gone stark mad.
One of his campaign adverts on television had a street
lunatic take to an apparently sane man who was pissing in the street, with
hefty strokes of a stout cane. Those who may want to revive his campaign in his
memory, could carry on the war from that perspective, yah?
“… as many people as possible of our generation who deserve
university education should obtain the opportunities of acquiring it. The
government firmly believes that this is the surest means, not only of securing
individual development and progress, but of enabling our students to approach
the challenging role they have to play in the moral, cultural and scientific
contribution of Ghana and Africa to world peace and civilization.” Kojo Botsio.
Our elders say in Twi that “se wonnya no dodo a, ena wosere
ntosoo,” literally meaning that when you get to buy in plenty you gain the
nerve to demand bonus.That is how
simplistically reducing education to free as against quality represents.
If we critically examine and appreciate the value of
education and its transformational effects, we would not joke with parents
rushing with their children to seek admission to senior secondary school and
being turned away by headmasters, when in reality, admission to public senior
secondary schools is done by the Ghana Education Service, through the
Computerised School Selection and Placement System.
Until Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah introduced the accelerated
secondary school programme and constructed a large number of schools under the
Ghana Education Trust scheme, many parents found it difficult to send their
children to secondary school.
Majority of our intellectuals, who had access to tertiary
education, did so through the Teacher Training Colleges, which were not only
free but provided living allowances.Most of them sat for the General Certificate of Education, Ordinary and
Advanced levels, as private candidates.They went to training college and allied institutions with the Middle
School Leaving Certificate (MSLC).
Today, such gifted, needy students have no opportunity of
ever improving their academic attainments since they first have to complete
senior secondary school before they can be trained as teachers, nurses and
other such needed skilled manpower.It
only means that senior secondary education is more than basic and we must
direct efforts at making it not only free but qualitative.
However, it is necessary to point out that quality and free
are not incompatible or incongruent, neither are they exclusive but mutually
inclusive.Indeed, there is no
scientific basis to suggest that free equals mediocrity.At least, the University of Ghana Business
School runs two streams of Master’s programmes, one regular which does not
attract tuition fees and the other, fee paying.Rather than the cost representing quality, the regular course appears
more prestigious and detailed.
More important, we should not lose sight of the fact that
the same 1992 Constitution which enjoins under Article 25 (i) that “All persons
shall have the right to equal educational opportunities and facilities and with
a view to achieving the full realisation of that right,
•basic education shall be free,
compulsory and available to all (b) secondary education in its different forms,
including technical and vocational education, shall be made generally available
and accessible to all by every appropriate means, and in particular by the
progressive introduction of free education”, equally demand under Article 38
(i) that “The state shall provide educational facilities at all levels and in
all the regions of Ghana, and shall, to the greatest extent feasible, make
those facilities available to all citizens.”
Thus any government that focuses on facilities without
considering how to make education progressively free would not be faithful to
the Constitution.Since 1992, fees in
secondary schools have been fixed outside the constitutional imperatives of
The lack of quality in basic education cannot be attributed
to lack of infrastructure, but supervision.The average public basic school has better qualified teachers than the
private ones, but ineffective supervision is the bane.
Some of us would never have gone to the university if Sixth
Form education was not free.We enjoyed
free education in Sixth Form and at the university.Our education was not inferior to any
elsewhere, but we did not pay for it.
Personally, free education has helped me.I nearly terminated my education after
primary school, but for the grace of a headteacher to whom I am eternally
grateful.In 1967, when we were entering
Middle School at Boamang, Afigya, we were confronted with problems.The primary school run two streams but the
middle school run one.
Therefore, irrespective of academic laurels, the ability to
pay the fees was paramount.However, the
headteacher went to my grandmother and offered to give me admission and wait
for my father to pay the fees whenever he came around.A lady, who was always among the top three,
together with many others who could not pay, terminated their education and
anytime I go home and see them, I express gratitude to God and the headmaster,
Master Tettey, for saving me.
Then at Sixth Form, in 1975, we were asked to go home and
bring our fees in the first term because the Scholarship Secretariat had
delayed.Not knowing how my father would
receive the news, I wrote a letter appealing to the Head of State, General I.
K. Acheampong, for assistance.
I was directed to contact the Regional Director of the Ghana
Education Service in Sekondi for the necessary action.But instead, one morning I was invited to the
headmaster’s office at Asankragwa Secondary School to meet the Director, who
was there to find the “naughty” student who had the audacity to write to the
Head of State.From there, there was a
general assembly at which my action was used to warn students to refrain from
such acts.But in the end, we were never
sent home for the fees.The school
waited for release from the scholarship secretariat.
However, it means that but for the free education, some of
us would never have had the opportunity for higher education.Annually, a large percentage of pupils who
sit for the Basic Education Certificate Examination are unable to qualify for
Senior Secondary School.But a large
chunk of those who gain admission are unable to take up the offers because
their parents do not have the money.
And now that the opportunity offered by teacher training
colleges for MSLC leavers is no more and one must have a senior secondary
school certificate before they can proceed further, we have to ensure
congruence between the demands of Article 25 and 38 of the 1992 Constitution.
That is why we must all strive for quality free education,
which can be realised with commitment and dedication, so that our generation
and those after us would be exposed to free education that will “enable them to
play their part effectively as responsible and reliable citizens in our new evolving
state” in the words of Mr Kojo Botsio and as established by Osagyefo Dr Kwame
Nkrumah, we need free education to produce Ghanaians “who should be sensitive
to the conditions around him that he makes it his chief endeavor to improve
those conditions for the good of all.”
Regrettably, with a heavy heart, I am returning to the Twi
saying that “Afe bi ye esan” (some year can be a bane) barely one week after
commenting on the unfortunate Melcom disaster in which 14 lives were lost
without any warning. This time round,
we have lost an affable statesman of our land.
I make no apologies for returning to the collapse of the
Melcom building this week, it is a serious matter.The incident exposes a bad side of our
otherwise admirable character.We should
not fudge the issues.We should deal
with the matter dispassionately and squarely.
Between the New Patriotic Party’s (NPP) ‘collapsing’ (black) and the National
Democratic Congress’s (NDC) strengthened (white) National Health Insurance
Scheme (NHIS), there appears to be no grey areas.
Jomo, when should we confront provocative external stimuli
in precise kind and when should we hug tight and keep our peace? When should we
speak up and when should we keep as mum as a clam, do you know?
Education makes a people easy to lead but difficult to
drive, easy to govern but impossible to enslave - Henry Peter Brougham.
In 2009, Prof. John Evans Atta Mills assumed office amidst
controversy when Parliament was enmeshed in dispute over whether new levels of
remuneration, especially retirement benefits of public office holders
identified under Article 71 of the 1992 Constitution, were approved by the
House, as required by law.
It was behind a commuter bus, “tro-tro” as we call them,
that I once read in the Twi language, the saying, “Afe bi ye esan”. Literary translated, it means that some year
can be a bane. 2012 is such a year in my
One of the fiercest battles for the Oval Office in the White
House in modern American history ended dramatically last Tuesday night when
Obama added the Ohio electoral votes to his tally to earn his passage for a
second term as President of the United States of America. Until then, it was too close to call.