The public gallery of the House of the Legislature (Parliament) was filled to capacity on Thursday when the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, delivered his second State of the Nation Address (SONA).
The President’s address is in accordance with Article 67 of the 1992 Constitution which mandates that the President of the land “shall at the beginning of each session of Parliament deliver to Parliament a message on the state of the nation”.
Three former Presidents of the country graced the colourful occasion with their presence. They are former Presidents Jerry John Rawlings (Jan, 7, 1993 - Jan. 6, 2001), John Agyekum Kufuor (Jan. 7, 2001 - Jan. 6, 2008) and John Dramani Mahama (Jan. 7, 2012 - Jan. 6, 2016).
Other high-profile dignitaries at the event included the First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, the Vice-President and his wife, Alhaji Dr Mahamudu Bawumia and Mrs Samira Bawumia; the Chief Justice, Ms Justice Sophia Akuffo; and other Justices of the Supreme Court.
The rest are former Vice-President Paa Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur, former First Lady Nana Konadu Agyemang-Rawlings, the Chairman of the Council of State, Nana Otuo Siriboe II, members of the Council of State and members of the Diplomatic Corps.
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Also in attendance to observe and hear the President’s address were service commanders, including the Inspector-General of Police, Mr David Asante-Apeatu, traditional rulers and leaders of other political parties, including the acting National Chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Mr Freddie Blay.
Dressed in a dark suit with a dark-blue tie to match, President Akufo-Addo arrived at the forecourt of the Parliament House at about 10 a.m. yesterday and took the general salute from the security services.
He later inspected the Guard of Honour and then observed the relevant protocols. At exactly 10:22 a.m., the Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, led the President into the Chamber of the House, which was followed by the playing of the national anthem.
Surprisingly, after the national anthem, members of the Minority were still singing a verse of the anthem: “… to resist oppressors’ rule with all our will and might forever more”.
President Akufo-Addo also appeared to have been hit with a shocker when murmurings of discontent from some members of the minority greeted the mentioning of the name of former First Lady Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings.
It all started when the President, while acknowledging dignitaries in the House just after beginning his address, mentioned the name of Nana Konadu who is also the leader of the National Democratic Party (NDP).
But, the response from the Minority who wore black to indicate gloom was one of murmurings whilst the Majority just applauded..
President Akufo-Addo paused for a moment, turned to the Speaker and said, “Mr Speaker, that’s the way of the world, the Founder of the party (NDC) is no longer recognised by the members of the party.”
Interestingly, in the Speaker’s acknowledgment of dignitaries, he almost missed the presence of former President Mahama after introducing the two former Presidents, Rawlings and Kufuor. He skipped to introduce others but momentarily, he was informed of the presence of Mahama and he duly and respectfully acknowledged his presence.
Anxious dignitaries and many Ghanaians anticipated the President to touch on a wide range of pressing national issues and solutions to enhance the living conditions of Ghanaians in the unfolding year.
The President took the opportunity to review the achievements made so far in his first year of office and outlined plans and strategies to consolidate the gains made in the macro-economy.
He touched on a number of government flagship programmes, including the election of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs), the creation of new regions, roads and railways, Free Senior High School Policy, $1 million per constituency, ‘galamsey’ menace, energy, as well as public accountability.
Other areas he touched on were the security of the nation, daily minimum wage, job creation, sanitation, the formalisation of the economy and the Auditor-General’s report.
Additionally, he gave updates on the Office of the Special Prosecutor, allegations of corruption, housing challenges, foreign policy issues, Gender and Creative Arts and Tourism ministries, among others.
President touts competence of team
Earlier, President Akufo-Addo had touted the competence of his economic management team, led by Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, in reviving the national economy.
He argued that the positive indicators chalked up by his government had been picked up by international rating agencies.
Their performance, he said, had increased the economic growth from 3.6 per cent to 7.9 per cent, reduced the debt-to-GDP ratio and increased the foreign reserves significantly.
Members of Parliament from the Majority hailed this information with cheers, while those on the Minority side showed their disapproval with classic characteristic parliamentary heckling.
Meanwhile, in an interview with a cross section of those who witnessed the event there were mixed reactions to the address.
While some of them lauded President Akufo-Addo for articulating his achievement over the period, others felt that it was full of ‘empty promises’ and he needed to be more concrete on what he had achieved so far.