THE security of Ghanaians and the country in general, the challenge of drug trafficking, the health of the economy and the failures and successes of the government are key issues that President J.A. Kufuor must report on in his last State of the Nation Address.
These are the expectations of a governance expert and a legal expert, as well as some Members of Parliament (MPs), when they were interviewed on their expectations of the President’s State of the Nation Address to be delivered on Thursday.
Another issue of importance is the December 2008 election.
The Executive Director of the Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG), Dr Emmanuel Akwetey, the acting Dean of the Faculty of Law of the University of Ghana, Legon, Prof Kofi Quashigah, and some MPs from both the Majority and Minority sides in Parliament shared their views in separate interviews.
Dr Akwetey said he expected the President to assure the nation of free, fair and peaceful elections this year by coming out clearly on the status of the Representation of the People (Amendment) Law (ROPAL).
He said the law had evoked so much tension since its development and passage that the President, as the mastermind of the law, had to use the last review of his tenure to break the government’s silence on the law and make a commitment to shelve its implementation till after the elections in December 2008.
“The President must defer the implementation of the law, make a clear statement not to push through with the implementation and give all assurances required in his State of the Nation Address to ensure peace and stability during and after the elections,” he told the Daily Graphic.
Dr Akwetey said another issue that had to be emphasised in the President’s report sheet was the discovery of oil in the country and the way forward after the discovery.
In his view, the discovery offered the basis for all stakeholders to engage one another for solutions to bridge the poverty gap.
He expressed appreciation over the fact that the Northern Development Fund had been set up before the President ended his tenure, but stressed that more was needed than just establishing the fund.
“More money is needed in the fund to ensure the right investments and turnover to transform the livelihoods of the people there,” he said.
Dr Akwetey said he also expected the President to speak about the issues of drugs and “monecracy” that were gaining currency in the country.
He was of the view that drugs and their attendant characteristic of placing money over and above every other moral social endeavour were at the heart of corruption and needed the President’s statement on how they were going to be solved.
Prof Quashigah was of the view that the drug trafficking challenge was a dent on the image of the country internationally. Moreover, it had negative repercussions for the country’s development policy, for individuals and the youth of the country.
“The drug issue is embarrassing to Ghanaians generally and the government in particular. It affects our national dignity and causes frustrations for Ghanaians as they travel abroad because we are all suspected and subjected to uncomfortable questioning and searches,” he said.
Prof Quashigah said the President had to make clear statements on how to solve the challenge because the drug issue had the potential of distorting the values of the socio-political system by putting a premium on cheap money through drug trafficking rather than hard work.
He was worried that if the President did not set the tone on how to resolve those issues, Ghanaian children would be affected by it, since “once the drugs pass through your country, it is certain that some will be left for the citizens to be hooked on”.
Prof Quashigah also asked for a report on the security of the country and incessant chieftaincy disputes.
“These conflicts and disturbance seem to just happen and we are always caught napping when they occur,” he pointed out.
He said the Dagbon and Anlo chieftaincy disputes, the Bawku crisis and several other chieftaincy disputes had to be tackled by the President in his address to lead a national effort towards their resolution.
Prof Quashigah said he expected a clear report from the President on the state of the economy and its prospects for Ghanaians, noting that a weak economy had negative effects on all other sectors of development, weakening the strength of governments, respect for the rule of law and other social structures.
“Can we confidently say that we are building an economy that will eventually reduce poverty in the country?” was the question he posed to the President.
Generally, the two said the State of the Nation Address was an important constitutional mandate.
While Prof Quashigah said it was an avenue for the President, as the one chosen among all to govern, to give an account of his tenure to the sovereign people, Dr Akwetey said the address was monitored for follow-ups on issues of governance.
Dr Akwetey predicted that as happened in all other times, the President would be optimistic as he delivered his last address, based on his expectations as he assumed the Presidency seven years ago and the successes he had chalked up in leading the country to hook on to the Heavily Indebted Poor Country’s (HIPC) initiative, the growth in the economy, the Golden Jubilee celebrations and the recent Ghana 2008 tournament.
“It will be legitimate for him to be upbeat, but it will also be legitimate for those who are critical to be so, too,” he said.
The MPs, on the other hand, asked the President to use his last State of the Nation Address to summarise the achievements of his rule and show the direction for his successor to follow for the country’s economic progress.
They expected the address to be non-partisan and one that would ensure unity as the country prepared for the general election in December.
However, MPs from the Minority side added that it would also be prudent for the President to use the address to enumerate his failures to guide his successor on how to solve such problems.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) MP for Asuogyaman, Mr Kofi Osei-Ameyaw, said President Kufuor had done a lot to build the foundation, adding, “I, therefore, expect him to focus on such achievements in his address on Thursday.”
He mentioned the introduction of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), the Capitation Grant, HIPC and the School Feeding Programme as some of the legacies of the Kufuor administration.
“The ability of the President to come out of the energy crisis with a plan to build the Bui Dam to boost the sector in future is something that should not be left out in President Kufuor’s final address to Parliament,” he added.
For his part, the NPP MP for Mfantseman West, Mr Stephen Asamoah-Boateng, said he expected the address to “sound upbeat concerning a two-time President who is still active”.
The President should tell us about the future growth of the economy based on what he had done to lay the necessary foundation, he said, adding that he had to also use his address to tell Ghanaians how the economy would progress from the discovery of oil.
For the Majority Chief Whip and NPP MP for Ahafo-Ano South, Mr Kwaku Balado-Manu, his expectation was for the President to thank Ghanaians for their patience during the difficult times of his rule.
He also wanted the President to appeal to politicians to organise their campaigns for the December election in civility by discussing issues rather than attacking the personalities of their opponents.
For his part, the NDC MP for Jomoro, Mr Lee Ocran, said although he expected the President to talk about the lowering of inflation and the stabilisation of the cedi against the dollar, he was sure the President would avoid mentioning the fact that the dollar itself had lost its value in the past five years.
“It will also not be news for the President to talk about the Capitation Grant, since the Constitution (Article 38 (2) made it mandatory for any government that was in power in 2005 to implement the free compulsory universal basic education (FCUBE),” the MP stated.
Mr Ocran explained that while the NDC was able to hit a single digit inflation in 1999, the depreciation of the cedi against the euro stood at 57 pesewas in 2000, as against GH¢1.20 presently.
The Minority Leader, Mr Alban Bagbin, said although the President would trumpet his achievements in macro- economic indices, such as the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), lowering of interest rates and inflation, among others, “we should be sincere to ask ourselves whether those were the basis for growth for the developed economies when they were at our level of development”.
He said it would be against natural justice if the President did not focus on challenges such as corruption, the high cost of living as a result of the government’s failure to provide affordable utility services and the influx of drugs into the country during his tenure.
The NDC MP for Sefwi Wiawso, Mr Paul Evans Aidoo, said coming from an agricultural area, he expected the President to touch on how value could be added to both cash and food crops to enable farmers to benefit from the sweat of their toil.
The welfare of peasant cocoa farmers should also be taken into account for the state to compensate them for their sacrifices towards the growth of economy over the years, he said.
The Minority Chief Whip, Mr John A. Tia, said he expected the President to let his address portray him as a father who loved all his children equally and not one who would leave the country polarised.
DAILY GRAPHIC, WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 11, 2008