The outcome of the 2016 Elections was historic; it was the first time a sitting President lost a general election in the fourth republic. Still stuck in our people’s memory is the crestfallen image of President Mahama delivering his concession speech on the evening of 9th December 2016.
Quite a portentous speech, that was – as the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission and Returning Officer for the Presidential Elections would declare Nana Akufo-Addo as President-Elect shortly after. Well written too, adorned with the usual pleasantries of a gracious vanquished opponent, I remember him say with an edge to his voice: “I will leave it to history to be the judge of my time and contributions while in that highest office”.
Four years on, however, Mr. Mahama himself has not missed a single chance to tout his past achievements, making a case for his return to the Presidency. His thesis – nearly two years into the administration of the man who beat him by almost a million votes – is that the people of Ghana were better off with him as President.
Whether that is tenable, would be largely predicated on the records of the current administration and in reality, the outcome of the 2020 elections. Yet the NPP – typically confident of their performance in government – has said that President Akufo-Addo’s first tenure record is unprecedented as massive achievements have been made in every sector of the country’s life.
Further, the President himself has said in a recent interview on Wontumi Radio that he’s ever ready to put his records against that of former President Mahama any day. In the light of Mr. Mahama’s concession about leaving history to be the judge of his Presidency, this article reflects on President Akufo-Addo’s major achievement in office, particularly the far-reaching ones that until his Presidency had never been contemplated.
In so doing, the writing would be guided by a simple framework whose core pillars are: Akufo-Addo’s leadership capital, his leadership impact, his leadership support, and the NPP’s story of change management and innovation. Altogether, the fundamental question to be answered is this: Has Akufo-Addo earned a second term?
President Akufo-Addo’s Leadership Capital: Hope in Times of Crisis
For the purpose of this piece, I’ll conceptualize leadership capital to reflect the President’s skill-set and statecraft, his relations with citizens and all the important stakeholders in the developmental journey as well his reputation both local and international.
President Akufo-Addo’s experience in politics and grassroots mobilisation has probably been one of his best sells: As General Secretary of the PMFJ, rejecting vociferously the Union Government attempted by the Acheampong Government, his involvement in the Kume-Preko demonstration, his role in the organization of the New Patriotic Party during its formative days and his accolades as a human rights lawyer and later as Ghana’s Foreign Minister, MP and Attorney General has been a life to die for.
As President, he has brought some considerable insights and shown this country a superior sense of statecraft and grit. If there is one thing that has been clear, Nana Akufo-Addo was prepared for the Presidency.
In the last four years, he’s assembled some of the most powerful cabinets in the history of our country. Although the size of his government has been a big issue, he’s largely been able to fully tap into the potentials of his appointees to revolutionalise the business of contemporary governance.
He’s appointed a Trade Minister who through the country’s auto-policy has attracted some of the world’s most competitive auto-mobile companies into our country’s market. Today, Ghana is on a bright path to becoming a hub for automobile manufacturing in the sub-region. When you hear the likes of Dr. Yaw Adu-Twum speak and work for this country; his sheer dedication to his cause and the quality of his approach in his espousal and implementation of the President’s vision on education, one is persuaded, that we are up to something.
President Akufo-Addo himself has enhanced the level of dignity at the seat he occupies. While he’s known as a leader who speaks his mind, nearly all his public encounters have been excellent. He’s continued the very important tradition of interacting with media men, he’s toured the country as much as he can and traveled the world almost well enough heralding the vision of a Ghana beyond aid; projecting Ghana’s gates as safe for business moves.
It didn’t come as a surprise to many that in 2018, Ghana cemented her position as the most attractive destination for Foreign Direct Investment surpassing larger economies such as neighbouring Nigeria. Everywhere this President has spoken, whether at Ivy-League Institutions, or the United Nations or at Common-Wealth Heads of State Summits, he had exuded the finesse for which we have known him and represented the best part of our country.
Many Africans have been in awe of the President’s gusto in reacting to global positions and leaders and in espousing the vision of the new African dream given as we have seen first-hand how deficient these skill-set have been in leaders of other jurisdictions.
But the President’s relationship with our country has been most applauded by his constant interaction with the citizens during a period described as one of the most challenging moments of our national lives: the Covid-19 pandemic. Many raging nerves were softened by Akufo-Addo’s famous salutation of “Fellow Ghanaians”.
Many would concede that his compelling attractiveness and charm as a leader in times of crisis and his assuring sense of proactiveness and command of hope these last few months have been the toast of his Presidency. And he’s taken some good decisions too, most of which have been justified in the end; improving his ratings as a leader who knows what he’s about. It is not to be taken for granted that this President has patronized local African Print as his official attire probably more than any of the leaders we’ve had in the fourth republic and probably the only President who once invited all three former Heads of State for deliberation at the seat of his government.
Akufo-Addo’s goodwill among his people; his reputation of sincerity and common-sense ranks him far above his peers; a lot better than President Mahama that it’s easier to have him stay on for another term than returning his predecessor.
The bitter truth is that President Mahama was quite reckless for the most part of his presidency. He may be the only President to have said that he had a dead goat syndrome, that he wasn’t a magician, that people should opt for tro-tro if fuel prices are too high. That he would rather lose an election than restore an allowance when clearly it wasn’t out of any sheer dedication to life principles as we have come to know.
He is probably the only leader to have outrightly mocked FREE-SHS and had some of the most insensitive posturings to a damning national crisis like dum-sor, although it’s been argued in recent times, that it was he who solved it. It would appear that many of his political appointees were ungovernable too; the loose tongues directed at the clergy, the late founder of their own party, and other important Ghanaians, many have said contributed to President Mahama’s loss in the 2016 election.
Nana Akufo-Addo, the man today who described the Ghanaian people as “The Showboy” may have had his failings and days of dashing hopes but as we speak, he’s best placed in terms of leadership capital to lead this country again. Even three trips to Benin before December 7th cannot help President Mahama’s effort in this regard especially now that courtesy, Akufo-Addo, Ghana is now an associate member of La Francophonie.
Akufo-Addo’s Leadership Impact: A Country Rising
Without mincing words, one can confidently say that almost all the NPP’s platforms in the last campaign have been put into action. One of the risks of the President’s promises is that they were very easy to remember. The sloganeering was very pervasive that even little kids could easily rattle some of Akufo-Addo’s message.
The dominant of these promises were Free SHS, 1D1F, 1Village-1Dam. Just in a tenure’s work, the President himself has shown considerable effort in fulfilling these promises. Like I indicated in the introduction, I’ll touch on the implemented policies that I believe have had the biggest impact, highlighting them under the known sectors.
President Akufo-Addo’s track-record on education is non-pareil. Even with a Medical Doctor education Minister, his long-held vision of redefining basic education from Kindergarten to include SHS, covering vocational, agricultural as well as technical schools has been implemented.
Two Million Ghanaian students and over have benefitted from the Free SHS with glowing testimonies among parents, teachers, and the student themselves. Although like every novel social policy, it has had its fair of challenges, the President’s personal determination to implement this policy and the revolution it has set in our educational sector outweighs many efforts under the JM era.
The commitment to revive the lots of teachers by converting Teacher Training Colleges into Degree awarding institutions has also been complimentary. Especially as it was a highly contested issue in the last election, it may be important to say that the allowances of teacher training students have been restored and payment of utility bills by university campuses, abolished.
As we speak, over 700 projects in the basic schools alone are ongoing with at least 250 of them completed. Over 500 of the 1,011 projects initiated to expand access in the senior high schools have seen the light of day and in what is a deliberate effort to revamp the learning of critical subjects such as Maths and Science, 20 Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) centres are coming up across the country to reflect the reviewed curriculum. Altogether, additional 20,343-bed spaces have been created in boarding schools across the country and the first Creative Arts school at the Senior High School is nearing construction in Kwadaso.
For the first time in our country, every district has a state of the art dedicated ambulance service with a digitised Command Centre established for the National Ambulance Service. And of course, the famous nursing training allowances have been restored, not forgetting the four medical drone centres established and operational in Omenako, Mampong, Walewale, and Sefwi Wiawso. The government has also collaborated with NOVARTIS to make available a available a new drug, Hydroxyurea, which was previously only available in developed countries, to sickle cell patients in Ghana.
Economy and Job Creation
This President has shown a superior record of managing the country’s economy. While many of the progress has been recently compromised by the raging pandemic, President Akufo-Addo is on record to have reversed a decline in the growth of Ghana’s economy, leveraged on the country’s natural resources to attract critical investment, reduced taxes, expanded the balance of trade deficit and strengthened the financial sector.
Aside, the springing up of warehouses and dams, over two million people have benefited from a Planting for Food and Jobs initiative, many others under the novel NABCO and thousands of support have been given to entrepreneurs under the government’s Entrepreneurship Support program.
Further, 76 1D1F companies are in operation 28 newly minted, 48 already are existing companies that have taken advantage of the 1D1F program to expand. Altogether some 232 factories at various stages of implementation.
In a debate on Metro TV about factories, Hon. Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwah said that their side has been able to count only 9 of those factories. What is palpably significant is that President Akufo-Addo’s agenda on industrialization is way above the head of his predecessor who still grapples to provide a single grain of sugar from Komenda. Today, Eku juice has fast become the choicest pineapple juice in the country.
The promises to establish a Zongo Development Fund, to create additional regions, to establish development authorities, to establish a Tree Crop Development Authority, to revive the railway sector, to pass a Fiscal Responsibility Act, and to clean the financial sector have been fulfilled all within an Akufo-Addo first term. Today some of the highest public sector recruitments have happened in education, health, and other critical sectors of the economy.
Technology and Digitisation
But for an Akufo-Addo presidency, there would probably have been no National ID card, no Digital Addressing System, no Universal QR Code Payment with its complementary mobile money interoperability, a deal that was renegotiated for more favourable terms. Today NHIS cards are being renewed on mobile phones and the acquisition of passports, driver’s license, clearing goods, and doing business generally have all experienced a significant transformation.
Akufo-Addo’s Leadership Support
It goes without saying that we have at the Presidency today, a man who is well respected and better trusted. As confirmed by a recent CDD poll, the NPP enjoys a significant advantage (15 percentage points) over the NDC when it comes to public confidence in its ability to deliver on campaign promises.
The President’s respect is one that spans across the clergy, the chieftaincy institution, civil society, and even among former government officials some of which belong to opposition parties. What has also seen a significant boost is the President’s public image; one that was brutally bastardised during the heat of the past electioneering campaigns.
His reaction to the Supreme Court verdict of 2012 among many, repaired the NDC’s caricature of him as a belligerent bigot. Today, the people of Ghana have in President Akufo-Addo, a calm, courteous, friendly, kind, and the inspirational fellow whose beautiful Rebecca has touched their hearts with her amazing performance in her role as First-Lady.
You may disagree with him on many sides, but through it all, this President has remained a consummate statesman who’s also observed the necessary institutional and constitutional limitations placed on him by the country’s jurisprudential blue-print.
The NPP’S story of Change Management and Innovation
The NPP is a very proud party; I mean if your forebearers were the leaders of the first-ever political movement, you would be proud too. If your tradition is associated with Danquah, Busia, Dombo, Blay, Grant, Owusu, Adu-Boahen, Kufuor, Ala-Adjetey, Da-Rocha, you would bask in that glory.
If your government established the first-ever National Health Insurance Scheme, NYEP, Free SHS, and the likes and accentuated the conscience laced in our nation’s capitalist thought, you’ll rather it stays on for the continuous benefit of the Ghanaian people.
The NPP may be obsessed about its affinity to the values of rule of law and due process, individual liberties, and all the highfalutin ideals that are often thrown around, but they have the men and have shown consistently that this country is better off under their government.
In recent times, my attention has been drawn to a sharp difference in the personalities of President Akufo-Addo and former President Mahama. It would appear that Akufo-Addo’s powerful vision is part of his leadership advantages; the consistency of it.
If you listen to him as far back as 1992 and now, you are likely to pick up many similar chains of thoughts on his ambition for the economy, education, industrialization, and of building a Ghanaian civilization that would attain the highest respect among the comity of nations. On the other hand, President Mahama appears to have wobbled through every idea he has ever espoused with an unpersuasive sense of objectivity.
He’s changed his mind about Free SHS and about teacher-training allowances. At one point, he says he is not a magician at another point, he wants to create jobs. In one breath, he commits the verdict of his Presidency to the estimation of history, in another he wants to return to a Presidency that is managed better today than it was four years ago.
And yet the NPP, obsessed about leaving a mark has institutionalized our country’s first-ever year of Return, appointed a Special Prosecutor, building interchanges for the first time in parts of the country, bringing an end to a decade-old Dagbon crisis, revamping an Obuasi mine and an Anglo-Gold one too, passed a Right to Information bill and issuing the longest-dated, and lowest priced Eurobond by a Sub-Saharan African country.
It is evident enough that it may be only under an NPP government that a Ghana Commodity Exchange may be established, a Ghana-Cote Divoire Co-operation on Cocoa, and a Pwalugu Multi-purpose dam which is the biggest infrastructural investment in the Northern Region since independence may take off and dumsor, fully ended.
When a government passes for the first time a Witness Protection Act, a Corporate Restructuring and Insolvency Act, a Public Financial Management Regulations and succeeds at hosting the Secretariat of the first-ever African Continental Free Trade Area and establishes a Creative Council, it is exactly the one you give a second term. In recent times, I’ve heard people comment – and they may be right – that Nana Akufo-Addo has disappointed them in so many ways. Governance is a sophisticated business; sometimes you don’t even know what to expect.
But the Presidency is also a lonely place; you can never please everybody. When the decisions you make turn out well, the people praise you, when it disgusts them, they hate you. He Nana Akufo-Addo of all understands this and knows that the criticisms and the anger would come but if you make your mark as a good leader, you would thrive through it. Has Akufo-Addo earned a second term? – Hell yeah.
Nii Tettey Ashong
West, Legon Accra.