If the Institute of Economic Affairs won’t sell Akufo-Addo…

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016

Folks, we are of the opinion that a good politician should know how to ditch his opponents, especially when given a head-start advantage by institutions shaping the public discourse on general elections to self-project, to blow his own horn and be heard loud and clear for his good at the polls; not so for the NPP’s Akufo-Addo who can’t see things unfolding right in front of him to latch on to. The “Presidential Debate” forum arranged by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) is a golden opportunity for him to stand tall in the field of contestants; but his posture, attitude, and reaction indicate that he prefers remaining a shrimp, even when the IEA’s platform for him to stand on is still in place. Or…..? What a pity!

Our monitoring of the efforts by the IEA to allow the main contestants in Election 2016 to “sell” themselves indicates a lot to make us laugh ourselves lame at this point that there is no assurance that the forum is still active. Two Presidential candidates have already been featured. The NDC has boycotted the forum, taking the shine out of it and leaving the NPP’s Akufo-Addo in the lurch to prove his worth; but he has also given cause for the IEA to postpone the encounter twice already. The NPP isn’t forthcoming on why its candidate isn’t participating nor has the IEA itself clarified matters. Nothing exists to show when the forum will be held. Na who cause am?

The main problem that has undercut the IEA itself is that it is perceived as politically biased, which made the NDC turn against it. The IEA has discounted such an allegation; but the dirt still sticks. In its absence, there is nothing else to bring the candidates together. In other countries (the United States of America, for instance), there is a Commission for Presidential Debates, established and resourced by the tax payer to do whatever is necessar4y to bring the Presidential candidates together for the exchange of ideas on governance. Can we do so too in Ghana where the Commission will not be determined by anything or anybody but the Constitution of the country? Such a forum is imperative.

In the case of this problem between the IEA and Akufo-Addo, we see a lot wrong, especially in terms of who at all is afraid of what? Is it the IEA itself that is making it difficult for the NPP’s Akufo-Addo to appear at the forum to give Ghanaians reasons why they should elect him? Or is it Akufo-Addo himself who is running away from the forum? What for? We tease out some salient aspects of this hide-and-seek game of sorts being played by the NPP and the IEA.

Here is the underlying problem that emerges for Akufo-Addo in this situation. By failing to take advantage of the NDC’s absence from the forum to project himself and his party’s plans, intentions, and purposes for the country, he has established himself as lacking drive, initiative, and purposefulness. It is damning because it reflects negatively on him. Which politician, knowing very well what caused his defeat at two previous polls and not wanting to suffer the same fate will not grab every opportunity that lends itself to him to win voter support? The IEA forum isn’t a child’s play thing! It matters; but Akufo-Addo hasn’t approached it with the seriousness that it deserves. He lacks drive, initiative, and purposefulness as such. Not good for his political quests.

Lack of drive because he hasn’t seen the advantage given him by the NDC’s boycott of the public forum to stand on his feet to advertise himself. He is not being the one to take the first step to prove that he is worth what his followers are saying about him. In effect, he isn’t proactive. A proactive politician will quickly cash in on the miscalculation by his opponents to boycott such a public forum to make himself big in the eyes of the electorate with his plans for national development. After all, once President Mahama won’t participate in the forum, it means that the entire floor belongs to Akufo-Addo to use without any hesitation or fear of being countermanded there and then by his nemesis. But he lacks the drive to put himself in front.

Lack of initiative because he hasn’t been able to take advantage of the IEA’s forum to say what will either force the NDC to regret boycotting the forum or to rescind its decision. It might all depend on how Akufo-Addo could use the forum to make Ghanaians see his viewpoints as strong enough to bend the NDC’s back. But he has failed to act properly when given the opportunity to have a head-start advantage in marketing himself. If the IEA is the cause of the hitch, what can’t he do to change the situation for his own good? He cannot do so because he lacks what it takes to do so.

Of course, his participation in the forum preceding Election 2012 helped his cause, even if he ended up being defeated. Having gone round bad-mouthing the incumbent, nothing could be more advantageous to him than using the IEA forum to reiterate his party’s stance that Ghana in the hands of President Mahama is doomed. Then, he could tell us how he hopes to make the difference; but because he lacks initiative, he can’t do so, even when the IEA has given him all the chances in the world to project himself in the absence of his nemesis. Why should Akufo-Addo run away from the challenge?

Lack of purposefulness because he can’t connect with the IEA on matters of concrete policy initiatives. He hasn’t indicated anything other than the impulsive approach to governance that has characterized his campaigns all these years. A purposeful politician will not act as erratically and capriciously as Akufo-Addo is doing. Just a few examples here. In his interactions with the electorate wherever he goes, he speaks about issues that are commonplace but not really worth the emphasis he places on them. Then, he is quick to make promises that worsen his credibility problems. All that he is promising turns out to cast serious clouds/doubts on him.

The point, then, is that he doesn’t have any well-thought-out agenda for national development and is waiting for the people in areas he visits to come out with requests only to turn such requests into strings of promises to do this and that if voted into office. His begging to be tried on his third attempt at the Presidency is demeaning. Coupled with the impulsive promises that he gushes out, he comes across as too desperate. Why so? Not because he won’t be in office to steal Ghana’s money or to take bribes—as he self-righteously annoys us with—but because he is leading the NPP on an “All-die-be-die” crusade to empower those who claim to be the real “owners” of Ghana to be in power (Recall Yaw Osafo-Marfo here) .

There is a lot behind this desperation that is scary. Even then, if he seriously wants to be in power, why won’t he use every forum given him to market himself instead of running away as he has done with this IEA one? I don’t think that the problem is the IEA. After all, it has already created the forum and put parameters in place to host Akufo-Addo. The problem is Akufo-Addo who cannot use the forum. Why? Simply because he doesn’t have anything worth saying at the forum. So, how does he expect to be perceived by the electorate, running away from the golden fleece dangling in front of him that he is afraid to grab?

It is not as if the IEA forum is the be-it-all-and-end-it-all for Akufo-Addo or those politicians who have already been featured there or those repudiating it for all that they think it is. The politicians can do without it and still make their presence felt. And as the NDC rightly pointed out, it doesn’t need any validation from the IEA to win elections in Ghana. But the IEA has already set the precedent with its “Presidential Debate” forum, implying that it is regarded as a credible avenue for the politicians to expound their ideas for governance. Previous encounters generated much interest, even if some political fronts expressed misgivings about underhand manouevres or bias and mischief in the IEA’s handling of affairs.

The NDC has been particularly critical of the IEA, portraying it as a surrogate of the NPP seeking to use the forum to embarrass its Presidential candidate(s), a reason that was used for ex-President Mills to abstain from the debate for Election 2008. President Mahama would have done the same for Election 2012 but changed his mind; and he performed very well at the forum only for his political opponents to deride him that he had been given the questions in advance by a member of the team of moderators (Dr. Jane Opoku-Agyemang) who was rewarded with a Ministerial appointment thereafter.

Such damaging comments hurt the IEA itself. Thus, it can’t persuade the NDC that its hosting of the forum for Election 2016 would be devoid of such acrimonious vibes. The NDC chose to snub the forum and went ahead to do its own thing, using President Mahama to give a foretaste of the highlights of its manifesto before going ahead to launch the manifesto itself in Sunyani to unsettle the NPP camp. Instead of telling Ghanaians what they have to best the NDC’s manifesto, they are running around in circles criticizing it or foolishly claiming that the contents were plagiarized from the NPP’s version.

Here, then, comes the main headache for Akufo-Addo on account of his inability to use the IEA forum to advantage. Is it because he has no manifesto to guide his utterances at an IEA forum or because there is nothing in hand with which to undermine the NDC? Even so, can he not see the advantage that the IEA forum offers him so he can use it to project himself?

Folks, we have been looking into the inability of the IEA to host Akufo-Addo after it had already done so for two Presidential candidates and given the impression that Akufo-Addo was in line to tell Ghanaians what he has up his sleeves to outdo President Mahama’s administration. Having already postponed the encounter twice, there is no indication when again Akufo-Addo will feature in the programme or whether the IEA has scrapped the programme altogether. What is what now?

Regardless of the hiccups, we are tempted to think that if the IEA is no more interested in hosting Akufo-Addo, then, it should tell us and justify its stance. On the other hand, if it is Akufo-Addo who is running away from the IEA, then, he has a lot to explain to Ghanaians. Why should he do so?

In the final analysis, we are persuaded that even if the IEA isn’t keen on hosting Akufo-Addo, he should have been the last person to let this opportunity slip by. The IEA forum is highly recognized for all that it adds to the discourse on our politics. So, an astute politician, knowing very well the windfall to reap from it, should be the first to press forward to have his day. That Akufo-Addo isn’t doing so is intriguing. Will he see things as we do so he can plug that hole in his electioneering campaign stunts? The absence of his main rival (President Mahama) should be seen as an advantage to exploit; but Akufo-Addo is running away. Why?

I shall return…

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