President John Mahama has bid farewell to Ghanaians as he leaves office on Saturday, saying he is proud to have served and to pass on the reins of governance to his successor Nana Akufo-Addo, who beat him and five others in last year’s presidential race.
“… I stand here today, Mr Speaker, holding the baton of leadership, prepared to pass it on with pride, goodwill, and determination, to Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and ask all Ghanaians to cheer him on as he runs his portion of this relay for Ghana,” he said in parliament as he delivered his last State of the Nation Address on Thursday, 5 January.
According to him, just as his predecessors had run the relay of governance and passed on the baton to their successors, so does he hand over to Mr Akufo-Addo to continue with achievements and works initiated by the National Democratic Congress.
Mr Mahama stated: “…The state of our nation, at any given time – where we are in the race – is the result of more than the visible gains made by one individual during his tenure. Every president inherits the unfinished work of his predecessor. Every president benefits from the seeds planted by his predecessor, seeds that could not be sown during his predecessor’s tenure.
“Indeed, I believe if politics could be described as a sport, the one it would most closely resemble is a relay. It is a sport that relies as much on individual achievement as it does on teamwork and cooperative effort. The true test of that competition is in the passing of the baton. So, too, with politics.
“President Jerry John Rawlings started the structural transformation of this economy under the Economic Recovery Programme. This programme restored Ghana to a path of growth, which he handed over to President John Agyekum Kufuor.
“President Kufuor continued the economic adjustment programme and under the HIPC initiative achieved significant debt reduction. Implementing new social intervention programmes such as NHIS and LEAP, he passed it on to President John Evans Atta Mills. President Mills commenced the Eastern Corridor road project, University of Ghana Medical Centre, which I inaugurated yesterday, the Kotokuraba market, Cape Coast Stadium, and a host of others which I inherited and completed.
“My administration commenced the construction of new community day senior high schools, a policy of progressively free secondary education, construction of the Eastern University, investments in many infrastructural projects that are ongoing and many others that will actually commence under President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
“I am assured by his firm statements that he will continue these projects as enjoined by our constitution. I wish him all success in this regard. As I have said many times already, regardless of whose tenure in which these visions come to fruition, its success belongs to Ghana. They belong to all of us.
“Political opposition and differences of opinion are vital to the health and growth of a democracy. Political parties are formed when people of similar ideology come together to move their agenda forward in a way that best serves their country.
“But the wellbeing of the nation and the will of the people must always come first. Partisanship for its own sake, in the end, is no better than dictatorship. If we look around the world, we can so clearly see the deep divide that blind partisanship is creating in nations with democracies far older than ours.
“We can see, too, the divide that it is threatening to create in ours if we are not careful. Already, it has taken a toll on our morale and our sense of optimism. It has given way to a cynicism that is as dangerous to the incoming political party as it was to ours.
“We cannot afford as a nation to wish or hope for the failure of any president and his or her government. Ensuring accountability is not the same as levelling insults or encouraging apathy. We have history as proof that we have been better and we have done better. And we will, we must, do better once again,” Mr Mahama said.
He recalled: “I first entered this house as MP for Bole Bamboi in January 1997. It was, perhaps not coincidentally, the same year that Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo entered as MP for Akyem Abuakwa. Taking breaks from the business of the house to grab something to eat at the snack bar, Nana Addo always stood at the end of the counter, his signature white handkerchief tucked into his sleeve. “Johnny” he would shout in greeting as he preferred to call me. Incidentally we both served three terms in this house, departing together in January 2009.
“This is how long I have known the president-elect and worked with him. I have the utmost respect for him.
“Given our history, especially that we have each had our turn on each side of a presidential election, it would seem only natural for us to be considered opponents- worthy opponents is the description generally used in the world of sports.
“In fact, Mr Speaker, we are all on the same team. We worked together when I served as Ranking Member on the Committee of Foreign Affairs at a time Nana Addo was the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration.
“One of the issues on which we crossed swords was the murder of some Ghanaian youth in the Gambia. It is instructive that as I leave office and he takes my place, Gambia once again is a nation that is engaging international attention.
“It is my assertion that the information I’ve provided is a snapshot of the current state of our nation.
“As I have said before, I will allow history to be the judge of how I have served our nation, how well I have done my part in running my lap of the relay. What that verdict will ultimately be, I cannot say. I can only say that I have done my best, given my all and done so with the best intentions for my country, our country.”