President John Dramani Mahama delivering his address
President John Dramani Mahama yesterday paraded some Ghanaians in the Chamber of Parliament to demonstrate how his policies were benefitting them and to show off his so-called developmental agenda. The president described it as an ‘evidence-based’ presentation of his State of the Nation Address.
But the minority New Patriotic Party (NPP) has described it as a ‘solid propaganda’ that would not make any impact on discerning Ghanaians, stressing that the president is desperate to hang on to power.
President Mahama brought the persons from various regions throughout the country, including one Emmanuel Aboagye – a known NPP activist who was said to have worked at the office of Kwadwo Mpiani, former Chief of Staff under President John Agyekum Kufuor – to the public gallery of Parliament to give testimony about how he and others had benefitted from his (Mahama’s) administration.
The president took almost four hours to do his presentation, which was laced with drama, propaganda and some teasing, believed to be unprecedented in the political history of the country. The Majority, in the course of the presentation, burst into chorus of “So so wonders Mahama dey do” and the Minority also replied with a similar chorus of “So so stealing Mahama dey do.”
The Minority members also bid the president farewell by unanimously holding up red cards in the course of the chanting of the choruses.
The president was, however, silent on the actual state of the economy – the choking national debt and mass youth unemployment as a result of killer policies that have stifled the growth of the economy.
In a drama-filled presentation of his last ‘State of the Nation’ Address to the Sixth Parliament of the Fourth Republic, President Mahama called out the names of supposed beneficiaries of the 200 new community day senior high school programme – most of which are either still under construction or have not been commenced at all – the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) introduced by the Kufuor government, construction of roads, construction of hospitals, extension of electricity to the rural communities, supply of potable water and opportunities given to local contractors. After that he would spend considerable amount of time to describe the individual beneficiary’s background and the type of benefit he or she had derived from those projects.
At a hastily held press conference soon after the president’s address, the NPP, led by its leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, said what the president came to do in Parliament was like addressing a political party rally.
He noted that President Mahama completely broke the convention of the House by personally inviting people to the public gallery and using them to do propaganda and his bidding for another term in office. “In fact, President Mahama cannot tell us that those people in the public gallery he invited were his guests because by our Standing Orders, any member of the public who comes to the public gallery is the guest of the Speaker,” the Minority Leader said and wondered how all those people, some from as far as Navrongo in the Upper East Region, were transported to Accra.
“We would like to know how those people were transported and at whose cost. Who is going to feed them and also accommodate them while in Accra; and who is also going to bear the cost of going back to their various destinations?” the Minority Leader queried.
Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said all that the president told the nation were either half-truths or palpable untruths.
He noted that Article 34 Clause 3 of the Constitution guides the president as to what to tell the nation in his State of the Nation Address, and that borders on basic human rights, health of the economy and the right to work or employment; but the president completely went off tangent and did his own thing – a propaganda-based presentation.
The minority leader said that on Monday, February 29, the group would call a press conference and tell Ghanaians the true state of the nation and the reality on the ground which had resulted in teachers, nurses, staff of many public institutions and contractors not being paid; the virtual collapse of the National Health Insurance Scheme; GETFund and the District Assembly Common Fund being in arrears and killer taxes being imposed on poor Ghanaians.
The MP for Kwabre East, Kofi Frimpong, told DAILY GUIDE that if the president could claim that his achievements were the construction of roads and hospitals, then by his (president’s) own judgement, his government was a mediocre one since he, as running mate to Prof Atta Mills in 2008, said that a good government was the one that put money in people’s pockets and not the one that constructed roads and hospitals and that any government which trumpeted road projects as its achievement was a mediocre one.
“In fact, this government is the worst government the nation has ever had because if one looks at the amount of revenue and loans that this government has had and the number of roads and hospitals it has constructed, then it means that it does not have any vision. This government must tell us any new social intervention it has introduced to help the poor in the society,” Kofi Frimpong charged.
The president, in his presentation, said that the introduction of the new Energy Sector Levy Bill, which had culminated in increases in the prices of petroleum products and utility tariffs, was a bitter pill intended to sanitise the energy sector and also ensure that spiralling debts did not swallow the generating companies.
He went on to apologise to Ghanaians for any hardship that the new levy had brought to Ghanaians; but he later said that some of the monies accrued from the Energy Sector Levy, amounting to GH¢323 million, had been used to pay contractors – which he claimed was an indication that part of the reasons for the introduction of the Energy Sector Levy was to pay government debts in other sectors of the economy.
President Mahama also admitted the failure of the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) to meet its mandate as the resources of the Authority had been misused and misapplied, stressing that the Authority had now been re-positioned to work strictly within its mandate and help promote development in the three northern regions as well as the Brong-Ahafo and the Volta Regions.
He spoke extensively about his resolve to fight corruption with the firing of some corrupt judges from the bench and the prosecution of other people found to have engaged in corrupt practices.
He said in the fight against corruption, he would institute National Integrity Awards Programme to motivate people to be truthful and patriotic in their work.
He also mentioned the need to strengthen security for Members of Parliament following the gruesome murder of the NPP MP for Abuakwa North, J.B. Danquah, assuring that police patrols would be beefed up in areas where MPs lived while the government looked at an option to have improved accommodation for MPs with better security.
President Mahama also promised the nation that there would be free, fair and transparent general election on November 7, adding that he was totally committed to a peaceful and incident-free election.
He called on Ghanaians to support the Electoral Commission to conduct credible elections and advised politicians to campaign based on issues and not insults, while appealing to the media not to give the platform to politicians who would be using insults to do politics.
By Thomas Fosu Jnr