The stakes were high when President John Dramani Mahama was ushered into the chamber of parliament by the Speaker, Edward Doe Adjaho, Majority leader, Alban Bagbin and Minority leader, Osei-Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu to deliver his State of the Nation’ address in fulfillment of the requirements of the 1992 Constitution on Thursday.
Most of the majority National Democratic Congress (NDC) Members of Parliament (MPs) wore white attire while the minority New Patriotic Party (NPP) MPs wore black attire to listen to the President’s last State of the Nation address to the Sixth Parliament of the Fourth Republic.
When the President was given the platform to deliver his message, he used power-point to give the address which took four hours.
The whole State of the Nation address was a chorus-chanting engagement, as the majority who held white handkerchiefs, sang songs to praise the President while the minority also sang songs to denigrate him.
While the majority members were singing ‘So, so wonders ‘Mahama dey do,’ the minority members also chanted ‘So, so stealing Mahama dey do.’
The minority members indeed heckled the President during the period, displaying red cards and saying ‘this is your last address.’
The minority members asked for evidence of the President’s achievement as he was making the power-point presentation, which prompted him to retort “Abaa, this one too you need evidence.”
The Minority members were overly excited when the President said ‘change is coming’ at the end of his speech.
The phrase ‘change is coming’ was greeted with rapturous roars from the minority members who also chanted ‘Change is coming’, ‘change is coming’.
The President, upon realising that the minority members had capitalised on his ‘change is coming’ phrase, quickly said “you did not hear me well. What I said was that change is happening.”
President Mahama started his speech by saying that sometimes politicians talk too much and they must match their words with action.
Interestingly for the first time when it comes to the delivery of the ‘State of the Nation’ address, the President invited some individual Ghanaians from the various regions who he said had benefitted directly from policies that he had implemented and put them in the public gallery for them to corroborate his story.
He described the new style of using supposed beneficiaries to promote his political cause as ‘evidence-based’ presentation.
He first extolled his achievements in the educational sector by saying that his promise of providing 200 community-based Senior High School (SHS) was on course, stressing that out of the 200 schools, 123 had taken off with about five completed and the rest at various stages of completion.
He indicated that about 10,400 students had been given scholarships by his government and mentioned Gertrude Yeboah as one of the beneficiaries.
Gertrude, who was sitting in the public gallery of Parliament, was asked by the President to stand up for her to be acknowledged publicly.
He said his government had constructed quality roads in the country and made reference to the flagship Kwame Nkrumah Interchange in Accra as well as the on-going Kasoa interchange.
He also used the Fufulso-Sawla Road as another example, saying that he himself can testify to the bad nature of the road because that road leads to his hometown, Bole in the Northern region.
He described the road as very beautiful after the construction but the picture that was shown on the screen looked like a substandard road.
The public, including civil society organizations have expressed various views about the address made by President John Mahama.
One of the notable reactions has been the approach of the President in the presentation.
But the approach, which he referred to as evidence-based, has been described by some people, particularly political opponents as trivial and only meant to woo electorate in the November elections.
The President on Thursday introduced about 10 Ghanaians, who he said had directly benefited from government’s social intervention programmes.
The acting General Secretary of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), John Boadu scoffed at government’s attempt to show how it has impacted positively in the lives of Ghanaians.
He accused the President of being selective in the list of people who are enjoying in the Better Ghana.
The group included a contractor the President said is a member of the NPP who had benefitted from contracts awarded by his administration to prove that he (Mahama) is not selective.
The NPP Acting General Secertary said since Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby were accepted in Ghana purely on humanitarian grounds, they should have been part of the President’s showcase to the nation.
“Why didn’t President Mahama invite the Gitmo two to Parliament; we wanted to see them since he (Mahama) is showing international compassion,” he stated sarcastically.
Mr. Boadu added that since government insists the two do not pose any threat to the security of the state, the Gitmo two should have joined the public in Parliament.
Meanwhile, the President of policy think tank, IMANI Ghana, Franklin Cudjoe, has endorsed the new approach President John Dramani Mahama adopted during the delivery of his fourth State of the Nation address to Parliament, describing it as a great art of communication.
“…The symbolism in which the President tried to communicate some of his achievements about access to education where he connected it; you could see living examples of kids.
“No matter how you dislike the ideas of the President, I think we’ve got to give it to him really when it comes to that symbolism, it’s a great act of communication which I think every political grouping or party should do. No matter how you dislike the speech, the one major positive of what he did is essentially that symbolism that he showed.”
He stated that “can you imagine all those kids that stood up and their peers looking at them? It may be an art in political communication in an election year, but you’ve got to give it to him,” he added.
The IMANI president however called for a proper content analysis of the President’s address.
Commercial drivers, who ply the Koforidua – Bunso road in the Eastern region have, on the other hand, expressed disappointment in President Mahama for claiming during his State of the Nations’ address that work was ongoing on the Koforidua-Bunso Road.
The drivers said work on the Koforidua – Bunso road had come to a standstill for several months, and described the road as too dangerous for motorists.
“We now use the Jumapo-Sorkode-Dwaaso -Kukurantumi route, which takes a longer time in order to get to Bunso.
“It’s very sad that President Mahama said that construction work is ongoing on this stretch of road. We have been here for some years now and I can tell you that nothing of that sort is happening here.
“The contractors only came to grade the road and ever since have not bothered to come and continue the work,” a driver said.