President Akufo-Addo yesterday had his first encounter with the Ghanaian media after taking office as president, with a barrage of questions fired at him.
He took time to walk the journalists through some of the measures he and his government have been putting in place to restore the country to normalcy after what he called a shocking revelation about the state of affairs.
After giving an introductory speech which lasted for almost 35 minutes, addressing a wide range of issues from the economy, illegal mining, security, rule of law, governance, agricultural, infrastructural development and many more, the man availed himself for questions.
President Akufo-Addo arrived at 12 midday prompt as announced, leaving many journalists who came late, locked outside, even though the hall was filled to capacity and by 2:30 pm the programme was over with a cocktail and exchange of felicitations.
A lot of journalists couldn’t have the chance to ask questions.
In attendance were some senior journalists – including one of his old friends who has for some time now become an ardent critic of his party – Kwesi Pratt Jnr; President of the Ghana Journalists’ Association (GJA), Affail Monney, Egbert Faibille Jnr, and members of the presidential press corps, among others.
The president, however, did not take it lightly when a journalist created the impression as though he (president) had abandoned the idea of implementing the ‘Free Senior High School’ policy – one of his major flagship programmes – which he had campaigned on during the 2016 electioneering campaign that saw him winning the election massively.
The journalist’s reasoning was that once Nana Addo did not mention it in his introductory remarks, it sought to give credence to suggestions that the government might not implement the policy to the letter and also about cut-off point.
But President Akufo-Addo said that was far from right because the modalities for introducing the policy had been spelt out in a series of engagements by the sector minister, including the setting up of a secretariat and an implementation committee to that effect.
He said there is a clear roadmap for the implementation of the policy and that all students admitted to public schools will benefit from it.
He therefore expressed surprise when the journalist sought to create the impression as though the government was devising means to cut off some students from benefiting from the policy.
“The reason why there is no mention about it here today is not because it’s been abandoned; on the contrary, it is a very high priority,” he rebuffed.
Instead, he said, “I’m gonna look very foolish in the eyes of people and also extremely dishonest after being in office and one of the things I don’t see to, is the Free Senior High School system.”
He could not but asked rhetorically, “Won’t everybody come to say I came to hoodwink them and con them; I’m not a hoodwinker, I’m not a con man, I’m an honest man and I will make sure that it will be done.
“I don’t know there is a shift in the goal post as far as cut-off is concerned; what I’ve heard and I think it’s correct, is that the policy will avail those who are accepted in the senior high schools. He’s gone further…to say that the policy that is being devised by the Ministry of Education is that the so-called elite schools in Ghana are going to be required to reserve 30 per cent of places to those schools that come from, if you like, more disadvantaged backgrounds and locations,” he explained.
He therefore stressed that “the effort to create some kind of balance in what is being proposed is one that is engaging all of my attention and it must engage all of our attention…an educational system…where only people who have money can guarantee the successful education of their children and then perpetuate that, is one that is creating a society that ultimately is not stable or tenable,” he emphasized.
President Akufo-Addo rejected claims that the attacks by the Assin Central MP, Kennedy Agyapong, against his government do bother him.
According to him, having been in the same political party with the maverick politician, he is aware of his nature and has gotten used to it.
“Regarding Kennedy Agyapong’s comments, I am not surprised at where he is going. I have been in the same party with Ken for many years and so I understand him and we know ourselves very well.
“His comments do not irritate me; we can have different views on different matters and that is fine, but the statement on the appointments from the Central Region, I will not accept because I don’t believe it is true,” the president responded to a question.
I’m Not Wild
The president dismissed suggestion that he is a wild person and that the presidency had tamed him
He said the image of him created by his opponents as a violent and aggressive person is nothing close to who he is.
The president stressed that there are people who are not his political sympathisers but have known him for a long time to attest to the fact that there is nothing ‘wild’ about him.
“Yes! I am a man of strong views and it is difficult to threaten or bully me…I will stand my grounds as small as I am…and if that translates into being wild, then I have not changed at all,” he said.
“The idea that I am sort of intoxicated, crazy character going around and causing problem was never part of the reality so what they are seeing of me in office is Nana Akufo-Addo as I have always been,” he added.