Since the launching of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) manifesto in Cape Coast, the Central Regional Capital ahead of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), so much was anticipated of what the NDC was to bring to the people. The ruling NPP was caught in the same situation the NDC was found ahead of the 2016 elections. As a ruling government, the party was to tell its story and in the same space, provide some hope of what it intends to do given the chance again. In that space, the government is also careful not to publish a voluminous document that would not attract readers. As a result, efforts were made to provide a document that would interest the electorates as was done ahead of the 2016 elections.
Unfortunately, it appears the very day the manifesto of the ruling government was launched, the document lost its public interest. Soon after that the NDC was expected almost immediately, but ended up postponing their manifesto launch for one additional week. Discussions from the ruling government were pointed at a theory that suggests that the NDC had nothing to offer the people of Ghana for which reason its manifesto launch was postponed. Then the day came, the much anticipated document was launched in a very colorful event at the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA) Auditorium. That document, became the talk of the day and has consistently in parts, been subject of actions by the ruling government.
This article would focus attention on some very critical promises contained in the NDC manifesto that has gotten the ruling government scrambling upon itself to implement to show that there is nothing the opposition NDC would come to government to do. That proposition is completely amateurish. That sitting in an exam hall, a colleague was able to catch a point I intend to develop, doesn’t mean he would develop the point with the very details I intent to. The blueprint remains a masterplan of the originator and cannot be done by any other person who attempts to copy the idea. If one considers the processes adopted in formulating the entire NDC manifesto for the 2020 elections, it cannot be in doubt that the details and tactics are left outside the document. Citizens actually developed memos of plans and tactics of their intentions as inputs to the manifesto which was studied, discussed, and reduced into bullets for the purpose of marketing. The details are only known by those who read the documents and have possession of them. This cannot be done better by any other person other than the NDC formulators. It is therefore weak for anyone to ask what the NDC is coming to do if its promises are already under implementation. Simply put, the NDC are those who know better what they intend in their promises and they can best do it better. Here we examine some of the issues:
1. Public Universities Bill. This Bill, on Thursday 22nd October, was suspended and or withdrawn from Parliament. This Bill has been on the table for months, and had since received criticisms from the university community. I remember vividly how Professor Raymond Atuguba a law professor and Dean, School of Law, University of Ghana, and the Legon Branch of the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) spoke vehemently in opposition to this Bill and indicated how the passage of the said Bill would infringe on academic freedom and make the public universities toothless. Indeed, in some few write-ups, I equally gave snippets of information on what the bill intended. The Bill mainly sought to give government an upper hand in the University Council. Following some major setbacks on the desire of the current administration to interfere with the freedoms of the public universities following the impasse at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), University of Education Winneba (UEW) and the University of Cape Coast (UCC), the government attempted to install its desires, but was defeated to it.
As a result, this Bill was formulated to avert any such future “defeat” on the government. To deal with it, the government sought to reduce the University Council from its current composition of about 23 to 13 while increasing its representation to some 8 with 7 of the members on the council being able to form a quorum for meetings. What this means is that even the representatives of government on the Council can call a meeting and take decisions that are expected to bind all members on the Council. That was how rootless government was proceeding against all warnings. The government disregarded every public caution and was moving ahead. No one thought anything could stop the government from seeing this Bill passed into law knowing that it has majority in Parliament.
During the manifesto launch of the NDC, the Vice Presidential Candidate, Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, who herself was a former Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast and who knows the value of academic freedom, made an emphatic statement to the effect that the NDC will withdraw and or repeal the Public Universities Bill if passed into an Act. This has led eventually to the government taking steps to suspend efforts at passing the Bill in the manner they would have. This tells readers of the lack of consultations that went into the drafting of the Bill in the form and manner we have it until its suspension and or withdrawal.
2. Inclusion of private senior high schools into government’s Free Senior High School (SHS) programme. The current government’s resort to running double tract at the Senior High School level was mainly due to lack of infrastructure in public schools. I have written extensively on how free SHS has come to stay and why we must move on to the next phase in dealing with the challenges confronting the policy implementation. These infrastructure gaps were noted by the previous John Dramani Mahama’s administration for which reason efforts were made to expand access. This policy was abandoned resulting in the limited spaces at these schools which brought about the current double track.
As an immediate measure, while implementing a permanent solution to run a single track, the Mahama future administration has promised to include private senior high schools in areas where public schools are inadequate to contain the numbers. This proposal was bastardized by the ruling government only for us to be told of a meeting scheduled and actually carried out with private senior high school owners to consider their inclusion by this government in the running of the free SHS programme. Here again, the NDC and Mahama’s plan has been proven right and the best alternative in dealing with the challenges of free SHS today.
3. Introduce Cocoa farmers pension scheme. This subject has also proven critical and of interest to cocoa farmers. Indeed, until Ghana discovered oil in commercial quantities, cocoa was its major export which has sustained the economy for decades. We all can attest to the plight of cocoa farmers across the cocoa growing areas. It was therefore a welcome news from people who engage in cocoa farming when the pension scheme idea was proposed by the NDC manifesto because it provided hope that the cocoa farmer can be assured of some payments at old age.
As expected, a few weeks after this proposal, the Cocoa Marketing Board (COCOBOD) all of a sudden developed a scheme in this regard and was set to inaugurate it. It was amazing how the country and cocoa farmers never heard of this until the NDC manifesto was launched. Then by October of 2020, a supposed scheme was to be ready for cocoa farmers. This tells much of the pressure that emanates from the organic manifesto of the NDC.
4. Imposition of ban on salvaged vehicles. A couple of weeks ago, an announcement was made by this government that this ban has been suspended. Indeed, over the past few days, I have seen salvaged vehicles moved across the Accra-Tema motorway into garages for repairs and sale. This confirms the fact that salvaged vehicles continue to come into the country. Indeed, the ruling government actually went through the process of placing a ban on the importation of salvaged vehicles no matter their state. I remember how garage owners and car dealers raised objections and suggested modifications on what government could do. Unfortunately, their cries were ignored, and the Bill passed into an Act.
Every call by ordinary citizens who could not afford the alternative proposed by government were ignored. Not until the NDC manifesto was launched where the Presidential Candidate John Dramani Mahama promised to repeal the portion of the Act banning the importation, government was going to go ahead to implement the law. As the manifesto promise of the NDC in this regard began to receive widespread approval, the government began to reflect on the issues and resolved to suspend the implementation. We must all note that suspension does not mean repeal. As to whether or not the government has what it takes to suspend an Act of Parliament, is a matter that can be best addressed by lawyers and the legal brains. But, the overall effect of the NDC manifesto is that it succeeded in getting the government to put on hold, the implementation of the ban on salvaged vehicles. What comes to play after the elections, is to be seen in a matter of weeks should the current government retain power.
5. Expand access to professional legal education. Professional legal education is an issue that has been of great concern to lawyer hopefuls. The NPP actually stated that the expansion of professional legal education cannot be done at this shortest time. As a matter of fact, a peaceful protest by some law students last year to register their displeasure at the massive failures aimed at restricting their entry into law school for professional legal education, was met with brute force by the government. On that same day, the leadership of these law students sought the audience of the former President John Mahama to abreast him of their grievances. He listened to them, and made a proposal in his manifesto to ensure the accreditation of qualified faculties to undertake professional legal education.
As a matter of fact, the law students placed side by side the manifesto promises of the NDC and the NPP and analyzed it and concluded that they are more convinced that the NDC manifesto better addressed their challenges than that of the NPP.
All of a sudden, the school that was unable to pass 200 law students last year to undertake professional legal education, has passed over 1000 this year for same. This has led eventually to the proposal of running a triple track in our law faculties. Indeed, the solution of the NDC never intended running a double tract let alone run a triple track. As a matter of fact, the law students have still emphasized that the current dispensation remains inadequate to their aspirations and are still hopeful for the implementation of the proposals made in the NDC manifesto.
6. Legalize Okada (commercial motorbike operation). The use of motorbikes in Ghana is legal. As a result, the use of motorbikes for private and courier services is allowed by the laws of Ghana. On the other hand, what is not legally allowed is the use of motorbikes for carrying passengers for commercial purposes. What is quite interesting here is that the same law allows for the carrying of a passenger once no financial commitments are involved. Having looked at the issue, the John Mahama ticket has promised that commercializing the operation of motorbikes known mainly as Okada, is the best way to go. As it stands, even in the face of the law, commercial operation of motorbikes is still underway.
Today, we have communities within the capital city that as a result of bad roads, commercial vehicles have refused to operate to those communities. The only alternative means of transport remains motorbikes. This has made the operation of this means of transport a source of livelihood for some people. Indeed, these operations have penetrated into central parts of the capital city as people have resorted to the use of Okada in order to beat traffic that is increasingly becoming unbearable in the central parts of the city.
When this issue was addressed by the NDC in its manifesto, there were conflicting positions from the ruling government. At a point, the Transport Ministry hinted of a supposed blueprint and consultations that were leading to the legalizing of Okada operation. Then the Vice President made an emphatic statement to the effect that the government will not legalize Okada. This clearly stated the position of the government ahead of the elections with some 800,000 votes at stake. He proposed an alternative of providing Volkswagen (VW) vehicles to Okada riders. This proposal has been exposed as lacking deep understanding of the challenges that is increasing Okada operations. Traffic and bad roads have sufficed as the two major reasons for this phenomenon which cannot be resolved by merely providing vehicles to Okada riders.
Just as few days ago, the National Organizer of the NPP met Okada riders at Circle to provide them some form of assurances and to hint that the next opportunity given them would ensure the operations of Okada. It has clearly been established that regulating the operation of commercial motorbikes is the way to go. No matter what we do, this phenomenon is on the rise and we only need to ensure that this means of transport is safer. I made some suggestions in my earlier writings which are readily available on my website (www.askattuh.com). The overall effect is that the NDC’s position on the operation of Okada has pushed the government into a state of confusion.
7. Cancelation of Teacher Licensure Exams. This year’s teacher licensure exams was nearly suspended. Indeed, it was put on hold and deliberated upon. Indeed, it was obvious that the government did not really want to be seen to be giving too much to the NDC. But this was critical to teacher hopefuls. In addition to canceling the teacher licensure exams, the NDC promises to cancel the compulsory national service teachers have been compelled to undertake since this government took over, and to restore the automatic employment of teachers immediately they complete school.
As it stands, the government is yet to make any plans towards the other side with regard the cancellation of national service for teachers. The reason for the silence is that the national service of these teacher hopefuls would come next year which is of no pressing importance ahead of the 2020 December elections. The government feels there is no need making any decision on the national service of teachers because it would never come up for consideration until next year when it must have won or lost the elections. With the silence of government on this matter, they would continue the national service of teachers. And our teachers and teacher hopefuls must seek answers on the way forward.
The NDC continues to hold that it is sufficient to ensure the examination of teachers while they are at school without calling them back to write exams long after they have completed school. The first part remains a headache to government, but our teacher housefuls must have a clear mind on the position of this government on their fate after school or after this year’s licensure examination results are released.
8. Agyapa Royalties deal. As we speak, the deal is currently on suspension and not abandoned. This very deal is facing this current confusion because the NDC has made an emphatic promise to cancel the deal. Currently, efforts have stalled, at least openly, in seeing to the conclusion of the Initial Public Offer (IPO).
Government and the Finance Minister rose to the defense of this deal. They told us how this deal was the best to have happened to us as a nation. Few days ahead of its suspension, the Finance Minister was upbeat on how the deal was going to go through. He stated that this was the best time for the IPO to take place because Ghana stood a chance to benefit. It took the NDC’s strong position to put stick in the spokes of this Agyapa Royalties’ wheels.
9. Absorb Nation Builders Corps (NaBCo) staff into permanent employment. We need a little exercise here. I must begin by admitting the sincerity in the interview I listened to of the flagbearer of the NDC in his unsuccessful drive to deal with unemployment in his first term. He stated that he had that difficult because he focused more on building infrastructure which he believed could offer jobs to the people, noticing that he has committed to tackling the infrastructure and jobs concurrently in his next term. He promised a 1 million job opportunities in his next four years with a 250,000 employment avenues per year. He also advances that his BIG PUSH agenda is aimed mainly to provide jobs to our compatriots as well.
Today, let us take for instance a First Degree holder who has been recruited into NaBCo and attached to the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA). That person is being paid an allowance of Ghc700 a month whereas if that person is recruited directly into GRA, he may earn a net salary of about Ghc3,000. In order to ensure that this said monthly salary is spread over 4 months, the graduate is recruited under NaBCo and deployed to provide services to GRA and be paid less. Do we in our true hearts, assume that if this person is recruited into GRA, he would not be happier?
That is why I am quite assured with the promise to ensure that everywhere these NaBCo trainees or recruits have been attached, they would be regularized and absorbed and be paid their deserving full salaries by the next Mahama administration. All of a sudden, I have picked signals that government has made claims to absolve fully and pay the standard salary to some 50,000 of these NaBCo recruits. This reveals that the NDC manifesto has touched on something very sensitive to our youth and employment.
10. Build district hospitals in districts without same. President John Mahama, candidate of the National Democratic Congress into the 2020 elections, began making these promises immediately COVID-19 visited Ghana in his attempt to link his masterplan in health which was virtually abandoned by the current administration until coronavirus threatened our health sector. It remains a fact that but for the interventions he made in the health sector, Ghana would have been badly exposed to the devastating impacts of COVID-19. As a matter of fact, top government officials were saved from the unfortunate impact of COVID-19 at the University of Ghana Medical Centre (UGMC) which was built by the vision of the NDC.
The Ridge Hospital (Greater Accra Regional Hospital) which was designated for the treatment of COVID-19 was uplifted to its modern state by the vision of John Mahama. The Ga East Municipal Hospital, which was instrumental in this whole fight against COVID-19, was built and executed by the vision of John Mahama. As a result, he commits to ensuring that state-of-the-art district hospitals are built across the country for districts without district hospitals.
This whole idea was immediately hijacked by the current administration and trumpeted by the president. Having counted, he arrived at a number of 88 districts without hospitals. It is also on record that in his entire 4 years, not one district hospital has been built. On the other hand, the Mahama administration is credited with about 21 district hospitals. Between a government that had built none and one that has built 21 over the same period, readers can best determine who can do more of these given another opportunity.
11. Comprehensive Sexuality Education. This subject continues to linger. Ghanaians may seem to have forgotten that there are many answers yet to be provided some of which include whether this curriculum would be introduced or not. It was only suspended and as we speak, government is tight-lip on it. What are we to be confronted with in the next academic year? Parents must continue to harbor the fear of this whole drive being reintroduced. This year, we have not heard of this subject because the academic year has been suspended. By the time we get back to this, elections are over and should the current administration win, I have no doubt that this subject would be implemented. Otherwise, we should be hearing a definite position on this matter as we speak.
The NDC has committed to withdrawing this from our curriculum at the stage this government intended. Evidence has been produced of how this government is completely under pressure and has actually benefitted from funds meant for the purpose. What becomes of our views after “blessing” the same government with a second term? Don’t forget that when we still hold the power to decide on their fate, they almost walked over us with its implementation.
The National Democratic Congress (NDC) is seeking power to govern. The party is presenting a presidential candidate who has held office before and who has proven a great level of sincerity. In putting in place his proposed plan of activities, he went to the people, sat with them and took their views. This clearly manifested in the high level of interest and enthusiasm that greeted the manifesto when it was launched. As of today, that manifesto continues to prove to be organic with aspects of it receiving attention from government including the latest being the suspension of the Public Universities Bill for consultation. The NDC manifesto has proven strong and of major blueprints. No matter how the current government tries to implement its promises, as stated earlier, the best plans and tactics are in the heads of those who birthed the ideas. You cannot be deceived! Weigh the facts and place your faith where the plans and strategies with the tactics emanates from.
Governance is a serious social enterprise that must be undertaken in line with the aspirations and needs of the people. The moment this focus is lost, the legitimacy of the people only awaits “renewal”!