Expectations as power changes hands in Ghana
It is a glorious day for the people of Republic of Ghana, as the country witnesses a peaceful transition of political power from the National Democratic Congress (NDC) to the New Patriotic Party (NPP).
The historic event, taking place today at the Black Star Square in Accra, followed the defeat of incumbent President John Mahama of NDC by the candidate of the opposition NPP, Nana Akufo-Addo. The change of baton in Ghana replicates a similar victory of opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) over the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan in Nigeria’s presidential election in 2015.
To a large extent, the change of baton goes a long way to demonstrate the deepening of democracy in Africa, particularly the West African sub-region. That could in part explain why notable opposition politicians in the continent, such as, Morgan Tsvangirai and Kizza Besigye from Zimbabwe and Uganda respectively., are attending the inauguration. The event, which presents a celebration of the triumph of opposition politics, is also attracting not less than 25 African leaders, including 12 heads of state and governments, three vice presidents, 15 representatives of government, as well as, five international representatives of multilateral organisations and some former presidents from the sub-region and other parts of the world.
The occasion has as guest of honour, another beneficiary of opposition triumph, the President of Cote d’Ivoire, Monsieur Allassane Dramani Outarra. Cord leader, Raila Odinga, from Kenya is also in attendance to witness the peaceful transition and inauguration of Akufo-Addo as the fifth democratic President of Republic of Ghana.
Akufo-Addo, who is mounting the saddle after three unsuccessful attempts to be President, would on account of what is happening in neighbouring The Gambia, be grateful to John Mahama, who like his Nigerian counterpart, Jonathan, conceded defeat.
However, expectations are high on the new president based on the promises he made to Ghanaians during the electioneering campaigns. At a recent visit to Nigeria, the President-elect reiterated his determination to deliver the ‘change’ he promised through a three-legged programme of job creation, educational reforms and gender-inclusion, even as he outlined that his administration would confront corruption by ensuring that his cabinet and other appointees live by example and transparency.
Nana Akufo-Addo disclosed that as President, he would lead the way in charting a new direction for African leadership, maintaining that as “the change mantra continues to resonate across the continent,” he would ensure that it does not end up “a mere political slogan.”
Consequently, reshaping Ghana’s political economy would stand out as the first challenge of the new administration, as the President tries to lift the long-suffering citizens out of poverty. There is no doubt that Ghanaians are eagerly waiting for the inauguration to be over, so as to begin to see how their new President begins to put words into action. The President disclosed that he won the election based on his assurances to the youth that he would tackle unemployment and make life worth living for citizens of Ghana. In laying emphasis on job creation, Nana Akufo-Addo maintained that youth and gender-inclusion would be the central focus of his administration.
He had observed that there were too many inequalities and few opportunities for young people to learn or earn a visible wage. To this end, the new Ghanaian president said he would take some clear steps that can help the country achieve the demographic dividends, such as, increasing investment in young people through skills, and developing quality education that prepares them for a future of opportunities.
His words: “A diversity of training would begin from quality primary and secondary schools, to technical training, to teacher training colleges, to research-intensive universities. Doing this, we will fashion out an education policy that is also gender-sensitive. Young women feel the sting of unemployment even more sharply. The human development complex in Africa is easier for men to get jobs than it is for women, only if they have accompanying skills and experience.”
By centering his mandate delivery on job creation and youth development through quality education and skill acquisition, the new President has set out visible criteria to judge his administration. He says that the youth are willing to risk everything to earn a decent meal, adding that “all what these youth need is that we provide them a better environment right here in Africa and they would make our continent great.”
Part of the challenge of the new administration is to ensure that oil does not leave his country with the resource curse of indolence and corruption, which he has sworn to tackle. That the population of the country is outrunning facilities is not in doubt. And this is where President Akufo-Addo will deploy his experience for the equitable distribution of social amenities and infrastructure. Interestingly, he observed “making ideas work can only come by harnessing the demographic dividends, upholding human rights and gender equality, development of human capital and dignity.”
Perhaps he has some lessons to learn from Nigeria in the fight against corruption, because corruption fights back and stifles governance processes. He has outlined institutional framework for confronting graft, noting that the fight should begin from officials of government and ramify to the wider society. “On my part, I am already serving a note of warning to those who would serve in my government that doing so shall not be an avenue to amass wealth. I said that those who want to make money should find their place in the private sector, which we should support to be the vehicle for job creation, growth and development. Public service must be exactly that: Public service.”
When the celebrations are over, the President and his team would get into the real business of facing reality. They may discover that some of the promises were made on assumptions and conjectures. The government would discover that funds are a critical factor in turning dreams to reality.
Next to that, there are many political IOUs to settle, such that for the first three months, the administration would be faced with the rigours of settling and down, as well as, test-running systems. But having made three attempts to be President, Akufo-Addo’s inauguration would pave the way for him to prove to Ghanaians that he was not merely seeking political power for its sake.
How far the President and his team are able to carry the people along would to a large extent determine how successful the administration would be in mid-wiving Change in the way things are done in Ghana. The question is: how patient can the citizens be in waiting for the fruition of their hope?