Akufo-Addo to Volta Chiefs: “I am for peace, unity and prosperity”
Togbewo, Nananom, Mamawo, novinyewo, medo gbe nami
I am very happy to be here and I want to thank the President of the House for giving me this opportunity to address this august House of Chiefs. For sometime now, I have been hoping to to meet with you and I was mightily pleased when this week, after returning from my trip abroad, the President, the famous Togbe Afede XIV, the Paramount Chief of Asogli Traditional Area, indicated that this meeting would take place today. Thank you. I am most grateful, Sir. I am humbled that so many of you have made the time to come and listen to me. Whoever said my friends were in single digits in this part of the country!
I am Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the presidential candidate for the New Patriotic Party. Hence my presence here. And in coming here, I came with the lady who brightens my life, my wife Rebecca, and whom I recommend to you, especially Mamawo, for her shy but warm and engaging personality.
The Volta Region is home to many eminent people who were leading lights in the various movements and parties that have become today's New Patriotic Party. Persons such as R G Armattoe, Modesto Apaloo, Kodzo Ayeke, S G Antor, Rev Ametorwobla, Kodzo Dumoga, S K Ohene, J Y Oseibre, Courage Quashiga and many others. It is also the home of Sam Okudzeto, Timothy Amesimeku, Agnes Okudzeto, Osei Nyame, Tommy Ametekpor, and my fellow Legonite, Elizabeth Ohene.
It is well-known that the NPP has not fared well in this region. But, it is also a fact, perhaps, not well known, that this is one of four regions where our share of the votes has been consistently rising since 1992. Indeed, the NPP got its highest share of the popular vote in the Volta Region in 2008, when I was first nominated to lead my party in the presidential race. So, I think it would be fair and modest for me to say aloud that the Volta Region has done enough to prove to me, my party and the rest of the country, that she is willing to adopt me as a true son.
The rest, I believe, is left to me, my vision, my commitment, my party and our programmes to show to you that we seek a genuine relationship. Thankfully for me, the good works of the last NPP government in not discriminating against this region, or any other region for that matter, offers a convenient start for me. It is evidence of our sincerity and determination to build a society of aspirations and opportunities for every Ghanaian, regardless of his or her geography, ideology, or biology.
But, I will be the first to admit that beyond the programmes and policies of the NPP to develop every part of the nation, the posture, attitudes and utterances of our party members are critical to developing this hopefully growing bond between the NPP and Voltarians.
I prefer to believe that our inability to jump the electoral hurdle in the region has been because we in the NPP have not done a good job at communicating our message. I say this because I know that the NPP message ought to have fertile soil in this region. This is the party that has always championed the cause of Ghana as a land of opportunity.
We celebrate the fact that Ghana stands tall among nations as having a rich society of diversity, tolerance and co-operation. Ours is a society of multi-ethnic and multi-religious diversities who have found the wisdom to live in peaceful co-existence. What is left, however, is how the leaders of this nation of manifest destiny can use the prevailing atmosphere of peace, unity, diversity and harmony to enhance the dignity and prosperity of every Ghanaian.
An interesting feature of our country is that you can find every ethnic group in every region. Ghanaians have never felt restrained by the place of their birth in determining where they live or work in our country.
My running mate, the young, respected economist, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, said something interesting in the speech he gave on Wednesday. He said, in our race for economic development, the competition is not with each other, in other words, it is not between NDC and NPP or Dagombas and Kokonbas, Fantes and Gas, or Ashantis and Ewes, or Akyems and Krobos. The competition is with China, with South Africa, Malaysia, Korea, India, Brazil and other countries in the global economic space. We should never forget this.
Of course, there is and must be a healthy competition between political parties to give Ghanaians a choice between a different set of ideas on how we develop our nation. But this should be nothing more, nothing less than a competition of ideas, commitment, competence and solutions. This competition should never endanger the Ghanaian project.
Education and Skills
As you may be aware, I am determined to institute a free Senior High School systemm and I wish to reiterate this commitment here before you, because I know how dear the education of children is to the people of this region. We need to make Senior High School the required basic school for all children in order to give them a fair chance in life.
In 2005, the first batch of Class One pupils to enjoy free basic education was enrolled. This year, the 2012-2013 academic year, that group of children have just completed their BECE (Basic Education Certificate Examination) and are anxiously awaiting their results in the hope of continuing to Senior High School. After having allowed these children free access to basic education it would be a national tragedy to stand unconcerned for many of them to be denied access to secondary education because their parents could not afford it.
You, in this House, know better than most the tradition of the whole family, the whole clan, the whole village banding up together to send a bright young child to secondary school; you have done it, you have been beneficiaries yourself.
People believe that if that one child is helped to make it, he or she would become the instrument for pulling the whole family/clan/village out of poverty. Often such children have not disappointed. I am determined to ease that burden on such children by allowing every child in every family, every clan, every village access to free education from kindergarten to the secondary level.
There are those who say it cannot be done. Just like there were those who doubted our capacity to introduce a national health insurance scheme. Leadership, as we know, is about choices. I will choose to spend wisely and efficiently in allocating resources to develop our children for a brighter future. It is the best investment that any society of conscience and of vision can make and Ghana ought not be an exception.
It will be expensive but it is far too expensive now that we allow so many young people on to the streets after Junior High School without any skills for jobs. As they say, if you think education is expensive, try ignorance.
My vision for this country is to build a society of aspirations and opportunities for all Ghanaians. Building such a society entails the provision of universal access to quality education and health in an economy retooled for industrialisation and value-addition.
A society that aims to transform itself into a modern productive player in the global market must get its educational policies right. An educated and trained workforce will help transform our economy, an educated and trained population will give us the confidence required to deal with the rest of the world in the competitive economy. The provision of quality education and skills training will therefore be at the top of our agenda. And in talking about education, let me say how glad I am that a new public university is being developed in this region. I am committed to the principle that every region in our country should have at least one public university. Let me wish the University of Health and Allied Sciences every success.
Transformation of the Economy
During the period of the NPP government, ably led by HE John Agyekum Kufuor, Ghana finally discovered oil in commercial quantities in 2007. An equal focus will be given by the next NPP government to the exploration of the off- and onshore possibilities of oil and gas in this region. We have two options now: one, to treat the oil like we have done to gold and allow it to be exported in its raw material form as crude or; two, use this as a perfect opportunity to transform the structure of our economy through industrialisation and value-added commercial activities. I am for the latter because we can no longer continue to rely on the production and export of raw materials for our living as we have done for the last century if we are to create jobs and prosperity for the broad masses of our people.
My economic vision will focus on building an integrated industrialisation programme, with a clear bias towards supporting our small and medium scale enterprises with access to science and technology, incentives and markets to make them more productive and competitive. This means our small business people will form the foundations of this new industrial policy: And I will support them.
Ghana should be at the forefront of the industrialisation of West Africa. We will add value to our bauxite by building an integrated aluminium industry and export manufactured aluminum products. We will add value to our iron ore by developing a new iron and steel industry. We will add value to our new found gas by developing a strong petro-chemical industry in Ghana, using both private and public capital. The development of our salt will be part of this new vision. Equally part of this vision will be the development of the Volta Basin, which a study by the Geological Survey Department in 2008, during the NPP tenure of office, has shown to be a potentially rich deposit of considerable minerals – cobalt, nickel, diamonds, gold and hydrocarbons. I want to see a West Africa that is working together to create jobs for its people; and providing decent lives for its 350 million population and I want to see Ghana being at the driving seat of that regional project. And here I want to commend the house, under your leadership, Togbega, for the initiative of signing a “sister-region” co-operation pact with a province of China.
It is estimated that three-fifths (59.7%) of the people in this region are in agriculture and related occupations. The agriculture sector, therefore, is one area where success will be felt by the majority of Ghanaians, in the form of improved food security and dependable incomes for the large farming population in the rural areas. However, over the couple of years, the performance of this sector has been very worrying because of its importance in our economy and in particular the number of livelihoods that depend on this sector. The data shows that rather than expanding, the agriculture sector of the economy has seen steadily declining growth from 7.4% in 2008 to 0.8% by 2011.
Thus, the challenge is to apply the same vigour to tackling the decline as we intend to do in education. The NPP sees agriculture as a major wealth creation venture for the Ghana transformation project.
The phenomenon of unemployment among the youth of Ghana is, without doubt, the biggest threat to social peace. We ignore it at our peril. We believe that bold initiatives must be taken to address this problem. And in this respect, the vigorous exploitation in this region of its mineral, tourist, agricultural, salt and water transportation potentials will make a big contribution to job creation.
Self-employment will be promoted with support mechanisms such as access to credit, management training, and preferences in public procurement to give hope to the hordes of street peddlers, of kiosk owners, and of lotto and telephone card roadside entrepreneurs.
Togbega, my own involvement with Voltarians goes a long way back.
I recollect my first journey to what is now Volta Region in 1950. I was six years old and my father took me to Keta to visit his good friend and fellow lawyer, Ben Tamakloe. On reflection, they must have been really good friends because, as I recall it, the roads were not good, but it was a delightful journey for an eager, inquisitive young boy. Those were the days when the great minds of that generation were plotting to free our people from colonial rule.
I recall when in 1977, as General Secretary of the PMFJ, I worked alongside Gen Akwasi Amankwah Afrifa (the bosom friend of a remarkable son of this soil, Gen Emmanuel Kwasi Kotoka), my own uncles Paa Willie and Jones Ofori-Atta, Albert Adu Boahen, Komla Agbeli Gbedema, Godfrey Agama, Obed Asamoah, Sam Okudzeto, Johnny Hansen, Nii Amaah Armatefio, and others to fight, with courage but without weapons, against the Union Government concept of Gen Acheampong. We succeeded in helping defeat the idea in order to return our nation to multiparty democracy.
One of the highlights of my career at the Bar was the time in 1979 when I had the honour of defending the late Chief Justice Fred Apaloo, who did his pupilage in my late father's celebrated Kwakwaduam Chambers, in the Supreme Court against the attempt of the Limann government to remove him from office in the famous case of Tuffuor vs the Attorney-General. I led a group of young lawyers including the then youthful Tsatsu Tsikata, in that case, and we worked successfully together to win that critically important case for the independence of the judiciary.
In all these, what comes out is that, when we work together for a common purpose on the basis of commonly shared principles, we succeed.
Databank is one of the most successful companies in this country and I suggest that it is an example of how we work best when we pull our resources together. This company was started in 1990 as some of you might know by three young men, Ken Ofori-Atta, my cousin, Keli Gadzekpo, the current CEO of Databank and James Akpo, now elevated as Togbe Afede XIV.
I don't think they stopped to inspect each other's birth certificates before they got together. No prejudice stood in their way. They were three young men who saw an opportunity and it did not matter where they came from, their ideas and determination to work hard and succeed were more important.
Our prejudices hold us back like iron chains when they stop us from recognizing opportunity when we see it. We must be proud to celebrate our differences and even share the occasional harmless joke about where we come from, but we should never allow the richness of our differences to become a currency of spite and hate.
Let us shout out loud, right from this great hall, to all the four corners of the nation, to every man, woman, boy and girl, a message that is understood in every language, by every ethnic group in Ghana. Deka wor-wor! Deka wor-wor! Unity! Unity! We must be united in our quest for development. United in celebrating our differences. United in respecting each other. United in tolerating each other. United in understanding each other.
We have made many strides but equally so we have made many mistakes, made many wrong turns politically, socially and economically over the last fifty five years. However one thing has always stood clear. We have a DNA as a nation that has at its very core humanity, as exemplified in our national motto of Freedom and Justice, and at the very least our unwritten desire for peace and unity. This has stood the test of time, even under the most testing of authoritarian regimes. Even when many African nations that gained independence after us tore themselves apart through ethnic conflicts, Ghana remained united. Let us preserve this and treasure it, the Ghana Project.
In my three or more decades in frontline politics and, recently, in the course of my Listening Tour across Ghana, our common values as a people, the commonalities of our thoughts, fears, concerns as people and our desire for peace and our hope for the future remain clear to me. In my subsequent Tour of Hope, it is becoming even clearer how hungry Ghanaians are for a message of hope and unity; for a leadership that will deliver security and prosperity. There are bound to be differences of opinions among us, but these differences of opinion should not shake our allegiance to Ghana. Ghana must be first and foremost in all our dealings and thinking. Our nation's peace, stability, freedom and democracy are more important than anyone's ambition, including my own.
I have dedicated myself to public service in all my entire adult life, because I believe we can achieve far more for this land and for all her people than we have so far realized and I want to contribute to this collective effort. I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together - unless we build our nation by understanding that we may come from different backgrounds, but we hold common hopes and aspirations; that we may not look the same and we may not come from the same place or speak the same language, but we all want to move in the same direction - towards a brighter future for all our children and their children. A strong Ghana must be based on the strength of its entire people. This is my profound conviction which will always guide my conduct.
We must not allow our stories of national survival, our stories of sacrifice, and our stories of unity to give way to inflamed passions, tribally charged language and selective use of state power.
Recently, when I was out of the country in the United States, a great controversy occurred which created a great storm. My party issued a statement on it and I fully endorse the sentiments expressed by my party in that statement, which binds all members of the NPP. The matter is now before court, and I believe that the public interest demands that we allow the matter to be resolved there, and not continue to fan the issues generated by the statement.
I want to state here, though, with all the emphasis at my command, that I do not have any ethnic agenda to promote, and I will not condone any such agenda.
Since we embarked on our democratic journey in 1992 with the founding of the Fourth Republic by, perhaps, the most famous son of this soil, HE Jerry John Rawlings, our achievements have been significant in many areas. They include two decades of uninterrupted democracy and freedom. They include two peaceful changes of power from government to opposition parties in 2001 and 2009. They include elections that have been hailed across the world as models for the rest of Africa to emulate. They include having the closest election in our continent's history in 2008, without any major disturbances. They include substantial improvements in our infrastructure, poverty reduction and the introduction of social programmes that have helped the poor.
Despite these achievements, as we approach our sixth election, there are those who are worried that the centre seems not to be holding. Even at the registration stage, there has been violence leading to injuries. There have been statements that have unfortunately aggravated ethnic tensions. As a result, many have questioned our ability to have a peaceful election. They have questioned the ability and the commitment of our security forces to maintain peace. They have questioned the fairness of our state institutions. They have questioned the impartiality and fairness of our religious, traditional and opinion leaders. They have wondered about the virtues and vices of a free press. And finally, they have questioned the commitment of our political leaders—including myself, to peace.
I want to say, here and now, that I am unequivocally committed to peace in our country. That is why in 2008 when I lost the presidential election by the smallest margin in our political history, and indeed in the history of Africa, I accepted the verdict of the Electoral Commission without demanding a recount or inciting my supporters, and thereby avoiding the spilling of even a single drop of Ghanaian blood. My resolve remains the same today.
I believe the fundamental solution to all the anxieties connected to the 2012 election is for the rule of law to be allowed to reign. It is maintenance of the rule of law, which requires the enforcement of law and order without fear or favour, that can guarantee us peace, security and justice. The rule of law, properly so called, is gender neutral, colour blind, non-tribal and non-partisan. The rule of law is the glue that binds a free society together in peace and harmony.
All throughout our political history as a nation, from colonial times to independent Ghana, from the Bond of 1844, to the formation of the Aborigines Rights Protection Society in 1897 and to the formation of the first nationalist political party, the UGCC in 1947, our gallant forbears only had one thing in mind – to chart the course of our collective history, irrespective of our ethnic backgrounds. Their objective was to lay the foundations of our faith to defend, support and be prepared to serve a free and unified nation. To them believing in one nation meant not allowing their energies to be sapped away by either the failures of the past or the challenges of the day. This is the belief that I have inherited, which drives my politics, my personal philosophy and my decision to dedicate myself to the public service of Ghana and to seek the high office of president.
I believe in Ghana's rich diversity and unity. I believe in the fortitude of the Ghanaian. I believe in Ghana's manifest destiny.
And so Togbewo, Mamawo, I look forward to partnering with you, by the grace of God if elected president, to introduce free quality senior high school education, industrialise our country, including developing the resources in the Volta Region and improving the road infrastructure in this region.
Togbewo, Nananom, Mamawo , let us work together to move Ghana forward.
Togbe Afede XIV, President of the Volta Regional House of Chiefs, and all you eminent chiefs and queen mothers, I thank you sincerely for this opportunity.
God bless you and God bless our homeland Ghana.