A mechanical engineer might not appear to have much in common with politics, especially our ego-centric –cutthroat, no-holds-barred brand which is practiced in Ghana. But Hon. Yaw Osafo –Maafo—popularly known as “Oyeadieyie” a skilled engineer and a presidential aspirant of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) is a politician with different make. Perhaps his training in engineering has prepared him to be a very skillful political architect.
Osafo –Maafo is in the class by himself, among NPP and other parties' presidential aspirants. His “special –touch,” ability to turn every adversity into success and his success records put him ahead of all presidential aspirants of his party and others representing other parties. He's by all accounts larger -than- life figure.
His superb achievements at Finance and Education Ministries, coupled with the historic qualification and participation of the Ghana Black Stars soccer team in FIFA World Cup tournament put him far ahead of his compatriots. No wonder, most of them do not want to debate him on issues.
Osafo-Maafo has abiding love for his country and party. According to his campaign disciples, confidence is part of his personality. He is a candidate that has a great respect for his brothers and sisters who belong to other political denominations. He is a unique unifying character---the type that is needed by Ghana now than before.
I was one of a few invited guests who attended Hon. Yaw Osaafo-Maafo's Campaign stopover, Fund Raising event held at the Hilton Hotel in Cherry –Hills, NJ, on Novemeber 4th 2007. I was very impressed by his analytical ability to break down complex issues into very common denominators for everyone to understand. But, before I give you my take on the event and all of its trimmings, I have a personal confession to make. No, it isn't anything that breaks the laws. I just broke my political virginity. Oops!
To begin with, I was some how compelled to attend the event because I didn't want my firm friend, Kwaku Ampadu who sent the invitation, to know my distaste for politicians and political meetings. For so many years, I have inoculated myself against high expectations from politicians, particularly those we have in Ghana. The truth must be told. I'm very cynical when it comes to politicians, because of what they say for votes and what they do after winning the elections. I don't see eye to eye with them. As a personal principle, I stay away from politics of any form. Nevertheless, I reluctantly accepted my good friend's invitation to attend the event out of curiosity and just for the sake of our friendship. But, I was very skeptical. I'll be honest; I had my doubts when I had the invitation.
Nevertheless, I honored the invitation, but I did not leave my prejudices at home. So I went in with very low expectations and “Mr. CNN's” uninviting little comments made me uncomfortable and that nearly gave me the excuse to leave. Not even the juicy chicken - breast patties and the “double- decker “sandwiches they offered could have held me there. But I decided to stay for a while. Perhaps it was Osafo-Maafo's carefully calibrated speech that thrilled me and kept me there as I was not an NPP devotee. In fact, there were more non-NPP card bearing members and curiosity seekers in the room than the gung-ho party fans...
The “fix-it-expert”, Osafo –Maafo, was introduced by the chairman of the occasion and he spontaneously gripped the microphone as if he was auditioning for a TV -talk show host. He then began his “sermon” and sounded like a cross between a motivational speaker, a college professor in Economics lecture hall and a preacher at a religious revival convention. He's a tycoon with Olympic quality energy and skills. Judging from the faces of the attendees, there was not a single soul at that conference hall who was not impressed by Osafo-Maafo's sincerity, humility and knowledge of the subject matter. At that point, my prejudices were betrayed by my interest in him and what he stands for. I found out that we shared many beliefs and values. Interestingly, he gave straight answers to straight questions and didn't blame other parties for his party's short comings and failures— that makes him a very refreshing and a rare breed politician. You can now call me a born –again political evangelist and an NPP sympathizer. Talk about a weak spirit, I could not help It.! The temptation was too much for me to resist.
Hon. Yaw Osafo –Maafo touched on his vision for the country and cautioned the party on the importance of the so-called the” 'floating voters”, who don't wear any party's t-shirt or attend any rally. He said next year's election would be decided by this group of people.
Tapping into his financial and economic re-engineering skills, Osafo-Maafo touched on his economic plan for the country. He has a unique formula for job creation which he eloquently presented in a way that everyone in the room could not help than to applaud in agreement. “Ghana must take advantage of its geographical location, as well as its economic stability and quality intellectual capital to position itself as a leader in service industry in sub-region of Africa” he lamented. “Look, last year Nigeria imported over 4 billion dollars worth of salt from Brazil. Yet Ghana and Senegal are the only West Africa countries which can produce natural salt. Our total revenue from cocoa and gold was 2.5 billion dollars, the highest in Ghanaian history. So which is easier to produce, gold or salt? What is wrong with that picture?” he further lamented with disappointment.
He went on to say that depending on Ghana's traditional sources of foreign exchange (cocoa and gold) is no more viable. He says those sources are now becoming very uncompetitive. Therefore it is important to initiate fresh ideas to diversify and increase our foreign exchange earning potentials. He says it requires more money, time and energy to produce a pound of gold or a bag of cocoa than using our intellectual capital. According to Osafo-Maafo New York State has more Ghanaian specialist doctors, and if these doctors were encouraged to practice at home and offer specialized medical procedures which cost one- third of the price the patients pay in America, the country could in short period of time develop into medical tourism destination. Interestingly, he believes this could bring in more foreign exchange than the primary exports...
Osafo-Maafo said Ghana is now experiencing a huge growth investment in banking industry because the nation has a stable economy. In his view, insurance industry is complementary to banking industry and brokerage firms, that with the right environment, Ghana could easily become a leading financial hub in the West Africa Region.
He also touched on the need to use local raw materials for production. He said using local raw material in production does not only make economic sense but also a source of national pride.
If the outpouring of enthusiasm from his” fan-club members” were rainfall, the entire hotel would have been flooded with water. People were reaching out to touch him for his undivided attention or his words of wisdom.
I left when the touching and digital camera flashes were ruling the room. Everyone wanted to take a picture with him. I really can't tell if Mr.CNN, the camera man made a fortune that night or he took pictures to enhance his own political status—I was confused.
Oh, there were two questions I had wanted to ask Osafo -Maafo's campaign disciples:
1) Why is it that the Ghanaian media is not highlighting on the achievements and visions of Osafo-Maafo?
2) How come the NPP let such a political “cash-cow” out of its operational machine?
Well, I don't have answers to those questions yet. But I am sure Osafo–Maafo has so much to offer his party and the country that it would be a big mistake if his party doesn't tap into his reservoir of wisdom and ability to think outside the box. Incidentally, his experience will unite the country and propel it to achieve its socio-economic glory. He also emphasized the need to build on the good foundation president Kufour and those who came before him laid for the country.
He was asked what the Ghanaians in the Diaspora could do for him and his campaign team. His response was “You play a very important role back home, financially and morally. Your financial support can make a big difference and don't forget to call home and tell your families to vote for me. I need all the help I can get.” Indeed, he thinks outside- the-
* The writer is a social commentator, a founder of Adu-Gyamfi Youth empowerment, Educational and Apprenticeship foundation at Asuom, in the Kwaebibrim District, E/R
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