When Paa Kwesi Nduom was put on the spotlight in the full glare of television cameras at the Alisa Hotel in Accra on Wednesday night, a picture emerged of the Convention People’s Party that has grown more in substance than the era when the resemblance of a presidential candidate’s forehead to that of the founder, was the most significant commodity the Cockerel family could sell to the electorate.
From reading his prepared speech to fielding questions, the presidential candidate of the CPP gave indications of a leader who has done quite a bit of homework. Whether or not Ghanaians would buy into his idea of a social democratic agenda steeped deep in the socialist era of Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, remains to be seen.
The programme was the first of a series dubbed: An evening encounter with Presidential Aspirants. It is the brainchild of the Institute of Economic Affairs in collaboration with the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation and Joy FM, an Accra private radio station. The evening’s programme was transmitted live on GTV and Joy FM.
The sight, on entering the hotel, of a sizeable number of senior citizens trudging wearingly to the Botsio auditorium together with smartly dressed young men and women, told the story of an event that is of interest to the good people of this country. It did not disappoint.
At exactly 17:05 GMT, versatile journalist Kwaku Sakyi Addo, who was the moderator called the function to order with an invitation to Rev. Fred Deegbe, General Secretary of the Christian Council of Ghana to pray.
The prayers were followed by the singing of the national anthem by Ebony Heritage, an all-male seven-member choir resident at the Liberian Refugee Camp at Buduburam. Apparently, it is not every Liberian at the camp who is at loggerheads with the state of Ghana.
The melodious tune of the choir had hardly died down when Ms Jean Mensa, Executive Director of IEA mounted the podium to explain why her organisation was demanding the attention of the nation.
As part of its efforts to meaningfully contribute to multi-party democracy, she said, the Institute of Economic Affairs under the auspices of the Ghana Political Parties Programme (GPPP) is hosting an evening encounter with the flag-bearers of the four political parties with representation in Parliament namely; the New Patriotic Party (NPP), the National Democratic Congress (NDC), the Convention People’s Party (CPP) and the People’s National Convention (PNC)
The purpose of this encounter is to provide a platform for presidential aspirants to educate the electorate on their vision and plans and to provide strategies on how they intend to govern the country. The ‘encounter’ will also afford the electorate the opportunity to ask probing questions of the aspirants who wish to govern them and enable them to make informed decisions, she explained.
One hopes no one tells Dan Lartey. The maverick politician would not take kindly to the idea of sidelining him and his Great Consolidated Popular Party. Every Ghanaian knows that the politician and his party are merely adding comic relief to the serious business of searching for able men and women to lead this nation out of poverty. Somehow, the National Electoral Commission has never summoned courage to inform him that a political party cannot operate in this country only from the residence of the founder.
That is only by the way. The serious business of Wednesday night got underway the moment David Ampofo had introduced his boss in a manner that Tawiah Adamafio, General Secretary of the CPP of old would have invited Dr. Kwame Nkrumah to the podium in the 1960s. All praises!
It is difficult not to conclude that the profuse manner of the praises that brought the presidential aspirant to the podium did not influence his speech.
I am in the race to become the next President of the Republic of Ghana because I believe that I have something positive to offer my country, Dr Nduom declared. I have chosen a positive path to the campaign. I will conduct a campaign of presenting ideas and solutions that my party, the CPP and I have to solve Ghana’s problems, he said.
My vision is to create a just society with a passion for excellence with a per capital income of at least $5,000 in the next five to ten years. This will be accompanied by broad-based improvements in social indicators such as infant mortality rates, maternal mortality, life expectancy and enrolment rates for both boys and girls throughout the country.
He said his administration would accelerate industrialisation and the development of human capital. The key ingredients I am offering are a leadership that will work with a sense of urgency to do what needs to be done quickly and very well.
Identifying poverty as the nation’s most formidable enemy, Dr Nduom promised to lead the fight to eliminate poverty from the body politic.
I am totally focused on promoting economic growth and social equity, he pledged. Education has proven to be an equalising factor throughout the world, promising quality higher education for all.
The CPP presidential candidate promised to establish universities in all regions where there are none at the moment. A CPP administration led by me will use science and technology education to build the necessary human capital for industrialisation and social progress.
Dr Nduom told his audience that a caring CPP administration would build industries and create jobs for all Ghanaians and improve on infrastructure throughout the country. He promised to link all the 10 regional capitals with first class roads and construct railway network from Accra to Paga.
In what will surely resonate in the corridors of power, Dr Nduom said his administration would bring back the Workers Brigade, the Farmers Council, state sponsored food distribution agencies and revive the concept of co-operatives with the intention of halting the importation of food items for local consumption.
Rice is grown in Nasia, Aveyime, Afife, Dawhenya, Beposo, Nobewam and in all other areas in the country. When I become the next President, I will encourage our rice farmers to grow more by ensuring that they have a market in Ghana.
He pledged to retain the Agricultural Development Bank in the hands of the state to accelerate the green revolution idea of his government.
He said as part of the restructuring of government, his administration would legislate against Members of Parliament becoming Ministers of State. I will sponsor legislation to remove the provision in the Constitution that allows Ministers of State to also serve as Members of Parliament. Parliament must be seen as an important end in itself and not a stepping stone to joining the Executive .
On a night of promises, Paa Kwesi Nduom said: My party’s vision is to provide leadership with a sense of urgency to deliver abundant energy resources to enable the acceleration of industrialisation and modernisation of our communities .
He warmed the auditorium by promising a campaign based on ideas and programmes. I am the one who wants Ghanaians to make a choice based on the ideas and solutions we are offering. Kwame Nkrumah will not be on the ballot in 2008.JJ Rawlings will not be on the ballot. J. A. Kufuor will not be on the ballot. Hilla Limann will not be on the ballot. I am not looking back. For me, it is what I can and will do from January 2009 into the future that I want Ghanaians to focus on, he told his audience.
But if his delivery that evening was anything to go by, it will be difficult to hold Dr. Ndoum to his promises. When it suited him, he went back to the Nkrumah era to ram home his concept that the CPP had done it before.
On the party’s concept of African unity, Dr Ndoum had this to say: The vision Nkrumah had for African Unity today means partnership for progress through shared knowledge with full respect for our differences.
Perhaps, the growing political maturity of Africa will enable some of its leaders to be self-confident enough to embrace a united Africa.
It can no longer be denied that the unwavering vision Nkrumah had for the unity of African states remains an active one and is still our hope for the acceleration of the growth and development of Africa in the 21st century.
One of the funda-mental principles of my party is Pan-Africanism. I will lead Ghana back to the front of creating a conti-nental union with a promise of a better market, security and a good life.
What he failed to add is that even at the time Nkrumah was the voice of African unity, virtually all our close door neighbours failed to be present in Accra for the summit of OAU Heads of State and Governments in 1965.
Like the change of his own name, the explanation of which led to a lively discussion by a section of the audience after the ‘encounter,’ the CPP presidential candidate has a few more questions to answer on his modus operandi.
For the records, Paa Kwesi Nduom was christened Joseph Hubster Yorke at birth.
According to the CPP flag-bearer, he got permission from his father to use Paa Kwesi Nduom, which was also his last name, when he got to America and realised that it was important to identify with his African roots.
I must stress though that it was a good evening!