By all standards, the Institute of Economic Affairs-organised presidential candidates' debate held at the Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence for Information Communication Technology Wednesday night produced a lot of thrills.
The debaters, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Paa Kwesi Nduom, John Evans Atta Mills and Edward Nasigre Mahama, flag-bearers of the governing New Patriotic Party, the Convention People"s Party, the National Democratic Congress and the People's National Convention respectively, made all frantic efforts to answer the questions thrown at them by the moderators of the programme -Kwame Karikari, an Associate Professor of the University of Ghana, Legon, and Cyril Acolatse, a seasoned broadcaster.
However, at the end of the three-hour debate, which offered the presidential aspirants the platform to tell the electorate how they intended handling specific national and international issues when voted into power so as to enable the electorate make informed choice on December 7, Nana Akufo-Addo proved his mettle as a potential leader with a stock of ideas and practical solutions to the myriad of economic problems confronting the country as a result of the world food and financial crises.
Whereas Nana Addo outlined practical measures to ensure food security, job creation and regional integration, among other policies as captured in the NPP manifesto, Paa Kwesi Nduom, who dressed like Ghana's first President, the late Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, founder of the Convention People's Party, spent a lot of the three-minute duration for responding to a question, on examples of situations in the past and present.
His posturing and gesticulations, coupled with the way he made incessant references to what pertained during the Nkrumah regime, made the august audience burst into sporadic laughter.
On how a government under him was going to use Ghana's future oil revenue for the benefit of the people, Nduom replied, "If the oil is not going to benefit Ghanaians then it must stay under the ground.'
He said, 'CPP-led government will ensure that revenue generated from the oil industry benefits Ghanaians, especially communities who will be affected by the oil exploitation in the Western Region'.
Professor Atta Mills clearly disappointed many of the audience as well as people who were viewing the programme live on television screens.
There was an indication that Prof. Mills and his party had decided to hoodwink Ghanaians as a way of getting them to vote the NDC into power come December 7.
In one of the night's most glaring untruths, Prof. Mills said in response to a question that the private sector had recorded zero growth, when in fact, it has recorded consistent high growth.
So remarkably obvious was this claim that Nana Akufo-Addo, presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party, felt it necessary to remind the viewing public of the correct figure.
Prof. Mills claimed that the NDC would create an environment that would enhance the growth of the private sector for job creation, ignoring the fact that the private sector has grown substantially under the NPP government.
Private sector credit has expanded from GHC385 million to GH3,300 million over the last eight years, with a real growth rate of 42%.
And according to Prof. Mills, the agricultural sector was particularly in distress, yet statistics show that the sector's growth rate increased from 2.1% in 2000 to 6.5% by 2006.
The Kufuor administration's policies more than doubled food production, from less than 350,000 metric tonnes under the NDC to more than 750,000 in 2007.
Cocoa yields, one of Ghana's most important exports, doubled on average per area. In fact, cocoa production reached an all-time record high in 2007 - more than double the NDC's average production - and a constituent production of over 600,000 metric tonnes annually.
A major challenge facing Ghana's industries, Prof Mills claimed, was the low skill level of the workers.
But under the NPP administration, enrolment in higher education has exponentially increased.
There has been a whopping 996% increase in private university enrolment, 117% increase in public university, 116% in professional institutions and 55% in polytechnic institutions - all which teach and provide employable skills.
As statistics prove, more and more of the population are becoming more educated, and the figures seem bound to keep rising.
The NPP has pledged that when retained in power it was going to establish Colleges of Technology to teach marketable skills for employment.
They are also committed to funding on-the-job training programmes so that workers will have the skills necessary to join the expanding workforce.
Under the National Youth Employment Programme, the NPP has created 108,000 new jobs for otherwise unemployed people.
There are plans to expand the programme to cover some 500,000 people in four years across the country.
On Wednesday night, Prof. Mills promised to revive industry and 'motivate people' to industrialise the country. But when the NDC left power, the industrial sector was in shambles.
Macro-economic imbalances, coupled with political resistance to private capital investment, undermined attempts to reinvest and revive the technologically-outdated industrial establishments.
Nana Akufo-Addo and the NPP are committed to ensuring that the mistakes of the NDC in the industrial sector will not be repeated. They aim to industrialise the Northern Regions using their Northern Rural Growth Programme, with a budget of US$103 million.
They will also instantly establish two agro-processing industries and one assembly plant to provide sustainable jobs for unemployed workers in those regions.
Dr. Edward Mahama sounded quite evasive in attempting to answer the questions. He often consciously or unconsciously skirted around the point.
Although political analysts described the IEA's programme as good for the country's democracy, their major concern was the limited time allocated to each of the candidates.
'Three minutes are not enough to diagnose the problem and offer a meaningful solution. I hope the IEA will review this aspect of the programme and increase the duration.
In this regard, the programme can commence earlier than Wednesday's', observed John Kwasi Kwarteng, a political science student in one of the private universities.
But comments after the programme, on both electronic and print media, as well as in homes, showed who really answered the questions that are at the heart of the pressing needs of Ghanaians.
Nana Akufo-Addo got top marks for substance, while Paa Kwesi Nduom provided the greatest populist rhetoric. With very little leavening of practicality, one might add.
Prof Mills was simply a slightly toned down version of his mentor, Jerry Rawlings, with Edward Mahama showing a workmanlike ethic on the question of agriculture, the only high point in an otherwise disappointing night for the man who has led the PNC since 1996.