Part two of the IEA presidential debate series yesterday turned out to be what could be described as a 'Thriller in Tamale'. The much-publicised event brought out the best but not the worst in each of the aspiring candidates of the four major political parties in the country.
The candidates were more relaxed, and seemed more focused in tackling the questions posed to them, showing more confidence than they did when the event was held in Accra.
The New Patriotic Party (NPP) presidential candidate, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo brought to bear his longstanding experience in government as he fielded questions from moderators.
He was able to blend his vision with what he has obtained during the Kufuor-administration and his role in particular in getting the country thus far.
His National Democratic Congress (NDC) counterpart, Prof John Evans Atta Mills, on the other hand, managed the questions with a certain tact unseen during the Accra segment.
With a rather hoarse voice, the Prof was an improvement over the Accra experience as he answered questions with little or no umbrage.
Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom was his usual self, tackling the questions and sort of querying the current political administration as though he never was part of the ruling government.
Dr. Edward Mahama had a certain brightness on his countenance as he answered his questions. His manner of answering perhaps encouraged the NPP candidate to remark, “Dr. Mahama would have to wait to be president first”, as the audience laughed even though sentiments were not allowed at the venue.
Prof Mills sounded as though he has never had the opportunity to run a government as he condemned everything from the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to waste disposal in the country.
In an answer to a question, he made an outstanding remark when he said: “I would not take fanciful approaches like others.”
For someone who was careful not to be confrontational as he was during the Accra encounter, he appeared to be veering to that stage.
Nana Akufo-Addo was the most casually dressed at the event, spotting a blue linen top and a matching pair of trousers.
Prof Mills was spotting a black and white Northern smock or “fugu” with a shirt inside. He had definitely corrected the obvious shortcomings of the Accra segment but nature did not favour him as his voice sounded rather funny.
Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom looked like a Gambian businessman, spotting a white flowing gown and a matching cap. He was over-dressed but his People's National Convention (PNC) counterpart, Dr. Mahama was in a flamboyant smock with shades of colours as stripes with his trade mark cap to match.
Prof Ivan Addae, former VC, University of Ghana, Legon and Mr. Israel Laryea of JoyFM were the moderators. Prof Kwame Karikari, one of the two persons who moderated in the Accra debate was visible among the guests in the hall as the camera occasionally captured his bearded countenance.
The Tamale debate started off with the governance subject with Nana Akufo-Addo using gesticulation, diction and mastery of the subject to make his presentation.
Though the audience was not allowed to applaud, their body language suggested their elation with the candidate's demeanour.
Nana laid his plans for a constitutional review process when he comes to power.
The issue of the appointment of DCEs and the tenure of the president, he said, would be put out to the people so that should they desire it, another step would be taken towards effecting a constitutional review.
Nduom on his part described what he would want done, such as the creation of responsive governance.
In his first 100 days, he said, he would seek the decentralization of a number of government processes.
Dr. Mahama would rather the Council of State issue is given another look so that its tenure would be such that it can advise the incoming government.
The debate tackled corruption and here, Prof Mills obviously managed his anger as he said the canker is all-pervasive.
Today's Ghana, he noted, features people who are flaunting their wealth in a manner that is not good for the upbringing of the country's kids.
On the issue of DCEs, all the candidates appeared to have agreed that they should be elected on partisan basis.
With regard to the issue of separation of the Attorney General's Department from the Ministry of Justice as espoused by almost all of the candidates save Nana, the NPP candidate said: “It requires more than a rhetoric manage.”
He explained that his administration would strengthen further existing institutions like the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) to do better.
On the issue of sanitation which Mills condemned as a failure, he pointed at the performance of Zoomlion to subtly debunk the NDC man's position and added that during his tenure he would turn a certain number of sanitary inspectors yearly.
He said a coordinated approach would be taken towards managing sanitation in the country.
Mills on the other hand said he would personally wade into the sanitation problem with a view to redressing the challenge.
Israel Laryea's question on the number of houses each of them has, appeared to have caught Dr. Nduom off guard as he sought to separate his commercial property from private residences.
Nana said he has 3 houses, Mills 2, Nduom 1 and Mahama 2.
Nana Addo took the opportunity to tell Ghanaians that the country is about to witness an unprecedented period of prosperity. He promised a Ghana where every child would be given the opportunity to go to school.
Dr. Nduom on his part said a CPP government, having listened to the needs of the citizens of this country, would work towards bettering the lot of farmers and fishermen.
He ended his remarks with the famous 'Work and Happiness' song of the Nkrumah era as the hall reacted with an applause.
Dr. Mahama also had the opportunity of convincing Ghanaians about what a PNC government under him would do for the country.
Prof Mills took his turn but with a derision for the NPP's 'Moving Forward' refrain when he spoke against what he considered a forward movement in the same direction.
He promised good governance and good leadership.
All the four presidential hopefuls reiterated their commitment to ensuring peaceful elections on December 7, 2008.
By A.R. Gomda