... Prof. Mills, JJ Rawlings, Asiedu Nketsia, Tony Aidoo at their political best
kumasi-- THE MAIN opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), last Saturday literally invaded Kumasi, considered the traditional stronghold of the ruling NPP, and entered into a social pact with the electorate with the launching of its manifesto for Election 2004. The 103-page manifesto has “A better Ghana” as its slogan by which the new NDC is promising nothing but qualitative change for Ghanaians.
It is intended to address the socio-economic and politico-cultural aspirations of the people to guarantee a qualitative change towards building a better Ghana.
The document, mooted seven months ago, seeks to reflect on NDC's commitment to the welfare of the Ghanaian based on the party's newly adopted social democracy principle.
No doubt, the NDC with all the bigwigs, including founder and former President J.J. Rawlings, Alhaji Mahama Iddrisu, party chairman Dr. Obed Yao Asamoah, Commodore (rtd) Steve Obimpeh, Daniel Ohene Agyekum, among others, converged at the Prempeh Assembly Hall and made a big showing of its numerical strength.
The place was filled to capacity and the air was as well filled with popular songs, like “Mete Ase oo” and “Ye huri so,” to confirm their conviction that victory at the December elections was a foregone conclusion, but with the endorsement of the electorate.
Representatives of other political parties, notably the PNC, and a section of the Diplomatic Corps witnessed the launch, which created an impact, as pockets of people gathered along the streets and debated on the issues raised by the manifesto.
The first copy of the manifesto was auctioned at ¢50 million and picked by Alhaji Sofo, the party's national propaganda secretary.
The flag bearer, Prof. John Evans Atta Mills, who launched the manifesto, campaigned for votes to support the NDC's political agenda as outlined in the document, saying the NDC is ready to assume the mantle of government in January 2005.
Atta Mills made a solemn declaration to the Ghanaian to rid the nation of partisanship and do away with the politics of divide and rule and remove the current atmosphere of suspicion, mistrust and marginalisation of people suspected to be allies of the opposition.
He said trust based on truth was an essential ingredient in the quest for good governance and added that truth could be earned by proven commitment, frankness and integrity of action and not by unrealistic and unachievable promises.
The former Veep said Ghanaians as a people had had enough of double standards, hypocrisy, deception, spin doctoring and suspicion by the NPP, who condemned the things they are currently engaged in doing.
According to Prof. Atta Mills, an NDC government with men of talent, honesty and competence to translate the outlined policies into reality, would restore trust and truth to governance.
He said once he is given the mandate, he (Atta Mills) being fair and reasonable would make the difference by writing a new chapter in the history of Ghana politics, having accepted to end the politics of hate, vengeance and intolerance.
The former tax professor further promised Ghanaians a Ghana free of unnecessary partisanship, political vindictiveness and intolerance when he assumes office as the next President of Ghana.
“We need to move away from the politics of vilification, suspicion, harassment, empty slogan shouting, name calling and intimidation, which is dividing and dragging society down.”
The Presidential aspirant also spelt out his intentions, saying “I will talk to my political rivals, treat them with respect and hear them even as they also hear me” and that “no matter what, I will not withdraw courtesies due any former President or anyone who has served the nation at the highest possible levels.”
The Professor also stated that the philosophy of social democracy, which the NDC now subscribes to, enjoins the party to be caring and compassionate, which is fundamentally different from the NPP's philosophy of a property owning democracy.
“Ours is in keeping with the principle of each being his brother's keeper. That of the NPP is each man for himself,” it was stated.
Atta Mills also pointed out that another difference between the NDC and the NPP is the widening circle of opportunity for all Ghana by the NDC and that of a selected group of individuals by the NPP.
A better Ghana, as touted by the NDC in its manifesto, according to the flag bearer, means more jobs created out of a growing and sustainable economy and not merely temporary vote-catching creations and the springing up of new and bigger businesses in addition to existing ones.
“I (Atta Mills) will be pro-business and the opportunities which will come will spread to all, irrespective of political affiliation,”he said, and further explained the slogan to mean an intended reduction in cost of living.
The slogan “A better Ghana,” as adopted by the NDC for the manifesto, has so many facets, which translate into improved infrastructure, efficient healthcare delivery system, more investment in education and an impartial Judiciary and security services free from political manipulation.
Prof. Atta Mills said Education will remain the NDC's number one national priority and that the party will not rest until every school in Ghana gets a qualified teacher and becomes a good place for quality education.
The NDC flag bearer announced his readiness to debate with President Kufuor face to face on a national T.V. network on national issues to enable the electorate to make informed choices by choosing a new future at the December Elections.
Taking his turn, former President Jerry John Rawlings soberly called for solidarity for the NDC functionaries (Ibrahim Adam, Victor Selormey, Dr.Yankey and Kwame Peprah and Quansah) who are languishing in jail and on whose behalf he had delivered that speech at the function.
Mr. Rawlings noted that if care were not taken to reverse the trend many NDC faithful would suffer similar fate.
The former President said that much as he respected the rule of law, he believed injustice had been meted out to some people under the NPP regime.
The ex-flying officer also pointed out that the Kufuor-led administration was afraid of losing power knowing very well that it had committed heinous crimes, including judicial crimes, and therefore resorted to terror tactics of manipulation.
Mr. Rawlings charged the party's followers to be strong and courageous in the face of the intimidation and prosecution because “we are many and strong but they are few.”
Party chairman Dr. Obed Yao Asamoah referred to the imposition of various taxes, besides water and electricity bills, on the people, and said the NPP did not deserve to be returned to power in the face of such huge deception.
According to him the zero tolerance of the NPP was a clear joke.
Highlighting on the economic aspects of the manifesto, Hon. Johnson Asiedu Nketia, NDC Member of Parliament for Wenchi West, said Ghanaians were indeed in trouble with the poor economic management by the NPP and said the NDC intended to clear the mess.
He said in spite of the HIPC initiative, which was supposed to reduce indebtedness, the NPP succeeded in adding ¢35 trillion, representing 85% of the ¢41 trillion it had inherited within three years.
According to him, an NDC government would reduce the burden on low-income group and work to remove the National Development Levy, which is collapsing businesses.
Asiedu Nketiah, who also answers to “General Mosquito,” said NPP's poverty reduction strategy was not viable at the current 5% economic growth rate and said the NDC would revert to its Vision 2020 policy, which he described as modest and viable.
He also disclosed that the cocoa farmer would be paid 70% of the world price and ensure that 40% of the cocoa produced is processed locally to add value.
Touching on the energy sector, the MP said electricity tariffs would be subjected to increases only if the quality service would be guaranteed by the providers and that NDC will reintroduce the Self Help Electrification Project (SHEP) to ensure that all communities with over 500 inhabitants are connected to the national grid by 2017.
He said the Bui dam project would be revisited and further disclosed that a gas pipeline would be constructed from Accra through Kumasi to Sunyani, another from Tema to Takoradi with yet another from Bolgatanga to Burkina Faso to reduce wastage through accidents on the roads involving the tankers.
With regard to NDC's relations with the media, Mr. Haruna Iddrisu, the party's national youth organizer, said it would be encouraged to promote national unity, stability and security and that the Presidency will organize quarterly breakfast meetings with senior journalists and also institute a monthly national broadcast to ensure transparency.
Iddrisu also hinted at a proposed permanent campus for the Ghana Institute of Journalism by an NDC government.
Giving highlights on its educational policy, Hon. Hannah Tetteh Kpodar, NDC MP for Efutu Senya, proclaimed free education at the basic level while tuition at the tertiary level will be free with scholarships for the brilliant but needy students.
She said the party would use the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to improve upon the economy and make the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) more meaningful.
MP Tetteh Kpodar also said the NDC would adopt a housing policy for workers which would make it affordable on two levels through partnerships or rural housing programmes and bring dignity to labour.
She also said under a 10-year programme the party would provide water for the survival of Ghanaians.
For an effective empowerment of women, the MP assured that the mandate of the Ministry of Women and Children's Affair would be renewed to make it relevant to all women.
The NDC is considering creating stadia with capacity of 7,000 at all district capitals as well as stadia, the size of the Kumasi Sports Stadium, at all regional capitals as its commitment to the development of sports, Tetteh Kpondar announced, adding the national policy on disabled is definitely going to be enforced.
Minority leader, Mr. Alban Bagbin simply described the NPP as a disaster for which reason the NDC was now a better option for the electorate which had seen the difference between the NPP and the NDC.
To him, President Kufuor was dull and had difficulty in articulation, which he explained is an indication that he did not speak the truth.
Bagbin also rapped the NPP for receiving a car gift from Libya after it had criticized NDC's association with that country.
He maintained that for a number of reasons, the NDC was very sure of winning the elections because the electorate would vote out the NPP.
According to Bagbin, the UN Secretary General, Mr. Kofi Annan, whose appointment had been supported by former President Rawlings, had had to offer an intervention in peace keeping in the Sub region recently because the international community had lost respect for President Kufuor.
The minority leader also discredited supposed freedom of the press, saying the media today is gagged and therefore not free.
According to him, the slightest media criticism attracts threats under the cover of the night.
NDC hatchet man, Dr. Tony Aidoo, announced the intention of the NDC to employ the four principles of freedom, justice, probity and accountability as the four pillars on which the people will be governed.
The former deputy Defence Minister, who has earned for himself another accolade as sharp tongued, says the new NDC will restructure the economy and empower local industries to salvage the economy from collapse.
He also assured the restoration of a political stability and arresting moral decadence without going HIPC.