The first 2012 IEA debate to me has been most insightful. The debate generally confirmed certain views, and exposed others. For example, it re-affirmed the fact that the PNC and its Ayariga are complete jokes who took part in the debate by virtue of the fact that they have a few seats in parliament. It was also very courageous of the President to ‘break protocol’ and debate colleague aspirants as a sitting President. These are my thoughts ion the four who showed up.

Hassan Ayariga

PNC’s Hassan Ayariga

Ayariga was a comic relieve even to her beautiful wife seated on the front row. He reminded me of some of the candidates who stand for Student Representative Council positions back in High School. There were times he even sounded as though he was campaigning for Dormitory Overseer. He seemed unprepared and had this look on his face as though he was telling himself ‘wow look at me on a stage with the President, Dr. Sakara and the whole, short Nana Addo’. The man was awed and seemed confused.

I get the impression that Ayariga epitomizes the situation of the party he represents. The PNC has rarely come across as a serious party right from when the late President Limann set it up prior to the 1992 elections. Some of the questions that were asked in the debate were not rocket science questions posed to dondology students from Legon.

Yet, Ayariga went on and on speaking like some inexperienced school boy being vetted. I dare say any of the guys I debated with when I was doing SRC politics in Presec could have done a 100 fold better than he did. This may be an unfair comparison especially when the guys I refer to are Bright Simons (of IMANI and mPedigree), Nii Kpakpo Samoa Addo (a lawyer) and Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwah (deputy minister of state and MP aspirant).

Ayariga’s posture, delivery and grasp of issues seemed to me that the PNC is not a party with any plan for ruling and advancing the growth of Ghana. It makes people like myself wonder the more why the IEA has stuck to its guns to keep Nduom and his PPP out. And he will be at the next debate? I think he showed up because he was invited not because he had anything to say.

Out of a ten, I will wince as I give him a 3, hoping I could go lower.

Dr. Abu Sakara Foster

The CPP’s Abu Sakara won the night. He demonstrated he was on top of issues.


He was a bomb. Sakara continued with his very insightful and brilliant presentation during the IEA Encounter. He was on point and seemed to believe in everything that he said. He came prepared and was prepared to slice portions of the votes that the NPP and NDC think are their birthright. Dr. Sakara was practical in his approach to questions and he knew what he was talking about. I think that if the CPP had what it took to comprehensively market Abu Sakara and made as many voters as possible hear him, they will indeed take up that vacant slot of a third force.

I believe that he succeeded in winning the hearts of many floating voters and may have succeeded in chipping off even some votes from the two big boys. In my opinion he won the debate hands down and has won my respect enormously.

Whatever happens after December 7, I hope the victor will rope in Abu Sakara into the governance of this nation. He has a lot of wisdom, experience and knowledge that we need to tap in as a nation.

To rate him at an 8.5 over a 10 seems pretty fair to me.

Nana Addo Dankwah Akufo-Addo

Nana Addo was impressive on the night.

Nana Addo is not oblivious to the fact that the entrance of John Mahama has made his chances of emulating his father’s feat to be President of Ghana even harder. I have said it elsewhere that the NPP would have almost easily beaten the NDC to pulp if the party was led by Mills in 2012.

Mahama’s emergence brings in fresh face, fresh blood and we see a younger man prepared to win a poll he did not expect to be a part of six months ago. Having said that, I think Nana meant to push his case that the NDC does not deserve another term. I think he did fairly well though his inability to state the sources of some of his figures made him seem as though he were debating upon the assumptions that we knew where he was quoting from. Nana Addo also seemed to have forgotten that this was a debate and that it was timed too. He got belled out in both his opening and closing remarks, and those were not cool.

I must say however that Nana came out very forcefully on the issue of education. The NPP seem to have built their entire campaign using education as the main pillar. One of Nana Addo’s assests also tend to be a liability sometimes. You see, Nana speaks English in a way that makes him sound ‘too abrofosem’ sometimes. I sometimes need to pay that extra attention to hear him (and I pride myself to be ‘okay ooo’ with the Queen’s language oo). That did not however stop him from driving home his points. It will be tough for NDC propagandists to see any major flaw from Tuesday night to attack the 68-year old.

We expected Nana and the President to take jabs at each other and they did, though it was apparently obvious they had respect for themselves and so did not go for the onslaught. I think that he gave a fairly good account of himself. Nana is a respected lawyer and one of the past times of lawyers which tend to be an integral part of their work is to debate. He seemed the most experienced of them, and rightly so since he is the oldest and the only lawyer there too.

I will give Nana a 7.

John Dramani Mahama

The President, John Mahama has won admirers for taking part in the debate.

As soon as Mahama stepped in the shoes of the late Mills I knew the tide of 2012 was no longer same. When he decided to break the much touted but yet silly convention where sitting Presidents did not take part in debates, he won a bit part of my heart. Mahama has long being seen as the people and media friendly type and he has clearly set out to give a lot of different meaning and change to the status quo. The President did well. He is the President and he made the rest of the field know that ‘hey guys, quite a number of the things you babble about, I am actually doing it’.

He had figures that most did not have and he had the benefit of throwing in his experiences in the seat of government. Mahama did well. I don’t think he was extraordinary but I think he showed all of us that he knew his work and he had plans and has more than a fair idea how to execute them. The issue of facts and figures is one we suffer from as a nation and it is one which may be with us for a tad longer. The Ghana Statistical Service cannot be relied on in getting figures and so we are left in a quagmire where no one has confidence in figures bandied about by anyone.

In my humble opinion it will be absurd if party people go on to scream hoarse that the President ‘won this debate hands down’. He didn’t. He just didn’t embarrass himself. When Obama lost the first debate with Romney, his aides worked hard to find what was went wrong and prepped Obama to come out on tops in the two subsequent debates.

Luckily for us, not many voters will use the debate to determine who they will vote for. But this is politics and it is a game of numbers. Mahama did a god job with his closing remarks. He was lucky to have had the last take and he chose that moment to mention our beloved Mills’ name. The remarks were on point and I felt ‘what a better way to end a debate’.

I will rate the President a 7 too.

Going Forward

I understand the IEA’s dilemma with setting out parameters over who takes part in its programs. Without some of these filters we could end up with all sorts of characters purporting to be presidential candidates and party people disturbing the peace and tearing our eardrums into pieces.

However I think that a review of the guidelines is in order. For example, Nduom’s Progressive Peoples Party is doing a lot of work and has gradually and steadily positioned itself as a relevant player in Ghana’s electoral process. In fact, it has become more relevant than the People’s National Convention (PNC) and their presidential candidate. It is my humble view that the IEA (in the current situation where the NCCE has refused to see that it should be the one organizing electoral debates) should take a second look at their guidelines so that parties like the PPP who have no representation in parliament are made to take part in their debates. In any case, what did Ayariga bring to the table aside the half-baked responses and some comedy?

The audience we had was made up of top party folks, ministers and former ministers and all. But that did not stop them from breaking simple rules set by the moderators. I think we are generally not used to such protocol.

We will get there though, but we should be proud as a country that our democracy is maturing. I am not sure how many African states conduct presidential debates. I sure am proud to be Ghanaian at this time.

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