SPEECH DELIVERED BY JOHN DRAMANI MAHAMA AFTER THE SUBMISSION OF NOMINATION FORMS TO CONTEST THE FLAGBEARERSHIP OF THE NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC CONGRESS IN THE 2020 ELECTIONS
Thank you my brothers and sisters for the wonderful show of solidarity. Your presence here at the Trade Fair Centre, and earlier at the headquarters of our Party, to join me submit my completed nomination forms is indeed a great inspiration. It does convey a clear message that the rank and file of our Party is yearning for victory.
I am grateful to you for believing in me as the candidate who will work with you to deliver victory in 2020.
I thank all of you for your contribution towards our fundraising efforts. You have demonstrated that party members, supporters, sympathisers and ordinary Ghanaians are willing to contribute their widow’s mite.
Let me urge the leadership of our Party to seize the moment and nurture the spirit of fundraising within the party.
About two years ago, December 2016, I faced the solemn task of conceding an election, in sober acceptance of the verdict expressed by the people of Ghana. At the end of anintensebruising contest, the people conferred the honor of their mandate on the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in earnest expectation that the incoming administration would make good on their numerous one-a-day campaign promises.
I respected the verdict and appreciated it for its significance. It was a hard thing to do, and a deeply humbling experience.
I was sincere in my hopes that the new government would be successful in the great undertaking before them. I still am – but I was gutted by the missed opportunity to see through an agenda that I genuinely believed would address the most intractable, fundamental problems that belie our nation’s chronic difficulties.
The loss afforded the opportunity for solemn reflection about a life spent in public service, the many different parts I have been blessed to play in Ghana’s story.
I found myself grateful to the Almighty who raised me up to those heights, and to the people of this nation whose love and trust have been my constant strength through these great many years.
My Brothers and Sisters,
At that crossroads in my life, the temptation of a return to private life was enticing. The promise of time with my family and close friends – a rare thing during those years in office – was a welcome prospect, and time away from the often vicious, unforgiving enterprise of our national politics was equally so.
But in those many months of contemplation, I also re-discovered the first principles of my personal and political beliefs.
The tenets of my Christian faith reassure me that day-in and day-out, my God and Saviour takes me from one degree of perfection to another.
My belief in politics of personal responsibility reminds me of the need for self-appraisal at all times. And so, after much deliberation, I believe that I am even better prepared now to carry the standard of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) – and the great political tradition for which it stands – into the presidential election in 2020.
I did not make the decision to enter this contest in isolation. I consulted broadly with all levels of our party – from the grassroots, who are our lifeblood, to the elders on whose shoulders I stand. I sought the wisdom of our chiefs and the counsel of our religious leaders.
I solicited the views of business captains and leaders among Ghana’s trade and professional associations, as well as the broader perspective of everyday Ghanaians.
They all did me the courtesy of offering frank, constructive critiques of my own strengths and past shortcomings, as well those of my administration and of our party as a whole.
In truth, the encouragement and support for my decision to seek a second full term in office from the vast majority of these persons has been overwhelming and reassuring. I thank them,and indeed all of you here, for believing in my capabilities, my experience and my passionate desire to lead our party to reclaim the trust and mandate of the good people of Ghana.
Yet, I truly respect and equally appreciate the views of all those who, whether in the public space or in private conversations, expressed some misgivings about my decision to enter the contest. I wish for all such persons to know that their advice was not lost on me, and that I intend to prove myself worthy of their confidence and to assuage their qualms in the months ahead.
I don’t promise. I prove!
I am running because even though we did not succeed in 2016, I learnt a great many lessons and yes – there is benefit from failure.
The campaign tour, which I started in August, has so far taken me to the Central, Northern, Upper East, Upper West, Brong Ahafo, Greater Accra and Ashanti Regions. Very soon we will be in Western, Eastern and Volta Regions.
My message has focused largely on internal issues such as strengthening the NDC party and building a renewed sense of purpose.
The results of the 2016 elections showed a significant decline in our votes, relative to the 2012 election outcome. Apathy, discontent, the feeling of neglect were some of the factors that accounted for the decline. I intend to address these and the party structures will be used to the fullest. We will also bear in mind the business aspects of the lives of our own people. I am fully committed to uniting our party and will work with the party leadership to bring all on board.
I commit myself to working with the structures of the party, to exploring innovative ways to resource the party while promoting transparency and accountability.
I will place emphasis on improving the mobilising capacity of our women and youth wings.
I will place emphasis on vigilance with voter’s registration, vigilance on polling day, vigilance in results collation and vigilance against all forms of electoral manipulation by the NPP government.
I will continue to commit myself to party discipline and to make the party supreme at all times.
To make the party supreme is to respect the grassroots, to give honour and recognition where it is due, and let our decisions and actions reflect the broader long-term interests of all segments of the party. We make the party supreme when we accord respect to one another and be each other’s keeper.
I will continue to treat all fellow aspirants with decorum because when it is all said and done, we will need each other.
I commit myself to a programme of mentorship to prepare our youth for positions of responsibility and develop the next generation of NDC leaders.
I will work with the party school to deepen understanding of our ideology of social democracy to inform policy, behavior and attitudes.
I will work with the party to seek a new engagement with the media pursuant to the principles of truth, fairness and objectivity.
I will continue to tap into the wisdom of our elders and harness the vast experience of persons whose pioneering work, tireless devotion, immense knowledge and know-how in governance are recognised nationally and internationally.
I offer my experience, my skills, my energy and unyielding spirit on the campaign trail, my passion and vision to lead this party to victory in 2020.
I want to be an example to all our young people especially that nothing is impossible in this life. That when setbacks come your way, you step back and step forward again with renewed determination, and move on to greater heights.
To all my fellow Akatamansonians,
When you choose me, I will fight hard and work day and night to ensure our victory and address the problem of unemployment and high cost of living in the country.
Together, we will present to our countrymen and women a renewed and reinvigorated NDC- a party ready and able to lead Ghana beyond the unprecedented economic hardships of the present hour; beyond the rising unemployment and despair of our youth; beyond the closure and collapse of financial institutions and businesses; beyond the dishonesty and nonchalance of the current administration; and beyond the family and clan syndrome, that has rightly shocked and outraged so many in its scope and scale.
My brothers and sisters,
Let me tell you something.
The NPP has been in power for close to two years. They began their tenure with a groundswell of good will from the Ghanaian people, who believed that they would keep faith with them and deliver on the litany of promises they doled out during the 2016 campaign. And although I harboured honest doubts about the practicality of many of these half-baked schemes, I hoped for their success; a rising tide, after all, lifts all boats.
My reservations were not born out of malice or cynicism, but out of a concern that those promises were made for the purpose of populist pandering. That they would, inevitably, fail to address the fundamental issues our society faces. Worse still, I feared that the NPP’s policy agenda would compound those problems, and that their petty politics would turn back the clock on the progress for which we have so long laboured.
The cracks in the foundation are showing, and they are growing by the day.
We see it in our healthcare system.
Its present diagnosis, the ‘no-bed’ syndrome, is an indictment of leadership. All of us here are familiar with the harrowing accounts of desperately ill persons being turned away from hospitals in urban areas for lack of hospital beds on which to treat them.
I imagine there are some in this hall who have known that indignity firsthand or suffered along with their loved ones as they did. We know of the fatal consequences of this state of affairs.
Without a doubt, there are chronic problems in our health system that every administration of the Fourth Republic has sought to address with varying degrees of success.
Health worker shortages, inadequacy of our physical infrastructure and fiscal constraints and access – these are but a few of the critical bottlenecks we have all striven to address. My administration prioritized them. We took action to increase healthcare access through a programme of infrastructure development that aspired to bring healthcare to the people’s doorstep wherever they may be in the nation.
Our tenure saw the completion and commissioning of several top tier medical facilities in the country. Many of these now stand fallow, monuments to the petty partisanship of the day, while our people persist in their despair.
This is beneath our dignity.
And, instead of prioritising the needs of the health sector, the NPP government chooses to acquire drones to supply blood – a decision which has been roundly condemned by many, including the Ghana Medical Association and the Ghana Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists. Government should get its priorities right by spending the limited resources on more essential interventions other than copying innovations, without relevance to the reality of Ghana’s current needs.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We see the cracks in government accountability.
In the throes of the energy crisis, we sought to stabilize the nation’s power supply with the AMERI and other projects. The situation we experienced in those trying times was not merely the result of an acute crisis, but rather the cumulative effect of under-investment in the critical infrastructure for power generation across the decades.
We were focused on long-term planning for the energy sector but were also keenly aware that more immediate solutions would also be necessary. This critical intervention was ridiculed by the NPP.
And yet, their own handling of the project – and the furore it sparked – has been abysmal, to say the least.
Months down the line, the fundamentals of the government’s energy policy have proven to be weak and the return of dumsorhas clearly exposed them.
My Brothers and Sisters,
We see the cracks in the pluralist traditions of our young democracy.
We in the NDC have continued to voice genuineconcerns about those parts of the policy agenda of the current administration that have betrayed a gross lack of foresight and a poverty of pragmatic thinking. We have done so to give voice to the frustrated masses of everyday Ghanaians who seek only to have their own concerns heard and acknowledged. But these constructive criticisms have been ignored by a government that believes itself to have a monopoly on thinkers.
The vision of free universal education is a closely held principle of this party. Our position of the free SHS policy, therefore, has been based not on opposition to affordable education but rather the means of attaining that end.
Every child in Ghana is entitled by right to an education that adequately prepares them for the challenges and opportunities of the modern world, and access to secondary school is essential to that. But we also believe that increased access should be matched by increasing quality. The implementation of the programme and the ad hoc course corrections therefore raises legitimate concerns.
We have suggested broader consultation with stakeholders, including the parents of the hundreds of thousands of students whose future depend on our leadership getting this right. These have all been rubbished as anti-government propaganda, when they are nothing more than the common-sense ideas being discussed around the dinner tables of Ghanaian homes and in our offices and in our media. These are ideas that their own Minister of Finance – who knows the full truth about our fiscal state – has publicly championed.
But, sadly, the pettiness and insecurity of the government is evident in the absolute refusal to consider these suggestions simply because it is coming from perceived opponents. So, the administration continues on this uncertain road, and carries along with it the promise of our future.
The haphazard implementation of the Free SHS is causing a lot anxiety and inconvenience to students and their parents/ guardians. As I have said on the campaign trail a few times, when we come into office we are going to put in place the necessary measures to better implement Free SHS.
I will also work hard to abolish the double track system by investing in the expansion of school infrastructure such as additional classroom blocks and dormitories, and the completion of the 200 Community Day Senior High Schools to enable all our children attend school at the same time and have adequate contact hours with their teachers.
We see the cracks in the foundation of our economy. The NPP told tall tales, with lofty rhetoric, about the prospects for our economy. They went to town over my administration’s decision to seek financing for infrastructure projects by borrowing on the capital markets. Yet, when we did so, it involved the well-planned, well-managed use of credit facilities to upgrade our ailing physical infrastructure to meet the needs of a modern middle-income economy.
And the fruits of those efforts are visible all around the country – in the new clinics and district hospitals, in affordable housing, in the new roads and rail lines, in our expanded energy generation capacity, in the mechanisation of our agriculture, in our access to potable water supply, in telecommunications, in our aviation industry.
All these and more were made possible by our well-thought out policy agenda – so many, that the government has had to hijack our projects to commission and recommissioning all over the place.
Our government prized principle over popularity and endeavoured to make decisions about every pesewa borrowed on those grounds.
Today, Ghanaians pay far more for fuel and transportation than they paid under the NDC. Unemployment among our youth continues to rise against the backdrop of bankruptcies and collapsing businesses. When importers were promised easier times with reductions on import duties, they ended up paying far more than they ever paid under the NDC. Business associations continue to wail at the impact of the plethora of taxes on their businesses.
Our people are suffering. Rising poverty levels is creating anxiety, stress and depression. We knew the NPP had no intention of honoring its lofty promises, but the extent of retrogression is unbelievable.
We cannot in good conscience let the current state of affairs continue without standing up to do my part.
And so, I am ready, very ready!!! I am ready to work hard to provide jobs for our youth, as well as reduce the high cost of living in the country.
My brothers and sisters,
Let me be clear, I myself do not claim perfection. While we remain proud of our record in government and the work we were able to do, we will be the first to admit that there were difficulties with some policies that though well intentioned, were perhaps misunderstood and could have been implemented differently for better outcomes. Those difficulties and lessons drawn from them, will inform the formulation and implementation of future policies.
We have learnt and will do even better. But I will not engage in empty promises, sloganeering, populism and convenient lies and grand deception. I may not always say what you want to hear- but I will speak the truth.
Every government faces challenges and the best way to deal with them is to be honest and truthful to the citizenry.
I, John Dramani Mahama, respect Ghanaians too much to lie and pretend that our situation is good when it is otherwise. I don’t promise. I prove. I deliver!!!
Ladies and gentlemen,
When my Party chooses me in the flagbearer elections, the road towards a better Ghana will gather fresh momentum. There will be no instant victories but we will give our youth hope by making their need for jobs and opportunity to market their skills our number one priority. Upon the conclusion of our Presidential primaries which, insha Allah, I will win, we will quickly get together to develop a credible and pragmatic program to ease hardships and create jobs.
We have hard work before us. We have been there before, and I know it will be tough. There will be distractions and petty political maneuvering to discredit us. But we cannot be dissuaded or discouraged. The stakes are too high to lose focus. And let me notify our detractors that it does not matter their penchant for retribution against those who criticize the NPP government, we will speak come what may.
The DNA of the NDC is a combination of “Wo kum apem, apem beba” and “Never say die”.
I thank you all most sincerely. Your presence here in your numbers has strengthened me. I am humbled by your support.
I will serve you better than before.
I am ready for the battle. Come, go with me.
United, we shall be victorious.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, knowing fully well that most Ghanaian families are going through excruciating economic difficulties.
We will continue to pressure this government to push back on its insensitive economic policies even as we offer hope of better times under the NDC administration which, God willing, will assume office in January 2021.
Thank you all and may God bless our homeland Ghana.