By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
I am splitting my sides with much scornful laughter at how evasive Akufo-Addo and his campaign team have become in relationship to their promise of free Senior High School education.
Contrary to the line of politicking adopted by Akufo-Addo and his followers to suggest that opponents of his promise are against free SHS education, I want to emphasize here that none of us criticizing him is so myopic as to peg issues at that point. We support anything that will make the tax payer benefit from his/her toil, sweat, and blood.
We are, however, primarily against the manner in which this promise is being bandied about without any concrete proof being given on how an Akufo-Addo government will fulfill that promise. We are unconvinced by explanations given so far.
Akufo-Addo and his followers claim that the funds for implementing that free SHS education will come from the oil sector, the GETFUND, and “other sources.”
Unconvincing! Scary, at worst!!
The oil revenue to date is pegged at $400 million, which hasn’t added anything new to the economic complexion of the country. It is not because it has been misappropriated or embezzled. It is just insufficient to register anything substantial by way of improving living conditions. Is that what will yield the funds to support free SHS education throughout the country for time unlimited? Or does Akufo-Addo already know that the oil revenue will hit the billions by the time he enters office—if God hasn’t forbidden already?
And from the GETFUND too? Is this now the NPP’s saviour, after its members had kicked against its establishment by the Rawlings government? Political chameleons in their true element, at their best, right?
And what are the “other sources” from which Akufo-Addo hopes to garner funds for implementing his grandiose promise? Are these sources not known to the current government? Or are they new areas that only Akufo-Addo has discovered to harness only when he enters office?
These explanations fall far short of what we need. As is to be expected from people glibly making promises with hidden political interests, anything that attempts questioning the genuineness of such a promise is parried with evasive answers and insults, insults, and more insults.
So far, these two lines of defence have been used by the NPP camp to deflect opposition. Let’s take the first one on evasive answers and generalizations. Most of those high-ranking NPP members supporting Akufo-Addo’s promise have made public pronouncements that deepen skepticism and apprehension rather than allaying doubts, fears, and suspicions.
Let’s take, for instance, what has come from Christopher Ameyaw-Ekumfi, one-time Executive Secretary of the Council for Higher Education, a Director-General of the Ghana Education Service, a Minister of Education under the Kufuor government, and currently a Member of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Education.
Ameyaw-Ekumfi is a zoologist (specializing in animal existence, not education), let’s remember, who got all those appointments only because of political connections, which has turned him into a politician! His teaching of zoology at the University of Cape Coast couldn’t have made him an expert on matters of education; hence, his inability to contribute anything concrete to our education sector despite all the enviable positions he has held so far in that sector.
Defending the promise as “feasible,” he said “a group of educational think tanks and policy consultants were contacted before the New Patriotic Party (NPP), adopted it into its manifesto.”
He said the NPP has facts and figures on how the policy would be implemented to help Ghanaian children, who are less privileged to have access to SHS education.
The former Minister said financing of the policy would not be sourced from outside the country, but rather from the oil revenue, the Get FUND and other sources.
He said the problems of supervision and teacher motivation would be addressed to encourage teachers and other non-teaching staffs to help move the policy forward.
That was all. What made the promise feasible was nothing but the claim that “a group of educational think tanks and policy consultants” were contacted by the NPP on the issue.
Then again, the explanation is that the NPP has “facts and figures” on how the policy would be implemented but he didn’t reveal any.
Finally, the policy would “help Ghanaian children, who are less privileged to have access to SHS education.” How about those more privileged?
You see, the more the NPP members try to twist and turn this high-falutin promise, the more they contradict and complicate matters to frighten the ordinary Ghanaian. Regardless of their own uncertainty, they are urging their followers to campaign on the basis of this promise to win votes for Akufo-Addo.
Such explanations don’t give us anything concrete but we can use them to appreciate the real political dimensions of Akufo-Addo’s promise on free SHS education. Until anything concrete is revealed to change my impression, I will continue to maintain that this promise is nothing but a shabby and degenerate act of political jingoism.
Persuading skeptics/cynics is now the Herculean task that Akufo-Addo and his followers are finding too difficult to perform. Standing petrified before the task, they are quick to use best what is not difficult to lay hands on—insults, insults, and more insults—which compounds the credibility problem that this sham promise has created for Akufo-Addo.
Anything critical of the promise is met with verbal attacks by his supporters. Some of us who have persisted in our criticism are not surprised at their choice of weapon. Apart from these direct insults, mostly tilted toward the ad hominem aspect of argumentation, they issue vain threats.
Those of us used to such a line of politicking aren’t surprised at all because we see it as a characteristic of what the NDC’s Asiedu Nketia has aptly qualified as “old politics.”
Insults and vain threats won’t replace cogent arguments based on facts and figures. The onus lies on the NPP members to persuade us instead of burying their heads in the sand or hiding behind insults and vain threats. Eventually, the sand will be too hot for comfort and they will be forced to raise their heads on December 8, 2012, only to realize their folly.
After all, this promise is what they consider the flagship policy or the cornerstone of their electioneering campaign. So, if they can’t persuade Ghanaians to see things through their eyes, how do they hope to glean any electoral fortune from it?
So far, they have failed. The hot air they blow—which is slavishly publicized by their hirelings in the mass media—isn’t helping their cause. The credibility problem for them will worsen, especially when those now blindly following them eventually become disillusioned as the wool falls off from their eyes in the face of stronger arguments.
Not that this promise of fee-free SHS education is all Akufo-Addo needs to win the elections; other factors are at play. But the damage that it has already done to the NPP’s political interests is obvious. If for nothing at all, it presents Akufo-Addo as a “Kwaku Ananseman,” a calculating manipulator of public conscience desperately seeking political leverage. It is ridiculous how easily he has turned this promise into a mask to wear for Election 2012.
Unfortunately for him, Ghanaians are wise enough to know that behind the mask is the real man. And the mask and its wearer are not the same.
I insist that Akufo-Addo’s approach will give a piece of fish to the hungry, not teach him how to catch fish. That’s not what will solve problems.
We shall return.