The over 22 per cent floating (undecided) voters in Ghana were last night assisted to make their minds as to whom they would possibly vote for as President on Sunday, December 7.
Four flag bearers of political parties bidding to occupy the new Flagstaff House to lead this nation as head of state and leader of government business squared up in Accra, in a debate designed to give the ordinary voter a fair idea of which of them has the intellectual grasp of issues, the persuasive power to articulate them and the calm composure to think through national problems.
This was the much publicized Debate. It "vas watched by a live audience at the Kofi Annan lCT Centre in Accra and million of television viewers throughout the country.
As the debate wore Oil, it 'was evident that the question that was uppermost on the minds of the people was who will win?
With Prof. Kwame Karikari, an associate professor of he School of Communications Studies and veteran journalist, Cyril Acolatse, filing the salvos, all four contenders - Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, of the New Patriotic Party, Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom, convention's People's Party, Prof. John Evans Atta-Mills, the National Democratic Congress, and the People's National Convention's Dr. Edward Mahama- were each conscious of the expectation of the people, mostly their supporters, but more critically, the floating voters, the majority of whom are in the intellectual bracket.
Speaker after speaker tried to outdo the other with impressive oratory, charismatic exuberance, combativeness and a style that could be described as laid back. People in the streets thought Nana Addo was not audible at first, but he warmed himself into the picture later, especially if he was not the first to answer the set of questions.
Paa Kwesi Nduom flowed with oratory, and seemed to have won some hearts with his huge presence accentuated by the colourful kente and white jumper.
People thought Prof Atta-Mills was initially "too combative," but he later joined the flow. Ever the teacher, he relied on the classroom skills to ram home his points in a manner which some people felt was methodical.
Dr Edward Mahama relied on his travelling experience to buttress most of his arguments which bordered on a concern for social welfare.
However most people we talked to thought that Dr Mahama of last night was not the same Dr Mahama who shone with oratorical brilliance four years ago. They felt he was overly cautious.
The issues themselves were well fielded. The atmosphere this year was a much improved one. With the audience banned from applauding or openly displaying partisan colour, the auditorium was peaceful enough to allow everybody the chance to hear the debaters.
Apparently all the debaters had prepared sufficiently well to field questions on the discovery of oil. Their answers were well thought out.
Nana Akufo-Addo set the tone with the announcement that Government is planning to set up a Ghana National Petroleum Authority as a regulatory body to bring sanity into the oil exploratory industry while the Ghana National Petroleum Company would continue with its traditional role of spear-heading the drive to maximize income from the new find.
He said a Government headed by Akufo-Addo would employ education as a major tool to get people off the street while modernizing agriculture to make it attractive to all manner of people.
He spoke of equipping Kayayei and the boys on the street with skills through distance education and other innovative educational means to make them employable.
Nana Akufo-Addo said as a result of sound economic and agricultural policies of the New Patriotic Party Administration, Ghana has been able to withstand the global financial turmoil and insulated the nation against food crisis in Africa and other natiOl1s throughout the world.
Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom borrowed a leaf from the domestication drive of octogenarian Dan Lartey stating that under his administration, Ghana would feed itself from local inputs. He never missed the chance to remind Ghanaians of his antecedents in the First Republic.
"We will use state purchasing power to purchase made in Ghana goods," he said, promising to bring back the jute factory in Kumasi to produce sacks for the cocoa industry.
He said oil wealth should inure to the benefit of Ghanaians. "If this oil is no going to benefit Ghanaians then it should remain in the ground. I will have to make sure that what has happened in the Niger Delta does not happen here," he told his interrogators.
He promised to set up petro-chemical industries in the areas where oil has been and would be found in future.
Prof. Atta-Mills said his administration would motivate local Ghanaian entrepreneurs to help industrialize the country.
"It is good to have foreign direct investment but it should complement the efforts of Ghanaians.
Let us look at the private sector," he said.
He promised to revive industry, the manufacturing sector, especially, and modernise agriculture.
"When you talk of jobs, you've to talk about how the workers would acquire skills. We have only 40 per cent of JSS graduates continuing their education," he charged.
The National Democratic Congress Presidential Candidate said all aspects of agriculture, particularly poultry and fishing, were in distress with the economy recording negative growth.
Dr. Edward Mahama promised a transparent administration. "Every contract must be scrutinized. It is important for Ghanaians to know what happens to oil generally and the revenue accruing from it.
Like Dr Nduom, the PNC leader also promised a petro-chemical industry in oil-endowed societies.
The programme was put together by the Institute of Economic Affairs which is also funding a second debate in Tamale next week.
So the question: Who won this debate? It was obvious from our survey that even on this question; the population was divided on party lines. The winner, however, turned out to be the over 22 per cent floating (undecided) voters.
Watch out for more extensive coverage of the debate in tomorrow's paper.
Source:Ghanaian Times via www.africanelections.org