Overview of Bawumia’s tour, promises and criticisms – Hanson Agyemang writes

Ghana is six months away from a historic election with semblance to past polls. Since 1992, election results have been quite predictive as there is a change of the governing party every eight years.

But that has never stopped incumbent parties from campaigning to be retained. It is not surprising that tag lines such as “We are moving forward” and “JM toaso” took centre stage during the campaigns in 2008 and 2016 respectively.

The New Patriotic Party (NPP) is at it again just as they did in 2008 but this time with the tag line “Break the Eight.”

The 2024 election however comes with its own uniqueness.

It is the first election since 1992 to have the two frontliners from the Northern part of the country. John Dramani Mahama from Bole Bamboi is representing the National Democratic Congress (NDC) while Dr Mahamudu Bawumua who hails from Walewale is representing the NPP.

Both are optimistic of victory and organising their base for the work ahead. Mr Mahama who was elected as the NDC’s flagbearer in May 2023 has already re-appointed his 2020 running mate, Prof Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang and embarked on tours across the country.

Dr Bawumia on the hand who is yet to announce his running mate, undertook his major tour of the country in six weeks which ended last week.

STRUCTURE OF PHASE ONE OF POSSIBILITIES TOUR

The tour spanned a period of six weeks from April 29 to June 12. The team visited all 16 regions beginning from the Eastern Region, then to the Western and Western North Regions. The Ahafo, Bono and Bono East regions were visited next followed by a trip up North to all five regions of the North.

Dr Bawumia then returned down south to tour the Volta, Oti, Central and Greater Accra regions. The phase one of the campaign ended with a trip to the Ashanti region.

The campaigns often began with separate meetings with the clergy, Imams, Chiefs and traditional rulers.

Engagements were then held with identifiable groups in the region. The tour in each region usually ended with a youth connect programme where Dr Bawumia gets to met youth groups.

Intermittently however, there were what the team described as house-to-house campaigns where he took to the streets and to the homes of the inhabitants of the region to interact them.

ISSUES FROM CAMPAIGN

During these engagements Dr Bawumia talked about his journey to be NPP Flagbearer. Having worked as a taxi driver, cleaner, economist, Vice President and now seeking the highest office of the country, he believes his story is proof of a life of possibilities.

Dr Bawumia used the meetings as an opportunity to outline his vision for the country and how a future government led by him will address the challenges facing Ghanaians.

These meetings also provided an avenue for the Vice President to react to questions on the minds of Ghanaians.

ENERGY SECTOR AND INTERMITTENT POWER OUTAGES

One of the issues the Bawumia campaign had to deal with was the intermittent power challenges. This was mainly because the campaign set off at a time when the power outages were rampant. Dr Bawumia was forced to make a pronouncement on the power crisis situation.

On the very first day of his tour in the Eastern Region and in an engagement with the clergy, he assured that the power challenges will soon be a thing of the past as steps were being undertaken to address the issues.

This then set the tone for Dr Bawumia to outline his vision for the energy sector.

He promised to provide 2,000 MW of solar power within four years which is expected to take up about 50% of the energy demands of the country. This in his view will not only solve the energy crisis but also reduce the cost of electricity.

ECONOMY

The economy undoubtedly is the biggest hurdle to the Bawumia campaign. Having led a massive campaign against the NDC’s handling of the economy between 2012 and 2016, the current economic challenges does not posit well for the NPP flagbearer.

That notwithstanding, Dr Bawumia has been outlining series of policies his government intends to implement to build a robust economy.

He talks of an era where there would be a reduction in government expenditure by GHC30 billion cedis.

To achieve this, Dr Bawumia proposes an enhanced partnership between the state and private sector where investors are encouraged to finance identifiable government projects like roads and school infrastructure, under an arrangement that makes it possible for private investors to recoup their investments.

The NPP Flagbearer further talks of the re-introduction of the suspended fiscal rule in a stringent manner that accurately checks government expenditure. In addition to the current provision that prohibits government fiscal deficit from exceeding 5% of GDP, Dr Bawumia intends to include that the expenditure of a financial year cannot exceed 105% of the previous year’s revenue.

On raising government revenue through taxation, Dr Bawumia refers to knowledge he gained from a visit to Estonia which has informed a policy consideration to change the current tax regime.

He has thus promised a new flat tax rate system compared to the tithe system practiced by Christians. This he believes will remove the ‘over taxation’ of the few captured within the tax net and introduce some certainty with the tax to be paid by Ghanaians.

Preceding its implementation however will be the grant of tax amnesty to all businesses with arrears who are discouraged from filing new taxes for fears of being chased by GRA for the arrears.

Dr Bawumia also promised to peg Ghana’s import duty with that of Togo to avoid smuggling of goods into the country and the reduction of traffic at Ghana’s ports. He has also promised to make those duties paid in the Ghana cedi to provide some stability and predictability.

Dr Bawumia further talks about the use of Ghana’s gold to back the cedi as a measure to deal with the pressures on the Cedi and attendant exchange rate issues.

PARTNERSHIP WITH CHURCHES AND FAITH BASED ORGANISATIONS

A significant feature of the over one-month campaign is Dr Bawumia’s consultations with the church and faith based organisations. In those engagements, Dr Bawumia seeks their support, and outlines his views on how the church and faith-based organisations can play a critical role in the development of the country.

He is of the firm opinion that churches and faith based organisations are better development partners than external development partners. He is therefore proposing incentives in the form of tax waivers for such groupings who seek to embark on development projects just as same is accorded to external development partners.

Another area Dr Bawumia talks about on the close collaboration between the state and the church is the area of management of schools where the churches and faith-based organisations have interests.

ROLE OF THE CHIEFTAINCY INSTITUTION

Similar to the above point, Dr Bawumia acknowledges the roles traditional rulers can play in the development of the country. He hints of possible review of legislations to empower the Chiefs to achieve this aim.

The NPP Flagbearer also talks about an increase in the living allowance given to paramount chiefs which currently stands at GHC 1,000 per month and extension of similar privileges to divisional chiefs and queen mothers.

SUSTAINABLE MINING

Another key issue raised by the Bawumia campaign has to do with the issue of sustainable mining and the benefits of same. Dr Bawumia preaches of a mining regime where Ghanaians have 100% stake in the mineral resources mined.

He highlights the need to enforce regulated, sustainable mining to prevent the destruction of the environment.

Dr Bawumia also promises support to small scale miners through the establishment of equipment pool centers where, miners can access the equipment for mining purposes at subsidised prices. In addition, the NPP flagbearer is promising to establish a mining development bank to support the sector.

OBSERVATIONS

Having followed the campaign across 16 regions via the social media streams on the various pages of the NPP flagbearer, one of the things that struck me is the communication of the campaign messages.

It is easy for one to mistake an address at one place for another due to the similarity in structure and content of the message. Whether it is at a meeting with the clergy, Imams, professional bodies or at the youth connect, you are likely to hear a story of his humble beginnings of cleaning hostels, driving taxi, all the way to his days at the Bank of Ghana (BoG).

Except for difference in the level of explanation and new policies announced depending on the group he is meeting, the messages delivered across the 16 regions are almost the same.

It is important however to point that almost all the policies mentioned by the Vice President had been made known about three months before the tour. Most of them, if not all are contained in the February 7 address to the nation dubbed “Ghana’s Next Chapter; Selfless Leadership and old solutions for the future.

The policies are captured from paragraph 113 to paragraph 169 of the document that has since been made public. At paragraph 170 in the same document, he describes these policies as his ‘initial ideas.’

Throughout the trip however, Dr Bawumia is quick to announce that his manifesto team members are on standby to record policy suggestions for consideration.

But it appears there are problems with his initial ideas getting to the electorates and some of the persons engaged during the tour who embraced these ideas questioned why the first time they are hearing of such policies is in an interaction with Dr. Bawumia.

In Greater Accra Region for instance, a member of the clergy that met him, urged the NPP flagbearer to consider how the ideas will be communicated to enable Ghanaians understand same.

The Bawumia team has however been criticised heavily for what some believe is the deliberate decision by Dr Bawumia not to speak on how the current government will address the economic challenges between now and December.

Another significant feature of the campaign is the use of the ‘possibilities tour bus.’ The flagbearer together with key campaign members are seen in a bus branded with the pictures of Dr Bawumia together with ‘It Is Possible’ inscriptions.

In a country where political campaigns have been criticised for their opulence, some sympathisers of the campaign wanted to make a political advantage out of it. They claimed it was meant to cut down on the convoy.

But that was shortly debunked as social media videos showed long conveys in some regions despite the presence of the bus.

The campaign team however has explained that the decision to use the bus was a strategy adopted for the trips and not necessarily aimed at reducing the convoys.

Even though the campaign team has not given a specific reason as to why this strategy was settled on, media interviews by members like Sammi Awuku and Dennis Miracles Aboagye suggest that the bus has become useful in helping Dr Bawumia get feedback as they move from one destination to the other.

But regardless of the motive, the bus has become synonymous with the Bawumia campaign. Where you see the bus, you are most likely to see Dr Bawumia.

Another deliberate feature of the campaign has to do with the prayers said for Dr Bawumia. Videos of Dr Bawumia being prayed for have gone viral on social media. Some have since criticised Dr Bawumia and even in some instances the pastors praying for him.

But the Bawumia team appears unperturbed as he always speaks highly of his respect and link to the Christian religion despite being a Muslim.

The tour had its funny moments as well. Mention can be made of the dances during the tour. The moments in Sunyani where Dr Bawumia was provided with a made-up steering wheel and later with a key at Kumasi also lightened the mood during the campaigns.

 

The writer is a journalist with Citi FM/ChannleOne TV

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