Mahama Hints At Afari-Gyan’s Successor

President John Dramani Mahama has given hints about the type of person who will step into the shoes of the outgoing Chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC), Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, next year.

He said the new EC boss, no matter the gender, would be a very competent person who would take Ghana’s democratic credentials to a higher level.

President Mahama also assured Ghanaians that due process would be followed in appointing a successor to Dr Afari-Gyan.

He gave the assurance in response to a question on whether the next EC boss would be female or male at a meeting with the Ghanaian community in Norway at the Norwegian Veterinary Institute as part of his official visit to Norway.

President Mahama, who has since returned home, was in Norway at the invitation of the Norwegian Prime Minister, Ms Erna Solberg, from October 28-31, 2014.

He told the Ghanaian community that there were many competent women in the country who were capable of handling any job assigned to them and cited the Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Georgina T. Wood; the Chairperson of the National Commission for Civic Education, Ms Charlotte Osei; the Minister of Education, Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang; the Minister of Transport, Mrs Dzifa Attivor, and the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Nana Oye Lithur, all of whom were delivering excellent services to Ghanaians.

He said the question on who would be the next EC boss should not be about gender but due process and competence which would be key in appointing a successor to Dr Afari-Gyan.

He urged Ghanaians not to push Dr Afari-Gyan out since he had done a lot for Ghana and was also yet to retire.

Although Dr Afari-Gyan is yet to retire, some political analysts have mentioned personalities such as Dr Emmanuel Akwetey, the Executive Director of the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG), and the two deputy chairpersons of the EC, Mr Amadu Sulley and Mrs Georgina Opoku Amankwa, as capable of becoming the next EC boss.

Earlier, President Mahama told the gathering that Ghana, under the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government, was seeking trade and partnership and not aid from its development partners.

Such partnership, he said, should be based on genuine relationships and commended Norway for such genuineness because its relationship with and support for Ghana had no strings attached.

“Ghana is looking for increased trade and partnership and not aid and handouts from development partners,” he said.

He told the Ghanaian community that Norway was passing on a lot of technology to Ghanaians in the oil and gas and the energy sectors.

President Mahama said the annual demand for electricity in Ghana was 12 per cent, which translated to about 220MW of power.

The over-dependence on the Akosombo Dam and until recently the thermal plants at Aboadze and Tema had contributed to the shortfall, he added.

He said it was in view of that that the government was diversifying the energy sources to include renewable energy.

The President told Ghanaians in Norway that in spite of the extreme partisanship, things had changed massively from a state-dominated economy to one that was private-sector led.

He said although Ghana was not out of the woods yet, the government was concentrating on important things for the private sector to become the engine of growth of the economy.

That, he explained, had resulted in a number of independent power producers moving into the energy sector.

He said with the availability of gas from the Jubilee Fields and other oilfields, Ghana’s dependence on oil to fuel its thermal plants and gas from Nigeria would reduce, and that would help stabilise the cedi.

He said although Ghana had faced a number of challenges within the last one and half years, foreign direct investment hit $500 million between January and June this year.

President Mahama said Ghana was seeking to reduce its import bill on rice, sugar, tomatoes, among other items, by encouraging the production of those commodities locally.

He said in the midst of the challenges, the government was constructing roads, building hospitals, putting up buildings for basic and senior high schools and expanding the ports to accommodate huge vessels coming to Ghana.

He said the basic structure of Ghana’s economy had not changed since independence, hence anytime there was a drop in prices on the commodity market, it affected the country due to its dependence on gold and cocoa for foreign exchange.

He said corruption was pervasive in every sector of the Ghanaian society, noting that that required that all Ghanaians join the fight against the canker.

He stressed that the first step in the fight against corruption was to expose corruption.

President Mahama noted, for instance, that anytime a policeman arrested an offender, that individual found a way to bribe the policeman, instead of going to court to face the challenges, while importers preferred bribing Customs officials to paying the right duties and taxes.

He said the government, for its part, had tried to introduce technology-friendly systems, such as electronic payment and licence acquisition, saying those would reduce human contact in the public sector.

President Mahama lamented, however, that oftentimes those systems were resisted, stressing, “We need a cashless society and an administration that is technology driven to reduce human contact in our efforts at fighting corruption.”

At a press conference in October, this year, the Ghana Bar Association (GBA) called on President Mahama to appoint a new chairman for the EC to boost the image and credibility of the commission ahead of the 2016 elections.

The current Chairman of the EC will bow out of office next year after more than two decades at the helm of affairs.

According to the GBA, “All Ghanaians will be looking for in the new chairman of the EC is one who is perceived as capable and just; a person of integrity and one who will not pander to political pressure from any quarters whatsoever.”

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