Unblemished streets, white simple buildings and one particular flag flying high, here I was in Belgrave Square, near the Ghana High commission office.
An area in London, subsequently known for its embassies and posh aura, I was at the Number 13 street, mentally preparing for what I knew was to be an insightful afternoon as i walked inside the Ghana High commission.
Having being invited by one of the attendees to attend a conference held at the Ghana embassy on the 19th of October 2014, the formal gathering as expected was attended by countless figures such as the Ghana High commissioner H.E Victor Emmanuel Smith, various media outlets, and , -not least, the Ghanaian president – John Dramani Mahama.
I believe the event was also an avenue or ‘pre-preparation’ for the different conferences and forums that were to take place, subsequently in the week, in presence of the Ghanaian president, such as ‘The Global African Investment Summit’ and more.
I also realised that the occasion was to go in the way of a Q/A session, when standing at the podium, in his opening speech President Mahama explained:
“In areas where we have a large diaspora,…we could do that as a vehicle to reach as many people as we can”, then with no hint of nervousness in his voice or demeanour, he continued “I’m open to any questions that you might have”
Now, though I was too busy watching everything happen through my camera lens, and lifting my hand up on several occasions to have my questions answered too, i did write notes in between, and I did not fail to witness the scale of topics that were discussed, and It’s only fair for me to share that with you.
During the forum, questions on corruption in Ghana were brought up a number of times from members of the audience. President Mahama’s answers to those questions were ones in my opinion which did not directly deny the fact that those issues of corruption has happened in the Government’s history or in Ghana as a whole, but when they comes up, in his own words they are “investigated”, he said: ” The first step in the fight against corruption is to expose it, and so we have to expose corruption before [we] can deal with it…anywhere we get the hint about corruption, we investigate it.”
He also joked about some of the ‘uncanny’ ways corruption is speculated at times, such as when a politician is seeing driving polished cars or “mercedes”, bringing laughter to the audience.
However, he went on to say: “The determination to fight corruption should be one that is for all of us, corruption is endemic in all sectors of our society. It’s a fight that is multi-dimensional and that affects all people.”
On economic challenges in Ghana, the president admitted that the country has indeed faced economical declines in the past, but ended positively as you would think, by saying those issues are being resolved. One of the reasons he gave as to why some of the economic issues may have happened, he believes were due to the lack of faith some politicians may have had on the Ghanaian currency and publicly declaring it, and the pressure or fear that this may have sparked on some citizens to act.
Answering questions about water and sanitation, he proudly explained how more people in Ghana have access to water, and that as Ghanaians we are to celebrate our successes, he said: “Our water accessibility was below 40%, today 67% of Ghanaians have access to clean drinking water, those are the things that we must be proud of.” He continued: “One of the things we’re not good as Ghanaians is counting our successes…”
A question about the promise made by the national democratic progress (NDC) party to ensure free secondary school education was also brought up, President Mahama explained his government is working and figuring out the budget but that “it’s a matter of prioritisation”
He said: “While we continue to invest in quality of education, we must also continue to invest in improving access to education, and access to education can sometimes be constrained by a parent’s ability to be able to afford payment or school fees.”
As another round of questioning opened, one strongly opinionated member of the public having been given the permission to speak, asked how to ensure that Ghanaian local languages are applied and spoken in the Ghanaian society as much as the English language is.
To that question, the president agreed that if a language is unspoken after a certain amount of time, it eventually lose its power, to ensure that this does not happen in Ghana he believes there needs to be a linguistic group made of “professionals and intellectuals” who would meet as a form of routine (possibly-every 6 months) to translate into the local languages the new “concepts” and vocabulary that has come or already exists in the English language, he believes this is one area that needs to be looked at specifically by the Ministry Of Chieftaincy and Traditional Affairs.
Now, there were also ‘sport questions’ – as expected-, and the question in everyone’s lips was “Would Ghana host the 2015 ‘African Cup of Nations’?” The president in overall explained that it’s a decision that has to be taken cautiously based on the current outbreak of the Ebola virus:
“…and so if Morocco expresses concern that that is one of the concerns for which they want a postponement, we are going to look at that carefully before we host AFCON or not, but certainly 2017 we are putting in a bid for it.” he explained.
The behind the scenes of the 2014 FIFA world cup, the fee, the plane, the whole thing, those topics which were discussed by Ghanaians as much as the Blackstars’ performances that Summer of 2014, was also brought up in the forum by an individual who really wanted to know what happened. Based on the president’s response, though also backed up with some light humour, i got the impression that the drama of this year’s World cup won’t repeat itself again, and the president, not wanting to give too much information, explained that it was a lesson “learnt” and next time they will unsure the paying fee is giving as it should, before the game starts.
You’ve reached the (almost) end of this article and though you might have not been there that day, i hope you have gotten as much from it reading this! My next article could be a one-on one interview transcript with the President, with my questions fully answered too. Who knows. I will make sure to update you on it when it happens 😉
Thanks for reading!
(Please know that some of the topics that were discussed on that afternoon at the Ghana high commission might have not been discussed in the exact chronological order as displaced in this article, but all these were discussed in the same way as portrayed here. Thank you for reading.)
Follow me on Twitter @AngelPeacejoy
[Update]: Below is the video link w/ footages of the conference from my Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZAyjKgAc2I&list=UUwHGwVkHKHPFhOJntS-G83Q