Former President John Mahama has said after running away from a presidential debate in 2016 only to debate himself on Accra-based Peace FM, President Nana Akufo-Addo is still running away from debates even today.
Speaking to Benjamin Akakpo in an exclusive interview on Class91.3FM’s Executive Breakfast Show on Monday, 14 September 2020, the flagbearer of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), said it was “sad” that President Akufo-Addo has decided to ignore his calls for a one-on-one debate on infrastructure.
According to Mr Mahama, now that both the governing New Patriotic Party and the NDC have launched their manifestos, it is even more imperative that they have such a debate.
“I do think that our people need to test our leaders on the clarity of their thought and how grounded they are in the proposals that they intend to roll out”, Mr Mahama said.
“First, it was about infrastructure and one of them said they’ve been the best in terms of infrastructure delivered since the fourth republic or in history. That was laughable”, he noted, adding: “And, so, it was first about infrastructure and I said: ‘OK, we can settle this with a debate between us’”.
“But now, it goes beyond infrastructure; now, we have manifestoes; let’s talk about our policies and programmes.
“And, so, the people of Ghana would have been the beneficiaries of a debate between the two top contenders for leadership over the next four years and, unfortunately, they have declined”, Mr Mahama noted.
The former President also used the opportunity to deny claims that he also once run away from a similar challenge.
“…Let me correct an impression; they create an impression that I declined to debate in 2016. That’s not true. I was the first incumbent President to do a debate in 2012 with all my contenders, including Nana Akufo-Addo”, he recalled.
“In 2016, the IEA wanted to conduct the debate; we had a problem with IEA, so, we said we were not going to participate in an IEA debate but we’re willing to participate in any debate that was hosted by any independent or neutral body.
“And, so, in 2016, a debate was held and I participated with all the other presidential candidates but again, it is the opposition leader, Nana Addo, who declined to debate.
“The night after we finished debating, he was on Peace FM doing his own debate with himself and, so, I’ve never run away from a debate with Nana Addo. They should not create that impression”, Mr Mahama said.
Asked if he felt the President was running away, Mr Mahama said: “Of course”.
He said as “President of the country, you have a record, you say this campaign is going to be about track records and I welcome that. Yes, it’s about track records. I have a track record as President, he’s got a track record as President. What is difficult in us sitting down and talking about our track records?”
“And, so, I invite him again. I think he should ignore Sammi Awuku and all the others and just come out boldly and let’s talk about our track records.
“It’ll be for the benefit of Ghanaians. Ghanaians will have a clearer picture of who they want to vote for”, Mr Mahama added.
In 2016, Mr Mahama, while addressing NDC supporters in the Volta Region, said Mr Akufo-Addo, as an opposition candidate, made contentious claims about the incumbent administration, but was scared of debating him.
Mr Mahama, who was the incumbent at the time, took a jab at Mr Akufo-Addo after the latter had gone on Peace FM for an interview.
Mr Mahama said at the time that: “He [Mr Akufo-Addo] says so many things that are wrong. So, I said: ‘Come and sit down and let’s have a debate so that Ghanaians will know the truth’. He run away”.
“So, after running away from the one-on-one, the NCCE gave the opportunity to all of us who want to be president to come and tell Ghanaians why we want to be president. That one was not one-on-one. So, at least, show respect to the Ghanaian people and come. That one, too, he run away”.
“And that is the greatest disrespect you can show to the Ghanaian people”, Mr Mahama said at the time, pointing out that: “I am the President, I should be the one reluctant to come to the debate because all of them will be attacking you because they want your post. But I am the first sitting president to take part in a debate. In 2012, I did it, and this year, too, I engaged in the debate”.
“But the leader of the opposition is rather running away; which is very strange. Even Trump, with all his wild ideas, had the boldness to attend the debate. This morning, he Akufo-Addo] rather went on Peace FM and spoke slangs there. So, I said: ‘If you can speak slangs, then you should come to the debate and speak there’”.