Dr Akoto be aware power won’t come easy!!

He is a personality you would take for an arrogant person, if you don’t give him the benefit of the doubt, but when you come close to him, you will enjoy his persona. His sense of humour, conviviality and joviality has a calming effect in stormy situations.

I got to know him when I was a Parliamentary Correspondent and he was the Member of Parliament forKwadaso Constituency between2009-2016. He is an avid reader of the Ghanaian Times, so he reached out to me to publish some of the stories of his vision for the good people ofKwadaso in the ‘Garden City of Ghana’.

This is an apparent reference to Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, a New Patriotic Party flag bearer hopeful. And when the roll call comes for the hopefuls to file their nomination, he will be among the lot who will, amidst pomp and circumstance, troop to the party headquarters to do so.

Exuding energy, confidence and vim, Dr Akoto is convinced that he is politically matured, experienced and has all the academic qualifications to contest for the highest office of the land – the Presidency.

What is left, and indeed a herculean task, is for him to convince the delegates that he is the right person to lead the party to the 2024 polls. This is where I say power does not come easy! In other words, getting the nod at the Presidential primaries does not come easy. It’s only one slot and not less than nine people are craving for it. But when the going gets tough, tough-speaking person like my very good friend, the agriculturalist and astute politician,gets going. They say politics is about numbers!

As a chip off the old block, he would like to surpass his father, Baffour Osei Akoto, the distinguished agriculturalist, politician, statesman and traditionalist who founded the National Liberation Movement and became a pillar of the United Party ideology.

Already, before launching his campaign, he had articulated his vision in a 2-hour flamboyant public lecture at the University of Professional Studies in Accra, espousing his vision and mission of using the agriculture sector as the fulcrum to transform the economy of Ghana, especially in reducing poverty among smallholder farmers.

That event could pass for a campaign launch!

As a MP and Minority Spokesperson on Food and Agriculture then, he was very articulate in his debates in Parliament, and though as a politician he presented hisspeech laced with political antics, he was very accurate with facts and figures.

As an academic and internationally-reputable agriculturalist, who has indepth knowledge of his area of expertise, heexpertly critiqued the policies of then ruling National Democratic Congress, especially on food, agriculture and cocoa affairs.

When he was vetted and approved by Parliament for the position of Minister of Food and Agriculture and sworn in by the President in 2017, I quickly called him and told him straight in the face that when he was the minority spokesperson on Food and Agriculture, he lashed out at his opponent in government, and so he should now do the work for the whole world to see. He laughed over it and as usual, his sense of humour was in full flight in our conversation.

He will continue to be my friend and a role model irrespective of his political party, his ethnicity and religious affiliation. The humanity in him is what motivates me. He holds me and my profession as a journalist in high esteem. He appreciates my sense of professionalism.He is open to the media. He is available as and when journalists reach out to him to clarify a story. I recall he called me to his office to share with me and seek my opinion on his plan to organise  a public lecture to commemoratehis father’s contribution to the growth of multi-party democracy in Ghana.

His contribution in Parliament and to the progress of the NPP in general was enough credence for the President to nominate him as his trusted man for a very important Ministry of Food and Agriculture, where he was to ensure that no Ghanaian goes to bed hungry. We must be food self-sufficient and net exporter of food and use agriculture as a tool for socio-economic transformation. These are some of the things he has been saying.

Has he achieved that?

Yes, food is in abundance, but skyrocketing prices of basic foodstuffs on the market as a result of unprecedented inflation have taken the shine out of his policies.

Over the last six years he spent at the ministry, he has led in crafting laudable policies and provided the political leadershipfor their implementationto revamp the agriculture sector, increase food sufficiency and get surplus for export to reduce thecountry’s food import bills estimated at $2billion annually.

He is credited withthe Planting for Food and Jobs and the allied Rearing for Food and Jobs(PFJ), fertilizer and seed subsidies,Greenhouse Technology Villages to promote all year-round vegetable production for domestic and export markets, Agric mechanization centres to have tractor services at the doorstep of farmers and increasedagriculture  extension services.

Other laudable policies he had pursued while at the ministry were the warehousing to store surplus grains expected from the PFJ to ensure food security, and the establishment of the Tree Crop Development Authority,about which he expressed optimism that when properly developed, it would generate a combined potential of export earnings of between US$6 to US$12 billion annually after 8-10 years of implementation.

These notwithstanding, Dr Akoto has come under a barrage of criticisms for all the challenges and problems in the agriculture sector, manifesting inrising prices of basic foodstuffson the market fuelled by high inflation, high cost of fertilizer and other agriculture inputs, erratic supply of fertilizer, and perceived collapse of the poultry sector. In the eyes of avid critics, his best has not been enough. 

He parries these criticisms, arguing that his policies have resulted in appreciable growth in the agriculture sector as food surplus is being exported to neigbhouring countries and that some of the challenges are external factors and beyond his control.

He also pointed out strongly that there has been over-pricing of basic foodstuffs, especially in the urban markets and that food is abundant in the rural areas. He strongly argues that the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine war has disrupted the global agriculture supply chain, which has impacted Ghana and consequently reflecting in shortages in and high cost of fertilizer.

Prior to leaving office, he pilot-tested “Planting for Food Market” to help cart food from the hinterland to be sold at affordable prices for workers inAccra and Kumasi, but his avid critics questioned the sustainability of the intervention.

Having built a successful career on the international front with reputable organisations, including International Cocoa Organisations and the World Bank, and having served his country as a Member of Parliament and Cabinet Minister, Dr Akoto says he is ripe for the highest office of the land, However, he will still have a hurdle to clear with NPP delegatesto realise his ambition of getting to the promise land, that’s leading the party to the 2024 polls. It’s only time will tell, till then I leave the rest to the kingmakers, NPP electoral college.

By Salifu Abdul-Rahaman

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