David Apasera is the candidate of the People’s National Convention (PNC) in the December 7 Ghanaian presidential election. The 58-year-old served as Member of Parliament between 2000 and 2009.
In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES‘ Editor-in-Chief, Musikilu Mojeed, Managing Editor Idris Akinbajo, political reporter QueenEsther Iroanusi and Dubawa’s senior researcher, Maxine Danso, Mr Apasera speaks on what has motivated him to seek election as the president of his West African country.
The interview is the last in a series by this newspaper with the candidates ahead of Ghana’s presidential election.
Read the full interview below:
PT: What strategies do you have for boosting Ghana’s economy?
Apasera: We still look at ourselves and wonder when we will be among the first-world countries. I don’t think those countries took up to 60 years to evolve.
We must begin from somewhere and so one, we have to begin to look within and make sure we have the self-confidence. Whatever we are bringing from outside, we can produce it here.
First, we will stop the importation of finished petroleum products. When the first president constructed a refinery then, we never thought we would even produce crude oil. But his vision was that crude is cheap, buy the crude oil, come and refine it and sell it to your population.
Now, we have left the refinery to rot. We are producing crude oil, we export all the crude oil and then we go and buy finished petroleum products – petrol, diesel and so on, with dollars. And so, our costs are running in dollars not cedis, depreciating the cedis.
We are saying the first thing we are going to do is to make sure that our refineries are functioning for the purpose of refining our crude oil to meet our demands and to export to other non-producing countries. By doing so, we get to stabilise our tenancy agreement. And the second is that we will add value to what we are exporting and also have a higher income in the aspect of crude oil.
The other thing we will begin to do is to target rice production because we spend millions of dollars every year importing it. And the countries we import it from do not have more fertile ground than we do. They are just committed to doing these things more than we are. So we will go to the areas where there are difficulties, the government will apply for the land and then we will site our mills around there and employ able men to assist in the farms.
In two years after we come to power, we should be able to stop the importation of rice and that will help stabilise our currency and generate jobs for the youth.
We are also going to make sure that we have farmers to produce maize and millet for poultry and other animals. And why should we be importing frozen chicken when we can rear ours? It does not make sense. If we can provide investment capitals to individuals no matter how small they are, they will produce for our domestic market and someday, we will export to other countries.
Fortunately now, we have the Africa free trade and that gives us a very wide population to export to. So when you are producing in Ghana, you will no longer have problems exporting to other countries.
If we are able to deal with corruption to a certain level, you instill confidence in the business community. That way, anyone coming to invest in your country is assured that he will not be cheated.
PT: The current refinery does not produce enough to meet local demands and building a refinery can be very cost-intensive for a government. Where do you hope to get funds to build a new refinery? And secondly, would you be willing to do the kind of deal that the current government has with the Chinese – where the Chinese build a refinery for you and you just give them Bauxite or a mineral to mine for 10-15 years?
Apasera: For me, this refinery deal has the capacity to produce to meet the domestic market. And it was built with a room for expansion so we can comfortably expand it to produce three times what it was meant to. We were lucky to have a very visionary first president. It is unfortunate that people worked to remove him thinking they were doing good to Ghana. They were targeting (Ghana’s first prime minister, Kwame) Nkrumah because what he was seeing for Africa. Africa wouldn’t have been where it is.
So, the refinery was built with a room to expand in three folds. What we have now, if producing at full capacity, can provide enough fuel for the country. But I understand the reason it is not working is because it is producing for a private person who takes it out to sell and Ghanaians are going out to buy petrol in tankers.
PT: Who is that private person?
Apasera: I don’t know. But somebody made mention of it on a radio programme. And I understand it but this is Africa. Our difficulty is to be firm enough to do the right thing. And that is why people should pay attention to parties that they call smaller parties because I will not let that happen…
PT: If engineers advise that a new refinery be built because the technology of the old one is outdated, how would you…?
Apasera: No, we don’t have to build a new one. We just have to maybe, import some other equipment and replace the old ones. Refining will have the major plant where you refine…but if it were so, how come that it is refining for a private person?
PT: This issue of ‘refining for a private person’, since you are contesting in this election, I think it is an important issue that Ghanaians will like to understand.
PT: I’m wondering why you have not investigated to be sure of who is responsible.
Apasera: I think you have given me a very good prep. I have to do it. I have to find out. I know the gentleman is one former member who was a CEO and all of a sudden he resigned. He was a friend, I tried to meet him to find out why he resigned but I couldn’t. This time, I have to make it a point to meet him and to find out these things.
But I am sure that the refinery is capable of refining. I remember in 2000 when I became an MP, what President Kuffour did then was to sign an agreement with Nigeria. Nigerian government agreed to give us petrol (we didn’t have any reserve) and then we refine and sell and after a month, two or three, we pay back. So why was that cancelled all of a sudden?
PT: So there was a brotherly arrangement that dates back…
Apasera: Yes. So, these are issues that we can look at. We, Africans just have to do it. The white man will never want us to come out of our difficulty because they will come and take your mineral resources raw, they don’t have that. So they will give you a perception that ‘you can’t do this or that but we can give you this and you don’t have to worry yourself, we can produce and bring back.’
That is wrong. So we have come here to give a different look to what Africans should do and I believe that the population of Ghana is looking for salvation. A huge percentage is looking for salvation.
People have been told ‘when you go with the ruling party, everything will be fine’. Now it has become very clear that with the ruling party, you are not fine. So now, it is for Ghanaians to begin to look at who can come to power and make a change.
PT: You suggest that it is corruption that is causing the inefficiency in the system. The former president, John Mahama’s younger brother was involved in the Airbus Bribery scandal. The current president is also battling with the Agra Power foreign account. If you become president, what concrete actions will you take to limit corruption in public offices?
Apasera: When you have a ‘big party’, the weight itself could collapse the big party. Because the weight prohibits them from standing out and fighting corruption. And that is because your own party members are getting involved and the party is strong and can come at you.
I am happy that Nana put in place a special prosecutor. A special prosecutor is to be given a free hand, no interference from political circles. Once he is appointed, he is insulated and so a political figure cannot dictate to him/her who to prosecute or not. I know Nana has a very strong passion against corruption but why people are not being prosecuted is another thing I don’t know.
Secondly, some of these scandals, the leadership of a party has to be strong and people have to see them with proven integrity. I am bent on making sure that the right thing is done and such scandals cannot go free in my government. We are going to empower the special prosecutor to do that and we are going to empower the police to work, no interference. If anyone goes and gets involved in corrupt practices, he or she will be left to face the law. Nothing will go uninvestigated.
You see the cost of electricity is as a result of previous contracts that have been signed for electricity generation. There was no need for people to buy something four times its price. So when we come, we are going to look at such contracts that people have entered into and review them. Where there are problems, we will make sure they are prosecuted.
PT: So even if it means probing the president or the present government, are you ready for that?
Apasera: We are not going to probe you, we are going to probe your crimes. We are not coming to probe you as human beings but we will probe the contracts that you have signed. And where there is faulty agreement or falsification, it nullifies the contract by law.
PT: But what if some in the current government have self-enriched, is it something that you will like to look into?
Apasera: You see, we are in a democratic system and there are laws guiding us. Maybe the laws may not just permit the president to order people to look into a person’s life to find out his income, no. That’s why I’m saying we are going to look at the contract and if it comes out that you were involved in some fishy deals somewhere, that’s where you are taken.
PT: Why is it difficult for the smaller parties like yours to form a coalition to challenge the big parties?
Mr Apasera: I think what you are suggesting is a very good idea. And the smaller parties themselves also have their own human problems. This is very easy for us to have done but whether people are really interested in taking power, is another question.
You may have other parties that have had leadership crises, including mine. Were they mindful of focusing to rebuild the party or were they all for personal gain? If you are looking for personal gain, you may not even wish to come here.
For me I have just come and I am praying that after the election, we are going to reach out to other parties who are like-minded and who believe that we have to unite to salvage that, so that we can bring about the change.
We are looking for an all-inclusive government and expertise and if this is what Ghanaians want too, then they should vote for PNC. Nigeria did it and they succeeded but in Ghana, we are finding it difficult. Why?
PT: I’m going to take you back to where you talked about electricity being four-times the price. Which of the infrastructure do you consider a priority and how will you make it available to Ghanaians if you become president?
Apasera: One thing that will actually help us is to develop Ghana’s economy and one way to that is to stabilise the Ghana Cedi. That is a priority. When the currency is stabilised and made strong against the dollar or other international currencies, you begin to support your economy.
The other thing is to make sure we stop importing things that we can produce in Ghana.
The current government has said this year is a year for roads and they are working towards that. If they succeed in completing them, fine. That is what they said.
PT: This year is almost over. Have you seen any evidence yet?
Apasera: That is what they said. So if this year ends and they have not succeeded, we will give a serious look at the road network. When you go and just start a road, and every year, you go and reshape it; that is big money going down the drain. It is better to undertake a road project and make sure it is completed. That way, it lasts longer. We will certainly look at that.
We also have been proposing serious consideration for railway lines to support transport. It will help in transporting goods, especially heavy duty goods which seem to be ruining our roads now. We may not be able to easily do the underground train system that other countries have done but we could have a train system that can run like we had before. And then we don’t need to always rely on cars.
PT: A few people have complained about absence of continuity in governance in terms of completing projects. Do you intend to complete projects started by previous governments?
Apasera: Yes, we will do that. You see, this is the problem of Africa. Tax-payers’ money is taken to start a project and then you come and want to continue but your party or somebody tells you to do otherwise. That is why Africa is not evolving.
So, when we come, we will make sure all abandoned projects will be investigated before completion. Some of the roads, the people involved have been given money for advance payment and they come with some sort of certificate claiming they have worked to a certain level but you find out they haven’t. Sometimes, when you come and you don’t go to complete such projects, you may not know that certain monies have been paid and nothing has been done. We are going to look into everything and make sure the tax-payer money has served its purpose.
PT: There has been tension between the Nigerian and Ghanaian governments of late over the treatment on Nigerian businesses in Ghana. If you become president, how are you going to resolve that?
Apasera: I don’t know what the exact problem is but I understand that there was a time Chinese retailers wanted to come and take Ghanaian retailers out of business. And I know some laws were enacted to prevent a foreigner from coming to set up a retail shop. In such a situation, you cannot exempt others like Togolese and Nigerians.
That might have been the issue but Nigeria and Ghana have been very close friends and we are going to look at it and take measures to ensure this old brotherliness that existed between the parties is restored.
PT: You are right by saying there is a government policy that essentially tries to limit the involvement of foreigners in the retail business in Ghana and that’s why Nigeria retail businesses are affected as well as others. As somebody who believes in African unity, would you be willing to amend that law to allow African countries do retail businesses in Ghana and vice versa?
Apasera: I have no problem with amending the law. What we are going to is whatever will be acceptable. Now that we have a free market, it should be acceptable in Nigeria, Ghana and all the African countries. So if we can decide that for Africa, why not? We can refine the law to exempt citizens of Africa. This one, we will have to look at it at governmental level.
PT: On agriculture, you said you want to stop importation of rice after two years. How realistic do you think that will be – to produce enough rice to meet local demands in two years? And even if you produce enough, part of the African Free Trade Agreement does not allow such ban on local brands in Africa, won’t that be a violation of the agreement?
Apasera: Well, that will be a violation but Africans, we don’t import rice from Africa. In fact, with the agreement now, you can’t stop an African country from bringing their produce here. So even if we are importing from fellow Africa countries, it’s good because it will help our economies.
And if Nigeria is strong, Ghana is strong and vice versa. But right now, poverty is here with us, so that is why we are considering it. And any serious government can make it within two years. So hopefully, by the grace of God, if Ghanaians would give us a nod, I would do wonders. People will be surprised.
PT: It is a few weeks until the election. You have campaigned well. What will you say, in all honesty, is the chances of your party at winning the election?
Apasera: Well, we have limitations in terms of logistics and accessing people at constituency level and so on. It will not be proper to say we don’t have hiccups. We are not saying that we will win and if we don’t win, then it will make us stronger.
We want to make sure, either Ghanaians are going to turn around and make the right choice and vote David Apasera as the next president because if they look at me and see the seriousness with which I will run this nation, God can make anything. But if that doesn’t happen, we should be able to make a very strong statement so that we will determine who will go to that office. When we determine that, that is where we can execute some policies and programmes we are talking about. In fact, policies like NHIS and the school-feeding programme, we suggested it. We talked about free education first before anyone.
PT: What are your antecedents that you think Ghanaians should consider and vote for you?
Apasera: Ghanaians have dealt with the two major parties. We are coming from a background of honest unity.
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