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19.11.2001 Feature Article

The Algebra Of Ineptitude: The Old Paradigm Vs The New Old Paradigm

The Algebra Of Ineptitude: The Old Paradigm Vs The New Old Paradigm
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By Maxwell OtengSanta Cruz, November 19 2000. In our part of the world it seems that the cliché "the more things change the more they remain the same" cuts deeply into the very core of our political resonance. Politics in Africa is recondite, and has always been. Yet despite all its reconditeness, there is really something intriguing about politics in Africa in general, and particularly in our beloved Ghana. It is particularly intriguing that in a blink of an eye, apparently well-intentioned people could undergo sublimed transformation to a symbol of intellectual inertia as if they are fed a chemically charged potion of incompetence or are put on some medication of selfishness. I think I know the reason: it has to do with the principal-agent problem (as we say in Economics) where the objectives of the Chief Executive Ofiicer (CEO) of a company can be diametrically different from that of the stockholders of the company. Thus, to explain briefly, while stockholders are interested in the profits of their company, the CEOs may be interested in maximizing revenue because normally their salaries are tied to that. This is analogous to politics as we know it. Think about it! The objectives of politicians may not necessarily be the same as the objectives of the populace, especially the vast majority of it. Yet anytime I think about this, I want to pray the Sisters of Mercy to admit to the asylum so I can escape the real "crazies" in our country. In a very liberating and amazing tableau of political grandeur, the political events of last year were supposed, in a positively assured way, to endow us with the courage and the mindset to kiss goodbye to the Old Paradigm (OP) and extend a welcome hand to a New Paradigm (NP). Yet, like old habits that hardly die, the OP and the NP apparently are finding it difficult to unlock their political lips from each other. So instead of NP, we seem to be creating a New Old Paradigm (NOP). I don't know about you, but I'm disappointed by the pejoration of our collective ability to solve our problems and our society's morass of crushing banality. In the Old Paradigm, pieties were centered around the rhetoric of a pseudo-revolution which was in turn centered around arrogance, insensitivity and a high degree of incompetence of the political elite. In the New Old Paradigm, pieties are centered around the rhetoric of "positive change" which in turn is centered around arrogance, insensitivity and the running-around of our problems. In the Old Paradigm, we had a president whose last days were turned into a farewell tour around the globe in the name of looking for foreign investment for the country. In the New Old Paradigm, we have a president whose initial days have been turned into a global "Kakdee" (where is this son of the pseudo-revolution), reminding foreign investors that we still need their help. By the way, what happen to local investors? In the Old Paradigm, we had a president who had very little regard (if any at all) for the constitution, flouting it with impunity and preferred to rule by decrees. In the New Old Paradigm, we have a president who seems to have great regard for the constitution (at least on appearance) but still flouts it but maybe not with impunity. Will somebody tell me the constitutional basis for the newly created "Senior Minister"? In the Old Paradigm, the ethical mantra was "accountability" which lacked the bite to make unaccountable people, especially, those who belonged to the ruling party, accountable. In the New Old Paradigm, the ethical mantra is "zero tolerance" which seems to lack the bite to make intolerable people, especially those who belonged to the ruling party, zero-tolerable. Elsewhere in Nigeria, our representatives sold our national dignity and pride for $25,000! In the Old Paradigm, the ruling party entered into clandestine deals that saddled us with a non-functioning presidential jet and other contracts such as the Quality Grain that left us several dollars in debt. In the New Old Paradigm, we are being saddled with the import of old right-hand drive cars in apparent clandestine deal, without appropriate explanations. But what the hell are right-hand-drive cars doing in official circles in a left-hand-driving country? In the Old Paradigm, Members of Parliament spent their time absenting themselves from parliamentary deliberations. And when they chose to be present most of them were fashionably late and spent more time rubber-stamping executive orders and debating about the End-of-Year Benefits than they spent on dealing with the country's problems. In the New Old Paradigm, Members of Parliament still spend time absenting themselves from parliamentary proceedings and debates. And when they choose to be present, they are often late and spend more time debating the meaning of "housewife" and legislating about how to get themselves cars than they spend on dealing with the country's problems. We can go on an on with these comparisons of the Old and the New Old Paradigms. The irony of it all is that "positive change" is proving to be "static change". And we continue to bathe in this cycle of ineptitude. So we are being saddled with the same arrogance that characterized the Old Paradigm. In the face of the debate about new cars for MPs, we are being arrogantly told that MPs wouldn't want to visit their constituents with their wives (and families) on bicycles. But they forget that a vast majority of the nation's wealth producers, especially the tillers of the land, would be grateful to have bicycles to ride to cover the many miles they have to trek to their farms on foot everyday - in rain and in shine - so the nation can be fed, housed and clothed. Yet because these wealth producers are bogged done by "political aphemia" created by our own artificial social and cultural creations, they have nowhere to register their indignation. All that they receive for their hard work are tokens of promises. Our educational problems keep ricocheting because of our piecemeal attempts at dealing with them. The ugly truth is that the brunt of all this incompetence is borne by the nation's wealth producers whose children score zero percent on national exams biased towards the elite schools. How do we get the New Old Paradigm to become a truly New Paradigm? Firstly we must all demand and participate in it. Secondly, we have to realize that all the dancing around "positive change" requires a good soundtrack of our polity. This requires liberation from political fundamentalism and alienation through self-reflection of our political ethos and the extra-curricular pursuit of social criticism. Or maybe to get our MPs thinking more about our problems, we should institute a "Talabanite" punishment for those found slackening in their discharge of duties to the nation. However, ours is a modernizing civilization so we should not use beatings and castration to torture the "infidels". But how about asking our MPs to go to their proceedings dressed up like an Asempaneye farmer rather than in Armani suits and Gucci shoes? Maybe that would have a humbling effect on the elitist arrogance of some. Read Author's Other Works

Maxwell Oteng
Maxwell Oteng, © 2001

The author has 28 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: MaxwellOteng

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