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11.03.2009 Feature Article

Ministerial roll call: Empowering the youth or job for the boys? (I)

For the next four years, the destiny of Ghana our motherland, has been entrusted in the hands of 65-year-old Associate Professor of Tax Law, Professor John Fiifi Atta Mills, who sought and for the third time, got the mandate of Ghanaians to rule the resource-rich but struggling Ghana. To execute his job as president, the constitution of the Republic mandates him to nominate for approval by parliament, Ministers and Deputy Minsters who shall be in charge of key sectors of the nation. This, president Mills has already done.

Currently, the president has named about 75 persons as Ministers and Deputy Ministers. All those nominated for ministerial positions have already gone through the vetting process of Parliament and have successfully (some controversial though) avoided being clutched by the mesmerizing verbal claws of the representative of Suame at the legislature, Hon. Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu, who has so far proven to be a good leader of the minority caucus in parliament.

Even if it should mean anything to fatten his calves, my good friend, Nana Kofi Coomson, a very good spotter of talent has made a mental note of him as a potential presidential candidate of the NPP.

Just when the vetting process of the ministers was coming to an end, names of persons nominated for deputy ministerial positions started pouring in. The number of the nominees, immediately brought to question, the president's promise to run a lean government. In a different piece, the issue of a lean government will be looked at, but what is of interest to me now is the persons nominated by the president so far especially the deputies and the question of 'job for the boys versus youth empowerment.

There has always been the clamour for the youth of the country to be empowered for them to be able to take charge of the nation's future. Well, I think Mills' list of deputy Ministers may have appropriately responded to that call. At the same time, however, the appointment of some people have also raised suspicions to the effect that well, Mills could not have avoided the youth in his appointments after all, the catchphrase is 'job for the boys' and not 'job for the men' and so he needed to find jobs for the boys.

Political patronage has always been abhorred and its associated practice of 'job for the boys' detested as unproductive and a must-avoid practice. Any suspicions of political patronage or a 'job for the boys' syndrome, should, therefore, be examined critically. So question is: is Mills' appointment one that should be viewed as a demonstration of a commitment to empower the youth or just a thank you offer to the boys who worked hard for his victory? Party officials, so what?

Among the youthful appointees whose nomination raised the issue of 'job for the boys,' were Messrs Haruna Iddrisu, Fiifi Kwetey, Elvis Afriyie Ankra, Baba Jamal and Koku Anyidoho. The first four, all of whom are 40 or below, are national executive officers of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), and the latter was the communications director of Professor Mills during the electoral campaigns last year. Realistically, I think once we all agree that they are Ghanaian adults of sound mind, the questions and analyses should centre on whether these folks are competent and can help make Ghana a better place as the ruling party promised all of us during the electioneering campaign.

These are all fine gentlemen with qualifications to take up ministerial appointments. It will be absolutely right to scrutinise their truck records before approving them for positions that make them part of the key decision makers who will be determining how the nation's destiny is shaped for the next four years.

It will however be absurd for one to argue that their appointment smacks of 'job for the boys' or is not right, solely on the grounds that they are party executives or officials. In any case, was anyone expecting President Mills to appoint Ohene Ntow or Kwabena Agyepong to make up his cabinet? Or was anyone expecting Mills to retain Asabee at the Information Ministry for him to continue telling us how to eat 'konkonte' and 'kofi brokeman'? Yes, we can talk about inclusive governance but that also has its limits.

The Fiifi Kwetey shocker!
I was however surprised with the appointment of the NDC's Propaganda Secretary, Fiifi Kwetey, as Deputy Finance Minister. At a time when even the United States of America is struggling with its economy, no one needed to advise our dear President that as far as the economy is concerned, it is no time for experimentation. Who said one's qualification as a stock analyst with economics background (as Fiifi told us he is), is enough for one to be a Deputy Finance Minister at this trying moments of a global economic meltdown? The global crisis knows no propaganda!

Fiifi is intelligently articulate and did his propaganda job with excellence. He sounded very logical in his arguments which were often laced in mordant language. Indeed, the question of experience will not fly because one has to have the opportunity to do something to get the experience, but in the area of the economy and particularly at this time, there cannot be justifiable reasons for side-stepping economic czars for propaganda stars.

Well, President Mills may have a special reason for his choice and as captain of the boat for less than a hundred days, we still have to be patient and see the direction he sails the nation. The minority has served notice that they cannot stomach the Fiifi Kwettey Show, and would 'return to sender'. After what happened to Mumuni, can Mills endure another 'return to sender treatment'?

Rawlings' Elvis and Obed's Jamal Elvis Afriyie Ankrah, Deputy General Secretary of the NDC and now Deputy Minister designate for Local Government, was a teacher at the Institute of Professional Studies, currently headed by former Greater Accra regional Minister and one time campaign Manager of President Mills, Mr. Joshua Alabi. In terms of education, therefore, Elvis is more than qualified for his new designation.

Elvis, a true party hard nut of the Jerry Rawlings academy of loyalists, can be trusted to talk tough though usually unconvincing. District Chief Executives may have to stay on the line in order to avoid his usually intimidating but bullish behaviour and I trust he can deliver.

Alhaji Ahmed Baba Jamal, another Deputy General Secretary of party strategically saved his political carrier when he refused to be conscripted into the first battalion of the Democratic Freedom Party formed by defected former party chairman, Dr. Obed Yao Asamoah, with an overtly covert mission of ensuring the destruction of the ruling NDC. Though an Obed Boy like Haruna Iddrisu, current Minister of Communications, the Akwatia-born Alhaji Jamal, decided to stay in the NDC when people like Bede Zeiden, Kwaku Baah, Okaija Adamafio, among others, decided to walk out of the party. Jamal subsequently worked tirelessly under the General of the NDC, Asiedu Nketiah. Jamal who holds a Masters Degree from the University of Ghana, will be working under his party's national organiser and former teacher, Samuel Ofusu Ampofo (Sammy photo). Together, the two men will be in charge of the Eastern region and would be held responsible for even how the Aburi gardens are managed. Well, we have been listening to both Jamal and Ampofo on radio stations and we are watching them play the ball in their court now to see if they will just be epitomes of the saying: it is easier said than done, or they will succeed in walking their talk. From offensive attacker to a sober defender: the tables turn for Anyidoho

The former offensive attacker from the Kuku Hill campaign centre of Professor Mills, Mr. Koku Anyido, is now going to be a defender and will have to deal with all the offensive attacks that may come from the folks at the Asylum Down head office of the NPP, especially now that the fluent Obuasi-born Kwaku Kwarten has had to move out from his office at the Ministry of Finance to take charge of the NPP's Communications.

Already, Koku, an alumnus of the University of Ghana's School of Communication Studies and a former banker, has been called to task to defend his position at the Castle as head of Communications. Many, including myself think Koku's designation is just a clear case of a job for boy (from head of communications, Kuku Hills to head of Communications, Castle).

Koku may have tried to convince us about the usefulness of his new designation but his defence wouldn't just click. With the Legon/Havard-trained former lawmaker, Mahama Ayariga, as presidential spokesperson and a whole Ministry of government propaganda christened 'Ministry of Information,' to back up the government's communication machinery, I don't see the need for another communication portfolio at the Castle if indeed, president Mills wants us to believe he is committed to running a lean government. So Koku, some of us have still not gotten it and you may have to come again.

_anonymous Columnist
_anonymous Columnist, © 2009

This author has authored 86 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: AnonymousColumnist

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