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17.03.2009 Feature Article

Comment: The “Leanness” Debate: Things for Ato Kwamena Dadzie to Note

Comment: The “Leanness” Debate: Things for Ato Kwamena Dadzie to Note

I have followed with keen interest the “leanness” debate between Mr. Ato Kwamena Dadzie and Mr. Koku Anyidoho as well as the ugly turn it was beginning to take. I must first say that I find these two men very fine gentlemen and I am happy they did not allow this to get too personal and chaotic. Ghana will be better served if this debate and any other subsequent ones are not allowed to be based on the emotions of the debaters and reduced to ugly personal exchanges which are, to say the least, uncivil.

However, I would like to weigh-in humbly on some of the issues raised by Mr. Ato Kwamena Dadzie (Uncle Ato) because I have tried for the past three or so days to let it pass but I just could not for the simply reason that I also have an equal responsibility as a Ghanaian, like Uncle Ato, to make sure we educate and inform each other properly.

Uncle Ato, I believe you had a reasonable question as to whether cutting the number of ministers by 13, without taking into consideration doing away with special assistants, cutting down on other government expenditure, as well as a much shorter Presidential convoy is lean enough; but to go as far as call names and directly attack the egos of others as in the statement, “When President Mills first entered the Castle and named Ayariga as his spokesman, he seemed to have really angered Anyidoho, who hardly misses an opportunity to rant and rave. The president, it seems, has decided to crown Anyidoho with a title to salve his bruised ego”, is totally demeaning, insulting and uncalled for. If this was meant to be a satirical piece, then it was over the top and not funny. I do not think that you would have reacted differently if these roles were reversed and you had these attacks directed at you even from your best friend. I do not also think that you should use your assumptions about what has been happening in the Castle to damage reputations of others the way you did to Mr. Anyidoho; because, if “it seems”, then it is not a fact, but you can still write it without calling anyone's name. For example, you could hope against the same assumption as in “I hope it was not the case that, when the president first entered the Castle….” It is a disservice to your readers, including me, if you put out assumptions out there as if they were facts.

Your whole analysis about which deputy minister to keep or do away with, is very interesting and worth a more comprehensive debate. However, you idea about what a deputy minister does as in your statement, “From what I've seen in the past, deputy ministers work as subordinates to the substantive ministers. They hardly ever do anything substantial. Most of them only go about “representing” their bosses at events – delivering winding, senseless speeches in which they urge Ghanaians to do one thing or another – like learn to use toilet rolls. I don't see NDC deputies doing any differently”, clearly shows that you did not do the most minimal research into it before writing your article. To the extent that our Constitution recognizes a need for deputy ministers tells me that there is more they are expected to do than meets the eye. The fact that they have substantive ministers does not mean “they hardly do anything substantial”. At the very least, you could have spoken to a few former deputy ministers in the two previous administrations to find out what they did during their time. Following your statement that, “When the minister is not around to do his job, the chief director of the ministry should step in” you should remember that the chief directors are bureaucrats and you do not want them deputizing for the politicians because that will be recipe to disaster; and “if a minister is on his death bed and ready to heave his last breath” (you wrote), the president cannot immediately appoint someone to replace him without parliamentary vetting and approval which will take at least two weeks. Remember we have something called “The Constitution”?

I am sure every Ghanaian will be happy to have a government with 50 ministers or even less if that is feasible, but the fact that you did a poor job defining what a deputy minister does leaves me to believe that your argument for 50 ministers is, for the lack of a better word, baseless. I have a friend who believes that 15 ministers are all we need; so the question is why 50 and not 15 or 60? Remember that the President did not only say a “lean” government, but also an “effective” one and that was where you missed the whole point, unless you cherry-picked what you needed to make your points. I believe Ghanaians do not need a lean government as bad as they need an effective one.

I do also believe that further alignment of ministries is possible. For example, I believe the communication minister can effectively run a “ministry of communication & information” with a deputy each for communication and information. However, without that for now, this issue of how Mrs. Zita Okaikoi is expected to be or is really bad should be “put on hold” until we see how she really turns out. To tell you the truth, I was also disappointed at how her vetting went (heard it on Joy FM). I thought she left so much to be desired, but I do not think that I have enough information to judge how bad she will do as a minister, because some people do not do so well in nervous situations no matter how good they are at what they do. I think that she deserves the benefit of the doubt until she proves everyone wrong; and I will expect, without doubt, the President to be the first to act.

In his rejoinder, “Efo Koku” referenced President Obama's White House communication team. I did a little searching on that, but I did mine on www.wikipedia.org where you can get the definitions of the positions and the roles. Unfortunately, I must say, Efo Koku was right about the difference between his role and that of Mahama Ayariga. The following from that website might interest you:

“The White House Director of Communications, also known as Assistant to the President for Communications, is part of the senior staff of the President of the United States, and is responsible for developing and promoting the President's agenda and leading the President's media campaign after he occupies the White House. The director, along with his or her staff, work on speeches such as the inaugural address and the State of the Union Address. The Communications Director is usually given an office in the West Wing of the White House.

Historically, the position of White House Communications Director is typically given to a senior public relations staff member of the candidate's campaign staff. Typically this is either the Deputy Campaign Manager or the Campaign Communications Director. The Communications Director works closely with the White House Press Secretary, who was typically a co-worker in the president's campaign” (www.wikipedia.org).

“The White House Press Secretary is a senior White House official with a rank one step below Presidential Cabinet level. The Press Secretary is the primary spokesperson for the Administration.

Responsibilities center on collecting information about what is happening inside the Administration and around the world, and getting that information to the media in a timely and accurate fashion. The information includes things like a summary of the President's schedule for the day, whom the President has seen, called or had interactions with, and the official position of the Administration on the news of the day”. (www.wikipedia.org)

I do not necessarily believe that we should pick things whole sale from other countries to run our systems, but if it is a good one, I do not think it is a crime.

In your response to his rejoinder I think you took it a little personal and got more emotional because I believe Efo Koku used some terms on you I will agree were unpalatable. This was evident in your use of the phrase “tell your boss” which I suspect would not be in good taste to the Office of the President and indeed all Ghanaians by implication. The President is our leader and again by implication, “all of us our boss” in spite of the fact that he is Efo Koku's immediate boss. But I can understand because I have seen and heard former US President Bush receive some indecent bashing from some of the American people in his days, even though I do not recommend that Ghanaians go that far.

However, on the issue of the information ministry verses the communication team at the Office of the President, again I think you missed the mark. I believe it is clear to you from the above quotes that Efo Koku, as relevant as his position is, has nothing to do with the information ministry. Indeed the United States does not have an information ministry or department as they may call it, but do not forget that they have a federal system of government, in which case the US constitution places some functions of government into the direct authority of the state and local governments. So the US federal government does not have to disseminate local government policies to the grass roots like the Ghana government has to; this is done at a state or local government like Maryland which has a public broadcast station (called mpt) and other information dissemination systems parallel to our information ministry. Even with this arrangement guess what US federal government does to disseminate information from Washington DC to the public? Everybody who has cable TV has to pay more than $2.00 surcharge monthly for C-SPAN TV which broadcast live proceedings from Washington DC.

You may be mistaken about the lack of an information ministry with the British. The Department of Culture, Media and Sports is partly that, and I think (I stand to be corrected) the BBC is under this department just like GBC is under the information ministry in Ghana. If you lived in the country-side like I did in Bolgatanga when I was growing up, you will never forget the importance of the information ministry if you remember the green and yellow information vans that came on market days to pass information not only on government policies, but also community based information from the chief, district education office, when a child is lost, and disaster prevention and mitigation (to mention a few). I surely remember the famous “Mr. Abolowa” on the streets of Bolgatanga running public service announcements while deviating once in a while to caution people to pick up their litter or trash. With the later expansion of GBC into the regions through TV and local FM stations, the information ministry expanded instead of becoming obsolete. May be it will become obsolete one day, but I don't believe we are there yet.

Finally, Uncle Ato, without doubt I truly admire you as a fine gentleman. Your desire and ability to exert yourself as an independent and thoughtful Ghanaian are equally admirable; but I believe you need to do some kind of research on your information and facts before “going to press” so that your “teaming” fans and readers like me will be assured that the information and education we get from you are without questions. Additionally, if any of your articles or parts of them are for satirical purposes, you should find a way of making that obvious just like Merari Alomole does on the Spectator so that people don't feel personally attacked. Otherwise, I think you are doing an awesome job and may God richly bless you.

Credit: Malik B. Salifu [Email: [email protected]]
Beltsville, MD
(Washington DC Metro)

Malik B. Salifu
Malik B. Salifu, © 2009

The author has 3 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: MalikBSalifu

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