AS humans, there are some social settings that are very important to us. One of them is the family. In our Ghanaian culture, the family is usually not only two parents and their children living together but it is all the descendants of a common ancestor. This includes grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, etc. All these people play various roles in one's life. I still remember some cousins and other extended family relations who, apart from my biological parents and nuclear family members, gave me money, provisions, gari, shitor etc during my school days. Some of them also offered me very good counsel. No one is therefore an island. Our families need us and we also need them.
Another social setting is school. Many people would not have been where and what they are today if they hadn't been to school. Apart from the academic knowledge acquired in school, it also gives us the opportunity to interact and relate well with people of different cultural, religious, and social backgrounds. Of course, we cannot talk about school without mentioning the fun that goes with it.
As a former resident of an all-male Hall of one of the public universities in the country, I still remember, with nostalgia, how some of our colleagues wore funny costumes and accompanied freshmen to matriculation ceremonies and also escorted them to their various examination centres during their first university examinations amidst drumming and dancing. Notices on the Hall's notice boards were sometimes altered and manipulated to read funny. We had, and still have a special way of addressing each other including a hand signal which identifies us as members of that particular Hall.
Professional associations/ bodies also play important roles in our social lives. These associations, which are usually non-profit making, seek the interest of their members and they are involved in the development and monitoring of educational programs and the updating of the skills of members. There is no doubt, therefore, that members who belong to such professional bodies see themselves as “brothers” and one people.
Apart from the family, school and professional associations, religious organizations also bring people together. Even among Christians, there is a special love and bond between members of a particular congregation/assembly/branch of the same church.
Some readers may be asking what cronyism and nepotism has to do with all that I have been talking about so far. The point that I want to establish is that by coming into contact with people, either by attending the same school, being a member of an association or belonging to a particular family, there is a high possibility and probability of one knowing many people with the temptation also of bowing to their pressure as far as their demands are concerned. The situation is even worse when one happens to be a politician, a chief executive officer, or a human resource manager of a company. Immediately one assumes a responsible position in the society, all eyes are on him/her with so much expectation from the numerous people that he/she has ever been associated with in the course of his/her endeavors.
I personally do not see anything wrong when someone helps others that he/she knows. My concern is where unqualified people are made to occupy positions just because they are either old boys/girls of a school, family relations or members of a particular association. Truth, they say, is bitter but when told, could save us from so many troubles. I am tempted to believe that by our cultural upbringing, some of us are not able to tell people the naked truth. We always want to please others even to our own detriment.
You know very well that the person you are about to appoint or employ is not qualified but because he/she was recommended or sent to you by your pastor, a paramount chief or the chairman of your association, you preferred to be in the good books of those people to having a quality performance/output from a more qualified person. Why can't you be bold and courageous but respectfully tell the people that “I am sorry I can't help because the person you recommended is not qualified”?
I really pity secondary and tertiary school teachers and administrators. During admissions, one sees all kinds of complementary cards of parents, mostly, former students of the schools/institutions flying all over; and numerous phone calls, pressurizing the administrators to admit their [unqualified] wards. Well, we thank God for the introduction of the computerized school selection and placement system, which to a very large extent has minimized the level of pressure on school administrators. Most times, we accuse people in leadership positions of cronyism and nepotism but we have forgotten that we also sometimes push them to do so.
Last month I overheard two lady gossips who really “gave it” to their supposedly cousin behind his back for not employing them at his work place. Interestingly, from their conversation it was obvious that they were not qualified. One of them said and I quote “Anytime you tell him to fix you somewhere, he'll tell you, you don't have the necessary papers. May be he has forgotten that we are the very people who looked after him before he got to where he is today. He should continue to enjoy with his wife and children alone.
By God's grace we will not eat grass. We can survive without his help”. My question to the ladies is: should their cousin employ them even if they do not have the necessary qualifications simply because they are his family relations? In any case, if they knew they could survive without the help of their cousin why were they complaining then? Please I should not be misunderstood. Having our cultural background in mind as Ghanaians, I am not and cannot in anyway suggest individualism or insensitivity to the plight of others. We should be quick and ready to help people when there is the need to do so. My point however is that we should do so within our ability, not under any form of compulsion or duress.
Enough of using tribe, “old boyism”, etc to influence people to get jobs! Those in responsible positions should also be fair and firm to consider only those who are well qualified, without succumbing to any pressure from former school mates, church members and family relations. The time to stop cronyism and nepotism is now!
Writer's E- mail: [email protected]
The writer is an archivist