The general populace in Ghana, especially, the political class have for many years now spoken passionately against gifting family and friends with political appointments. The discussion on this topic became more intensified during president Kuffour era. From that time, his successors have received more criticism, especially from the opposition political parties. In general, many Ghanaians hate to see family, friends and close allies of the president been appointed as ministers or head of governmental departments, especially when the appointed person has no political affiliation to the ruling government.
According to an article on myjoyonline.com, family and friends is defined as, “A type of government in which the sitting President appoints mostly his family members and friends into the executive arm of government and the various sectors of the public service on one hand; and these appointees on the other hand either using their relations with the President or their own influence/good offices to also get their relations appointed”. https://www.myjoyonline.com/opinion/2018/February-28th/a-critique-of-friends-and-family-government.php
The definition has almost painted a clear picture for this phenomenon in Ghana. From government to government, the criticism of family, friends and allies get louder and more interesting, usually spearheaded by the main opposition party.
In Rawlings’ government, one could readily name key figures of his government from the same region, the volta region. Some of them included Captain Kwadwo Tsikata, Mr. Daniel Abodakpi, Mr. Victor Selormey, Dr Obed Yao Asamoah, Ambassador James Victor Gbeho and Lawyer Tsatsu Tsikata. Many heads of the military and other governmental agencies could be linked to the volta region.
In kuffour’s government, Mr J. H. Mensah (his brother-in-law), Dr Anthony Akoto Osei (his nephew), Dr Kwame Addo Kufuor (his younger brother) were all cabinet ministers. In fact, Kuffour was overly criticized by the then opposition to have appointed majority of his minsters from the Akan ethnic group, especially those hailing from his region, Ashanti. The gossip was that Ms Janet Opoku Acheampong, the President’s niece, was also promoted to the position of Acting Commissioner, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), despite the fact there were three top officials.
In Mills government, members of the “Fante Confederacy” were perceived to be controlling the government machinery. Names such as the Ahwoi brothers and Mr Totobi-Quakyi were believed to be in-charge. It was perceived that all appointment had the approval of the “Fante confederacy”. It is also believed that Spio Garbrah never became foreign minister, because they disapproved it. The president appointed his brothers, Dr. Cadman Mills as a member of a 10-man Economic Advisory Council (EAC) tasked to advise the president on economic issues and Mr. Samuel Atta Mills as an Aide to the President. The two brothers of the late president Mills were believed not be politicians and were not affiliated to the president’s ruling political party either. This single act got many even in the president’s own ruling political party disappointed.
In Mahama’s government, a good number of his ministers and deputies were natives from the regions in the northern part of the country, where the president himself hails from. The list of government appointees included his niece, Hon. Joyce Mogtari Bawa as a deputy minister. In fact, a former Rector of the Ghana Institute of Management Public Administration, GIMPA, Prof. Stephen Addae, is believed to have said, per his research findings, one out of every four of the President’s appointments came from his area of origin, the northern part of the country. There was a belief that some key government appointments went to family, friends and allies of Mrs. Lordina Mahama, the first lady. Mr. Ibrahim Mahama, the younger brother of the president, was perceived to be too much involved in the day to day running of the government led by his brother, most often referred to as the de facto prime minister. It was also rumored that the president gave state contracts to his biological brother.
In Akuffo Addo’s government, the current government, the discussion has even gained much more attention, twist and propaganda. The president’s critics accuse him of doing exactly the same thing he preached against whilst in opposition. The president’s family members in his government include Miss Gloria Akuffo (Attorney General and Minister of Justice), Mr. Ken Ofori Atta (Minister of Finance) and Mr. Samuel Atta Akyea, MP (Minister of Works and Housing). The opposition refer to lawyer Gabby Asare Otchere Darko, the president’s nephew as the de facto prime minister. The chief justice, Sophia Akuffo is also counted among the number whenever the critics of the current government raises the topic of family and friend’s government, maybe, because of her name and hailing from the president’s home region.
In Ghana it is common to see a common profession, trade or interest in a particular family. There are doctors in some families more than any other profession. It is possible to see almost every man in a certain family wearing a military uniform. Some families have a particular profession running through the family from generation to generation as if it were hereditary. Abedi Ayew Pele, a legend in football, whose brother Kwame Ayew played the Black Stars with him and his three sons having merited been called to senior national men’s football team. Two of his sons are still playing for the national team. Similarly, the current president’s family is one family that has produced many prominent political figures for the country, Ghana. The interest in politics in Akuffo Addo’s family is not waning away. The big six, these men were founding members of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), a political party formed in the late 1940s in order to agitate for independence, were actually the current president’s family members and their friends, including his father. Many leading members of the current ruling party are actually Akuffo Addo’s family members and friends and/or lawyers who worked with him in his law firm. It is therefore, very unfair to discuss family and friend’s government topic without considering circumstances that have resulted in that. President Akuffo Addo appointed his family and friends into his government not on the basis of relations, but rather based on the long political journey he has had with those appointees. Like in former president Kuffour regime, Mr J. H. Mensah (brother-in-law), Dr. Anthony Akoto Osei (nephew), Dr. Kwame Addo Kufuor (younger brother) were all leading members in the very party that brought him to power. Any president produced by their political party would certainly appoint them. Akuffo Addo is only a victim of circumstances in terms of family and friend’s government discussion.
For example, Lawyer Gabby Asare Otchere Darko, nephew of the president is equally qualified as any member in the New Patriotic Party to be a government appointee. He has no appointment, but there is a buzz about his influence in government. He was among those who were whipped with horsewhip by the Ghana Police Service, when supporters of Let My Vote Count Alliance (LMVCA – a political pressure group with affinity to the NPP) tried to picket at the offices of the Electoral Commission in the previous government’s era. Gabby has worked with rank and file of the NPP for the party to win power. Where were the critics and their family, when a single family had more members in the trenches? Gloria Akuffo, the Attorney General and Justice minister and Atta Akyea, the Abuakwa South Member of Parliament since 2009 and minister of Works and Housing are both well-known NPP activist and seasoned Lawyers. Gloria Akuffo was the deputy at the Attorney General and Justice Minister during the Presidency of John Agyekum Kuffuor. Let anybody convince me that a seasoned lawyer who has many years’ experience as deputy minister of Attorney General need to be the president’s relative to become the substantive minister. She deputized the current president and I believed he appointed her without no sweat having worked with her and known her competence. The most disliked family member of the president by the opposition NDC is the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori Atta. His competence in the financial world both home and abroad has never been questioned at all. He established and managed the Databank Ghana Limited. Like the other family members, he has been in the trenches with rank and file of the ruling political party. He was in charge of NPP’s fundraising committee for 2008, 2012 and 2016 elections and campaigned assiduously for the president with his wife on the streets of Accra. Where were the critics and their family members? Though the above mentioned have earned the president’s trust and appointment into his government, family ties have never been among the determining factors. Political scientists may use Akuffo Addo, a victim of circumstances as a case study in the discussion of family and friend’s government.
The vice president is in similar situation. His in-laws are dye-in-wool politicians and they are actually very active. Abu Ramadan, vice president Bawumia’s brother-in-law, though belonged to People’s National Convention was in political news all the time. He campaigned with the ruling party in rain or shine, and actually crossed carpet to NPP in the heat of the 2016 electioneering campaign. Abu Ramadan’s long battle with the Electoral Commission of Ghana in the supreme court contributed a lot to the success of 2016 election. Bawumia’s father-in-law, who is heading the Ghana mission in Saudi Arabia has been a leading member of People’s National Convention (PNC). The president gave appointments to several leading members of the PNC including their presidential candidate and Mr. Ramadan could not just be by-passed. In fact, one of the Ramadans was parliamentary candidate on the ticket of the opposing NDC. The vice president Bawumia’s in-laws got appointments based on their own contribution to the election of the president and his ruling party.
It is also unfair for the opposition consider any namesake of president as his family member. An example is DCOP Maame Yaa Tiwaa Addo-Danquah. The critics of family and friend’s governement showed their disappointment when the police officer was appointed as the Director General of the Criminal Investigative Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service. She is not related to the president. She happened to share same name as the president. She is a native of Konongo in the Asante Akyem Central Municipality of the Ashanti Region, whilst the president on the other hand, is a native of Kyebi in the East Akyem Municipality of the Eastern Region.
The Creative Arts Industry like many other sectors in Ghana is not run directly under the government. The appointment of any citizen to head that industry is done by the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture based on the person’s expertise. The minister chose the president’s daughter as the director as she is into that field. Unlike Ivanka Trump, daughter of the American president, Donald Trump, the Ghana president’s daughter works in an industry not directly under his father. In America, the topic of president’s daughter working in his government is not being discusses, of course, they have a mature democracy. Similary, the appointments of Mr. Kofi Bosompem Osafo-Maafo and Mr. Kwadwo Gyamfi Osafo-Maafo (Sons of the Senior Minister) are not directly under the government. Another one in this category has to do with Madam Elizabeth Afoley Quaye, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture and the appointment of Mr. Joseph Botchway (her brother) as the Administrator at the Premix Secretariat. These family members of the president and that of his ministers are working in the area of their expertise. Mike Oquaye Jnr is the son of Prof. Rev. Mike Oquaye, the speaker of parliament. His appointment to head the Ghana embassy in India is purely on merit. Which follower of Ghanaian politics cannot point at Mike Oquaye Jnr if ten politicians were lined up? Oquaye Jnr have made a name for himself in his father’s political tradition and has won his political appointment on merit.
The president has as many friends in his political party as in the various political parties in the country. He has been active in the political circles for a long time. He is still a victim if one turns the lenses on friends in his government. Akuffo Addo may fail this test even if he has to make appointment from the opposition NDC. Some friends and ranking members of the NPP who he appointed as ministers include Mr. Yaw Osafo Maafo (senior minister), Dr. Boakye Agyarko (former minister of energy), Dr. Afriyie Akoto (minister of agriculture) and Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh (minister of Education). The party rode on their shoulders to victory. If the late Jake Obetsebi Lamptey was alive, who would be surprised if he was appointed a minister? He was actually a childhood friend of president Akuffo-Addo. Both of them followed the footsteps of their fathers Edward Akufo-Addo and Emmanuel Obetsebi-Lamptey of the big six in our nation’s political history.
Friends and Family Government like any other phenomenon has been with us in all the republics, but circumstances have made its discussion more apparent in the fourth republic. Any president in Ghana or elsewhere whose family members are very active in politics like Akuffo Addo would be entangled with circumstances that makes it easy to be accused of practicing nepotism for appointing known family members to positions of government. Therefore, if one subjects the president’s appointments to scrutiny, it should be the whole package of weighing family/friend’s loyalty to the political party vis-à-vis competence.
We cannot not disregard the fact that a section of Ghanaians’ perception of the president regarding his appointments within and without his party is not a well-informed one. Maybe, the discussion must be put in the right perspective. Unlike mature democracies like the United States of America, ours is much influenced by ethnic and tribal bigotry. The NDC, very much aware of that, employs it as catalyst to propagate family and friend’s government against the current president and make peoples’ perception a reality. I, as the communication director of NPP-Finland therefore, entreat all branches around the globe to dispel and refute NDC’s propaganda against the president as the worst nepotistic president Ghana has ever had, with all seriousness it deserves, because perception in politics, whether real or apparent, can still have a devastating effect.
The critics of family and friend’s government conclude that politicians are self-seeking, self-serving, self-perpetuating and self-aggrandizing, who pursue personal agenda and promoting that of their cronies. In the case of the current government, individual family members of the president, the Vice President, the speaker of parliament, the National Chairman of the NPP and the leading members of the ruling party have all worked their way up the political ladder. Those active political figures got their appointments on merits and loyalty to the ruling party. The president Nana Addo-Danquah Akuffo Addo is only a victim of the circumstances, who would face the same fate even if a new set of party members are appointed into his government.
Eben Johnson – Finland
(Letters Without Signatures)