“....instead of a lean government, we have lean Kenkey at a higher price. These are the issues which the government and its activists should be tackling instead of seeking to divert attention with threats, intimidation, assaults, car-snatching, seizure of lorry parks and toilet grabbing.”
— President Nana Akufo-Addo, Osu Ebenezer Presbyterian Church Hall, Accra, May 26, 2009.
Yes, the much-heralded fight against all forms of corruption in our public life has turned out to be a big hoax. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind.
The above quotation was uttered by the then recently-defeated presidential candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo, in 2009, after losing by a razor-thin margin to the late Professor Atta Mills in the 2008 elections. The words, the content and the tenor bespeak the tragedy about the repetition of history even in our own country.
Last week, the Presidency transmitted to Parliament the constitutionally obligatory request to furnish the House, and Ghanaians, with the number of people who assist the President and the Vice-President to perform their task in the highest and most important office in the land. It caused an immediate uproar yet to die down. Why is this so?
It is because that staffing list, and the list of 110 ministers and their deputies released earlier last year, have established conclusively in the mind of Ghanaians, that the fight against corruption by this government, in high and low public places is a sad and shameful myth.
The list called into question many fundamentals about the polity called Ghana and the direction in which the current government sought to take us. The mandate for change is a call for improved governance, and not a worsened performance.
Reputation and image
It is even doubly mystifying that this is found worth defending by all sorts of people.
Today, I will range over this tragic self-inflicted blow to the personal reputation of our President and the image of his party by reference to the larger meanings of two matters.
The first is the popular internal party view of the ruling New Patriotic Party about the fall of its predecessor party and government, the Progress Party government of Prime Minister Busia in January 1972, and the second, and very related, is the present position of two important media men, Kwaku Sakyi-Addo and Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah, regarding the fallout from the publication of the presidential staff list.
Let me say at once that the acclaimed forensic investigative journalistic skills of Sakyi-Addo and Oppong-Nkrumah are missing in this because both are now employees of this government enjoying a cozy public office and its perks.
The impression I got then from the functionaries of the 1969 Progress Party government, and many still hold that view currently, is that the government fell because of very bad public relations and not because of bad governance. This is because in the 1969 elections, the victorious Progress Party had swept to empathic victory, taking 105 of the 140 parliamentary seats available, and winning 100 per cent of the seats in the Brong-Ahafo and Central regions.
It is very instructive that these two regions in the fourth Republic are now swing regions. What this means is that government with such margins of victory believe erroneously that they can do no wrong.
In these days of media pluralism and social media, who will accept any justification for allocating choice state plots of land to ministers, as was the case in the 1969 regime?
Who will accept as valid the decision to pay all ministers their salaries, et cetera, for the five-year tenure of the government to cushion them from the hardships being suffered by the people, and in foreign exchange to boot?
How will it be taken today, if a da Rocha, the general secretary of the ruling Progress Party, says it will take 10 General Ocrans, to oust the regime in October 1971, after Ocran had complained publicly about the non-declaration of the assets of ministers etc.?
Or the Apollo 568 matter in which public and civil servants were sacked to make way for Progress Party supporters in the name of injecting fresh blood into government?
If it had leaked that the Busia government had appointed Colonel Acheampong as Commander of the First Infantry Brigade of the army, despite a security report generated by his own security set-up that this would be catastrophic, it is certain that the effect will not be the January 13,1972 Acheampong coup which ousted the regime.
What should strike observers is that with such mandates such as that of what occurred in 1969, fastidiousness and rectitude are thrown out of the window contemptuously.
Allocating the huge staff numbers in a certain predictable, well-thought-out fashion will immediately render their presence superfluous, because there are highly qualified civil servants available and in place. Worse, I know four or five people whose names are missing, and at least one whose name is there but does not work anywhere near the Jubilee House.
One would have thought a government whose functionaries quote the democratic West at the drop of any hat, would have instituted an internship programme drawing upon the best minds in our institutions of higher learning to man them by now, as is the case in those Western democracies.
What exactly is technical or executive about facebooking, snapchatting, tweeting and trolling NPP opponents from the seat of government? And they have deputies and assistants?
A lady-in-waiting in a republic is a protocol officer, normally a policewoman who is part of the staff of the First Lady, but we don’t have even such helpful descriptions of the job, so it sounds like a superfluous servant in an unelected monarchy.
These are jobs unworthy of Article 71 ex gratia appointees, but they bizarrely qualify. The test of competence in this government is: the more the appointees to perform the mundane with high-sounding titles, the better the end product.
This is a firm denial of the old-age dictum that many cooks spoil the broth. Protecting the public purse was never considered in such obese governance practices.
Now to the two skilled media men mentioned. Sakyi-Addo is both a presidential staffer and the chairman of the board of National Communications Authority, while Oppong-Nkrumah is both an honourable Member of Parliament and a deputy minister.
Both are collecting monies for their double engagements but are not being accused of taking double salary because their government has unilaterally decided to criminalise an administrative problem of reconciliation which has been persisting since the colonial days, and whose resolution is not seen as a mark of competence in the hazy lenses of our government.
The upshot of all these is that there has never been a fight against corruption in this government. The margin of his mandate has persuaded President Akufo-Addo to use his high office to clear all those suspected of current acts even before investigations begin. We await more meaningless raids on the public purse.