The Hawa Koomson saga

BY: Kobby Asmah

Following a week of rigorous vetting of ministerial nominees appointed by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to occupy various portfolios in his second term, the Minister designate for National Security, Kan-Dapaah; Communications Minister designate, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful; Information Minister designate, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah; Gender and Social Protection Minister designate, Sarah Adwoa Safo; Minister designate for Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, and Energy Minister designate, Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh, have all taken their turn at the vetting, awaiting approval from the committee.

There are many other more persons waiting to take their turn this week.

Pulsating encounter

But one pulsating encounter that has sent tongues wagging is that of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister designate, Mrs Mavis Hawa Koomson, when she appeared before the Appointments Committee of Parliament last week Thursday.

Since then, she has been in the news for many reasons. For not being able to express herself so well and making incoherent statements in English during her vetting, Hawa Koomson is being trolled on both traditional and social media.

Indeed, the Minister designate caused a frenzy with some answers she gave the committee on her sector.

Tongues wagging

One of the many answers that sent tongues wagging was her definition of fish farming: “It is the process of rearing of fish in reservoirs and fishponds.”

Frankly, she may not be totally wrong, but many other questions posed to her and the type of responses she gave have made her become the subject of public scrutiny. The nominee is actually being discussed from different perspectives and her crime is her inability to eloquently express herself in the Queen’s language, as well as articulate herself in a tongue different from her mother tongue.

But is Madam Hawa Koomson being unfairly judged?

All these views have reinforced the need to critically evaluate the process of vetting and confirmation or rejection of a President's nominee for political appointment.

Leadership position

Since then, I have had many conversations with many political pundits and media practitioners on what I call the Hawa Koomson saga and the consensus is mixed. While some have argued that she is not fit for purpose, others have said it is a way of suppressing a potential nominee who has got what it takes but has difficulty communicating in the English language.

But is one’s inability to express himself or herself in a particular language a barrier to political position in the country?

Furthermore, is proficiency and eloquence in the Queen’s language the critical criterion for going to Parliament or becoming a parliamentarian?

How about becoming a Minister of State?

What are the best practices prevailing globally?

Is that what happens in other countries, especially the Asian countries?

How about many other countries, such as Ghana, which do not have English as their native language?

If eloquence in English may not be a critical consideration, then how do they go about this challenge where the English language has undoubtedly become the dominant language spoken in many parts of the world?

Constitutional blocks

So far, there are no constitutional blocks facing any of the President’s nominees who have appeared before the committee and I will, therefore, not be surprised to see the Appointments Committee approve all or most of the ministerial nominees put forward, except on grounds of total ignorance of the subject matter at hand.

At least, this has been the precedent and I do not see the trend changing, in spite of the hung Parliament we now have. 

Notwithstanding her shortfall in eloquence, it takes special people such as Hawa Koomson to work their way to the top. Many people, with her background, could crumple against stiff competition, but she has come thus far by dint of hard work, perseverance and determination to overcome stumbling blocks.

Carrot and stick

However, as we wait patiently for approvals or rejections, one thing must remain clear to all the nominees — it can no longer be jobs for the boys or girls, as our President is committed to leaving an enduring legacy in his final term of office.

As Ministers approved, they will be required to offer strategic and policy direction for their respective ministries to grow the economic fortunes of the country. I am only hoping that thay are all ready for the herculean task ahead.
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