The scene in front of the National Immigration compound as captured on the TV screen was as comic as it was annoying. A crowd of young men were howling their anger. Their leader said they had come to see to it that a new director appointed by the government a few hours earlier was allowed to take over.
The spokesman would not say on whose authority they had come to supervise the takeover.
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Holed up in his office, the incumbent said he was not resisting giving a handover. All he wanted was that it to be properly done. He would do it in writing and take the incoming director through it. Meanwhile, the new appointee was also interviewed. He appeared jittery and annoyed as he was anxious to assume his new position. In all likelihood, this Ghallywood script has been acted all over the country. To this extent, some competent chief executives in the public service, upset by the unprofessional conduct, are resigning and leaving their jobs.
In contradiction to the hostile takeover at the Ghana Immigration compound, a solemn occasion was reported widely by the media last week. It was the exit of the Commissioner-General of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA). The handover by Mr Blankson to Mr Nti was planned and executed in such a manner that involved all of GRA, including a representative of the Finance minister.
All acknowledged the immense contribution of Mr Blankson to revenue mobilisation in the past six years and the proven competence of the incoming commissioner. The occasion must provide a great lesson to those who fire hostile dismissal/handover instructions at the dawn of assuming power.
That some handovers have assumed unfriendly character in our recent history are clearly a manifestation of the dictum that the vanquished must surrender to the victor. In other words, the winner must take all.
Most African nations claim that they are democracies. To pretend to live it, they must go to the polls at regular intervals to elect the hackneyed beast called “government of the people for the people by the people.” Unfortunately, the process of installing that form of governance sometimes turns beastly with caustic remarks and taunts. Sometimes, the abuses are not long rambling speeches. Rather, they are barbs directed at opponents considered as wretched people.
One of such taunts which went viral on social media not too long ago was uttered by a respected sitting President of an East African nation. Responding to accusations of corruption, he was quoted as telling the opposition, “Swallowing saliva is not the same as eating; you can continue salivating while we are eating meat.” By meat, he of course meant political spoils that become available to those who are in the ruling party.
In our part of the world where the government is the largest employer and where the Constitution specifically mandates the President to make the juicy appointments, the spoils are understandably large, ranging from ministers, ambassadors and heads of the Army and the Police. It includes membership of public boards right down to the muscle men who guard politicians. Thus when a party emerges from opposition into government, a large number of jobs would have to be vacated for the incoming loyal victors. Unless a politician has been able to look after himself well and stashed away some wealth, he faces the spectre of a hungry, redundant ex-employee staring into hell.
The fortune of the contractor who has bankrolled the party to victory is the same. He is rewarded with contracts, some of which he may be ill-qualified to execute. By the same token, if his government falls, he faces contract abrogation. Loans contracted from the bank are un-serviced and his venture may go into receivership. Such contractors salivate while the victors’ plates are heaped with meat.
His Excellency Nana Akufo-Addo has almost completed appointing his ministers and looking through the names, one does not find any sign of inclusiveness. One is rather reminded of a book authored by Michela Wrong about Kenyan politics. The title, “It’s our time to eat,” aptly describes the Ghanaian situation as well. With no harm to the morale of party supporters, will Mr President consider a plea to curb the cycle of “winner takes all”, even if in a limited way?
Come to think of it: The manner in which some incumbents are chased off their offices in the name of handovers/takeovers to effect “winner takes all” is unprofessional. It makes it easy for state assets such as vehicles and essential records to get missing during transitions.