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Feature Article of Friday, 25 January 2013

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

Grilled beef on the president’s plate

By George Sydney Abugri

I am hot, Jomo. Boiling, bubbling, and simmering hot. The problem is that I have a problem, Jomo. Two of them as a matter of fact: I have tale I must spin at all cost, but darned if I know where to start. Beginning from the beginning is probably always the best starting point:

One upon a time, during the late President Hilla Limman’s administration, I went to Parliament House off High Street one day and sat in the public galley, see? In those days, a microphone was placed in the center of the chamber and members of the House walked from their seats to the microphone to make their submissions.

On this particular day, Jomo, an MP walked to the microphone to respond to an earlier submission by a colleague but while he was about it, the MP who had made the earlier submission bounced out of his seat, strode back to the center and tried to wrest the microphone from the other MP while screaming, “the people of my constituency have a right to safe drinking water.”
No, wait. I will start with the Supreme Court: The elements caught the weatherman off guard on Tuesday and gave those inclined toward the metaphysical something to speculate about: Close to noon last Tuesday, the Supreme Court amid high voltage tension everywhere and with heavily armed security personnel swarming the precincts of the court, granted the NDC’s application to be joined to the NPP’s petition disputing the results of the 2012 presidential election.
The Supreme Court ruling appeared to lower the tension a notch. Evening came and the strange unfolded: Amid the heat, extreme dryness, windiness and dust of the harmattan season, the skies opened up and unexpected but most welcome torrents cascaded over the capital, as if to lower both the atmospheric and the nation’s own temperature even further
All is now set for the hearing of the substantive petition disputing the results of the presidential election, then? I hope so, though the circus appears to show no sign of slowing its pace. To begin to hear the petition, the court will have to consider a motion by the Electoral Commissioner asking the court to order the petitioners to make available, more information regarding some of the allegations contained in the NPP’s petition.
The NPP says the Electoral Commissioner is trying to use the Supreme Court to force party’s hand in the matter of the evidence it has of rigging. The court will hear the Dr. Afari-Gyan’s motion next Thursday.
The Supreme Court this week gave the impression that public apprehension over the possibility of the election dispute dragging on into eternity is unfounded.
The Supreme Court we have been assured, is not in the mood to permit the employment of any legal gimmicks and antics by parties in the case to try to beat the case to a snail crawl. The court will exercise appropriate discretion and what will not contribute to a timely and qualitative adjudication of the case will be chucked out pretty fast so that the case can be heard with reasonable dispatch.
The impression that thousands of witnesses in the hearing of the petition will be filing up from the Paga Border all the way to Boom Junction in Accra to testify, is therefore not an accurate one, the court has explained. That President Mahama has 4,800 witnesses for example does not mean the Supreme Court is necessarily going to allow every single one of them to testify.
As for president Mahama, he appears to have his eyes so set on the road he has just hit, that he left his back bare for critics of his emerging style of administration to troop up and take a bite. Major sources of criticism this week have been the appointments he has made to his government and his re-designation of some government ministries.
Due to national budgetary constraints and the peculiarity of developing world circumstances, some developing countries find it convenient to place several related but sometimes unrelated subsectors under the same government ministry.
The average number of subsectors under one ministry for both developed and developing countries in the Commonwealth is three but some have up to five. The result is government ministries with kilometer long names that make quite a hefty mouthful.
The cardinal concern is not the name of the government ministry but how effectively the combination of subsectors helps the government to achieve its administrative and governance goals.
President Mahama has appointed six ministers of state to be based at the presidency, whose roles it appears, will entail exercising oversight responsibility for sectors already headed by ministers of state. Would that not lead to a duplication of duties and possibly, conflict? The re-designation of some ministries is in the opinion of some critics, unnecessary.
Unless some cosmic force turns the universe upside down, Jomo, information will continue to wield awesome power. The president should have made information available to the public regarding his vision in the re-designation and creation of new administrative functions in his government simultaneously with the announcement of the new appointments, don’t you think?
Anyhow, I was telling you about this MP who hung on to a microphone in the chamber of parliament screaming about the rights of his constituents to good drinking water, wasn’t I?
Though today the ambiance in the chamber of Parliament has been dramatically transformed to make the atmosphere more comfortable and conducive to the task of making laws and each MP has a microphone all to himself in the chamber.
Paradoxically, not all MPs appear determined to serve the interest of their constituents. Members of the Minority in Parliament were this week accused by some critics of not safeguarding the right of their constituents to influence qualitative leadership. Parliament yesterday began vetting President Mahama nominees to ministerial positions but the minority is boycotting Parliament’s vetting of the nominees on account of the NPP’s disputation of the election results.
The boycott of the vetting of the President’s nominees to ministerial portfolios by the Minority Caucus in Parliament appears to be a case of fate and circumstance playing pranks on the nation’s political history, Jomo:
The Parliamentary Committee which vetted the late President Mills’s nominees for appointment as Ministers of State in 2009 squandered considerable time asking the nominees many questions many said were not designed to test the competence and general suitability of the nominees as technocrats, administrators and professionals in their respective fields.
It was all inquisitorial and the fact that some of the late President’s nominees had not been able to write up decent CVs, did not help matters for them. Some of them had apparently found it beneath them to seek help in writing their CVs. I said at the time that it smacked of a lack of humility which is essential for good leadership.
The vetting of the president’s nominees was not without its entertainment value: Men and women with big, big degrees aspiring to big office, had such incredible problems with grammar, lexis and structure of language. I believe it is fair commentary on what everyone saw on TV during the 2009 vetting.
There were those with the gift of garb who relished squaring up with the “bullies” on the Appointments Committee of Parliament but they were a small minority. Most may find it worthwhile to prepare diligently this time round.
On second thought, with the Minority’s boycott, the President Mahama’s nominees will be facing their own party men and cruising on Broadway to high political office for better or for worse!
Website: www.sydneyabugri.com/Web. Email: editing@sydneyabugri.com
{Letter to Jomo is a weekly column that has been running in the Daily Graphic, Ghana since 1994. A 372-page collection of some of the early manuscripts is available at EPP Books, Methodist Bookshop, Presbytarian Bookshop, Beacon Books, Accra Shopping Mall, Batsonaa Total Station and other bookshops in Accra.}

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