Feature Article of Saturday, 12 January 2013
Columnist: Donkor, Alfred O.
John Mahama’s first list of appointments is impressive to say the least. On Tuesday, barely 24 hours after being sworn into office John Mahama appointed four extremely competent individuals to key positions in his administration. In appointing Mr Prosper Douglas Kwehu Bani, Mr Roger Kwesi Angsomwine, Dr Raymond Atuguba and Dr Sulley Gariba to the positions of chief of staff, Cabinet secretary, Executive secretary to the President and senior policy coordinator in the office of the president respectively he underlined his commitment to doing his best for mother Ghana.
I do not know any of these gentlemen but having read their CVs I can only say that they are extremely experienced and skilled and will serve the president well. In this first batch of appointments the President has shown that his overriding concern is competence rather than party credentials. The president is surrounding himself with people with substantial international experience in policy analysis and delivery, programme development, monitoring and stakeholder engagement. The four appointees bring not only tonnes of experience, an ability to think on their feet, skills in navigating complex issues and bureaucracies. They have the skills to help him translate his vision into deliverable programmes on the ground and to monitor and evaluate their effectiveness.
In appointing these gentlemen the president has avoided the approach taken by some of his predecessors who opted for family members and party men in forming their inner circle. Of the four appointees the one likely to raise controversy is the post of chief of staff. Prior to the announcement there were rumours that party insiders like Huudu Yahaya and Baba Kamara were the leading contenders. The President’s final choice probably came as a surprise to many. Contrary to the view being expressed in some quarters, not having someone from the party is no negative. Admittedly someone from the party would provide much easier access to the president for members of his party and ensure the president is regularly in tune with party thinking. Having worked hard and run a successful campaign it is understandable that party faithful wish to have direct access to the man they fought so hard for. But if they want to win 2016 they need to see the wisdom in John Mahama’s decision. John Mahama is president for the entire country and to be successful he would need to reach out to a wider range of stakeholders than the NDC. Additionally, party members have varied channels for airing their views for example via ministers and other senior party officers who have direct access to the President. By opting for a neutral person the President has demonstrated boldness and a willingness to upset his party if that is in the best interest of the nation.
Some have argued that party faithful need to be rewarded. Of course. But out of tens or hundreds of appointments that will be made these four will be working closely with the President on a daily basis and for this reason these should be the President’s own men.
It’s refreshing to see new faces. For far too long our politics has seen the same old faces from 1992 being moved from ministry to ministry! Political parties and institutions need renewal and the hope is that John Mahama will continue the trend by injecting more new faces into our system. The future Ghana John Mahama envisions will not necessarily be shaped by the class of 92.
Some have argued that there is absence of regional and gender balance. The appointees are from four different regions! Further, with only four appointments it is too early to draw such a conclusion. Although critical, these are not frontline ministerial appointments in charge of key government ministries. These are people who will help the President manage his workload and ensure he is effective in managing the range of programmes, departments and organisations that he oversees.
Some argue that policy formulation should be left to public servants. They argue that there is a manifesto that needs to be given to the public service for implementation. Hence opting for experts and not party faithful in the first four appointments is not the right approach. I disagree.
Policy formulation should be an iterative process between the President’s team and the public service alongside public engagement. It should be a continuous top-down and bottom-up process. Given the workload of our President it is important that he has a solid team that can bring intellectual rigour and critical analysis to the policy function. I am confident the four appointees will help situate the President’s ideas within appropriate models and frameworks, and help strengthen government communications with the public service and the general public.
The President’s first four appointments signal his intention to tackle our myriad problems with vigour, with the best talent, no matter their background.
We voted for him because he is transformational. It is not business as usual.
This President is serious. Let’s support him.
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