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Opinions of Monday, 6 August 2018

Columnist: writersghana.com

Boakye Agyarko and the philosopher’s stone; a political communication model for Ghana

Boakye Agyarko, the minister for energy, has important sins laid bare before us; AMERI Energy deal, converting Tema Oil Refinery to a tank farm and many more.

The one that killed me was, ‘MTN called me and said “We owe ECG GH¢35 million. We are trying to pay. We are waiting for wire instructions and we’ve been waiting for one month”. So I went to ECG and I asked them. What’s going on? And they said, “Oh that person who is supposed to issue the instructions has gone on leave.” ’

Here, Electricity Company of Ghana are the bad guys for sluggishness. Cool.

But, the prepaid telecom services company which piled up bills for months, while wiring profits regularly abroad when most of us are on prepaid electricity, he praised as the good guys.

We’ve all been searching for our stones.

But what will Boakye Agyarko, a former vice president of Bank of New York, lose by resigning?

And what will those calling for his resignation gain by his departure?

Nothing!

He’s just one man, dancing to the same Azonto rhythm.

‘Something radical must happen,’ the suggestion kept flooding back to my memory.

I’ve heard that suggestion from different quarters over and over again.

‘Ghana is in an abyss, with new lows being hit every day,’ another suggestion clawed back into my memory.

So I reclined into my armchair and came up with this new cabinet.

Ghana’s political administration must have not more than 38 ministers to be taken seriously, whoever is in power. The present administration has 110!

Some new ministers, with the president and vice president, Jubilee House, Accra. 2017. Photograph courtesy of graphic.com.gh

My picks are as follows:

1. Minister for justice who is also the attorney-general.

2. Health, water and sanitation minister

We’ve been drinking sachet water in Ghana, infested with algae, for 20 years! When a one point five-litre bottle of water was 50 pesewas, then deputy finance minister Fiifi Kwetey’s inelastic demand theory for water convinced the ministry of finance to impose a higher tax on it. In Finland, marketers struggled to introduce bottle water because the tap water is always cleaner.

We have no emergency medical plan nor ambulance in Ghana!

The white van in the president’s convoy is not an ambulance, please!

Only one percent of institutional sewage is treated! Leave housing for regions and district assemblies.

Bags of sachet water. Photograph courtesy of ghanayello.com

3. Finance minister

4. Foreign affairs minister

5. Trade, industry and labour minister

6. Defence and interior minister

7. Transportation minister

Why do goats, vendors and pedestrians share the same street with Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs)?

Not an unfamiliar sight in Accra. Photograph courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

8. Education, science & technology minister

9. Planning minister (The senior minister)

10. Ten Regional ministers

Ten regional ministers are enough to handle chieftaincy, local government, decentralisation, environment and agriculture within the 10 regions.

Ministers will thus be 19.

With one deputy each, total deputies will also be 19. Total ministers therefore comes to 38.

The constitution mentions ministers and deputy ministers. Covered.

Half of the ministers must come from Parliament and there should be regional balance in appointing them. Covered.

Constitution says cabinet must comprise between 10 and 19 ministers (chapter 8, article 76). Covered.

Since ministers must go on leave deputies are provided.

Every regional minister will be a member of cabinet.

The directive principles of state policy (1992 constitution, chapter 6) which promotes decentralisation is also covered.

Regional minister will become a serious position just as in China.

It may probably go to party chairmen or parliamentarians of all parties who have served their respective regional party offices and who’ve worked to grow the party and debated local issues all their political career.

All political parties and their grassroots will benefit from this. Taking over government offices, toll booths and public toilets will be a thing of the past.

Your regional minister is in cabinet and will bring local issues straight to the top; no need for six additional regions.

This model requires no constitutional amendment, which is the usual excuse for the long list of ministers.

These ministers should be supported by the Jubilee House directorate of information, which itself should be under the chief of staff”s office.

Since we have National Media Commission guaranteed in the constitution (Chapter 12, Articles 166-173) and National Communications Authority, you don’t need a minister to manage Ghana Broadcasting Corporation and Ghana News Agency.

An information minister is a communist construct that belongs to George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm.

In our present situation he struggles to get information from government institutions just as you and I.

So why punish him like that?

An information department should be established within each ministry.

Here, I beg to remind you that the Freedom of Information Bill first came to light when then communications minister John Mahama was serving under President Rawlings, about 20 years ago!

A minister who wants to grant radio and TV interviews must get his department of information to arrange that and ensure that he is adequately rehearsed and prepared.

Our priests and imams prepare their sermons, pray and meditate upon them before they come out to speak.

The director of information at the Jubilee House cannot answer for every ministry.

Ministries must handle their own information.

The Jubilee House director of information must have a deputy and an assistant.

The director of information at the Jubilee House should respond ONLY to specific issues which have come to the Jubilee House via a document submitted to the chief of staff’s office.

Currently, we don’t know whether among the various communication tools being used- press releases, press conferences, interviews granted by various ministers and the information minister, Jubilee House director of communication, statements from the chief of staff, secretary to the president, the president himself speaking, a budget statement or a cabinet decision- there is any pecking order.

Plato’s concept of ‘philosophers should be kings’ is a call to meritocracy.

Politicians have always bashed philosophers as not being Machiavellian enough.

But now it’s time for the Ghanaian politician to eat humble pie and say to the philosopher as we say in Ghana, ‘take back your stone’.

Boakye Agyarko must be feeling like Harry Potter right now, happy to learn that he possesses witchcraft and has a real home in Hogwarts, even if he woke up in hospital to learn that the philosopher’s stone has been destroyed.

The real philosopher’s stone, however, is nothing but that head rest, no matter how uncomfortable, upon which Jacob slept and dreamt of angels ascending and descending a staircase to heaven (Genesis 28:11-12).

Every true philosophy leads us to God, in whom there is truth and liberty, for, as Saint Augustine says, ‘Man is restless, until he finds his rest in God.’

When philosophers recline into their armchairs, it’s not because they’re lazy or impractical.

It’s an opportunity to contemplate that beatific presence which we all aspire to be in- and how it should be maintained.

The philosopher can talk about the ideal world, even if (s)he has personal weaknesses.

Some call it a political utopia. Others, an ideal situation.

And yet don’t we all want to live in an ideal world; a just city in a true Republic?