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Opinions of Friday, 5 September 2014

Columnist: Yawose, John

POTAG, UTAG fires burn Mahama

The teachers, under their umbrella organisation of Polytechnic Teachers Association of Ghana (POTAG), declared a strike on May 15 to protest Government’s decision to scrap the Book and Research allowance for teachers in tertiary educational institutions.
The government aim is to save some money by striking off the book and research allowance of POTAG and UTAG. Of course there was a big resistance from POTAG—who were never prepared to forfeit their allowances in the SSSS reckonings. Already, they were unfairly far behind their counterparts in the military, police and other security staff who had all their allowances consolidated in the SSSS such that less educated Sergeants, Inspectors, Majors, Commissioners and Generals were on cloud nine with fat monthly SSSS pay packets of Gh¢3,000/4,000 per month.

POTAG, NAGRAT, UTAG were not prepared to allow themselves to be used for SSSS politics to favour the security services who have got all the roof top SSSS salaries but are still not performing satisfactorily. (The police, military are still collecting bribes and not acting independently and satisfactorily – but serving the ruling party but never the people.) Military sergeants and lieutenants take home more than Snr Lectures and Professors of more than 20 years standing and President Mahama still wants to withdraw completely the latter’s meagre allowances supposedly to balance the budget. Haaba.
There is no way POTAG, NAGRAT, UTAG consisting of graduates would allow their little book and research allowances which are in their conditions of service to be tampered with under Mahama irrationally unilateral scheme of forfeiture. POTAG was aggressive and decisive and took over Rawlings revolutionary proclamations and virtually declared that:- ‘ No way. We no go sit down make them cheat us every day , no no no- dabida’.

Enter, the Deputy Minister of Education Okujeto Ablakwa one of the aggressive NDC COMSTRAs (communication strategists), whose actions were clearly the main cause of the protracted POTAG strike and lately that of UTAG. Of course he has been doing the bidding of reckless President Mahama—flying wicked kites on the strikes. Okujeto Ablakwa was sent as a stinking barometer to gauge the mood of the POTAG and the citizenry as to the responses of pursuing processes to stop the payments of the book and research allowances. The docile and nervous Minister of Education Prof. Jane Opoku Agyeman as usual excused herself from the POTAG quagmire. (I am at a loss whether this Prof is cut out for the high office entrusted on her shoulders. She has been a gigantic failure in the treacherous political minefields and why she has not resigned to save herself from embarrassments beats my comprehension). In any case, readers will recall that Mahama had used similar guerrilla tactics to bamboozle and seize the allowances, including 2012/2013 arrears of the student nurses in the Nursing colleges and teacher trainees in the Training Colleges. Mahama was hell bent on a repeat stoppage of the POTAG/UTAG allowances and several government spokesmen and NDC commentators alluded to that; such that throughout 2013 and 2014 there have been no payments. However, Ablakwa Okujeto, the spearhead of the stop- the- POTAG allowances- campaign lacked the courage and clarity; flip flopping with the fluid Mahama forfeiture policy. At one time he said –‘the government will pay the allowances. Then the next time he would say, the government has decided to stop payment altogether. Then he would blurt out that the government will continue with the payment without the arrears. Then again, he would say the government has consolidated all the allowances into a National Research Fund which could be assessed by interested members of POTAG/UTAG. How Mahama and his cohorts in government felt they could win the needless struggle over serious and focused graduates of POTAG with such takashie ambiguities and buga-buga imprecisions is a mystery. It is recalled that such Mahama policy choices of ambiguities and unwholesome dilly dally tactics triggered off the Black Stars fiasco in Brazil recently.

The other day, Dr. Richard Amoako Baah, Senior Lecturer and Head of the political science department of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology- (KNUST) observed that:- the quantum leap in the SSSS salaries of Police/military is what triggered other labour unions to begin clamouring for their migration onto the SSSS. Dr. Amoako Baah said the SSSS salaries of some high level public sector workers have “doubled” and in some cases, such as that of the Police and military, increased by as much 1000%. He advised a cut down in the overall scheme starting with the military/police salaries to balance the budget. Until then, President Mahama must leave the allowances of POTAG/UTAG/NAGRAT/Doctors/Nurses etc alone and never to mess up with them otherwise fire will continue to burn him and his cohorts.

Happily, last Tuesday, in the midst of the confusion about the strike, POTAG called off their strike when Mahama government finally decided to pay their book and research allowances including all arrears from 2013 and 2014. We have clearly come back to where we started from in May. Mahama‘s intransigence proved very expensive and violently shook the academic pursuits of innocent Polytechnic students for 4 months for nothing. The whole episode was needless and I condemn Mahama for starting the debacle by trying to dodge his responsibilities under dubious circumstances.

Unfortunately, it is still observed that, POTAG/government struggles are somehow continuing unabated with the signals from government commentators to freeze the August salaries of striking POTAG members and another signal from the same source that the August salaries will be paid. Things are hazy and muddled as usual with Mahama and his appointees. Get ready to r-u-m-bbbb-l-eeee in the second phase of the struggle. Is Mahama learning any lessons? Somebody should tell Mahama that he will never win the POTAG war one bit. The strike having been declared legal by a court of law, POTAG is waxing strong and Mahama and his cohorts will be burnt again and again in their fiendish acts. I congratulate POTAG, NAGRAT, and UTAG for a good fight and standing firm against the Mahama, Omane Boama, Okujeto, Kwakye Ofosu diabolic schemings.

John Yawose