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Opinions of Saturday, 26 September 2009

Columnist: Kuts, Justice

Zita And Co. To Be Sacked?

I have for the past few weeks heard various disparaging comments about the Minister of Information, Mrs. Zita Okaikoi. The personalities agitating for her dismissal includes former security men turn Members of Parliament and individuals whose purported communication expertise led the NDC to opposition. The issues being raised leaves me with no conclusion than to say that the flurries of criticisms being thrown at her are baseless and logically untenable. The campaign for her nomination to be withdrawn even started before she appeared before the Parliamentary Vetting Committee is an implicit indication that her competence or efficiency might not be the substantive issues after all. Anyone with effective analytical capabilities can logically conclude that this vicious attack on Zita has a clandestine motive to indict the President and his team of ministers. The affiliations and background of her critics truly gives credence to this assertion.

For those in opposition, they think that when they are able to discredit and raise doubt about the competence of Zita and her Deputies, they can successfully perpetuate their vile propaganda. They have desperately tried on several occasions to brand Mr. Okudzeto-Ablakwa as a “liar” and a “propagandist”. This mischievous agenda is a futile attempt to discredit him and effectively raise questions about any information coming from his domain. Having realised that Mr. Okudzeto-Ablakwa has a tough skin and remains unruffled, they decided to brand the two Deputy Ministers of Information as “Aki and Porpo”: a description to personify them as “kids with penchant to lie and play tricks”. This vicious scheme is in conformity with a theory in communication which suggests that if the source of information is polluted, then the information coming from that source is as bad as the source. Considering the role played by the ministry in protecting the image of government, if this scheme becomes fruitful, it would mean that government image cannot be protected. This is the whimsical and capricious motive for the verbal onslaught and the unnecessary call for the dismissal of the Minister and her two Deputies. Isn’t it in the interest of the opposition if the Government information machinery breaks down? Why then, is the opposition calling for the heads of the Minister and her deputies on grounds of inefficiency and ineffectiveness? Hmm, your guess is as good as mine.

It is surprising to note that what hitherto was supposed to be a campaign started by jokers like Ato Kwamena Dadzie has now turned out to be receiving regrettable endorsement from high profiled personality on the political ladder. Within the NDC, there are some people who hold the view that President, John Evans Atta-Mills has appointed personalities who prior to their appointment were not known to the NDC fraternity. Some hold the view that the likes of Mrs. Zita Okai-Koi, Mr. Newman (the Chief of Staff), Dr. Kwabena Duffour, etc. were not visibly involved for the fight for political power from the NPP. In pursuit of such a perception, they have on consistent basis called for a reshuffle with the hope that the President will bow to pressure. The affiliation of those within the NDC who are openly campaigning for a reshuffle and the subsequent dismissal of Mrs. Zita Okaikoi speak volume of a parochial interest to eliminate the “supposed outsiders”. There are some who are of the view that ministerial position is their birthright and have therefore not recovered from the disappointment of being out of cabinet. They are in effect filled with rage and have resorted to passing various outrageous and disparaging remarks about the perceived “outsiders” and the President. There are some who have argued that because they are not part of cabinet, then it means the President is using a second fiddle team of sycophants and not a competent team of Government officials. Some have insinuated that because they didn’t support the President during the NDC primaries, he is paying them back.

When I hear these critics speak or write, I shudder to think that the parochial interest and bloated ego of these critics must be nipped in the bud else it will turn out to be a calamitous blight on the intra cohesion of NDC and the goodwill of Government. I consider these unsavoury and callous remarks as intrinsically destructive, morally condemnable, and logically indefensible. It is unfortunate that those who are purported to be leading members of the party are hopping from one media house to the other painting a gloomy picture about the economy and the performance of the Executive. With all the resources as well as the authority at the disposal of these critics, are they saying that the appropriate platform to address their ‘genuine’ concerns (if any) is to use the media to malign and cast insinuation on the executive? Their penchants for populism are beginning to have a nebulous effect on their own ego or stature. Whenever a responsible parent has reservations about the performance of his ward in school, or one has issues against his sibling, does he hit to the street to express his disappointment? Certainly not but ironically, this is the unfortunate fate which has befallen the NDC and Government. With no intention to sound controversial, I can emphatically state that the performance of the Minister of Information and her two Deputies is the best that this nation had seen in the past five decades. The “Asabee Syndrome” which caused the NPP to lose power to the NDC is now a thing of the past. Those were the apologetic years of the Ministry where the Minister of Information would come out and prescribe ‘kokonte’, corn, groundnut and mango to the citizenry who were complaining that things were difficult. For a Minister of Information to sarcastically prescribe ‘kokonte’ and mango for a breakfast is the worst Government PR that this nation had ever experienced. The electorates are now discerning and information validation and verification is now easier than it was in the past, hence the Ministry of Information has a herculean task of information elicitation and delivery. The Kwamena Bartel, Dan Botwe, ‘Asabee’, style of information processing and dissemination cannot be applicable today. Today, the opposition is more vibrant and have sworn heaven and earth to reclaim Political power in 2012. Fortunately for them but unfortunately for the nation, the media is generally biased against government and have been quick to distort, spin and doctor government information. The scope of the media is much more widespread today than it was in the past. The listeners are becoming more discerning and the opposition is so desperate to even descend to the ‘gutters’ so as to propagate their vile propaganda. For Zita and her colleagues to be operating in this environment and still come out with innovative styles of information dissemination requires that the least we could do is to say kudos to them. The recent call by a former security officer of ex-president Rawlings but now a Member of Parliament asking President Mills to sack Information Minister Zita, for gross incompetence is an assertion which lacks logical merits and must not be taken seriously. From the opposition days through to the present day when the NDC party is now in government, the former security officer has never spoken on the floor of parliament, perhaps someone will say he does so at the committee level hmmmm. His inability to meaningfully contribute to debate on the floor of Parliament and address the concerns of those of us he claims to represent in his constituency is unbecoming of his continuous stay in Parliament and if there is a perfect example for ‘gross incompetence’ then I think the Honorable MP exemplifies such a character. Couldn’t he have called Zita to express his reservation and if that fails, adopt the various communication channels within Government or the NDC party? What was supposed to be the effect of his public verbal ‘onslaught’? Perhaps if the Majority in Parliament can be more vocal and debate the ever belligerent and bellicose Minority, on their consistent criticisms, the work of the Ministry would have been less cumbersome. MPs must stop ‘eyeing’ cabinet positions and stop ‘attacking’ the Executive instead of the opposition. Indeed, God gave us two eyes, two ears, two nostrils but one mouth to help us as human beings and human institutions to speak with one voice. Though God has given each of us one mouth, we are at liberty to speak several languages and the fact that someone has a style of communication different from ours doesn’t mean that she is dumb. Communication is not about how often or fast you talk but how sensible you sound.

Since her assumption into office, Zita had in collaboration with her Deputies adopted very laudable innovative strategies to reach out to as many people as possible. They have consolidated Governments commitment to the weekly programme dubbed, the ‘meet the press series’. As if that is not enough, they have introduced a mid-week programme dubbed, ‘MATTERS ARISING’ which is televised live on television and on radio at a nationwide coverage. Invitation is thrown to all press houses and the Minister or Deputies address the nation on issues of pertinence which will have timely and relevant value to the nation. The pivotal role the Ministry of Information played during the historic Obama visit can never be underestimated.

Taking cognisance of the fact that, not everyone listens to the radio or read the newspapers, they have in their quest to optimise the scarce resources at their disposal to reach out to lovers of the internet through social networks like ‘facebook’. For Zita to avail herself and the services to interact with people irrespective of their location, stature, interest is an action which requires a feather in her cap. The government official website, www.ghana,gov.gh also provides timely information on government activities and policies. Just last two weeks, a Deputy Minister of Information, Mr. Okudjeto Ablakwa announced an ‘sms’ facility to enable people text information and to request for information from any of the telecommunication networks. She has also hinted that the Ministry is also in talks with the telecommunication companies for the public to elicit information and give information to Government through a toll free number.

Her commitment in reaching out to the ordinary Ghanaians can never be under emphasised. When the premix fuel crisis rocked the nation, she was quick to move with her deputies to the fishing communities to explain things to the fisher folks. Her Ministry has also shown unflinching support to the concept of ‘Town Hall Meeting’ which is an opportune platform for government-public interaction. With no intention to sound prejudicial, it is through her vigilance that the alleged GH¢86,915.85 ( ¢ 869, 158,500.00) scandal during the Asabee tenure at the ministry was revealed and subsequently became a contentious issue in court. May be if such vigilance is employed by all public officials, most scandals would have been uncovered and public officials would be more hesitant in their corruptible and scandalous activities.

These innovative strategies seek to truly fulfil the mission of her Ministry to facilitate a two-way free flow of timely and reliable information and feedback between the Government and its various publics and to assist in the development, co-ordination of policy; to monitor and evaluate the implementation of programmes and activities by the Sectors Agencies. For those critics who think that because you are in Accra and do not hear her speak on your favourite radio station, and therefore conclude that Zita is incompetent, must in their pitiable state shut up since that is a misleading assertion borne out of sheer fallacious premise that because you can’t hear her speak on your favourite station than it means she is not on any station and possibly sleeping. In Philosophy, we call this ludicrous fallacy, an error of generalisation.

If she was always sleeping as people would make it seem, how come she is always in the newspapers or the internet for the good reasons? Let us not forget that Zita is not the “Minister of Information on Radio in the Greater Accra Region”. Are her critics lampooning and lambasting her because she is not disseminating ‘lies’, raving and ranting at opposition members. The “ASABEE SYNDROME” cannot be applicable today. May be, Zita must start calling radio stations and begging for interviews. Or perhaps, she should walk into radio programmes and insist on an interview. Are we aware she has other administrative duties and attends functions for and on behalf of Government where she articulates Government policies.

Zita is that rare politician who has genuinely informed and explained Government policies in a refreshingly lucid language understandable in a common sense. She has on various platforms expressed herself in a non-partisan vocabulary. This fresh and buoyant vocabulary can help eliminate some of the ‘toxins’ that had characterised contemporary political debates and discourse. If all past Information Ministers were as innovative and employed the “ ZITA VOCABULARY” in our body politics, our fragile democracy would have been consolidated in a more civilised environment.

The President promised Ghanaian women about 40% appointment positions, and he cannot bow to self seeking chauvinists like Hon. Afotey Agbo. Zita is performing creditably well and it would hurt the ego of all women if she is sacked. I must concede that no one or generation can choose the age or circumstance in which it is born. To some generations, much is given and others, much is expected. For this Government’s, much is expected and Zita and deputies can deliver. My Dear reader, the Ministry of Information is not a perfect body. We, the citizens are not a perfect people. Yet, we expect that they are called to a perfect mission. Zita is not the perfect servant. She is the servant who has earned the trust of the President. As she develops and serves, be patient: God is not finished with her yet, if those who elected him are not perfect how, on earth, could we claim that she is perfect? She cannot be 100% efficient but I think she has so far exhibited a first class performance. Anyone who thinks she is grossly incompetent cannot be taken seriously and must bow his head in deep shame!!!

Thank you.

By Jay Kuts.

Jaykuts.kuts@gmail.com