Feature Article of Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Columnist: Schandorf, Sidney Laud

If I succeed - 110 ministers and more!

By: Schandorf, Sidney Laud

In cities across Ghana, the President’s last announcement which names more ministers and brings the total to 110 has generated a lot of debate and furore. While party pundits busily defy logical reasoning to justify the action, the opposition, in a classical political maneuver, is demonizing the President. When Nana Akufo-Addo said he was in a “hurry,” who would have thought he was in a hurry to gain a new spot in the Guinness book of world records for having the highest number of ministers in Ghana’s history? In typical fashion, the jocose Ghanaians were at it:

“Dial *110#. Congratulations, you’re now a deputy minister!”
“In 2007, NPP was in power and Ghana was 50 years. In 2017, NPP is in power and Ghana is 60 years. 50 +60 =110 Any wonder?”

While I enjoyed the humour of the anecdotes that flooded WhatsApp and other social media, I was also horrified and aghast that this could be happening. When the President said he would guard the public purse, I mistakenly assumed he would do what most CEOs do, make hiring decisions with great circumspection and reducing operating expenditure (OPEX). Alas, time would prove me wrong (or well right).

Coming events, they say, cast their shadows. A few weeks ago when the President chose six additional ministers, we were told that it didn’t matter because they would be stationed at the Presidency. Sire, it does not matter if they were basking in the sun at Pwalungu, cruising on the Nzulenzu or minding their business in Ho Dome eating “ad)de”, they would need to be paid and have a retinue to do their bidding. Unless they were going to be working alone and for free, their location doesn’t change the fact that additional money will have to be spent. Of course those with jaded eyesight told us to stop being petty. Are you surprised then that the pattern has continued and escalated to 110? I am not.

As a citizen and not a spectator, I grappled with whether to write anything about this or just “play the ostrich.” Needless to say, I chose the former and here are some thoughts on why I think what is being done is potentially calamitous. Never mind if I plagiarized, even the speechwriters didn’t know who to attribute to and this isn’t a grad school paper. Let’s stay focused.

First, the ruling government and its pundits wrongly assume that because people have not been Presidents before, it invalidates any criticisms they make. It is easy when you are vested to assume that you have all the answers and that others are simply not “getting with the programme.” A redacted example suffices: A few years ago there was a large Ghanaian company contemplating a major decision that impacted how it would operate-they would be entering a long-term partnership with a vendor. Junior staff and their union appealed to management to reconsider their decision as their own experience with such arrangements showed that they were more detrimental than beneficial. In the same dismissive fashion that is characterizing this government, their counsel was not heeded on various grounds. To summarize, the leadership rues that decision till today and has spent much more to fix the problems this has created. The Akans have a proverb that I still don’t understand. I hope it’s applicable: “y? tu wo fu aa na wo posa.”

There is a pattern that is emerging that is related to the first point made: the government is emerging as one that does not listen. Some time ago Nana Akufo-Addo went on a “listening tour” around the country as he canvassed for votes in a bid for the Presidency. Who would think that so early in his tenure, he would be defiant in his defense of his actions? Oh wait maybe listening didn’t do the trick in 2012 hence the change in posture? Anyway as one “leader” in the business world commented, when you’ve started your own company, you can advise me. I guess it’s a case of Biblical myopia where people remembered John 3:16 but not Proverbs 15:22 “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

My second point is linked to the idea being touted that the end will justify the means. Mark Nana’s words, “IF I succeed…” (deliberate emphasis). I struggled to pass English so forgive me if I am making a mountain out of a molehill. That word speaks volumes. He said “IF” not “WHEN.” I will leave your mind to do the literary analysis. Let me return to the main point. For the first time in my life, I am hearing the expression, “more with more.”

I’ll admit that I am not a management guru and will thus be open to learning this “more with more” management paradigm. I have free funding for some students willing to do a PhD Thesis on this. Email me please: change@morewithmore.com It such useless novelty that I find most troubling. We seem to be smarter than the management gurus. In nearly a decade of being in the corporate world, not once have I heard “more with more” or seen a CEO willing to spend more for the sake of it. Most of us will recall how banks and other organizations over the last couple of years have laid off our friends, family and acquaintances in the name of being more efficient. The buzz word today is “lean;” doing more with LESS. What then is “more with more?”

I will resist the urge to agree with people who have said “more with more” is synonymous with “job for the boys.” Oh silly me; Nana is such a saint he would not descend to these kind of things which John Mahama was hailed to be a world expert in and for which there was condign resounding electoral loss. I am impressed with the way a friend analyzed this: if Mahama and his cronies were deemed incompetent and required fewer hands, wouldn’t the team of competent people require fewer hands and time? Maybe it’s rocket science and my father didn’t teach me enough physics although he lived and researched it everyday . Ah well, Nana has rocket scientists so we have nothing to worry about.

We see this penchant for new and more in things like the call for a new examination body or for four new regions. The principles of project/programme management which I practise daily require me to ask the question, what is the business case for these new bodies and regions? Methinks campaign promises are proving to be a sufficient business case (spare parts anyone?) I would like to see our President follow the well-researched examples of more with less rather than try to invent a new management paradigm that in all likelihood will fail.

Spectators, nay citizens, we do not need to wait four years but I guess we will have to. Even “if” he succeeds, which I hope he will for Ghana’s sake, the end does not justify the means. If the public kitty is truly in the red thanks to Bro John and his disciples, it is only reasonable to expect that our President will do less with more so he can bequeath green books to the next generation of leaders or well to his next term. It’s either someone isn’t being truthful about the state of the public purse or someone isn’t guarding it. Well when change comes you will have to ask what guard means. After all in pidgin English “baaad” tends to mean “good.”

Finally, the future of Ghana is much larger than any party, person or president. I wrote about the euphoria that attended #changehascome in a poem here. For Ghana to arrive where we want it to be, it will take the efforts of more than Nana Addo. In life, we either build on the foundations of others or build foundations for others and in most cases, we do both. Admittedly, the last John who ushered in the “saviour” may have failed on many points but was he so completely vile that we cannot find a few things he did right? Thanks to democracy, Nana, as an individual, cannot be in power ad infinitum. Whether the NPP continues on for 16 years as I’ve heard it rumoured or the NDC returns (Papa Kwesi don’t stress yourself), we need policies, controls and structures that outlast politicians and their whims. We need to safeguard the future of our children from thought experiments turned real that may prove a waste of time. Aside that we need to continue to express our opinions and have realistic expectations of what a government can and cannot attain in 4 years.

Nana is only still a few months in and it is my hope that these are settling pangs and that with time he will begin to listen and make course corrections. While I hope that he changes, I throw you a citizen’s challenge: Aside voting for change in December, what changes have you made to your own life and conduct to leading Ghana where you’d have it be.? I leave you with this verse:

Beyond the sound of celebration,
A people who have abdicated,
Conscience with integrity vacated,
By meaningless platitudes placated,
And by promises people elected.
The people who chant change,
Adamant, unwilling to change,
Those harmonious cries,
The gory truth belies,
Change has truly not come,
Till change is born in me!

Long live the 110. Long live Nana Akufo-Addo. Long live Ghana.