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Opinions of Friday, 20 January 2017

Columnist: Salifu, Steve Kubate

Loyalty over competence; a candid review of president Nana Addo’s appointments.

The writer Steve Kubate Salifu The writer Steve Kubate Salifu

NOT POLITICS AS USUAL: Loyalty over competence; a candid review of president nana addo’s appointments.


All over the world loyalty and competence are the two most critical and potent factors political leaders consider before appointing officials to serve in their government after an electoral victory. They are the most critical because a President must first of all have some considerable level of trust and confidence in an individual before considering him for an appointment. Individuals appointed must also exhibit a semblance if not a high degree, capacity and technical know-how in the execution of the task assigned.

Significant as the two factors maybe, one is considered more important than the other depending on the political leader’s beliefs and values. Interestingly, while the two overarching factors may be held as sacred for political appointments. Loyalty in my opinion has increasingly become a more potent factor and more so in our part of the world.

As put forward by Jacob Weisberg “Loyalty is the most overrated virtue in politics”. He may be right since we have increasingly projected loyalty as an indispensable virtue that most political leaders hold sacred in their appointments into public office. The reasons for this recurrent posture is most understandable as most leaders would want to feel secured as they are surrounded by loyalists or perhaps by people who will naturally dance to their tunes.
As a Brands development specialist, I appreciate the staggering reality that brand loyalty is a critical pillar to the growth and sustenance of an organization. Most brands, I must say survives on the back of repeated purchases from its loyal customers rather than the one time purchases from occasional or accidental customers. Loyalty is often seen as the faithful adherence to a sovereign, government, a leader or a cause among others and for the purposes of this analysis I will restrict loyalty to a leader.

On January 12, 2017 President Akuffo Addo brought finality to the appointment of 36 main ministers and 11 top officials at the flagstaff house. This brought into question the caliber of personalities he appointed and the criteria used.
While some may argue that competency was a key benchmark in the selection of his contingents to prosecute his change agenda. A critical analysis of the appointments reveals otherwise. That is not to say the people he appointed are not competent or cannot help him execute the task they set to achieve. This article only sets out to identify the overarching factor in the appointments.
Nana Addo in announcing his ministerial nominees mentioned that “these are individuals he trusted and was confident in their ability to help him improve the various sectors in which they will be serving”. That is a tacit admission that loyalty is key in his appointments not necessarily competence.

Admittedly, most of Nana Addo’s appointees are colleagues from the erstwhile Kufuor administration who have gone the long haul with him in his attempt to capture political power or individuals who have worked at his law firm or have served him over a period or they are bound together by family relations.
This is arguable but it is a staggering reality which points to his prioritization of loyalty over competence. Indeed, a careful review of his appointments so far reveals this trend. The appointment of Ken Ofori- Atta for Finance ministry, Kwesi Amoako-Atta to Roads and Highways, Gloria Akuffo to the ministry of Justice and Attorney General and Nana Asante Bediatuo as Executive Secretary to the President all points to the family-work relationship dichotomy. It may not be entirely a bad thing considering the fact that as family relations they may be naturally predisposed to want his government to succeed and may not be too much interested in sabotaging his government. The only drawback is the gross abuse and non-adherence to the provision of regional balance as spelt out in the 1992 constitution.
The likes of Yaw Osafo Marfo for Senior minister, Chief of staff Frema Opare, Ursula Owusu for Communications and Samuel Atta-Akyea for Works and Housing. All these individuals who are his tribesmen and taking up very strategic portfolios all points to how the new President wants to feel secured in his government and to that extent he rewards them for their loyalty. The danger however with this is the possibility to isolate himself if this posture persists.

An interesting appointment however, is that of Dominic Nitiwul and Ambrose Dery who are all MPs from the North to Mann his security apparatus of Defense and interior respectively. He may have a very special relationship and enjoyed unalloyed loyalty from these individuals to have entrusted security matters into their hands rather than on a mere assumption of competence.

Reviewing the profiles of the Presidents kitchen cabinet also reveals an interesting twist which is a strong pointer for the loyalty argument. Indeed, a careful analysis points to the fact that most of these individuals have worked with him over a long period of time. He has enjoyed their dedicated service over a period spanning 8 years when it was uncertain whether he will become President or not.

Victor Newman, an Economist, Financial and Research Analyst have worked with the President as a Director of Research for his campaign from 2008-2016, a solid 9 years of commitment to the cause. Francis Asenso-Boakye, a Development Planning, Project Management and Policy Specialist now Deputy Chief of Staff and Political Assistant has been a Political Assistant to Nana Addo since 2008. Samuel Abu Jinapor, a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court also now a Deputy Chief of Staff at the Presidency. He is said to have been a close aid since his undergraduate days which obviously spans over an 8year period.

Saratu Atta, a Personal Assistant to the President is also said to have worked with him as Campaign Secretary, Office Manager and Executive Assistant since 2008. Eugene Arhin also served as his Press Secretary since 2014 and has been rewarded with a Director of Communications post at the Flagstaff House.
This major examples clearly points to the staggering reality that our new President obviously wants to be surrounded by people who will do his bidding without hesitation. While rewarding loyalty may not be entirely a bad thing. History of American politics reveals that leaders who fixated on personal allegiance such as Richard Nixon, George W Bush Jnr and Lyndon Johnson among others have performed abysmally in office as compared to the likes of Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan, J.F Kennedy and Bill Clinton who could tolerate strong independent actors on their teams.

The writer Steve Kubate Salifu is a Brands Development specialist with B Branding Solutions, a Branding and Digital Marketing Agency. You can contact him through: