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Opinions of Friday, 30 January 2009

Columnist: Ato Kwamena Dadzie

Mills' appointments and disappointments

President John Mills doesn’t seem to be in a mood to create any job for the boys. This is exemplified in his decision to scrap four ministries created by his predecessor. With such a bold move, the president is well on his way to keeping his campaign promise of running a lean and mean government. That’s a good start and I am very much impressed.

But I am a wee bit disappointed that the president decided to maintain a ministry like the one for Chieftaincy and Culture. They do nothing there. They are not ‘promoting’ any culture and they are not helping in any way to make chieftaincy relevant to our existence.

I once heard S. K. Boafo rambling incoherently in bid to define his role as Minister for Chieftaincy and Culture. He had no clue. I am sure the president himself will be hard pressed to justify the existence of that ministry. But political expediency and sheer populism makes it almost impossible to scrap this ministry. If the president dares scrap it, he would come under an avalanche of criticism from chiefs and cultural crusaders. So I understand why he wants to keep the Ministry Chieftaincy and Culture. I look forward to hearing what the nominee for chieftaincy and culture, Alexander Asuom Ahinsa, will say at his nomination hearing about what he perceives his role to be.

I also wonder why we still need a Ministry for Women and Children Affairs. I am all in favour of women empowerment and gender equality. But I don’t think the best way to achieve this is to create a special ministry just for women and children. The best way to go about this is to do exactly what the president has promised he would do – make sure that women are appointed to fill at least 40 percent of vacancies in the public service and civil service. This means we should see more women as ministers and chief directors. There would also be women at the helm of various departments and agencies. If we have a leader committed to ensuring that women have equal opportunities as men to prove their worth in public service, we don’t need a whole ministry for women. At best, I think we should have a women’s department under the ministry of Employment and Social Welfare.

President Mills also needs to be commended for having the wisdom to merge Kufuor’s Ministry of Aviation and Ministry of Ports, Harbours and Railways under one ministry – Transport. But I am still wondering why there is a separate ministry for Roads and Highways. I hear the Roads and Highways Ministry generates sack loads of kickbacks and so they need a whole ministry to manage them. Whatever the case may be, I think Roads and Highways can conveniently be placed under the Transport Ministry as well. My teachers at Essikado Bethany Methodist taught me that ships, trains, aeroplanes and cars are all modes of transport. I suppose the president went to a better school and since he has also climbed higher on the educational ladder, I will grant him the benefit of the doubt and assume that Roads and Highways cannot be part of the Transport Ministry.

I am also quite disappointed that instead of breaking with the past, the president appointed two ‘ministers of state at the presidency’. They are going to be high-ranking government officials with ill-defined roles who will be hanging around the presidency, having fun and getting ministerial wages and perks. One of them is a member of the People’s National Convention and this, I presume, is one of the tokens to the “inclusive” government the president promised to run. But we do not need presidential hangers-on and I pray the ministers at the presidency lose their jobs in the not-too distant future.

On the subject of an “inclusive” government, it is commendable that the president has nominated someone from outside his party to handle the key ministry of finance. Kwabena Dufuor may not exactly be considered an outsider because he served as the governor of the Bank of Ghana while Mills was vice president of the republic. But he belongs to a different party and bringing him back at this time to run the economy is a good start in the quest to form an “inclusive” government.

However, if the president is serious about running an “inclusive” government, he should do well to go beyond tokens like the one he’s given the PNC – ‘minister at the presidency’. How about offering some deputy ministerial positions to members of the NPP? This will be one of the best indications that we have a government that is truly “inclusive”. I know it’s too much to ask but it may be one of the best ways of reconciling the country – which, I believe, is one of the objectives the president has set himself.

All in all, I think the president has made a good ‘first selection’. I like the fact that he has a good number of women in the ‘squad’. Betty Mould-Iddrisu’s nomination as Attorney General, for example, gladdens my heart in so many different ways – as does Hanna Tetteh’s appointment as Trade Minister. It’s also very good that the president did his best to bring in some new faces. He also appears to have made it a point to include some very youthful guys (and gals) in his team. Now, there is going to be a ‘youth’ in charge of the Ministry of Youth and Sports. And that is good. I have no doubt that Haruna Iddrisu will make the young people of this country proud with his performance at the Ministry of Communications.

It is very curious, however, that President Mills kept out a man like Ekwow Spio-Garbrah. I am told he dangled the Foreign Affairs portfolio in front of him but withdrew it at the last moment. Hopefully, there is no bad blood between them and I am looking forward to seeing Spio-Garbrah serve in the Mills administration someday. He’s a good man.

It’s also very surprising that Alex Segbefia is not in Mills’ team. He was Mills’ campaign co-ordinator and right after the election, he was named secretary to the NDC transition team. There were suggestions that he was being considered for the position of chief of staff. He didn’t get that job and it baffles me that he doesn’t have a ministerial portfolio. I am surprised (and a bit disappointed) but the president knows best. The fact that President Mills has not appointed Segbefia (one of his closest and most trusted aides) as a minister of state could also be an indication of his determination to refrain from creating jobs for his boys. That’s a good sign. Let’s hope he doesn’t change his mind.

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Email: ato@atokd.com