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Opinions of Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Columnist: Lawyer Nana Oppong

Open Letter to the President: AIS kills government’s agenda

Lawyer Nana Oppong Lawyer Nana Oppong

His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo
The President of the Republic of Ghana
The Jubilee House

Your Excellency,

In the name of the Most High God and in humility and with the greatest respect,

“AIS kills government’s agenda”

I feel compelled by a sense of duty to bring the following to your attention and for that matter, to the notice of my fellow Ghanaians. The ability of any government to succeed in the achievement of its programs depends on a number of critical factors, one of which is the capacity of government-appointees, including ministers, executives, advisors, inspectors, directors, secretaries, assistants and many more (hereinafter referred to as “the governors”), to competently carry out their respective tasks within stated time-frames and within allocated resources. Mr. President, competence is relative to context and to the competition. The more competent the governors are, the more successful the government would be in achieving its goals. Unfortunately Mr. President, most if not all Ghanaians, fall victim at one point or another to “AIS”. AIS is short Acquired Incompetency Syndrome. It is a disease that significantly reduces our competencies and productivity and that make us incapable of completing assigned tasks efficiently, effectively and on time.

Mr. President, AIS is caused by four factors that combine to frustrate, weaken, distract and to significantly reduce the productivity of the average professional Ghanaian across all sectors of the country. Mr. President, the four factors that I would discuss briefly below are:

Daily Disappointments

Heavy Burdens

Disconnected Professionals

Frequent Illnesses

Daily Disappointments

Mr. President, what every one of us faces daily in Ghana in our encounters with our brethren are: breaches of promises, failure to perform, breach of duty of care, breaches of reliance, deception and countless misrepresentations. Expected moneys, expected help, expected solutions to often critical problems, don’t come. “Expect to be disappointed” is a rule that rings true in our normal dealings with our fellow countrymen. We are used to being lied to or being disappointed. Those who are disappointed by others, also disappoint others. This leads to a chain of disappointments that end in the failure of the person to perform his duties or to fulfill his obligations to others. On the whole, people’s words -especially when it comes to money- are for the most part, unreliable. Those who wake up at dawn are apt to have their heavy share of disappointments and resulting frustrations by noon. Remarkably Mr. President, these disappointments cut across all facets of life such that they do not exempt dispute-resolution mechanisms set up to assist towards amelioration of disappointments and for providing justice, reliefs etc. It is often with a disappointed and frustrated mind that the professional comes to work and continues throughout the day.

Mr. President, being frustrated is obviously a negative for productivity, regardless of the qualifications and seriousness of the person. We are “dragged down” by lying and untrustworthy ‘cultures’ surrounding us. The problem is that disappointments and frustrations have a net systems’ effect beyond individual’s qualities. All the professionals working for the government are required to do so in coordination with others and in a timely and measured manner towards the achievement of the government’s agenda.

They must behave much like runners in exchange of batons in competitive relays. Frustration of one leading to failure to perform, leads to frustration of the next leading to further failure of the person to perform. A culture of frustrated appointees has a domino effect that makes successful task completion for any given ministry or department of government, a grave challenge. In the short run Mr. President, not much can be done to significantly reduce the epidemic of disappointments. The brevity of this letter does not permit me to discuss the solutions at length. With a few exceptions, we are all frustrated daily. Now Mr. President, a frustrated man, is a distracted man. Whatever his qualifications may, he cannot give of his best. This is why most of us under perform daily and would continue to under perform.

Disconnected professionals

Mr. President, the complexity and the variety of professional and scientific inputs that define and ensure correct, rational and operational decision-making cannot be handled by individuals or disconnected groups acting alone. To be successful in achieving the government’s agenda, there must be timely, planned and learned collaborations between professionals and groups of professionals linked together by their disciplines for the pursuit of a clear, achievable, lawful and shared agenda.

Without the shared map, the digests, the specialized inputs, the timely feedback and sequencing of tasks, in vain does the so-called ministry or department of Government operate. Unfortunately Mr. President, tribalism, municipalism, ‘partyism’, ‘greedism’, favoritism and a host of divisive factors operate to prevent effective and efficient collaboration between professionals whose cooperation is necessary for the successful completion of the government’s agenda.

Many people do what they like and justify it on a thousand and one grounds that add nothing to the fact that they need to work with others in order for the government to succeed. The result is that the government programs are often misunderstood, misinterpreted and mishandled. With a few exceptions the government’s projects would be incapable of being completed properly or within allocated resources and time. Everybody does he deems fit according to his learning or narrow perspectives. Unfortunately, by the laws of probability, outputs of uncoordinated actors do not converge automatically but oppose, collide or frustrate each at some point in time.

Furthermore, Mr. President, weak collaborations make the government’s team relatively uncompetitive vis a vis teams from other countries. As the capacity of the player reflects the capacity of the team, the average Ghanaian decision-maker is no match for his foreign counterpart. This impedes the ability of Government to pursue and to obtain favorable terms of development. The competition is tough but our team is weak.

Heavy burdens

Those who make it to the top in Ghana face daily phone calls, unavoidable visits and high-pressured demands for money and for help to get jobs for relatives from extended families as well as from neighbours, friends, staff, tribesmen and so many other people. By the top Mr. President, I am not referring to those who land jobs as ministers or chief executive only. The term is relative. Any one who completes school and lands a job working for the government or other established institutions, in the cities would often be described by the less fortunate rich or as a “big” man. No doubt, a kind-hearted big man who cannot say no to the countless requests, would become poorer and poorer because the daily demand for support and for cash from a large number of people can definitely overwhelm even the richest Ghanaian. On the other hand, should the so-called big man fail or refuse to give money or to help as demanded, he risks being insulted, branded wicked and even cursed. There is thus a heavy dose of daily social pressure and resulting stresses on government-appointees that add to the frustrations negatively affecting performance.

Frequent illness

Mr. President, persistent poor sanitation practices across the country and poor health care education coupled with challenged access for the greater number of citizens, team up with mosquitoes; flies ancient and updated viruses to make us fall sick too often. A small “bite”, a sip or even an innocent interaction at a solemn customary event could usher in a dangerous disease that inflicts untold misery and suffering on the person. We are always falling sick. Hardly a month passes by without our taking in herbs or medications for this and that ailment or condition. We get sick more often than people in other places. That probably explains our shorter life spans compared to those in so-called advanced countries.

Conclusion & the way forward

Mr. President, because of the foregoing problems, when it is midday GMT, it is truly six pm in Ghana. We often go to work frustrated. Our work-teams are weak and often dysfunctional. We are overburdened. We are sick. We are tired in the morning. Not surprisingly, we work behind schedule and we are relatively uncompetitive. Mr. President, every professional in Ghana at some point or another suffers from AIS. This has great implications for the government’s agenda. The government’s work would not be done on time and it would not be done within allocated times and resources. The problem is that the negative effects of AIS on productivity cannot be resolved by hiring more committed or more qualified personnel.

This is not a bribery and corruption problem. The problem is not about individual characteristics. Everyone succumbs to AIS at one time or another. This is not a matter of strong-will versus weakness. Systemic problems require systemic solutions. Mr. President, the problems described are impersonal. They cannot be resolved within the short period. To reduce or even destroy AIS would require quality, continuous, patriotic, educational, cultural, legal and institutional reforms against the disease in the country.

In the meantime Mr. President, government must look into the wise use of supporting technologies with applications that do not and cannot suffer from AIS, as aids to the government’s agenda. There must well-planned and well-resourced retraining and reorienting of all government appointees and the restructuring of institutions and job specifications to create and to ensure sustainable and competitive teams.

Knowing that almost everyone is delivering less than required because of AIDS, the perks and other financial rewards of certain government appointees may be reduced so that savings from same could be used to hire less paid but more energetic and more technologically savvy assistants for critical jobs. Everybody must take good care of their health and must do his or her best to fight AIS. Mr. President, the government of Ghana must really study AIS and fight it till it is no more a serious concern in Ghana.

I am grateful for your taking the time to read this. May the great God bless you and your good men. May the mighty God bless our dear mother Ghana. Peace!!!


Nana Oppong
President of the Distinguished Scholars of Africa