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Opinions of Sunday, 27 September 2009

Columnist: Akyena, Brantuo Benjamin

RE: NDC MP Seeks Zita's Dismissal

(KPONE KATAMANSO MP AND HIS COHORTS MUST END THE HATE CAMPAIGN)

‘NDC MP SEEKS ZITA'S DISMISSAL’, was the caption of a story carried on Joy 99.7 FM ( A private radio station, based in Accra) and repeated on many other Print and Electronic media houses, with no less prominence as was accorded it by the original source of the story. As an important stakeholder of this country, I wish to express a contrary opinion to the views espoused in the said publication since in my view, the case against, is a classical case of giving a dog a bad name and hanging it. Please read the original story via http://news.myjoyonline.com/politics/200909/35400.asp

In the said publication, the honourable Nii Laryea Afotey Agbo, Member of Parliament (MP), for Kpone Katamanso Constituency in the Greater Accra region, accused the Minister Of Information (MOI) for what he calls ‘gross incompetence’. It was the considered opinion of the MP that without any further delay, ‘Mrs Okaikoi must immediately be shown the door’. The honourable Parliamentarian opined that Ghanaians are making ambitious demands on the ‘second coming’ of the NDC administration because the information machine of government has failed to explained the present hostile economic challenges of the citizenry with the dehydrated economy the exiting ‘Elephant party’ bequeathed to the Mills-Mahama led ‘Zuza government.

The MP’s litany of emotionally inspired allegations exposes two things. A betrayal of his limitation as far as the appreciation of the complexities in running government information machinery is concern. Secondly, the statement is the hardest evidence yet, that allegation of internal struggle for turf within the NDC is credible. It is an extension of an internal struggle for power in the media, disguised in all forms of attractive brandings in the name of accountability crusade. The saying is true; when two elephants fight, it is the ground that suffers.

Firstly, playing the ostrich and using the logic of the hon. MP, is it true that the disaffection for this government (if any) is attributable to nothing but the single fact that Ghanaians are ill informed on the legacies of the erstwhile ‘Kukurudu government?

I am wondering how many Ghanaians are not aware of the legacies of the NPP. That in spite of the over US$5.0 billion debt write off enjoyed by the NPP from 2001, the overall national debt as of 2008 was US$7.6 billion. Is it any news that government officials, between the periods of 2000-2008, sold state lands, houses and vehicles to themselves? Who is not aware, that the Ghana @50 celebrations was celebrated at a cost of ¢60,172,251,840? That the foreign affairs ministry was into rice importation leading to a debt of $4,000,000.00. The collapse of all the presidential initiatives is also a legacy of the NPP. It should not be news by now that Kuffour left office-carrying vehicles meant for sitting presidents home. The presidential palace, Asamoah Boateng, the booming drug trade, the spate of arm robbery, etc, are all subjects at various stages of investigations.

In fact, ears of Ghanaians have been so much polluted with the iniquities of the immediate past administration that, it took the combined efforts of the president of the Association of Ghana Industries (AIG), Tony Oteng Gyasi and the Finance Minister, Dr. Kwabena Duffuor, to admonish government of the broader implication of such negative publicity for the corporate image of Ghana.

They were particularly alarmed that this bad press held the potency to wean investor confidence in doing business in Ghana. The rather reckless statement of ‘if the economy is broke fix it’, is predicated on the open expression of frustration by somebody who could not bear hearing again the over trumpeted transgressions of Ex –President Kuffour and his henchmen.

If the afore mentioned is the benchmark for evaluating the government’s communication team, then I dare say they have done an excellent job. But that is not it.

The remit of the government’s information ministry is far broader. It has very serious mandate. Its interest goes beyond feeding the insatiable appetite of some bloodthirsty politician, whose interest is scoring short-term political point even if it causes the nation in the long term. The more we push this debate, the more we give credence to sponsored allegations by the NPP, that the information ministry is a propaganda machine, which has an unholy mandate of vilifying opponents of the government.

The information minister and her two deputies constitute a near perfect team. The team may not be as loud as the erstwhile Asamoah Boateng regime but that is rather its strength than weakness. As the saying goes, the empty barrels make the most noise. It should be obvious by now that the minister and her deputies have varying talents. What is admirable about them is the effective combination of these individual skills to achieve the aim of the ministry. Rather than an obsessed with individual achievements, attention should be fixated on the corporate goal. The work of the newsreader in an Fm station is not better than the cleaner who makes the office ready for the day’s work to commerce; they all achieve the ultimate aim of effective broadcasting.

In today’s world of information, if the government is failing, it will not take the information ministry to paint a hopeful picture, the opposite is true. Hence, those who think the language of the information ministry may not be music to their ears; may want to see if indeed the hymn being sung by the government is not offbeat.

Frustrations should be directed to the appropriate offices rather than venting them on those who can conveniently be bullied. As they say, bullies are generally cowards. If the government is not performing, it should not be difficult to point that out. Is it?

One can understand the plight of the frustrated graduate who cannot get a job after school. It is equally sympathetic that many in this country go to bed hungry. It is also sad that so many Ghanaians lack in basic facilities such as healthcare, accommodation, and the likes. But, that cannot be the fault of the information ministry, who has failed to direct the people to the oasis where they can find respite for their souls.

Perhaps people find it unacceptable, the occasional contradictions in government information dissemination, if that is the concern, then our anger is better directed not at Zita but the president, who appointed a minister of information plus two deputies in addition to government spokes person and head of communication at the castle- who is lauder than the four other speakers combine.

Secondly, to hit the nail on the head, I posit that, rather than inefficiencies and incompetence, Zita like many other ‘later days saints’ of the NDC, currently in positions of influence, are victims of a targeted hate campaigned. The aim is to prove at all cost how wrong the president has been from the very on set, to have preferred newcomers in the NDC, to so-called ‘party loyalist’, who traces their allegiance to the NDC from the era of the PNDC.

These ‘NDC old guns’ inundate Ghanaians with mantras of their sacrifices to the party. They never miss an opportunity to talk of the atrocities meted out to them during their time in opposition. Hence, they find it repugnant that when NDC finally arrived in ‘Canaan’- the moment of enjoyment, the party finds it fit to reward persons who were nowhere to be seen when the battle was at its peak. After unsuccessful ‘behind the doors settlement’, the battle has been taken to the media but with a touch of sophistication.

The dirty and naked struggle for power within the NDC has been packaged and branded under all forms of guises that appears as if it were an issue of national concern. However, Ghanaians must not buy a pig in a poke

Talks of accountability, of government having mediocre ministers, talks of the government being slow etc, must be known for what it is and placed in their proper context- creating public disaffection for the persons and works of ministers who are perceived to be ripping where they have not sowed. What is going on can only get worse, the battle may take various forms and sophistication but it will not stop until people who think the NDC is for them or have worked for their positions are compensated with positions of influence meriting the size of their ego. As if political appointment has become a trophy overnight.

The comments of the Kpone katamanso PM, is a huge scandal. He is not alone. In fact, it is part of a coordinated effort with huge influential personalities in the party and conspirators in the media. These isolated statements will ultimately fit into a perfect picture.

Hon. Spio Garbrah writing for the Daily Graphic could not hide his anger and intension ,when he remarked on the tussle in the NDC arising out of ministerial appointments ‘one can sense the recipe for increasing confrontation and conflict within the party (NDC) unless the Mills-Mahama government can move much faster to heal festering wounds’ (Daily Graphic Sept. 18 2009).

Hon. Spio Gabriel like the Kpone Katamanso PM, are hiding under the cloth of national interest and the concerns of the masses to pursue their private interest. He writes inter alia. ‘...large segment of the public have been asking on radio stations why the government may have chosen to field some players from its team B when many team A players are available and are not playing’?

He further adds ‘the concerns being expressed by Ghanaian citizens are like those of spectators at the national football field of development who are aware that the NDC has some Adebayors, Ronaldinos, and Didier Drobgbas who are available but who for some curious reasons are not currently being fielded in the game of development. ‘ So rather than the government asking Ghanaians for more time, spectators feel that the right answer is rather for the coach and the team manager to field the right players.’ ‘Many have been appointed not on the basis of merit but by virtue of their proximity to power, blind loyalty and monetary considerations.’ He posited.

Assuming Mr Spio Gabriel is a Minister of State, will he have said his political appointment was made base on blind loyalty or monetary considerations? Were he to be in power, will he have suggested that the failure of the party to deliver on its campaign promises is because he is in government and somebody else was not? Why do some people in the NDC think political appoints are their birthrights and once they are not running the government anybody doing so is bound to fail? What Spio and co. must know is that ‘everything comes to those who wait.

Perhaps it is time to re-evaluate the failures of this administration, if any, beyond personalities. What is the tactical strategy of the NDC as a government, which is supposed to be implemented by its staff? Because if the tactical strategy of the government is faulty and the direction is not clear-cut, does it matter who functions in what position? As they say, it does not matter how fast one runs on the wrong track.

Rather than focusing on the personality hunt, we should be busy with whether or not the current strategy has the capacity to let inflation drop, provide job for the many frustrated graduates and make Ghana an industrial hub in the sub region. We must not be consumed or be blindly drawn into this in house pertinence and and needless struggle for power, which only satisfy those pushing it but fails to resolve the present economic puzzle we are saddled with.

A possible re-alignment of the government advocated by the majority leader and also hinted by the president is welcomed but we will only rob Peter to pay Paul if the focus is not on strategy but merely changing Zita and bringing in God knows who?

In conclusion, may I express my regret at the manner in which some influential personalities and broadcasting houses have swallowed the bait and allowed themselves to be used as agents to perpetuate this selfish agenda as if it was part of the national interest? A single example in this regard may suffice.

I thought initially that it was an expensive joke by the decorated Joy Fm comedian from Eskado- Ato Kwamena Dadzie, when he launched his vilest of personal attacks and insults ever against the minister of information when her name came up as a government nominee designate for that portfolio. I was wrong. Though Ato over the years has proven beyond doubt how naturally gifted, he is, particularly in finding humour in the most serious of events, his vilification and hate campaign against Hon. Zita was certainly not one of his collections of humorous activities. What mesmerized me was the fact that Ato openly denigrate the information minister on air during his time on the morning show. Sometimes his colleagues, whom I so much regard, join to have a good laugh at the malady of the minister. A cursory search on myjoyonline.com will attest to the unimpeded access Ato has been granted by his employers to defame the character of the information minister. As they say, it is easier to pull down than to build. I have been for accountability all my life and a mere googling of my name will indeed suggest that at a tender age I have been very busy. But accountability is guided by rules and people who hold others accountable must have a bases to do so. Immediately Madam Zita’s name came up for appointment, Ato was already raising objections. As they say, zeal without knowledge is like a runaway horse. His objections was not because the brilliant lawyer was not qualified for the job or did not deserve it but simply because he Ato did not like the way the women spoke when she was reacting to news of her nomination. Hence, Ato got busy as early as February 04 2009, even before the woman could go to the appointment committee for endorsement, Ato writing for Joy Fm under the caption, Zita Zapped. He states ‘..If President Mills had taken just a few moments to talk with Mrs. Okaikoi, he would have realised that she isn’t ready even for the position of special assistant to the deputy Minister for Women and Children Affairs – much less the hot seat of information minister. I really feel sorry for her. I can only hope that President Mills realises soon enough that Zita was a mistake and pulls her out as soon as possible’ When he failed to get the president to drop her name as a nominee Ato is unshaken in his resolve to make sure that this minister does not succeed. Hence, he writes again, ‘The real test, however, will be when she takes office. That’s when I expect her inexperience to cost her the job within six months – no more!’(18 February 2009. Nomination Hearing - Zita Okaikoi & George Sipa-Yankey) However, Ato was wrong; the minister stays beyond his predicted six months. In a more desperate tone, he writes again, ‘For the past six months or so, Zita has been information minister in all but name’. In fact, he recently described the officers of the government as being of airheads (empty in the head-nothing more nothing less). How bad can it get? This is a journalist not a social commentator or a political opponent. Simple, the internal struggle in the NDC has external collaborators.

Sleeping dogs must be left to lie. I can almost feel the pain and emotional disturbance people who feel they must be government officials due to the priceless contribution to the party may be going through. The bitterness can only be natural and obvious. The truth is that running a government is not a thanks-giving service. Persons operating the administration are selected base on the ability of the executive president to use those he selects to achieve his stated objectives for the country. I think even if the government wants in good faith to work with all the NDC members, he is constrained both constitutionally and in terms of capacity. My humble appeal to leading members of the NDC is to give their own government the breathing space to perform. Finding all manner of disguised excuses to detract hard working ministers, may satisfy their selfish interest but the truth is that the accumulated damage will be a daunting task if the NDC is relishing hopes of running this country in 2012. Need I remind anybody that Akuffo Addo did not come to Accra just to admire the beauty of the sea? Everyone can find a fault, few can do better and the greatest fault is the fault of finding faults.

AKYENA BRANTUO BENJAMIN

DIRECTOR- THE NEXT GENERATION YOUTH LEAGUE (NGYL) International Former President-Commonwealth Hall, University of Ghana, Legon

Cel. +233244825187 E-mail benakyena@yahoo.com www.Nextgenerationyouthleague.blogspot.com