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Opinions of Monday, 16 October 2006

Columnist: Bannerman, Nii Lantey Okunka

Teamwork, Merit And Discipline: Values That Make A Huge Difference

Ghana’s success at the world cup games was blisteringly glittering! We saw in our team, pride, teamwork, hard work, determination and discipline. Coach Doya, based on his own observation and experience, fielded those that he thought could get the job done. For once, we did not have politicians or GFA officials demanding that their pet players be fielded even when they were not in game shape. The latter has caused the downfall of several promising players who saw themselves as prima donnas, when in fact their careers were being wrecked recklessly. You know, for a country to be dubbed the Brazil of Africa in the annals of soccer, yet not make it to the world cup until recently, requires a full-scale rigorous study. I will not be surprised if it turns out that, like most things in Ghana, the lack of discipline and merit based management is what has kept us off the world scene. Some may say but we did well on the African plane. Well, fine, but most African countries do not managed their teams better than we did in the past. Those that made it to the world scene did not do as well as we’ve done. Actually, we should have our own strong local league that keeps our players in Africa instead of Europe and elsewhere. Look at the size of Africa and tell me why we can’t have an ongoing integrated soccer league. Do we not see the same in the area of trade? Who are you going to blame this time?

I will be totally naïve to assume that coach Doya did not feel outside heat in fielding some players. Even so, these players deserve to be there to start with. Even where public opinion seem to have helped some players, Doya was eventually proved right. I believe his choices were based on merit. So for consistency, merit was at play all the time. The continued success of the Black Stars recently, they beat Japan and South Korea, is testament to what happens when the right system and mindset is in place. Even though some may at least share the recent success between the previous and current coach, I will perhaps inordinately heap the credit on Doya. The key lesson from this achievement is that if you put a good system in place, with the right management, it will function seamlessly even if you are not in attendance. I pour libation that our politicians and so-called leaders will draw some lessons from this situation. Instead of looking outside for answers to our problems, maybe they should benchmark the success of the Black Star and apply the lessons learned. In the end, it will distill down to the solid foundations that we put in place not these nine days wonders based on puffed up promises that cannot be actualized nor sustained. For once, we have success in our midst that can be replicated.

When I look at the Black Stars, a fine performing machine, I do not see a single soul that was called to play for the team based on tribe, genetics or bloodline. None! Yet all the players belong a tribe right? Can we say the same for the people who work for us at high and low places? Most of these players who ply their trade overseas know that they earn their millions based purely on merit. If they don’t perform, they will be surgically removed like a menacing wart located at the most public area on one’s body. If the goal is to perform at an agreed level that brings success to the team, why must anything other than merit apply? Should one’s ability, skills, and knowledge not determine what position he or she functionally occupies? Should this not be the ideal? Can we as Ghanaians, take a lesson from our Black Stars? I am certain that most of these players, when hired by teams overseas, are told (and in writing too) specifically about their job requirements. Indeed, we know also that their performance is linked to pay and incentives. This is what defines their success or failure. So and again, why can’t we adopt these success measures if we know, see and smell that it works? What it is that has made cavernous, our knowing and doing gap? Why do we shy away from known success levers that work like magic?

If soccer players have clearly defined job expectations, why can’t we have the same for our leaders? I mean, why is it that when it comes to the most serious things in our lives, we make fools of ourselves? Here we have our leaders roaming free without any clearly defined expectations yet soccer players have job expectations? Take these chiefs for example, can anyone show us, in written form, what their job expectations are? Did they earn their position on merit? Who defines job expectation for them? Who reviews to make sure that expectations are met? Where in the world is anyone given a job for life because his or her forefathers excelled some decades ago? Please don’t tell me about developed countries and their modified monarchies. Where is the accountability that a merit based system requires? This I might add, goes for most public officials and politicians in Ghana too. Our idea of leadership and the expectations of its concomitant followership are totally rotten. The leadership bar is not low but totally broken. The latter is so rancid that even when leaders reluctantly and belatedly do what is expected of them, some, perhaps seeking to advance their own selfish goals, heap gilded praises where it is not merited. Surely a fish can never grow bigger than the bowl that holds it and I am not the least bit surprised at this level of entomological reasoning. Leaders demand respect for themselves personally and additionally, for the authority that they wield. Yet, have they ever delivered? Why don’t they demand respect for delivering to the people for a change? Note that delivery is an expectation of leadership not some obese luxury as some cognitive misers may want us to believe.

One of the key factors that I believe accounts for the huge success of the Black Stars is teamwork. Yes, soccer is a team sport but teamwork is not guaranteed in any team activity. It takes effort, leadership and a clearly defined plan to bring such to fruition. When I was in Ghana during the recent world Cup games, someone remarked that the current version of the Black Stars are not the best we’ve had talent wise. That got my scalp tingling for a moment. Indeed, soccer connoisseurs will tell you that we did not have any viable strikers to put the fear of Gods in opposing goalkeepers and that is what did us in eventually. I am sure our team had other weaknesses too. Despite the latter, we still did and continue to do well relatively. To continue his fine analysis, this same individual, concluded that we did well because this is the best teamwork he has seen from the Black Stars since their inception. Even though such subjective observations are hard to prove scientifically, I tend to agree wholly with this armchair analyst. You see, flawless teamwork has the ability to make ordinary folks look like worker ants when it comes to producing results. The analyst maintained that the Abedi Pele-Tony Yeboah squad was perhaps much more talented but had too much bickering and prattle to deal with. This wayside analyst ought to be teaching the class on teamwork in our top universities. Sometimes gems are found when and where you least expect them.

So armed with good teamwork and I must say this, discipline, the Stars persevered. For the first time in a long time, the Stars had harmony in camp and it appeared as if everyone knew and accepted his role. These are some of the fine and positive attributes of teamwork. In effect, it was not an aggregate sum but the synergistic whole. If and when the Stars lost, it was the whole team that lost, not any particular individual that caused it. For example, while the fans continued their love hate relationship with Kufour for his mishap, not a pip came out of the players. I never once saw any player blaming the other. And they are all from different tribes? Wow! While this miracle was unfolding on the world scene, Ghanaians at home came together like I have never seen before. You could just see the spirit of oneness at a fiendish pitch. I was in Ghana then so no one can tell me otherwise. To watch the flag draped cars of Ghanaians is to humbly admit that if we ever get rid of aberrant tribal divisiveness, and opt for national unity, pinned on flawless teamwork, the sky is the limit.

To see the spirit of oneness unfold right before my eyes made me realize the lost opportunities that our past and present leaders continue to deny us in the name of politics and tribe. This is why we must condemn in no uncertain terms, leaders who continue to play the tribe card in order to further their political ambitions and that of their minions. Indeed, it is a sin to continue this torrid tribal agenda while people die needlessly of need and want for the simplest things in life. BTW has this government built on the goodwill that was garnered during the world cup? Are we back to square one? Fleeting illusion huh?

Often, though not common in Africa, leaders are able to wow us with well laid out plans and programs linked to a vision. However, what we don’t ask and require of them, are the intangibles. For example, how can a leader, with the best plans on earth, assure you or me about building teamwork in a multi-ethnic environment like ours? The baffling aspect of this conundrum is that we need all hands on deck. There is so much work to be done. This means that no one, I mean no one is dispensable. So why can’t our leaders glean this message and work to foster unity? Tribalism and cronyism never built a country. Ethnic dominance will never build Ghana. Instead, the latter will wreck it. What Ghana needs now is not the tribe with the most muscle but people with ideas to move the whole nation forward. Brains my friends not brawn! We must never fall for useless tribal tiffs that did us no good in the past and will not improve the lives of our folks. Let us say no in so many ways to these tribal antagonist who retail fears and lies. It is only by confronting the nearest tribalist to you that this scourge may take a nosedive. It is only weak minds and people who lack self-confidence who resort to tribalism. If you are confident and know what you can contribute, you don’t need to whip up tribal frenzy to get the job done. To those of you at home, let your tribesmen tell you the truth about their experience in the West. You either produce or go home! They’ve not gained a dollop because of what tribe they belong to in the West.

My friends, the saying that every group of people deserve the leadership that they get may well be true in our case. It is the followership Anyemimei! Note that the most powerful tool in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed. The worst enemies of our people are folks who defend mediocrity and justify the most asinine gyrations of these mousy tribalists. They sing praises to those who seek to divide or remind us of our divisive past. They assume erroneously that unity of purpose only works for their tribe but has no place at the national level. So to unite nationally against a scourge is easily misconstrue as an attack on a tribe. They delude themselves that we are at our worst when we come together as a country and at our best when we chant empty tribal slogans only to return to our deprived and horrible state.

To move forward, we must find ways to minimize the influence of these confusionists. We must take them on everywhere they rare their ugly heads. Strength lies in numbers and we are strong nationally than we are tribally. Ghana must not fall for the sum of the parts games but instead, the synergistic whole. So, from the sacred banks of the Subin river, to the rich grasslands of the North, to the shiny sea of Accra, let us strive to unite our country with a single focus. A focus that calls for hard work underpinned by a vibrant meritocratic system where each is judged by his or her ability to apply God’s given talents that benefits mother Ghana. The war to get a meritocracy in place will be pyrrhic. Those who are privileged will not give up easily. No monarchy or elite group ever gave up gladly to the masses or commoners. We must take the battle to them and show them that we have more mordancy (bite) that they can put up with.

Ghana stands now, at a trying crossroad that calls for tactful leadership not the creation of cliffhangers and impetuous conflicts in an already stressful environment. Let the values of teamwork, merit and discipline be infused radically in the Ghanaian culture. Not because it is nice to say so but mainly because it works like magic. The Black Stars have given us a unique and telling example and we will be wise to glean and learn! The serendipitous benefits that pour with the virtuous values that I spoke of are also there for all to see. These are not my inventions but like a sore thumb, stubborn facts. Viva Ghana!!

Nii Lantey Okunka Bannerman
The writer is also known as the Double-edged sword (AKA Da Double)

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.