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Opinions of Sunday, 22 February 2009

Columnist: Annoh-manso, Jerome

Why Mrs. Zita should be reassigned urgently

Believe it or not, Politics and Governance should be seen as a business, just like any other regular and competitive business enterprise. To this end, the sustenance and success of one’s political and governance programme will depend on how well you manage and market your product.

The general impression is that the recent Presidential election was keenly and closely fought. I doubt that though, because I believe the NDC was probably close to 60%. I will not even mention the magic and mysterious rise in the eligible voter population in the Ashanti Region during the second round.

However, granted that the election outcome was close even underscores the necessity of having a powerful public relation and propaganda team for the winning party (NDC) since the 2012 elections is not far from now. And anyone holding a position close to PR and propaganda for the party MUST know and understand the party’s manifesto through and through. In fact, I think conversance with the party’s Manifesto MUST be a mandatory prerequisite for appointment to the position of Information Minister in order to market the NDC’s “A BETTER GHANA” agenda.

It may be argued that a Minister acts literally only as a manager. But much as this argument may hold for some ministerial portfolios, I believe the Information Ministry is quite a unique enterprise and therefore calls for a unique and competent party technocrat, well versed, versatile and a person who does not lack expression to articulate, defend and protect the manifesto through sensitizing the public on the government’s vision and programmes based on the party’s philosophy. Clearly, an attribute of versatility is a hallmark of the Information Ministerial position. In fact, this is the Minister who needs to have idea of operations in other Ministries and respond to them when interrogated. The demands and sensitivity of the position explains the high turnover of the position over the years under various governments. That is why even big wigs like Jake Obetsebi, Kwamena Bartels and Asamoah Boateng somehow managed that post but still had problems.

For me, Mrs. Zita’s abysmal showing at the vetting, coupled with an earlier even more appalling encounter with Joy FM’s indefatigable Kojo Oppong Nkrumah is indicative of the fact that she does not know the details of the NDC manifesto and now has to, in addition, learn both management and administrative procedures.

While it may be argued that Mrs Zita should be given the benefit of doubt, I found it extremely shocking that she found it pretty tough answering or responding to simple questions regarding her education. Indeed, it was like a graduate who could not write a short descriptive essay on the topic, “MYSELF”.

The Chief of Staff and for that matter the Presidency should not pretend they are not aware of the existence of wild Lions and Zebras in the form of experienced and seasoned journalists and politicians who will take on the NDC by asking serious and devastating questions of the government which will elicit responses from the Information Minister. Indeed, these Lions are already roaring from radio station to radio station and posting articles in all manner of newspapers (The radio stations are already missing Hon. AMA CHAVEZ BENYIWAA DOE).

If Mrs. Zita could not respond to comparatively mild and innocuous questions from the appointments committee and even simpler questions from Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, how well prepared is she then to face such wild Lions who are mostly in opposition?. A test case is how the opposition is reacting to the President’s State of Nation’s Address. Can Zita face these people on issues from the budget, governance, manifesto promises, security etc.?

Also, in the current global economic crisis, we need an information Minister who can, from inception of office, forcefully sensitize Ghanaians on such global issues because most concerns of Ghanaians will be benchmarked mainly against the party’s manifesto promises and the global situation. Without sounding sarcastic, I doubt it very much if Mrs. Zita can be up to that enormous task.

I appreciate the fact that supporters of Mrs. Zita will lambast me but the truth must be told. We all know that sometimes our own friends and supporters contribute to our doom, downfall and vilification because of their perceived self- interest.

Given that she appears novice to all the functions and demands of the information portfolio, my suggestion is that she is reassigned to a Deputy position in order to be groomed.

Another mistake the Chief of Staff may make is to suggest that she will have a competent Deputy. This move will result in even more disaster because she will think she is being undermined by her deputy, especially if the deputy is the hardworking type.

The NDC should remember that, delivering accurate and timely information is better than delivering ill-timed and inaccurate information and later engage in damage control. Don’t forget, the NPP lost partly for these reasons and also because of their perceived inconsistencies. Mrs. Zita demonstrated such attributes.

The NDC must understand that they won the 2008 elections based on the fact that their PR was good enough to set the record straight all the time. The trend of political activities currently calls for an even more robust PR team headed by a versatile information Minister. It’s like an athletic relay race. When the head or start is good, it continues to affect the finishing. But when the start is bad, the finishing is also seriously affected.

Anyway, there is a saying in the Ewe language translated to mean “little disgrace is better than huge disgrace”. Over to the majority in the appointments committee, if you make the wrong choices, you will have to work harder by talking more on behalf of government. But remember, the more different people comment or attempt to explain simple issues, the more inconsistencies arise resulting in distrust. NDC, don’t forget 2012 is standing at the corner with NPP singing Halleluah. The PR and propaganda MUST start now.

Jerome Annoh-manso (annohmanso@yahoo.com)