Feature Article of Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Columnist: Sayibu, Akilu

Go Back To The Cinema Vans And Not Facebook Ministry Of Information

Since last week I have been unable to stop wondering what the Minister of Information and her two deputies are doing at the ministry of information especially after they commenced chatting on face book and claim they were carrying government to the people.

This is not only balderdash but also populists’ nonsense!! It is like the ministers need more education on the role of the ministry of information in relation to its public education mandate.

Even before Ghana attained independence in 1957, the ministry of information had an effective way of carrying governance to the door stairs of the people and even until the National Democratic Congress (NDC) came to power that system was still in place.

The Information Services Department (ISD) of the ministry of information is the department that is responsible for public education on government issues. This the department does through the mobile cinema vans accompanied by staffs that are usually made up of a cinema commentator and a mobile cinema operator popularly known as M.C.Os within the information services department.

It must be explained that the cinema commentators are usually persons who are very coherent and fluent in the local Ghanaian languages and are therefore usually able to deliver messages directly to the people in their communities and also in their own languages be it Ewe, Akan, Dagbani, Dagari, wala, etc. Not only do they deliver the messages but also they take feedback from the audience on the topics usually discussed to government so that government will have an idea about how the people feel about her policies and programmes as well as the problems of the people for the most appropriate solution.

In the past the information services department has embarked on such national campaigns like, public education on the national budgets, public education on the introduction of new currencies in the country, the Ghana Poverty Eradication Programme (GPRS) etc.

With the background given, if it is really true that, the current ministry of information intends to interact with Ghanaians on government issues and programmes, face book should be the last option. The best option is to make use of the information services department whose duty it is to do this in the first place so that, Zita and the two deputies can save precious time for other things to benefit mother Ghana.

My argument is that, it is not only the educated ones, or the very few in society who has access to the internet and are on face book who are entitled to government policies and programmes. With the help of hindsight it can be said comfortably that the real people who need to be listened to when it comes to government programmes do not even know what a computer is not to talk of face book. So the ministry of information to me has gotten this face book thing very wrong.

Unless they want to tell Ghanaians that, they are only listening to the educated ones alone, and also to those who not only have access to computers and the internet but are also on face book. If that is the case how cans the rural people and those of us who are illiterates reach out to government with our problems? If the true motive for the ministers going on face book is not to while away time during their siestas then I will request them to as a matter of extreme urgency rather resource the information services department to do this for them. If the ministry of information is insisting on going hi tech with information dissemination, why is it not using the official government of Ghana portal which is located at the very floor the minister has her office and which is being run by the information services department?

The reason I described Zita and her deputies chat on face book as balderdash and populists nonsense is because, this is a ministry that has an official website I mean the Error! Hyperlink reference not valid. whose aim is to educate Ghanaians every where on the policies and programmes of the government of Ghana, yet they have abandoned it and are rather happy with face book which is rather being controlled from outside the country and also unreliable.

The other time on face book I asked the ministers what happens if they wake up one morning to log onto face book and are unable to do it what will they do? Will that day end their interaction with the people?

What must be explained is that, the official government of Ghana website has a chat and feed back component which could be used to do what the ministers are doing on face book. Why can’t we eat what we produce? If Zita, Samuel, and James want to be taken very serious my suggestion is that, they should move the chat to the official government of Ghana website, and also must allow the information services department to continue to conduct its primary role of educating Ghanaians on government policies and programmes and carrying feedback to government as well.

The irony is that, when president Obama visited Ghana the topical issue was, what next after the Obama visit? And how can Ghana be marketed to the outside world to attract the needed investment for mother Ghana? Is it not ridiculous that the very people whose duty it is to market Ghana among other things through the government of Ghana website are rather marketing face book!! In any case I have all the ministers on my face book and when I asked questions they don’t even respond. Do they have predetermined questions that they want to be asked? Or they have people whose questions they want to answer? A question I asked Samuel even before the face book chat by the ministers commenced about his opinion on the killings at the Agbogloshie market recently and why the police have not as yet arrested a fly he did not respond even as of the time of writing this piece!

I actually wanted to suggest to Samuel that, government should try to visit the family of those who were killed at the market, sympathized with them, and assure them directly that everything will be done to bring those who committed that heinous crime to book. After all president Mills at his inauguration on January 7 2009, told the world he was president and father for all Ghanaians but he missed it!

My conclusion is that, if the government is truly a listening one and if the ministry of information welcomes constructive suggestions, then the interaction of the ministers with Ghanaians on face book must be moved to the government of Ghana website so that, those who want to interact with the government can do so respectfully.

This when done will help market Ghana and the website well, and will also prevent a situation where the ministry of information will one day deny that its ministers were even on face book chatting with Ghanaians like the office of the Vice president did about the registration of the Vice president John Mahama on face book. The mobile cinema vans of the information services department must also be put on road to interact with the rest of the people who do not only have computers but also have no access to the internet so that those people can also have a way of reaching out to government and government also knowing at first hand what their problems are for the necessary interventions.

Akilu Sayibu, UK

Email: Akilu.sayibu@live.uwe.ac.uk