A Letter To The Next President

Thu, 11 Jan 2007 Source: Allotey, Henry Kpakpo


Dear President,

First and foremost I'll like to congratulate you on your election to the highest office in the the republic of Ghana-the presidency. I know that at this moment you are thinking about those who will serve as your ministers, probably over a bowl of fufu and palm nut soup. Please do not rush (I'm not talking about the fufu) because I have a solution, which I believe, might interest you.

Sir, I cannot claim to have any special powers but I can foresee the criteria you will be using in your choices as to who will become our ministers for the next four years. It might interest you to note that this process has only produced, at best, a handful of competent ministers in fifty years of post independent trial and error. ( horror could easily replace the last word) As a people, we are either in complete denial or do not want to tailor the system to suit our circumstances. Please, I have a solution that will end this horror story once and for all.

Since Ghana attained her independence in 1957, anytime power changes hands-whether through coup-de-tats or popular elections-the leader who emerges quickly chooses a group of ministers, secretaries or (for the lack of a better word) "clowns" to help him govern our beloved country. The basis of his choices of these ministers could be because they were his friends, sisters, brothers, party faithfuls, campaign financiers, extended family members, people he used to play 'gutter to gutter' with when he was a kid, classmates or even people revealed to him in a dream. Frankly, looking at the CV's of people who have become ministers in the past, no one can say, with absolute certainty, that they know how these choices are arrived at. In fact, legally anyone can become a minister through no fault of effort of his.

Every four years we see (vetting live on T.V.) ministers fumble and lie blatantly about everything from their level of education to their competence and still end up being confirmed by the president as ministers of state. This is probably the only job interview that is conducted after you have already got the job. We are just poking fun at ourselves by vetting ministers this way. We all know how our ministers have messed up over the years-the system has failed to produce a winning team. We've had ministers with practically no education at all, from the late K.K. Kwame Kwakye in the Kwame Nkrumah government to highly educated people like Dr. Anane in the present regime and it has produced the same negative self-destructive result-embarrassment and failure. So our problem is not a question of education or the lack of it thereof.

Well, Mr. President, I hope you will agree with me that if one tries something for fifty years and it does not yield any good results then it is time for a change. Probably we are forced to continue this way because we cannot vote for ministerial positions- they can be both expensive and misleading. They can be misleading because the electorate will also not have any criteria on which to base their selection. The million cedi question is: Is there a better way to select ministers? (According to the re-denomination process, by the time the next president comes into office one cedi will be equivalent to one dollar hence the expression I used) There is always a better way, it has only not been thought of yet.

I see the president as the head of a football team who have to work together with a set of players to create goals and avoid being scored. This team is as strong as its weakest player. In order to be the best team you need to have the best of individual players.

The better the player, the more expensive and competitive he is likely to be. The player is chosen on merit and not by country of origin. For example, Catalans are very nationalistic and a proud people and will wish that all eleven players on the Barcelona football team will be Catalans but they are smart enough to know that that will amount to foolhardiness.

That is the only reason why Eto and Ronadinho, among others, are resident in Spain. World class teams like Manchester United and Chelsea plan their teams based on this principle. This is the principle that gives Essien, Drogba, Mikel and Kalou jobs in a country that very likely might have rejected their applications for work permits if they had not been soccer players.

Please Mr. President, this system has never been tried in any country but Ghana is unlike any country in the world. We are a very unique country so we need unique solutions to our problems. For example, Mr. President advertise the position of minister of finance and economic planning in the Time, Newsweek and Economist magazine. Make the criteria very clear. Just like the Chelsea football team, the nationality of the minister will not matter but his or her winning spirit will. I know that, in my heart of hearts, the common Ghanaian will rather have a good economy run by a competent non-Ghanaian than vice-versa. Poverty does not become bearable because it is being caused by your countryman.

The criteria for the very important position of Finance and Economic Planning should include the requirement of previous employment as a finance or economic minister in a recognized country under the United Nations. This ensures that, unlike most of our ministers, he or she has done it before. Most of our ministers fail because they are doing a job ( that can only the learnt on the same job and is not offered as a course in any university in the world) for the first time. Even people looking for the lowest paying jobs in the world are asked if they have any experience- so why should we think a minister will excel without experience? Our choices should be based on experience on the same job already done elsewhere in the world.

You cannot have experience in another field and expect to transfer it smoothly to a ministerial position you are holding for the first time. Mr. President, the beauty of this system is that, since whoever gets the job will not necessarily be your relative you can easily fire him or her without being reprimanded by your parents or family head. Can you imagine how difficult it will be for you to fire your wife if she is incompetent as a minister? Such a decision will definately affect the taste of your soup and that will be the least of your marital problems.

The agricultural ministry is one area that can make or break you as a president. One of the most, if not the most, developed agricultural countries in the world is Israel. Among the criteria for this ministry the next agriculture minister should be a former or current agriculture minister of Israel. If need be you can "poach" the current agriculture minister. ( Just like the model I am using now Essien was 'poached' from Leon to play for Chelsea.)

Every ministry will be chosen uniquely in order to recruit the most competent and experienced man or woman regardless of country of origin or nationality.

My President I will leave the details to you.

This system should also be used to choose mayors, heads of government corporations and heads of government assisted schools. The emphasis should be on competence and not on nationality. There are thousands of foreigners running the economic machinery of wall street.

The next question will be "How do we finance this novel system?" As I have already said, this model is based on the soccer model used by world class teams such as Barcelona and Chelsea. John Essien cost Chelsea €30 million but now he is worth twice the amount. Another player on the same team, Wright-Phillips is now only worth half the amount he was bought with. This is the nature of all choices we make; there are always pros and cons. But one thing is clear-our ministers end up stealing enough money to pay all the ministers in every country in the world.

I have a strong conviction that this uniquely Ghanaian-originated system will quickly be copied and used all over the world. Presidents will be happy to use it because it will be based on contractual and not personal, party or family bonds. The whole world will copy a good system no matter the origin. Don't forget Democracy is a native of Greece not America or England. My president, this is my humble contribution to my native land-Ghana. May God give you the wisdom to rule and the courage to leave when the constitution demands and please never think of changing the constitution so that you can rule forever. One more thing, whenever you decide to ignore the rule of law remember the fate of Saddam Hussein.

Yours Faithfully,


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

Columnist: Allotey, Henry Kpakpo