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Akwesi Pratt-the ‘social scientist’ the government cannot do without!

Thu, 24 Dec 2009 Source: Opare-Asamoa, Yaw

Yaw Opare-Asamoa


I knew it! And I said so. I knew Akwesi Pratt would come up with some fancy excuse to explain why he had to ‘fly’ on the back of taxpayers to South Africa. When the story broke, I wrote a piece and stated the following: “Do we remember he had something to say when some NDC guys took a trip to Cote d’Ivoire for a football match? He was right then to criticize for it was blatant waste of resources but I guess in his case, he would have some ‘tangible’ reason why he had to be there. O yes, his presence was so much needed!! It was that important!!!”

How right I was! Akwesi Pratt came back from South Africa and told us, in so many words, exactly that. He was the ‘expert social scientist’ that the government could not do without. According to Mr. Pratt the Black Stars were going to face serious problems in South Africa without his all-important research findings. It was important for him to be in South Africa because there were so many social problems that could only be identified by his very self and no other. The Ministry of Sports does not have the men and women to undertake such an exercise and so the government asked him to help. So yes, he went to South Africa out of his good heart, and it was only in fulfilling his patriotic duty, apparently!

On a radio programme to discuss the recent ‘pronouncements’ by Kwame Pianim, Mr. Pratt denounced calls from the Opposition on the President to come out with names of the individuals alleged to have attempted bribing a public official. To this, Mr. Pratt is reported to have said he smelt ‘mischief’. He described such calls as “mischievous, unnecessary and irrelevant”. I want to use the same words to describe his attempted explanation as to his presence in South Africa-his reasons were ‘mischievous, unnecessary and irrelevant’.

What exactly is he trying to tell us? That he was invited by the Minister of Sports based on his (Pratt’s) ‘wealth of experience in sports’. Wow!! To convince Ghanaians of his ‘ bona fide’ , Mr. Pratt went through a list of past experiences; he was once the public relations officer for the ministry of Sports; he has served on a number of Sports committees; and he has even served at the Ghana News Agency as a sports writer. Bravo! Akwesi for having such a ‘rich’ resume but it still does not justify your presence there. Those credentials do not make him the ‘point-man’ for the roles and responsibilities he claims were assigned to him. Akwesi Pratt told us he was assigned to ‘assess how suitable Cape Town…would be for the Black Stars; examine facilities at a university that the team will use to prepare for the tournament; and also help to write a manual for supporters. I do not believe that Mr. Pratt was the right man for any of those assignments and I will explain why:

Cape Town, traditionally, is predominantly white and, according to Mr. Pratt, has an unfavourable altitude. So he was to assess Cape Town’s suitability for the Black Stars? Ok let’s get certain things straight: if for whatever reason his so-called findings suggested that Cape Town was unsuitable for the Black Stars, was the government going to ask FIFA to change the venue or were the Black Stars going to boycott the tournament? Again are we the only team based in Cape Town?

As to the racial demographics that he mentioned, what has that got to do with the Black Stars? Don’t we have Black people in Cape Town? And is he suggesting that because it is mostly White, the lives of the players would be in danger? Is that the reasoning behind the assignment? When one talks about ‘unfavourable altitudes’ it borders on respiration rates and the normal or abnormal functioning of the red blood cells to deal with the Oxygen intake. Which aspects of his ‘rich sports experience’ make him qualified to examine altitudes and how they affect sportsmen? Instead of hopping from radio station to radio station shouting himself hoarse trying to deflect criticism against the trip, he would do well to come again and explain further the rationale for the assignment. From where I sit, it just does not make sense to me. I believe both he and the minister had to come up with some form of justification for the dollars spent and so together they ‘concocted’ something to sell to Ghanaians. This Ghanaian is not buying!!

The second assignment was examining of facilities at a university for use as training grounds for the Black Stars. Now basically this has to do with the nature of the field and nothing else. I believe the team would carry its own water and energy drinks to the field. There was nothing to worry about as far as the structural efficacy of the stands was concerned. So it had to be concern about the field and if that is the case, wouldn’t it have been more prudent to use somebody with some expertise in Turf Science or Management? Yes I know in Ghana we want to believe that one does not need expertise in any field to excel at anything but things work differently on the international scene. Suppose we had some issues with the suitability of the training ground and we presented our findings to FIFA; wouldn’t we be required to produce some ‘science’ to back our position? Or FIFA would accept our report ‘just like that’ because we said so? And Mr. Pratt is telling us that both he and the minister agreed that he, Pratt, was the best man for the job? Incredible!!

Ordinarily, writing of a manual for supporters shouldn’t be over and above Mr. Pratt, but I am not ready to give him even that. The reason being that I believe there are more qualified people who interact with supporters on a more personal basis and are more in tune with them. People who ‘eat and drink’ football and all it entails and I believe any of them could have been called upon to undertake such an exercise. And why does anybody have to travel to South Africa to be able to write a manual for Ghanaian football fans? Those assignments, I believe, could have been better handled by technical people who are experts in their fields. I do not believe any of this was necessary in the first place but if we had decided to do it, then a Social Scientist with some knowledge in turf management should have been selected to handle this assignment.

If Parliament is anything worth its name, the Minister of Sports and Mr. Pratt would be invited over to answer a few questions as to what they were able to achieve from the trip. If this trip had been undertaken by another, Akwesi Pratt would have been the first one to ‘cry’ foul and sound the alarm. The fact that he comes up some bogus ‘assignments’ does not settle the matter. Anybody in his situation would do likewise-find a reason to justify the trip. Mr. Pratt is reported to have said “I have realized that whatever good I do, I would be paid with evil”. Be it known to Mr. Pratt that in this particular case he was paid with dollars and not evil; but on a more serious note I wish he would stop doing his brand of ‘good’. We can do without it and we don’t want it.

Unless and until the Minister and Akwesi Pratt are able to convince us of the particular importance this trip plays in our quest for laurels in South Africa, I stand with those who believe it was inappropriate use of taxpayers’ money. Written and submitted on December 22, 2009

Columnist: Opare-Asamoa, Yaw