Asantehene Shouts Tribal Discrimination Without Data?

Mon, 30 Mar 2015 Source: Lungu, Prof.

The 17th March essay by Nii Lantey Okunka Bannerman was about the Asantehene's reported indignation (bellow!) that Asante's are being "discriminated against on the job market, even though they had the requisite qualifications”. In that piece, Mr. Bannerman presented a solution - use "data" to solve the problem of "tribalism. Mr. Bannerman talked a bit about the best qualified for a job being one among a sea of other qualified persons, if we are for meritocracy. Clearly, if we were honest with ourselves, we will all recognize that the Asantehene, in his birth-ascribed, people-funded position, has a moral conundrum with a call for "meritocracy". But this response is not about the Asantehene. Rather, it is about Mr. Bannerman's solution to the problem(s), and his poor choice of the Asantehene as an official without data to support what they say. It is also about the selection of Ferguson, MO, USA, as a case where data was used to good effect to solve a problem.

If anything, talking without the benefit of data is the province of Ghanaian governments and public officials. When Mr. Mahama told Ghanaians in Gambia that the electricity required to charge mobile phones in Ghana is part of the Dum-Sor palaver, he did not offer any data. When the Minister of Tourism, Ms. Elizabeth Ofosu-Adjare, announced, "Tourism industry to see facelift", she did not provide any data. When Mr. Justice Samuel Adjei, Deputy Brong-Ahafo Regional Minister, thundered, "Let's unite to fight corruption", he did offer any data. When Akufo-Addo, NPP Presidential candidate asked Mr. Mahama to "Eliminate corruption and profligacy", he did not supply any data. Finally, go to the website of any Ghanaian agency, including the Academy of Arts and Sciences, the EPA, CHRAJ, Internal Revenue, Statistical Services, etc., and tell us how much data you can get from agencies that are funded to acquire, create and manage programs with data. And so, the Asantehene gets a pass from us with respect "data" - it is easier for us to see a Chief rendering stories, than the EPA or the Statistical Services, for example, telling stories without data. As such, Mr. Bannerman's employment of the Asantehene as an example of officials without data to support their "bellows" is a tad off the mark.

Mr. Bannerman tells us Ghana needs data to solve the problems of tribalism and discrimination in employment, precisely the kind the Asantehene neglected to provide to buttress his case. While anecdotal evidence, the kind the Asantehene presented, are important in organizing our attention about important national issues, it is information generated through data by government agencies, NGOs, Foundations, the Academy, etc., that allow us all to understand the wicked forces behind our myriad of developmental problems, and to see simple, workable solutions through information generated from data. However, oftentimes, it is difficult for us to understand why folks would much prefer to see new agencies for this and that problem, when all that is needed is enforcement of existing laws and completion of work already started, to among other task, provide data and information.

Where, we must ask, is the Thomas-Edison-Light-Bulb idea when we propose setting up a US-style Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for data, information, and "investigating and reporting", while at the same time burying the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill in 25 words in our 1,550-word essay?

The last time, it was Dr. Ohene Aku Kwapong with a rather long list of Dr. Baah Wiredu-era proposals for new institutions even while their NPP, then the government in power, sat on a Mugabe-Right to Information act. We grant the NPP draft was actually a joke of a Freedom of Information Bill, an act, as we've just said. And to boot, the NPP irresponsibly refused to transparently enforce the Asset Declaration law while they controlled the same government. Even so, as generally recognized, any law can be improved upon through thoughtful amendments and principled enforcement action. But, we all know, there must be political will. Sadly, the NPP failed in all of that, miserably!

So, what, if we may ask, might all of us conveniently tuck behind any process where "Job application forms will have to be redesigned and technology deployed to gather, store and rigorously analyze information"? It is the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, that is. The FOI bill is as good a data collecting bill as you can get with any other fancy new institution, investigating and reporting," not required. You want to know how many people applied, what were their qualifications, what region whence applicants, what ethnicity applicants, what ethnicity selectee, what salary, what is the projected cost of the project your are looking at, etc.? Ghanawoman/Ghanaman, call, go, long-on to the FOI bill office in your region/capital, in that ministry, etc. And if you do not get your answers, complain to the FOI Commissioner. The idea is, a robust Ghana-centered FOI bill will also come with an enforcement regimen, a Commission, independent of Ministers and the Executive, that can as well solve those problem(s)1, of data But, there must be political will to act on a strong Ghana FOI bill without further delay.

Another of Mr. Bannerman's statement also had us scratching our head, that "...without data, the American government could never have proved widespread discrimination against the city of Ferguson, in Missouri..." We will caution: Not so fast, this other example and comparison, Mr. Bannerman. Let's consider that one of the complaints by the Mayor Knowles of Ferguson is that many jurisdictions in the St. Louis area have equal or worse records with respect to discrimination against African-Americans, (i.e., those jurisdictions received a much higher portion of their revenue from African-American through tickets and the municipal courts systems). The data has always been there from the 1857 Dred Scott decision when the US Supreme Court decreed that African-Americans (whether slave or free), were not be American citizens, to the East St Louis white riots of 1917, to the destruction of the Mill Creek Valley in the 1960s, and during the local/state/federal governments) sanctioned housing segregations that W. E. B. Dubois foresaw way back in 1903 as "the color line", that has continued to exist, to today. So the question is, what prevented the U.S. Justice Department from intervening in all those other places if there is data already, or data can be acquired? Political will, courage, felt-human connection to the sufferers!

Significantly, and regrettably, we believe that the American racial problem is a lot more leviathan, insidious, and complex than the "discrimination" the Asantehene speaks about in Ghana. In fact, the EEOC that Mr. Bannerman wants us to clone as a solution in Ghana was actually just an appendage to the US Civil Right law of 1964. And for assist, the US FOI Act was enacted 2 years later in 1966 because "... any person has a right, enforceable in court, to obtain access to (government) agency records...", subject to some limited exceptions. So, when Mr. Bannerman reminds us that "...Chapter 5, Article 17...of our constitution espouses anti-discrimination cover for...protected classes: gender, race, color, ethnic origin, religion, creed or social or economic status...place of origin, political opinions, and occupation...", we all can deduce that Ghana does not need a Civil Rights Law, nor does Ghana need an EEOC. But Ghana needs a FOI bill for sunshine in government, a FOI bill with an independent Commission that is a lot stronger than the US version because Ghana is a developing, unitary state, with a distinct history unlike the United States.

Strangely, the Mills-Mahama-Bagbin NDC government has not moved the FOI ball even 12 inches on the ground in the past 6 years. As well, the NDC government has mothballed the Asset Declaration regimen. They have done little to enforce the law or publish the records, assuming they are being filled as required by the Constitution, in the first place. As a result, all of us can conclude that the NDC now has the worst record in Ghana's quest for true transparency and accountability in governance, the last decade in the matter of the FOI bill. But the good news is this: We really do not need data to prove this point to anyone; not to Mr. Bannerman, not to Mr. Mahama, not to Mr. Bagbin, and certainly not to the rest of the people running the government and the NDC party.

In the main, it was not just newly aggregated data that proved "widespread discrimination" of African-Americans in Ferguson in 2015. It had more to to do with people stepping forward to tell their stories to the federal investigators and others willing to listen, people using the freedoms they know they have under that federal constitution. Thus, when the State/Region/Province/Missouri/Governor did not act, it took the center (Federal Government) to act. But all the Holder-historic action could marshal was a contract for good behavior (Consent Decree). That document, at this moment, is unsigned by the City of Ferguson. All this to say that Ferguson, Missouri, USA, is in truth not an appropriate example for a case for "data", assuming we are serious about data that can help solve governance (tribalism, discrimination) problems, in the first place. Significantly, we believe that it is Nkrumah's unitary vision for Ghana that continues to be the saving grace for Ghana, beyond all those confederation-centered talks and plans of years gone by, and their incipient forms of late.

As the world turns, this should be clear to all of us. While the Asantehene is listening to self-reported stories of discrimination against Asantes by the NDC administration, our numerous Deans of Departments of History, Government, Law, City Planning, Business, Administration, Journalism, Education, Philosophy, Criminal Justice, Geography, Philosophy, etc., and all their deputies, chairs, lecturers, professors, and the thousands of young students in their care, are involved in precious little research to capture and report the types of data and information required to support the Ghana development and governance agenda.

So, here is our 4-point solution to the governance "data" problem identified by Mr. Bannerman:

(1) Without further delay, enact the FOI bill with a super strong independent Commission. Provide Commission dedicated funding using the ECOWAS tax a model. The FOI bill is a world-wide facility. To the extent ECOWAS countries will benefit, all persons and companies doing business in/through Ghana should pay the tax. Ghana can teach other countries something in this area. (In fact, if Mr. Mahama can call for a new voters' register for Togo, Mr. Mahama can implement a small ECOWAS tax to fund a model FOI bill for Ghana).

(2) With immediate effect, publish all the Asset Declaration records filed at the Auditor General's office since 2004. If an official was required to file the record but neglected to file, publish their names and their assets in the Ghana media, unless they file the records within 30 days. Allow 30 days for all current officials to complete filing their records. Copies of all those records will be provided to CHRAJ within 45 days. CHRAJ will publish them in the Ghana media within 60 days, and ensure same information is available at the FOI Commission

(3) Charge all higher academic institutions and government agencies, including the Academy of Arts and Sciences, to provide coordinated plans to acquire the data Ghana needs for governance and development purposes, in their area of responsibility and specialization

(4) The Asantehene, in partnership with other Chiefs, Ghana supporters and foundations, etc. should sponsor the education of at least ten (10) needy Ghanaian students (6 girls, 4 boys), normalized by population, in each Region each year. The academically qualified students will gain entry (by lotto) into public universities or polytechnics to earn their diploma or baccalaureate degree from those schools in Ghana. The students will commit to completing a minimum number of research oriented courses, and to serving their Region no less than 5 years after graduation. Whatever Parliament want to call these student, it will be their prerogative. However, we want to hazard G-ONES, for Ghana One Nation Endowment Scholars).

So, when Mr. Bannerman asks the Asantehene, "What Next", we can bellow a response. To that question, we will shout our Ghana 4-Point FOI solution to the Ghana governance and data problem, if Mr. Bannerman approves!

That, we must say, is what time it is!

So it goes, Ghana!

1NOTE: Do not let them fool you. You will still need the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill even if you have an Affirmative Action law for girls and women. The Affirmative Action policy is not a substitute for the FOI bill, not in any country where leaders govern with data, sunshine, and balance.


1. Freedom of Information Bill Morphed into a Charter Association by the Executive.


2. Give us Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill, not Mugabe’s Right to Information Bill!


3. Pass the FOI (not RTI) Bill Now, NPP/Nana Akufo-Addo!


4. MP Victimized by Elusive Freedom of Information (FOI) Law.


5. Mould-Iddrisu is jiving re Freedom of Information bill!


6. Mills/NDC FOI Bill Scatter with $50,000 Freebie 'Loans'.


7. Ghana FOI - The NPP Proposal (2003)


8. FOIB & Privacy Interests: A Still Birth Proposal, Ghana-Style!


9. NDC is committing a blunder with ‘Rights to Information Bill’ – Asa Bo

(Prof Lungu says….).


10. F.O.I.B. - Are You Pickable? (Lyrics).



VIDEO - Singapore Video addressing Freedom of Information (aprox. 7 minutes into video


©Prof Lungu is Ghana-centered/Ghana-Proud. Prof Lungu is based in Washington DC, USA. Brought to you courtesy www.GhanaHero.com©20 Mar 15.

Columnist: Lungu, Prof.