By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Monday, November 25, 2013
My good friends, President Mahama has appointed 10 Ambassadors-designate, introducing new faces who have nothing to their credit but political activism and other credentials verging on academic work or journalism and public service. (Source: http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=293194)
We don't yet know which country these Ambassador nominees are designated for, but we can tell that some of them immediately evoke mixed feelings that will make us wonder whether anything new will happen at all in Ghana's Diplomatic Missions as far as the non-career diplomats are concerned.
Certainly, this batch doesn't have any career diplomat in it. One may quickly conclude that the injection of politicians into the country's foreign missions is not the best; but the President must be thinking otherwise.
So far, Ghana's foreign missions have been unable to serve useful purposes to warrant their being retained. All that they do is not being felt in terms of productive benefits to the country and its people.
I may be making sweeping statements here but my assessment of the performance of all these missions proves to me that they aren't actively promoting the country's interests.
And the appointing authorities don't even seem to be reforming those missions, redefining their purview, or ensuring that they serve the interests of Ghana and its citizens wherever they are.
How many of these foreign missions, for instance, have been able to promote trade-related transactions from which Ghana could benefit? How many of them even have any database containing information on Ghanaians resident in their areas of jurisdiction? How do they even serve the needs of Ghanaians calling at the missions?
More often than not, the staff of these foreign missions lack the sense of urgency and can't even do their assignments expeditiously and courteously to promote anybody's interests but their own well-being. In other words, serving in these foreign missions has become a mere job-for-the-boys case.
Let's consider some of the newly nominated people, for instance, and we can quickly conclude that they are just being pushed away to "enjoy" the foreign breeze, cool off, and return at will to energize the NDC's political machine.
Dr. Tony Aidoo is erudite, very eloquent, and courageous, speaking his mind without fear or favour. But he is controversial and hasn't cut any "diplomatic" image for himself. How qualified is he to be an Ambassador on that score?
Is he being sent out for his office to be shut down? Apparently, his recent criticisms must have sent the signal that he can cause trouble if not "greased". Well, let him prove me wrong if he can do so through his performance.
The others such as John A. Tia, Emmanuel Victor Smith, Zita Okaikoi, Kwadwo Nyamekye Marfo, Moses Magbengba, Sam Pee Yalley, and Madam Akua Dansua are not new faces on the scene.
Each of them left office, leaving traces behind: either as not really competent or being embroilled in questionable circumstances to warrant their losing their positions. Are they being rehashed or recycled to redeem their image? And through foreign service?
Of course, Kwadwo Nyamekye Marfo did a great job in the Brong-Ahafo Region but was not retained as the regional Minister, even though numerous appeals from there were made to the President. Should we assume that this appointment is a "compensation"? Probably, he may stand out as a difference!!
We all know how Victor Smith functioned in the Eastern Region and his rash reaction to the choice of K.B. Amissah-Arthur as Vice President---and the embarrassment that he created, which some adduced as the reason for his being dropped by President Mahama.
He has been an Ambassador before and is only being restored to that status. As to whether he can outperform himself this time round, I don't yet know. But he also has a baggage, especially as a politician whose public utterances and image have raised disturbing questions on propriety and diplomacy.
We (those living outside Ghana) want to be sure that our foreign missions care for us---not by meeting our material needs but by ensuring that they know us and can deal with us as Ghanaians. We want to participate actively in national affairs, particularly in choosing our leaders and in offering ideas for policy formulation. That is why our foreign missions must be "virile" and purposeful in their dealings with us.
Take the law on Ghanaians living outside and their voting rights (ROPAA), for instance, and you shouldn't go far to see our foreign missions as doing a huge disservice to us.
We cannot vote because there is no record on any of us as Ghanaians eligible to vote. We are forced to return to Ghana before voting, which is nonsensical.
If nationals of other countries residing elsewhere in the world can register and vote through the work of their foreign missions, why can't the Ghanaian ones also do same?
You see, my good friends, the lethargy that is our bane in the handling of public office is all over the place, which is why I don't think that merely pouring new wine into old wine bottles will solve the problems that we have identified with our foreign missions. It's been so for many years, and nobody in authority seems to care. How sad!!
Indeed, the time has come for much work to be done on our foreign service so that those who are fit for heading missions (because they have the acumen and the natural bent to do diplomacy) to be appointed. These "political diplomats" won't help us that much.
I have aired my views without any malice (aforethought). It is as plain as plain can ever be. As someone who has written many opinion pieces on the inadequacies of our foreign missions, I deem it my bounden duty to step in so early at this point to reiterate my concerns.
The President has to do his job but we have every right to comment on what that job is and how he does it. Ghana matters most!!
I shall return…
• E-mail: email@example.com
• Join me on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/mjkbokor