Opinions Mon, 30 Jan 2017

Notes from the Ghanaman file: The winner takes all debate

By Kojo Ackaah-Kwarteng

In the run up to the last general elections, some civil society groups broached the subject of an incumbent government, with the president as the Executive Head having what they call excessive powers to appoint all the occupants of all positions of state and para-state institutions.

This, they argued accounted for the reasons why we are faced with the threat of death every election year as the opposition are bent on turning the tables at all cost(including fears and intimidations of death) to also be in government for their members to enjoy those pecks of power.

They advocated for a system which I interpreted as power sharing between the incumbent government and other stakeholders including the opposition groups and professional bodies as well as civil society groups.Infact,the push for electing District, Municipal and Metro Chief Executives, is one of their solutions.

I am for the election of Chief Executives of the MMDAs.

But,I didn’t on the whole agree with their position because I have always held the opinion that,the competition among political parties for power is the competition of ideas of how they all intend to manage this big corporate entity called Ghana.

For me, their manifestoes are like what anybody applying to be the CEO of a company presents as his/her vision and which the board or those who interview people for the position consider to settle on an individual to be given the nod to be in charge.

My position is that, the board of the company(in this case, the Ghanaian electorate) would assess the CEO or the president according to the vision presented and in four years decide whether to let him continue or be fired for another CEO(President) to take over.

If that analogy is correct, then I ask whether the board(Ghanaians) forcing a team on the CEO will not be tantamount to giving him(the president) the excuse to explain his failure away.

However, recent happenings have made me re-think my position though I am not sure I still want to support any form of ‘power sharing’.

But,the sudden instruction of various heads of state and para-state institutions to vacate their positions following a change of government is very worrying.

One of them said he had less than two years on his contract to run but as soon as the elections were over, a school friend of his in the incoming Government called him and told him in plain language that he was eyeing his position and so must be ready to step aside for him to ‘come and chop some’.

True to his word, within two weeks, he was given a letter to vacate his post. He said, the worrying part is that, sometimes the letters were first leaked in the media before receiving them.

Sticking to my earlier position, getting a new government’s people to take charge of these institutions is the way to say that, the president who is the CEO wants to work with his team who understand his vision (their manifesto).

That’s perfect because even in advanced democracies like the US, every new government comes with new appointments. Except that, in their case, the new governments don’t rush to make changes in certain positions.

I think for certain positions like the IGP, CDS, Auditor General, bosses of NCCE and Chraj, some CEOs etc, who may be half way their contracts may be protected so that a way is be found not to allow a new government to change them ASAP but for them to run their contracts.

Sometimes, some of them are ‘bought out of their contracts’ by giving them compensations to step down and I think it’s a waste of our resources.

My other worry is that, the phenomenon may lead to a worsening corruption situation as some of these people would think of how to enrich themselves before a political tsunami sweeps them off their positions.

Also, the situation would keep some professionals away from public service as they fear to be tagged politically and risking their professional careers by accepting to work under the appointment of any government.

A friend also opines that, the system will benefit only NDC and NPP who have the capacity to win elections in Ghana to attract the best professionals who may be eyeing positions in some state institutions.

The smaller parties may be weakened all the time as their ‘stars’ would always drift towards the two bigger parties.

Are we not Ghanaians first, before becoming politicians and party people?

Columnist: Kojo Ackaah-Kwarteng