By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Saturday, November 2, 2013
My good friends, a wordy warfare is being fought in government circles that will have nasty repercussions for President Mahama.
Former Majority Leader, Alban Sumani Bagbin (who is also one of the three presidential appointees responsible for priority projects) has thrown a hefty punch at the Presidency, complaining of not being able to have access to President Mahama to discuss issues with. How can he do his work if he can’t discuss issues with the appointing authority? And he is considered one of the “three wise men” to spearhead efforts at helping President Mahama accomplish his dream on development projects!!
Bagbin must be complaining about those surrounding the President and making it difficult for functionaries like him to hob-nob with the President. He must be complaining about sycophancy!!
A major troubling aspect of Ghanaian politics is the prevalence and pervasiveness of sycophancy in officialdom. Since the birth of this country, the various leaders have surrounded themselves with advisers who, unfortunately, have turned out to be nothing but gaping sycophants, doing overtime to catch the President’s ears with what they think will please him—and doing all they can to prevent others with different versions of the truth from reaching the President.
They adroitly outmanouevre each other and clog the President’s ears with their versions of reality and thereby endanger governance until everything explodes in their faces. The President is often the loser.
Tell me: Which of our Presidents (past and present) is praised for good governance—listening to the voice of the people (which is the voice of God) and doing the right thing to solve pertinent national problems and improve living conditions? Which of them (probably apart from Jerry Rawlings) had his ears “on the ground”?
In truth, our leaders have failed us largely because they don’t listen to the people but their “advisers” (the coterie of crafty sycophants disguised as super-patriots). They don’t solve problems because the solutions given them by their advisers aren’t appropriate. All is disjointed. It is all to the disadvantage of the President. Unfortunately, though, none learns any lesson to make amends and goes down in history as a pathetic failure! Is President Mahama falling into the same trap?
That is what Bagbin is worried stiff of. He has publicly expressed frustration at not reaching President Mahama to draw his attention to “the corrupt practices going on under his administration”. And corruption in government is the topical issue on which public discourse is centred.
He claims to have other concerns too: he is “deeply worried” about how the country is being governed; the president’s schedule makes him remote and therefore difficult for him (Bagbin), like many of the President's appointees, to meet him (President Mahama).
“So many of you will be surprised that even though we are there we don’t have access to the president to talk to him… Recently, I had to call the president for me to say since I cannot get you people in private to advise, I will start advising you in public, because I am deeply worried about the situation in Ghana”.
Should we dismiss Bagbin’s concerns outright as the effusions of a failed politician seeking to draw needless attention to himself? No!! Whether true or not, his complaints could be the harbinger of the tension that is gradually building up within government circles to threaten President Mahama’s leadership. Reasonable people will view his complaints with circumspection.
Not so for Stan Xoese Dogbe, a Presidential Staffer. In a swift and damning reaction, he didn’t waste time at all in dismissing Bagbin as “an enemy within the government”, “a liar” and an incompetent Health Minister whose inadequacies engendered corruption at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital. He accused Bagbin of ridiculing the President in public. These are very serious claims against the former Majority Leader and MP for Nadowli.
Dogbe posted his reaction on his Facebook page and completely discounted Bagbin’s concerns. He said the President has opened up in many ways to interact with anybody with any message for him and cannot be said to be inaccessible as Bagbin has alleged. In effect, then, Bagbin is being mischievous.
What is emerging from the quarters of these two government functionaries is really ugly and unseemly. I don’t and won’t doubt any claim that some notables make concerning their inability to reach President Mahama when they have something to tell him, which is why I hesitate to dismiss Bagbin’s concerns.
Obviously, complaints have long since been made by important NDC functionaries and public-spirited personalities seeking to discuss issues with President Mahama. Bagbin’s is not the first one that I would have heard.
Many people have contacted me to complain bitterly about the same problem, citing Stan Dogbe himself as one stumbling block on their way. They haven’t made public their concerns but are deeply worried that those surrounding President Mahama have constituted themselves into tin gods and assumed responsibilities that detract from the openness with which they expect the President to handle affairs.
They are alarmed at this trend and are quick to conclude that the sycophants parading the corridors of power have built a thick wall around the President to prevent him from being told anything other than the sweet-sounding briefs that they give him. They tell him what will please his ears and cut him off from “the ground”. It is really disturbing to learn so.
Stan Dogbe may be privileged to know how President Mahama conducts his public outreach affairs, but he needs to be told that in politics, anything that paints the President black should be avoided. That is why his impulsive reaction to Bagbin’s concerns stinks to the skies!!
Assuming even that Bagbin overshot his mouth in expressing his concerns, should he be so dressed down by an inexperienced person like this Stan Dogbe? I describe him as INEXPERIENCED because that is what he is. In Ghanaian politics, characters like him are not worth the attention they seek because they have no grounding in matters of politics. Those of them now in officialdom by virtue of “political connections” or the goodwill of benefactors shouldn’t deceive themselves that they matter. They don’t.
I recall what this Stan Dogbe did under the late President Mills to attract damaging public reaction, especially because he was alleged to have been paid sums of money for doing some communication work for the government that didn’t yield anything concrete to boost governance. But for the protection given him, he would have been elsewhere than officialdom. The cloud of doubts and suspicions surrounding him hasn’t dispersed all this while, if he cares to know.
The issues raised by Bagbin need a more serious and sober reflection than the impulsive and irritating response given to it by Dogbe. Even if Bagbin went too far in expressing his frustration, the matter could have been handled in a more civilized manner than how Dogbe approached it.
I am being brazen here to say that none of those surrounding President Mahama are more patriotic than those seeking to reach him but cannot. They don’t love the NDC more than those not in the camp of the tin-gods hovering around the President, making the loudest, ugliest noise to be noticed and kept at post, even if their noise is mostly counter-productive.
It must be pointed out clearly here that President Mahama needs more input from non-official sources to be able to have a firm handle on the job of governance. Those who can reach him with first-hand intelligence need to be given the opportunity to do so. The fear is that characters like Stan Dogbe, who have arrogated to themselves the power to determine what reaches the President’s ears, know very well that their own “deals” are likely to be exposed by those who know what they are up to, which is why they dig in and thicken the wall of sycophancy to frustrate “informants”.
In truth, President Mahama will do himself a world of good if he finds better ways to access information/intelligence from sources other than the mouths of the sycophants surrounding him. His success or failure will depend on how he approaches issues holistically.
I have no shred of doubt in my mind that Bagbin is an insider who knows what is happening. There are many others like him who have swallowed their frustrations just to save their jobs; but deep down, they are chafing.
Dr. Tony Aidoo has made his voice heard already. The under-currents are really strong and troubling. A careful analysis of the situation tells me that there is more brewing, which is why a petulant response as has come from Stan Dogbe deserves condemnation, not praise as a show of bravado.
I am more than concerned because characters like Dogbe qualify as the “youth” who have been brought on board to help inject some dynamism into governance; but I can’t say that they are doing so. They are better known for their misuse of their youth exuberance to undermine the integrity of the “seasoned politicians” from whom they are to learn lessons but don’t position themselves to be groomed. They choose rather to confront the “senior colleagues” and end up worsening the situation. Are these the characters to build a party on?
Of course, former President Rawlings has already characterized them as “babies with sharp teeth”; and I am tempted to conclude that for as long as they mistake the trees for the forest, President Mahama will have it tough-going. What Bagbin has complained about is just the beginning. He should brace up for more!!
One more question: Is President Mahama still the AFFABLE person that he is known to be? Or has he lost that quality just because he is held hostage by the sycophants surrounding him?
Dismissing Bagbin's complaints as a mere irritant—as Stan Dogbe has done—is childish and impolitic. A more mature manner of dealing with the issue will solve the problem. Then, when President Mahama opens his door wider, he will know more than those surrounding him wish he could.
In politics, it doesn't really matter how much information the President receives or from whom it comes. It is up to him to determine what will be useful for his administration, not what the sycophants determine should reach his ears.
Let the sycophants not deceive themselves that they matter more than the people whose lives are endangered by incompetence and corruption in government circles. Some issues deserve more tactical approaches than Dogbe and those thinking like him can ever know how to handle. Is it difficult for President Mahama to invite his own appointee (Bagbin) for a dialogue on his concerns?
From how Dogbe has handled the matter, I am more than convinced that there is some truth in Bagbin's concerns. Otherwise, why isn't it the President who should be dealing with Bagbin (if even on the quiet)? Or, is the President afraid of Bagbin to send his "attack dog" after him, using Facebook? What childishness?
I shall return…
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