A Critical Analysis of the Culture of Political Organizations in Ghana.
Human societies have always been saddled with leadership which “once they attain the utmost rounds” as Shakespeare once wrote, “they then look down on the base degrees by which they did ascend” (William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar).
Politicians in Ghana have always asked the people to tighten their belts. On the other hand, it has been found that most of them gain weight whiles they engage in luxury lifestyle, including many benefits and banquets that they never were privy to till they gained power. A good example may be our former President and former Chairman of the revolutionary PNDC, Jerry J. Rawlings whose lifestyle changes appear to be forgotten by history. Was what was good for the PNDC and their Secretaries good for the people of Ghana? Is what is good for the NPP today good for the people Ghana?
One cannot blame a leader who in attempts to attain higher goals for the society, may tend to motivate people to work, sometimes even on empty stomachs. How long that will last is another question. There was a time when some of us were growing up when “almighty” beloved Kwame Nkrumah had as part of his jingles of organizational communication and motivation one song I so well liked (as a child) and remember. I hum sing it occasionally even today when memory deceives me that Ghana is so close and yet so far for being the once-beautiful land it was and could be. The words of the song go like:
“Work and Happiness, Work and happiness
I will do my best, I will do my best, for beautiful Ghana” (Popular National Song during era of Ghana’s leader Kwame Nkrumah,1957-1966)
For those who grew up in the 1960s, you may remember those were the days when “men used to be men” (to borrow an Akan expression) and one’s education and productive effort could earn a middle class living, including a car, a bungalow, and resources to raise a family without courting or kissing some party officials in the wrong places (if you excuse the American expression). Was that dream a reality then, and why not now?
As many know by now, the ownership of a vehicle in Ghana by a civil servant is almost impossible today on honest salary. Estimates are that 78.5% of Ghanaians live under $2 per day. They work, but does their work lead to happiness? A modest new Toyota car costs about $15,000 to $20,000 and used imported ones are not cheap either as imposed duties and taxes make them equally out of reach. The monthly payments on a small loan of $15,000 for 5 years at a modest going Bank interest rate of even 15% comes to a payment of $357 per month or C3.32 Million (using C9,000/$1). A typical modest house may cost $80,000 at the low end and at least 30% of the material cost are taxes paid to government. If one saves a down payment of 20% or $16,000 (an almost impossible task on honest pay), and obtains a 15 year mortgage at 15% interest for the balance, the fully amortized payments are $896 per month (C8.06 million). This implies a middle class living in Ghana, not counting the amount to build water reservoirs (another $4,000) and other needs, will take a monthly minimum of $1,253 [C11.277 million] for housing and car payments alone. If we ignore Western standard Banking qualifying risk ratios or even modify it for minimum living income, we can calculate the amount needed for anybody [at least our Accountants, Architects, Bankers, Doctors, Engineers, Graduate teachers, Nurses, Scientists, etc] to call themselves middle class in Ghana. If we assume even a 50% debt-to-income ratio, the minimum pay should be about $2,506 or C22.55 million.
How are Middle Class Ghanaians doing?The sad irony of life is that politicians are doing well! While professionals of any kind cannot afford the mot economical Toyota or Nissan car and housing used as an example here, it is known that politicians and appointed staff enjoy decent housing, renovated sometimes at public expense sometimes in excess of $100,000 and then given not a modest car or truck, but rather the most expensive 4X4 SUV vehicles in the world such as the Toyota Landcruiser, Pajaro, or Lincoln Navigator or Mercedes. I once visited the office of an MP/Minister and saw a Volkswagen luxury vehicle that even as a car enthusiast I had not noticed in California, the state with the most vehicles per capita in the world. Later I heard it was an Ecowas supplied vehicle. So that is the way African use the 0.5% taxes imposed on imported goods at our ports? In addition the political party elected officials obtain such benefits as travel per diems that are estimated to be $300 to $1,000 per day. There have been some accusations in the media that such travel and other expenses of the NPP President Kufuor and his Ministers are an abuse of power and such privileges embodied in old colonial administrative set up inherited from the colonial exploiting masters. A former Presidential chief of staff, Kwabena Agyepong, had answered critics that these luxury vehicles and living had been engaged in by all administrations since Nkrumah’s time, and hence the NPP was entitled to it.
The question is: is what is good for the NPP good for Ghana?
In a discussion on the Ghana Leadership Forum of January 22, 2007 on social equity and justice in Ghana, and if there was a conscience for joining the current political parties, the NPP or the opposition NDC, and possibly changing their reputed culture of corruption from within, this writer had indicated he did not have the skills or strength to change and tame an elephant on a wild rampage moving on the wrong track. A friend wrote this:
Sent: Monday, January 22, 2007 11:00 PM
Subject: RE: On the Real Life NEGOTIATING terms of power
“[Kwaku], let me suggest that if, you do not have enough skills to change the NPP, then you do not have enough skills to change Ghana, which is an even bigger job” (Kojo Atadwe, GLU Forum)
Here is my answer, modified in a more academic language for the audience:
Kojo, it is obviously right in rhetorical terms, but only looking at the numerical aspect of the job. Yes, it is known the NPP is a smaller organization, but was Kojo equating Ghana to the NPP as a parallel organization? There is a huge gap! Kojo may also be a good actor and the writer may not. The act may involve joining an organization that has been reputed to have an unethical culture, and changing that culture as a mere member.
Ghana as an organization, as this writer found out, is not a closed corporate body as one might think. People are flexible and indeed looking for change. The 2004-2006 research by the writer convinced him of this. There are varying ethnic groups, religions and varying ideologies and interests in which one can operate with diversified strategies. Even then Ghanaians are very open minded when it comes to religion and ideology, accommodating Christianity, Moslem and native religions sometimes on the same day. Ghanaians have a long history of inter-racial and inter-tribal marriages. This suggests very little prejudices, and even where they exist, they seem to be merely economic. Europeans (and by unrelated association, people with white skin) may be getting preferential treatment in Ghana because of colonial association of skin color to power and status (colonial legacy) and hence economic advantage. Even in America the rise of Arab oil economic power (alias Black gold) which emerged in the 1970s, have changed the dynamics of respect of Americans for middle Easterners. In the late 1980 to 1990s the same locus of respect association with economic power transferred to the Chinese.
Whiles these analysis may elude the ordinary person, Ghanaian may note that it took a few years for the PNDC to recognize the historical significance of Nkrumah, perhaps due the reported influence of Captain Kojo Tsikata and other renowned to be Nkrumahists. For the descendants of the opposition party to Nkrumah’s CPP in the 1950s, there is a delayed recognition of Kwame Nkrumah that he was the one who brought respect for the whole African continent that nobody has done since. The recognition is accepted by the rest of Africa and most World historians. What is good for the NPP is thus not necessarily good for Ghana.
Unlike Ghana, the NPP is a small corporate body made of founders who are reported to have difficulty accepting new ideas, and refuse to recognize the wrongs they did to Ghana in the past, as many will admit. The P/NDC has not acknowledged the damage done to Ghana either. The difference between some of the older and some of the younger members of the NPP who are vying for leadership through the party platform, is the assumed presumption of skills they may have to change elephants on a rampage. Some people are better actors than others. If assuming some of the many charges against the NPP are true, it is hard for one to pretend that one has not heard about them, and work with this group of so-called insiders, and hope and pray to change them. Some who are not good actors will be detected, anyway.
How does one Change Them?Human usually resist change. However those sitting on comfortable chairs, as the lyrics of the famous African Brothers song indicated in the 1960s, resist change more. Most people who gain from a position without sweat prefer the status quo. Political conservatism derives some of its roots from such human need for stability once the going is good. Many persons did well during the P/NDC era and are reported or rumored (Ghana style) to be millionaires. The NPP has continued the culture, in full glare of Ghanaians. They ignored the initial vision of “Zero Tolerance for Corruption” from Omanpanin Kufuor. Ghanaian society “has become like a mafia”, as a friend who moved back home to Ghana and set up the same lucrative business he was doing in America, and returned after 4 years, confided. It is common knowledge that crime organizations, usually called Mafia organizations, have their own rules as the famous movie by Mario Puzo and the book, The Godfather, well depicted. Those with strong published opinions cannot sneak behind doors without being found out. In a typical mafia strategy, one young man who had joined the new political party, the Ghana National Party (GNP), found out during a short visit to Ghana in the Christmas 2006 time that he could not be seen joining another party. A strong admonishing by his older brothers warned him that if his business idea in Ghana was to ever manifest, he better not join another party. How does one expect to hide and pretend and join the NPP? Is what is good for the party good for Ghana?
Over the last year or so this writer has come to discover that some of the top officials in the NPP are in fact people who are his former students, whiles some are high school mates. There is no doubt in one’s mind of being able to wield some influence in the right ethical direction if the opportunity were to present itself. However, power organizations do not usually operate on an ethical basis and an open mind. Human survival strategies in organizations, especially one with limited resources, require all to assess their personal opportunities and threats for personal survival and gain to protect themselves. Does that mean that what is good for party members is necessarily good for ordinary Ghanaians? Perhaps not.
Recruitment:Academicians define and include some of the factors necessary for organizational growth as the infusion of new ideas and knowledge, and this implies new entrants. Addition of new members is one way to judge a party that means well for the nation. Talking about business also brings one to this thought, called recruitment. Has anybody ever seen an advertisement for a government post advertised on Ghanaweb or any foreign news media? No. So far, it appears all positions filled by the NPP are through political connections only and not necessarily by open competitive bidding on merit. One cannot ignore the fact that this is politics. There are few exceptions where people not on the same political party have been hired, including Dr. Kwesi Nduom, Minister of Pubic Sector Reform as of January 2007. Dr. Nduom is MP from the CPP party (reports are that he has been removed by his own party). During the PNDC it was reported hiring initially was open, and not necessarily for only those who may had similar ideological leanings. This included the current President Kufuor who was hired under the PNDC and later resigned. However one recalls that the PNDC was not a political organization at the time. Recruiting the best men and women for public positions irrespective of strong affiliation to the party, is one way of demonstrating the NPP is for Ghana or for members only. This applies to the NDC also which was reported to have strongly favored men and women of a certain ethnicity during their rule (1992-2000). In either case, there is no strong empirical evidence that this has been done deliberately, except for perceptions that in general politicians appoint people they know or are recommended by people they know, even in technical positions.
The major downside of this accepted political practice is the cases like the Ghana Airways, or recently Ghana Telecom, where competent Ghanaians in the Diaspora are not recruited through the normal channels of recruitment, and rather through political methods. Such indirect recruitment methods lead to massive financial losses to the state of Ghana and disgraceful exhibition of utter incompetence and sometimes not-so-smart hiring and firing practices. The recent firing of the 22 expatriate staff of Telenor, the Norwegian company, through the media, is an example. In the case of Ghana airways for example, the current President Kufuor was reported to have waited about two years of indecision, and hence allowed extra losses of perhaps $50 million added to the debt load. The NPP administration followed mistakes of the NDC and hired a consultancy group and paid them several more millions, before the Airline was sold at a loss of $150 Million.
Going back, we note that in the 1990s also the NDC hired a Malaysian group to manage Ghana Telecom. Despite millions of dollars in payment to managing executives, Ghana ended up breaching the contract and hence losing several millions in court. Perhaps there was some very small measurable improvement in line phone networks. However, one can credit the era with an increase in the sale of public airwaves to private operators of cellular phone systems. On the NPP side, this practice of insider preferential hiring that favored foreigners (as opposed to Ghanaians in the Diaspora) has also cost Ghana tens of millions or perhaps $100 million dollars at Ghana Telecom. Ghanaian Ministers prefer to contract to outsiders because, as one person spoke out inadvertently, it is easier to “negotiate” commissions with foreigners. The media (Ghanaweb 2006 November 15) had reported that in the two-three year contract the NPP government paid an agency $3.6 million and then paid 22 expatriate workers C3.66 Billion (comes to $400,000) per month or $4.88 Million per year).
To add more salt to injury, the report indicated the Managing Director alone was paid $150,000 per month. Even in America, only men like Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, or Michael Dell of Dell Computer, who have created and managed a very successful company yielding billions of dollars return to investors, gets paid at that level. The NPP allowed Ghana to be simply duped! Period! Despite this disgraceful contract with massive losses to the state, the quality of Ghana telecom system from outside and within Ghana is still very poor. It is rumored in Ghana that the standard “insider” corrupt practices exist, and many NPP boys got rich in such contracts. Is what is good for the NPP boys good for Ghana?
If one wanted really to serve the nation’s interests, it can be noted that Ghanaian experts, sent overseas since the 1960s and well trained in various communication technologies and management in America, Europe and elsewhere have been waiting to serve Ghana. Most are outside because of jobs. Despite the open sewage and gutters (the most disgraceful element of our nations in Africa), Ghanaians love their country! Could Ghana have hired Ghanaians to save perhaps $100 million or more?. Of course! This writer has names of some of these experts. Ghanaians were sent overseas for training in the 1960s and 1970s and most of them, instead of returning home early and becoming consumers with only academic degrees, actually did Ghana a favor by staying for further experience. It was a blessing in disguise. This combined asset and competency can now be utilized after 20 or more years, as a resource for Ghana. As a nation, we now have no excuse! We have the skilled manpower, but will the NPP hire them if they are not politically connected?
The new Comers and Entry BarriersAnother scenario and barrier to organizational progress is the problem we call “entry barriers” that are placed in front of any new members of an organization, be it in business, markets, or other human associations such as political parties. Strategic marketing methods, as taught in Business schools, apply here. New comers to the political parties, not just the NPP or the NDC, face the same challenges of creating value through differentiation of their skills and talent. The recent loss of Dr. Spio-Garbrah in the NDC nomination exemplifies the challenges. It shocked many within or even outside the NDC. It has been suggested by the NPP leadership, as President Kufuor was reported to have said during the recent NPP congress communications in Koforidua, that new comers “should wait their turn”. As much as that may hurt the chances of men like Dr. Frempong Boateng, Dr. Arthur Kennedy or Boakye Agyarko, it must be noted that this is the nature of party politics. Can a wild elephant be easily tamed by newcomers at the zoo? Is what is good for the NPP necessarily good for the nation of Ghana?
It was quite unfortunate that at the recent NPP convention in Koforidua not many ideas were presented that pointed to solutions to the problems of the nation. The NPP were focused on internal problems of unity. One cannot blame them. In a paper that has been circulated as one great paper seeking internal changes in the NPP, Dr. Arthur Kennedy asks for change within the NPP to “strengthen the elephant, as he put it (Kennedy, 2005). Does strengthening the elephant necessarily imply strengthening the nation of Ghana?
There is not much evidence to answer in the affirmative on this question. This writer is not suggesting that politics is a fair game. It appears both the NDC and the NPP folks both want what is good for them. One may recall how both parties agreed on the free $20,000 loans to buy cars and how minority leader Alan Bagbin was silenced as soon as he was added to the trip to New York to negotiate that infamous loan that was later found to be a fake in early part of the NPP administration.
In conclusion, one can say for sure that people who are smart, capable and do not want to join political parties and/or articulate their ideas in the public domain are usually left out of power play and public wealth distribution. What is good for the NDC was not necessarily good for the people of Ghana, despite the sacrifices of life and limb many went through in the 1980s accused and charged with practicing the same elements of free enterprise as hailed later on by the World Banks as the means to economic freedom. In the post 2000 era also, we find that what is good for the NPP is not what is good for the people of Ghana. Many are left without water, clean environments, mosquito breeding open stinky gutters and sewage, rationing of electricity. The NPP Ministers use public funds to secure their water reservoirs, electric generators and enhance their living with vehicles and specialized health care benefits. It has become all too obvious that what is good for the NPP also is not good for Ghana.
As a member of the audience, a Fante speaking man, told an audience gathered in Kaasoa, a suburb of Accra in July 2006 when Ofori Ampofo and the writer were invited guest speakers, they have found that “when an elephant eats, he does not leave anything behind for the rest to eat”. If is for this reason some of them decided to join the new political party, Ghana National Party, www.natlparty.com to seek a new platform for change. The choices people make in life is up to them.
The destiny of the people of Ghana is in their hands as a people to decide if what is good for the NPP or NDC is good for them.
Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.