Two friends, Apuu and Tɔɔ meet on a dead path somewhere in their village in Nanakrom
Apuu: Tɔɔ. You are a fool to fools
Tɔɔ: That makes me a bit wiser than you my well-decorated fool
Apuu: I hear Nana Addo’s bald head has become a public drum
Tɔɔ: What has Nana Kyeiwaa Part 4 done this time? Falling asleep again?
Apuu: Look at this fool. Are you the only one who has not heard that the sleeping beauty has swelled ministerial appointments to an unprecedented 110?
Tɔɔ: Yes. So what?
Apuu: So what? Is your grandfather’s cocoa farm income going to pay their obese salaries, garden boy, driver, and Legon girls? Even some people who voted for him want to shine his head. This is a serious matter, you fool.
Tɔɔ: I see. The old man has 110 problems and a bitch ain’t one? He disappoints me.
Apuu: You painful fool. This is not the time for unproven ashawo allegations. Our economy is in trouble. People are working hard but their efforts end up in the devil’s pocket. Nana Addo promised so much; how could he now be so insensitive to our plight? What does he need 110 people for? The Finance, Energy, Agric, and Local Government Ministries have 3 deputy ministers each. What kills me is that even the propaganda club called the Information Ministry has 3 deputy minsters. Can you believe that nonsense?
Tɔɔ: Ah, I am surprised people are complaining now. I thought we had it coming. Didn’t people notice that the man appointed 40 ministers for various roles? That is some 38% increment in number compared to Mahama’s 29. That percentage reflects his overall number of 110 compared to Mahama’s 98. I think the old man has been consistent. So why are people crying now? Or Ghanaians can’t think in percentages only in absolute numbers?
Apuu: Ha! This fool has suddenly grown smart and cocky. Who cares about percentages? We think in terms of cost and tax payer’s money.
Tɔɔ: Who doesn’t? We say we want a democracy. Well, a democracy is a representational government. If our population has been increasing, and not remained static or declined, then it makes sense that we increase the number of ministers who serve the increasing population. I tell you what. I think this is a commendable text-book application of a key principle of democracy. It is a brilliant experiment that I think everyone else who lays claim to a democracy should note. Let the old man be.
Apuu: My friend, even established democracies who have larger populations than us do not have such overpopulated ministerial portfolios. The UK has 21, Australia has 20, and the US has 15; meanwhile Nanakrom has 40. What kind of over-learning is that! And then we have to pay them all these ridiculous amounts of money and benefits. For what?
Tɔɔ: Well, you are talking about established democracies. Ours is not, so I reckon we need more people to do the work, don’t you think? In any case, these countries you cited operate a federal system. That is very different from our unitary state system. If Ghana were a federal state, then each of the ten regions will have its own governor, cabinet, parliament, police, and members of the judiciary. Of course then we wouldn’t need 40 federal cabinet ministers because the states would handle many of their own domestic issues, including raising and using their own funds. But we are not. I don’t think that we are doing anything abnormal here with 40 cabinet ministers for 28 million people. As for the monies we pay, even the President of Ghana does not make half what a cabinet minister in America makes.
Apuu: Tɔɔ, I think you are lost in your head. You shouldn’t even be making that comparison. Those are advanced economies. We have big problems and cannot afford to even dream of getting close to them. The average annual income per person in the US is over $53,000. Do you know the average income per person in Ghana? $3900 a year! That is 7% of what an average American earns. So if I am to follow your kantamanto logic, why should our president be earning 19% of what an American president earns. Why shouldn’t he earn 7% of that? Don’t even get me started on all the allowances and galamsey monies that no one accounts for. And he is there doing job for the boys adding ministers like he is doing long division. And you also have the audacity to defend it. You must be out of your mind.
Tɔɔ: I am sure I am because I have succeeded in smoking out a fool’s temper. Look, your argument is sound. But then if we have more problems than America, then certainly our president and ministers deserve to be rewarded more because their work is harder. Using average income is fair. But if America with their $18.9 trillion national debt can afford to take care of their president and ministers, we can also certainly manage around our national debt of only $22.7 billion to take care of our politicians who have more difficult problems to solve. Anaa?
Apuu: Massa, massa, Daavi’s apio is toasting your brain. What has any politician ever done for you? What hard work? Don’t get me worked up. I have not had my breakfast yet.
Tɔɔ: Apuu, this is not really about the numbers, is it?
Apuu: What do you mean?
Tɔɔ: I mean the problem you and many people are complaining about has got nothing to do with the number of minsters or what they are being paid.
Apuu: Did I have water in my mouth when I was talking. Ah, ok so what is about.
Tɔɔ: I think the actual problem pertains to a general perception that people in politics do not add much value to the welfare of the populace, except to their own back accounts.
Apuu: Oh but that is obvious. After all, most ministers get their jobs as rewards for campaign exertions and not due to their competence for the job.
Tɔɔ: Good, so regardless of their competence, you think they treat their appointments as pay checks for campaign effort and use them to cash out unthinkable financial rewards.
Apuu: I don’t disagree. I think that every additional minister is just another another “greedy bastard” to feed.
Tɔɔ: You see o. Because if we really believed that every minister is another competent human resource to work for our welfare, then we would rather ask for more numbers. After all, as the Akans say, “a lot of meat does not spoil the soup”.
Apuu: Yes, this one is a case of adding more bad nuts to the other bad nuts that we are painfully chewing but can’t spit out.
Tɔɔ: So you agree with me that although the financial cost of maintaining ministers in Ghana is high, that is not really the problem.
Apuu: Well, the general complaint is specifically about the cost of paying salaries, allowances, support staff, and so on.
Tɔɔ: Yes, but you can see that what they are actually complaining about is having to spend so much remuneration for personnel they do not value highly anyway. I think reasonably, people would not mind paying a lot for extremely good service. But in this case, people do not see the value for money because they strongly assume that political staff do not add much value to the people’s welfare.
Apuu: I can agree with that. So what’s your point?
Tɔɔ: I think what Nana Addo needs to be really responding to—in deeds, not words—is that these 110 are going to add value to the economy and welfare of people; that they are not there for chop chop; that this is not a job for the boys, but jobbing for the people. If he shows authority on this and show through obvious change that the 110 are really delivering results we can see, people will even ask for more ministers.
Apuu: I must admit, for a moment, you stopped being a fool. You are right. But I am afraid you are also being a hopeless optimist. I don’t think the old man has shown any evidence so far that he will uproot corruption as he promised.
Tɔɔ: Don’t be an impatient fool. Let us give him time. That is why I consider this an experiment. I agree that it is so abrupt that it irks people. But sometimes the only way to implement change is to take a Nike mantra, and just do it. Democracy can be slow, so maybe he is being a decisive leader and doing what he thinks will help him do the job he wants to do. Let’s give him time. But let us also be vigilant citizens and yes, let us criticize when we must. In four years, the ballot box will give us the chance to pass an overall judgment on the old man and his 110. Until then, we will keep watching; we will keep checking if the promised change is making any difference in the weight of our pockets.
Apuu: I will tell you what I need now?
Tɔɔ: Palm wine?
Apuu: Fool. Palm wine and some meat. Why just palm wine? Do you want to kill me?
Tɔɔ: Hahaha. I think we are in the same boat.
Apuu: Well, let us take this conversation to Daavi’s spot; good meat and an educated palm wine always open the brains up.
Tɔɔ: Ah! God bless Daavi.