Gorgeous, won't you say?

I have very reluctantly decided to write this piece.

That’s because I like beautiful women. My wife knows- because she is one of them.

It is also because I dislike it when people I like give themselves up for public opprobrium.

But “wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or who says it”- Malcom X.

So write I have to.

Mrs. Ursula Awurabena Owusu-Ekuful is beautiful. Hence, I like her.

If my wife is my sweetheart because she is beautiful and Ursula is beautiful, then the latter is also my sweetheart. It is only logical, ‘init’?

Ursula is undoubtedly beautiful. A typical example of what we call African woman with enough body. Facial beauty? Check. Education? Check. Intelligence? Check. Mr. Ekuful is really blessed to have her as a wife. I jealous you mehnn!

Another source of attraction. A Lawyer, Ursula is one of the few ministers who speaks the English language according to all the rules prescribed by the Queen of England.

Where we part company is her public speeches. It is the Where and How she does it that bother me.

I guess it is my knowledge on public speaking that makes me feel uncomfortable about some of her public utterances. But let’s see.

It is worth stressing at this juncture that I only know Mrs. Ursula Awurabena Owusu-Ekuful, nee Owusu, because she is a public figure. And one of no mean repute- Minister of Communication and Digitalisation.

What you don’t know about Ursula

Due to my fondness for her, I listen to Ursula with rapt attention anytime she speaks in public. In the process, I notice all the non-verbal gestures that come with her speech. Notable among them being the twisting of her upper lip to stress her points when she feels offended by something.

Against this background, on 21st October last year when I saw an article written by one Maame Broni on myjoyonline.com, I took time off my busy editing schedule to read it. It was the title, “Ursula Owusu the baby thief” that drew me to the article.

Here are excerpts:

“Finally, the priceless alert on my phone came; “send me your CV and deliver a hardcopy to Mr… Excel at your interview and leave the rest to God”.

Quite a number of friends warned me against working with her. Hypercritical, an unrepentant soul, self-centered were some of the adjectives used in describing her to me. “She is nice to you because you deal with her from afar, maintain that distance,” they said.  I took all those with a pinch of salt and went in for the kill.

The first two months were lovely until reality began rearing its head. Ursula is strait-laced. She pays too much attention to details. I am the care-free type and love acting at my own pace.  I began dilly-dallying and hell broke loose. I received all the scathing words there could be in life on that day. I locked myself in my office and wept like a baby.

I practically gave up that evening. I was ready to resign the next morning, but a friend helped me out of the silly thoughts. It would have been my biggest mistake in life. This form of training continued for some months and gradually I was getting used to her usual tantrums. Almost all her ‘annoying messages’ were sent between 1am-3am.

I would wake up each dawn to check my WhatsApp messages and responding to her simple message could take more than 30 minutes because I would write, delete, write, edit, delete till I am convinced whatever I had scribbled made enough sense.

Sometimes, she would ignore the substance and mark the form. One needs “critical thinking” before responding to her messages, because there will be follow up questions.  I had swallowed enough and needed to vent. I needed an escape route, but I also didn’t want to quit the job. I felt I was mentally bruised.

I went to bed knowing her acts are mostly deliberate and meant to toughen us. Anxiety and palpitations became my portion anytime I arranged media interviews for her. Ursula can promise to live per the script but certainly, she’s not an autopilot. Brace yourself because she will skid.

She would smile knowing how angry her interviews can make you, then she’d annoyingly say, “I had to tweak them a little. Go and do your job.”

By the way, Maame Broni is a Communication Specialist with Ministry of Communications. A trained journalist and a speech coordinator.

My point of interest

I found out after reading the article that it was meant to eulogise Ursula on her birthday.

Now, it has become clear to me that in celebrating Ursula in the manner she did, Maame Broni lost sight of the unintended consequence of that beautiful piece of writing. I mean she confirmed the oft held perception that her boss is arrogant and full of herself.

Here is why- “Hypercritical, an unrepentant soul, self-centered were some of the adjectives used in describing her to me….Ursula can promise to live per the script but certainly, she’s not an autopilot. Brace yourself because she will skid.”

My question is, who receives tips from a Communication Specialist on public speaking and decides to skid?

This statement for me lends credence to my observation that my Ursula is indeed, the kind we say in Ga “esane ŋɔɔ enaa”- likes to please herself.

Otherwise, what else will make a lawyer cum Minister of State who has been given a platform at a town hall meeting to assuage the fears of citizens who are protesting the introduction of e-levy, say this:

“E-levy is being introduced at the lowest rate for any tax in Ghana, comparatively at 1.75%. Less than 2%. In other countries, digital taxes are being introduced at the rate of up to 10% and they’re paying. That’s the UK. And we go there and seek loans from them to finance our development. When we are not paying the requisite taxes that we should.” 

When she could have said this: ‘The E-levy is being introduced at a rate of 1.75% because we need enough money within the shortest possible time to finance our development. Actually because the government is concerned about you, it is the lowest for any tax in Ghana. Especially due to the impact Covid-19 has had on the economy and your livelihoods. My fellow Ghanaians, the developed countries achieved their current status by collecting taxes from their citizens just like you and I. When it comes to digital taxes, they even pay as high as 10%. If we want to develop like them, please let us pay the E-levy. It is for our own good.’

Same message couched differently. Which one works for you?

Now to the statements she made at a press briefing on Sunday 31st July, 2022 that prompted this article:

  1. We are here to brief the public through you, on some activities of the Ministry of Communications and Digitalisation.
  2. Until a week ago, there were no queues at any registration center. People started rushing to register when they realized the deadline was imminent after going to sleep when it was extended.
  3. I have also been informed that some people who have obtained quick loans from their service providers have decided not to register those SIMs to avoid repaying the loans. That is evil corruption and you will be found out.
  4. Upon consultation with the industry and in view of the challenges enumerated above, I have very reluctantly decided to grant a final conditional extension. The program will be extended to 30th September to end on the anniversary of its commencement.
  5. My hapless self has been roundly vilified in certain quarters particularly this past week, for Ghana card challenges which I am not responsible for.

How a senior public servant can stand in public in the full glare of TV cameras and microphones and talk to her publics in this manner is what surprises me.

How? You aptly tell us your target audience in your introduction and tell us in our faces that instead of registering, we went to sleep?

My dear reader, obviously, Ursula lives in Ghana but do you think she watches TV or listens to Radio?

If she does, did she miss the long queues and the lamentations of the prospective registrants? Some lamenting that they sacrifice sleep to report at such centres as early as 3:00am and 4:00am in order to leave early for work? What about those who lost money to thieves while queuing to register and those traders who lost income due to the long hours wasted at the registration centres? Hmm!

This is the second time I am having to mention the concept of emotional intelligence in relation to a public servant. For the avoidance of doubt, this is what I wrote in my article entitled, “Is this the otherside of IGP Dampare?“-  …“For, the mark of a great leader is the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict. That’s Emotional Intelligence as defined by www.helpguide.org.”

This paragraph has been reproduced because I have realized that in the two instances of public speaking by Ursula aforementioned, instead of addressing us, the public, she used the opportunity to respond to adverse public comments by her detractors, notably Hon. Samuel Nartey George, A.K.A ‘Dzata’, alias ‘Prefect of the stubborn academy’.

So, Mr. Sam George attacks her on social media platforms or in Parliament, but Ursula uses official assignments where we expect her to account for her stewardship as a public servant to visit the iniquities of Mr. George on us because purportedly, ‘Dzata’ is fighting for our interest and we are not asking him to stop.

Otherwise why would she tell us that “My hapless self has been roundly vilified in certain quarters…”.

Let’s hear Sam George speaking on JoyNews’ PM Express on the SIM re-registration issue.

“…the issues that have beset the SIM re-registration process since its inception is due to the failure of the Minister to consult and engage with all stakeholders in the industry.…the Minister is stuck in her ways. What she wants to do is what she’s going to do and that’s why you have this mess. No one person is a repository of knowledge and you need to listen and engage with the stakeholders, you need to engage with NIA.”

“…had the Minister engaged the NIA to come out with a decisive solution such that the need for a Ghana card for the SIM re-registration would not unduly burden the Authority, the current backlog would not have been experienced….it tells you that we have a Minister who doesn’t pay attention to detail, a Minister who doesn’t listen to sound advice when it comes.

“The NIA didn’t beg the Minister to use the Ghana card, they didn’t request it. She chose it. The Committee from Parliament has been trying to engage the Minister since October last year on this issue and she just won’t listen.”

So you see why Ursula told us that we went to sleep instead of going to register? Please compare Sam George’s assertions with the ‘eulogy’ by Maame Broni and draw your own conclusions. Don’t forget Hon Sam George is in Parliament with my ‘darling’.

As alluded to above, it takes an emotionally intelligent public speaker to focus on the intended audience to ensure that the message lands on their minds in a manner that makes them appreciate it and the sender as well. Not in a manner that makes them feel insulted.

To the extent of saying that I, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful (emphasis mine), have reluctantly decided to grant a final conditional extension. Are you our boss or our Public Servant?

The Directive Principles of State Policy

Going by how some of our ministers speak to us, it bears reminding them that theirs is to serve, not to lord it over us.

Apart from my sweetheart, another Minister whose public utterances leave much to be desired is the Minister for Roads and Highways, Mr. Kwasi Amoako Atta. In November last year, when his bosses (people of Kwafokrom- Apedwa in the Eastern Region) were demonstrating against the delay in completing the Accra-Kumasi dualisation project, instead of assuaging their anxiety, he told them that “demonstrations don’t build roads” so they should stop. Can you imagine?

Because Ursula is a lawyer, I went back to my Administrative Law notes and found out that Chapter 6, Article 35 (3) of the 1992 Constitution provides that “The State (not Ursula Owusu-Ekuful) shall promote just and reasonable access by all citizens to public facilities and services in accordance with law.”

Article 36 (2) (e) states that, “The State shall, … the recognition that the most secure democracy is the one that assures the basic necessities of life for its people as a fundamental duty.”

So if the 1992 Constitution, which we the people of Ghana voted into being in a referendum on 28 April, 1992, provides for your appointment as a Minister by a President we the people of Ghana voted for with our thumbs into office, you do not talk to us as if you are speaking with Maame Broni.

I say ‘us’ because I realized that I am not the only one concerned about Ursula’s remark. There are few of us, including the Chairperson of the CPP, Madam Akosua Frimpomaa Sarpong Kumankumah. “Ghanaians are also human beings, and when we make policies, it must be human-centered policies. The Ministry of Communication, Minister nu, she has lost it. She’s lost touch with the people. The moment technology is not used to make life easier, convenient for the people, she’s lost it,” the CPP Chair said painfully in a video that has gone viral on social media. She said more. This is just the gist.

‘Me nkotiaa,’ “I have very reluctantly decided to grant a final conditional extension.”

What about this? “People of Ghana, the SIM re-registration exercise is meant to check the increasing incidents of fraud involving the use of the mobile phone and to monitor and track down persons who would use their phones for all manner of criminal activities. It is therefore in your own interest that we get this project out of the way. If you fail to re-register your SIM, you make yourself susceptible to the activities of these fraudsters. The deadline will be extended to September 30. That is because we recognise the difficulties you have with obtaining the Ghana Card. Obviously this exercise cannot continue for ever. Please make sure you register on or before September 30, so that we can get this over and done with. Remember it is to protect you from fraudsters.”

Ursula could have said this beautifully in her melodious voice to the satisfaction of all and sundry. But No. September 30 will come soon and we shall see if it will be the “final conditional extension.”

Sweetheart, if this is one of your “usual tantrums” Maame Broni referred to, please stop it!

It’s time to go.

I leave on the note of a phrase I came across recently, “Talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not”-Leila Jonah.

Me too I am hereby reminding all ministers and political appointees that it is by mere opportunity that they find themselves where they are. Indeed, but for their relationship with President Akufo-Addo or someone who knows the President or merely because they are members of the NPP, they will not be holding those privileged positions.

Simply put, you are not the most brilliant Ghanaians who ever lived. If you are, show it to us by giving us this, “reasonable access by all citizens to public facilities and services in accordance with law. And that, “basic necessities of life for its people as a fundamental duty.”

Please don’t treat us with the contempt that you do sometimes. That’s because we employed and pay you with our taxes. And can decide to sack you in 2024 if we all put our shoulders to the wheel.

That’s a heartfelt-advice from a concerned Ghanaian.

Slan – That’s goodbye in Irish language.

Let God Lead. Follow Him directly, not through any human.

The writer works at Myjoyonline.com. He is also an author of two books whose contents share knowledge on how anyone desirous of writing like him can do so. Eric can be reached via email eric.mensah-ayettey@myjoyonline.com. The two books cost GHC80.00.