I got to know about the expression, ‘positions are not possessions’ from a friend of mine.
He made the statement when I sought to confirm news that a senior colleague of ours had ended his tour of duty as a public servant. My reaction was that of surprise. He was stunned that I was surprised, so he said, “ah, but positions are not possessions?”
Having observed trends since I became abreast with this statement, I have realised that it is a truism. The only caveat is that it applies mainly to public service. Therefore, to make it even truer, I hereby restate it as, ‘public service positions are not possessions.’ Why then is it that when people secure public service appointments, they fail to avert their minds to the fact that sooner or later, that post will cease to be theirs.
Before I proceed to hazard any guesses, it is worth mentioning that the phenomenon becomes more unfathomable when one considers the fact that in most cases, the incumbent has a hand in chasing away his or her predecessor. This is done physically and sometimes spiritually. Oh yes!
For such a person to suddenly forget that, “the same stick that was used in hitting Takyi, would be used to hit Baah” (Local Akan proverb), beats my imagination.
Possible reasons for the possession of public service positions
As a student of Public Administration, I am aware that there are 7 features of the Civil Service. They are; Political Neutrality, Anonymity, Bureaucracy, Expertise, Meritocracy, Hierarchy and Permanency.
The Permanency feature of the Civil Service means that every civil servant enjoys the security of tenure. In other words, a civil servant cannot be dismissed for reasons other than those stated in the law. Therefore, it appears that some people have misconstrued this feature as a license to stay in office indefinitely.
Consequently, when they assume office, they start decorating their offices with photos of themselves, wives and children. Some of these images are found right on their desks and are placed in such a manner that no visitor will miss them. In instances where the occupant of the position has ever had a photo opportunity with the sitting president, that picture is usually placed in a prime position.
The next thing they do is to personalise the official vehicle assigned to the position. The official driver becomes a domestic driver. One of his core duties becomes picking the boss’ children to and from school as well as the wife to the market on weekends.
A few instances of how some Public/Civil Servants possessed their positions are cited below:
“You sacked me like a fowl”
There was this Public Sector CEO whose tenure was full of terror, greed and selfishness. Having surreptitiously pursued the expedited exit of his predecessor, he became the master of all he surveyed. Any challenge to his directives was met with this statement- “I was appointed by the President; he is the only one I answer to. I am running, if you cannot keep up with the pace, I will leave you.”
He stripped staff of all benefits that they enjoyed prior to his tenure by introducing new criteria for qualification to enjoy those benefits. He possessed the position for eight years, very oblivious of its non-permanent nature.
When the legally allowed tenure expired, he initiated moves to have it extended. But a new board chairman is said to have ended that dream, hence the statement in Twi- “Mo apamo me tesƐ akokↃ”- “You sacked me like a fowl.”
For the uninitiated, in Ghanaian households, fowls are considered a nuisance. They venture into places where they are unwelcomed in search of food. Some are so aggressive at their endeavours that they tend to irritate anyone they encounter. Especially, when they defecate anyhow anywhere after eating.
So, when they have to be sacked it is done with so much disdain. Wherefore I ask, if you turn yourself into a fowl, how else do you want to be sacked?
“I must use the vehicle until my due date of retirement”
Until I owned a car, I did not get it when taxi and trotro drivers found it so difficult to park the vehicles at the owners’ residences at the end of each working day. They will fight tooth and nail to resist any suggestion that they should park the car, return home and come the next day for it. Same with drivers in public service and corporate institutions. They find any excuse to park the car at their places of abode contrary to the rules.
When I bought a car, then I realised that it is one thing that one can easily become attached to. You want to take it wherever you go. As a result, friends and family also associate vehicles with their owners to the extent that some will never believe it when they see the vehicle somewhere, but are told that the owner is not around.
So, it came to pass that a public servant, who had a duty-post vehicle as a benefit that came with the position, wanted to use the vehicle while on six months’ leave prior to retirement. The CEO said no. It became a bitter conflict that was resolved eventually by the Board- the vehicle was retrieved from the officer. This boss had become so used to the car that she could not imagine herself living the rest of her life without it. But I ask, if the position itself has expired, why do you still want to possess the largesse that came with it?
The Transport Manager without a vehicle to transport his belongings
Once upon a time, in a public service organisation, there lived a transport officer. A no-nonsense stickler for the rules. He only allowed persons qualified to use official vehicles to have access to them. When his colleagues needed vehicles for any personal purpose, he refused their request with the explanation that it is against the rules.
However, as the Transport Manager, he possessed and used the vehicles for his own activities. He had one salon car for himself and chose between a pickup vehicle and Landcruiser V8 for his weekend rounds. Well, he retired and had to relocate to his hometown. After handing over the post, he requested a vehicle to transport his belongings to the village. His request was denied with the explanation that it was against the rules.
Why he forgot that transporting one’s belonging to the village was not part of the rules is the question that begs for an answer.
Haruna Iddrisu and Collins Dauda’s chair in Parliament
Hon. Haruna Iddrisu is a force to reckon with when it comes to the politics of the National Democratic Congress (NDC). I have watched his rise from the youth to the national levels of the party from afar. His level of confidence and enthusiasm as a politician is admirable.
When he was selected as the Minority Leader in the 8th Parliament, I acknowledged that it was a well-deserved recognition of his contribution to the NDC. Obviously, the post is not a ‘small’ one. The pecks, privileges and opportunities that come with it are mouth-watering. He therefore possessed and enjoyed from January 2021 until recently when the Asiedu Nketia-led national executive of the party decided to cut short his enjoyment.
I found Hon. Haruna’s initial silence over the matter very matured as opposed to Hon. Mohammed Muntaka who went on a tirade. I was to be disappointed a few days later. Hon. Haruna Iddrisu seemed not to have gotten over the fact that, that chair in the front row of the house is no longer his. So, he must have gone to the House and decided not to sit just anywhere. Someone found it needful to sit him close to where the power is, but he rejected the seat. The explanation he offered was that the slot belongs to Hon. Collins Dauda so out of respect, he could not sit there.
Wherefore I ask, in a house where the seats are numbered according to the number of MPs, is it not logical that if Hon. Cassiel Ato Forson has taken over your seat, you also go straight to occupy his wherever it is? Well, the pain of losing a possession cannot be discounted in Hon. Haruna’s reaction. Can you?
“Boss, we don’t work there anymore. I am driving you home”
Ex-President Rawlings, may God rest his soul, was feared when he reigned. However, while on retirement, he showed us his other side- humurous. The ‘Atta Mortuary man’ episode is one such instance and the song he released in tow was rib-cracking- ‘Cadindingadin’.
In one of such hilarious renditions, he told the story of how his driver had to remind him that they no longer worked at the then Seat of Government- The Christiansburg Castle, Osu, a few months after leaving office. That was after close to two decades of being the Head of State.
He mentioned that they (he and the driver) had returned from town. Upon reaching the Liberation Circle, the driver, instead of turning towards the State House, thence to the Castle, did a full circle and headed towards the Ridge residence of Rawlings. Surprised, JJ said he asked in Ga, “Nigb3 oyaa?’’- Where are you going? And the driver replied, “Miiya shia. Nuumo3, s33 wↃ b3j3m3 donn” – “I am driving you home. Boss, we don’t work at the other place anymore.”
Actually, Rawlings’s behaviour in the immediate aftermath of his reign angered then Presidential Spokesperson, Ing. Kwabena Agyapong, so much so that he once likened JJ’s behaviour to a child who has been denied the use of his toy.
“Where is everybody?”
Ex-President J.A. Kufuor took over from the late JJ Rawlings. The Gentle Giant as he was nicknamed, really enjoyed the position. In the end, he awarded himself Order of the Volta- one of the highest state awards.
After he left office, the story was told of how he once woke up in the morning, dressed in his characteristic suit, came out to the compound to meet only the security guards at the gate.
He is said to have asked them in Akan, “Obiaara wↃhe?”- “where is everybody?” Only a few weeks earlier, he would have walked out to meet a whole entourage of people coming to see him for various reasons- VVIPs, VIPs and nonentities alike. He would have majestically sat in the bulletproof Mercedes Benz and driven to the Castle with Police outriders heralding his coming. All that had gone with the post- President of the Republic of Ghana.
Busy forecourt now empty
Ex-President John Mahama is currently campaigning to be re-elected as president of Ghana. I don’t know if you noticed, but I did. On the day he conceded defeat upon losing the December 7, 2016 presidential election, he hid his red eyes behind dark glasses. Yes, red eyes resulting from prolonged weeping.
During one of his recent campaign tours, he related how while in office, the frontage of his residence at Cantonments was always a beehive of activities. However, the day after the election results were announced, the place became as quiet as the cemetery.
Evidently, JM’s second coming is a quest to repossess what he deems to be his birthright. Otherwise, why would you want to return to power at a time when President Akufo-Addo’s poor management of the economy among other issues have made you seem like an angel? What happened to bowing out when the applause is loud?
It’s time to go
There is no gainsaying the fact that President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo (NADAA) has possessed the presidency, to the extent of having his personal chair, which he moves around in-country.
Not to mention the alleged chartering of plush private jets in which he supposedly baths in the sky. He has also adopted the ‘I’m in charge attitude’ towards all calls to downsize his government. Also, while everybody says his ministers are not performing, hence should be reshuffled, he says they have performed excellently.
Our elders say, you cannot know the length of the toad until it dies. With barely 20 months left for NADAA to leave office, we await the kind of withdrawal symptoms he will exhibit. There is one thing for sure. He would have to make do with any chair that would be offered him at any public gathering he attends after 6th January, 2025.
One can only hope that he will not insist on having the roaming presidential chair. If that happens, a warning that late President J.E.A Mills gave him, would become relevant- “There is only one President in this country.”
So, I ask again, if positions are not possessions, why do we possess them so? We forget, as Professor Frimpong Boateng said in his recent open letter to Hon. Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, that public service position is effervescent.
Adjö- That’s goodbye in Swedish
Let God lead. Follow Him directly, not through any human.
The writer is the 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or Tel-0244679575.
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