When the tug of war on the actual price value of the medals, which were used to decorate some Ghanaians at this year’s Presidential Awards started, it was the prayer of this writer that the Ghanaian Minister of Information and National Orientation, Steven Asamoah-Boateng would never comment.

This writer did not wish that the Information Minister be gagged, but rather like an elephant in a China shop, I thought he should have been an overly-cautious elephant this time. Like the elephant in a China shop, which knows that there are so many beautiful things around him, he is also clumsy, so the minister is expected to always go through his job a wee bit too gingerly, to a point where he would begin to earn the respect of all.

But all our worries were not going to end anywhere as on Friday, July 11, 2008, from nowhere, the minister decided to grant an interview to Joy FM, an Accra-based radio station. The minister in his usual uncharacteristic manner was so vitriolic to the Ghanaian taxpayer that one begins to wonder whether African politicians think that they are omnipotent.

It might be interesting paraphrasing the Information Minister’s interview on Joy FM. When the question was put to him as to whether it was not outrageous for the nation to, in the midst of all the water shortages, the unimaginable power cuts and the litany of other needs, import medals at a total cost of ¢14 billion (fourteen billion Ghanaian cedis) or US$1.4 million, Asamoah-Boateng was simply uncharitable with his answers!

According to the minister, medals are not picked from the beaches. They are bought with money. He went on. Even houses and cars are purchased for Miss Ghana beauty pageants!

Apart from saying that the minister’s parallel was so warped because the principals of beauty pageants do not take their sponsorship budgets from the consolidated fund, it would also be in place to say that if you are ignorant on a subject, the best strategy is to remain mute if a question is put! In the US for example, if you are caught on the wrong side of the law and you do not want to betray yourself, when a question is put, you simply plead the Fifth Amendment and under the circumstance, that was what many a discerning mind expected of the minister.

Sometimes, the taxpayers should be given a modicum of respect by Asomoah-Boateng and his cohorts. Remember that the septuagenarian Chief of Staff, Kwadwo Mpiani, in his usual pomp-style, ‘disciplined’ the critics of the cost of the medals with his calculated plutocratic words. “Let us not cheapen ourselves,” he said. The Chief of Staff told the host of another Joy FM programme, News File that the price value of the medals was far less than the aggregate worth of the contributions of the honourees! His argument might sound valid but the premise of the question was that the priorities of the government look totally misplaced. Of course, if this minister was writing a logical reasoning examination, he would have been given an F grade, because in logic, answers are determined by the premise. As simple as that! But we have to forgive Mr. Mpiani and return to the subject of this discourse, Mr. Asamoah-Boateng. We have to forgive the Chief of Staff because that is his style. He is the law! It was the same Mr. Mpiani who went before the members of parliament (MPs) and told them that as Chief of Staff, he did not know the actual cost of the Taj Mahal Presidential Villa and that the cost would be known when the project was completed. He also watered down fears on the extravagance of the Ghana @ 50 celebrations!

Let us go back to the Information Minister. He makes me, reminisce, a former deputy minister in the National Democratic Congress (NDC) regime, Mr. Albert Bosomtwi Sam. He simply epitomizes the late Mr. Albert Bosomtwi Sam. Back in those days, anytime the masses complained of the rising cost of living in Ghana, the late minister came out and stated that ‘if you complain that you cannot buy food, it means that you do not buy from the market because the cost of food items in Agbogbloshie and Makola was so cheap.’ At another forum Albert Bosomtwi Sam can be properly honoured with an ‘ode.’ The guy was so interesting that when he was going to die, he willed his estate to his mistress instead of his lawfully wedded wife and kids. It took the intervention of former President, Jerry John Rawlings to restore the estates to his late wife and kids.

Recently, when it became clear that life was becoming unbearable for the ordinary man and the people needed some welfare because that is the essence of governments the world over, Mr. Asamoah-Boateng’s prescriptions were very simple. ‘Go and eat kokonte (cassava chips) and groundnuts’. He also prescribed mangoes. When this writer was going to school, there was a phenomenon we called mango diet. Many of the students were at one time asked by teachers to rely on the abundant mangoes on the campus at the time as their main meal, because food had become so expensive and the student of course, put the cost of books and other necessities first. That’s how come the coinage, mango diet and so mango diet did Mr. Asamoah-Boateng prescribe for all Ghanaians.

In Ghana and the larger Africa, leaders prefer being consumed by sycophantic praise rather than being reformed by objective criticism. As this piece is being written, the pro-ethnic cleansing Sudanese government has bussed hundreds of people to the centre of Khartoum to demonstrate against the indictment of Omar al Bashir for his crimes against the black population in Darfur. That is why as soon as you criticize bad government policy, you are labeled anti-government or as belonging to the opposition party.

Idi Amin Dada had supporters. So did Jean-Bédel Bokassa of the Central African Republic, so this writer believes that Mr. Asamoah-Boateng enjoys support for all his utterances.

But what actually beats me most is what really went into selecting Mr. Asamoah-Boateng for the position of information minister. If indeed information management is an art and a science, then Mr. Asamoah-Boateng, apart from his sheer arrogance and pride, which he himself describes as assertiveness, does not qualify at all. But who am I to question the action of an African leader? Well, I am Ghanaian so I shall do my best.

Information management must not be toyed with by any government so an inpatient and of course undiplomatic person must not be given that role. This was the man, who ensured the dismissal of a former deputy commissioner of the Immigration Service, Mr. Hodari Okine, for what he described as the latter’s political colour. Of course, people who are not political appointees should be neutral and perform their duties professionally. Mr. Okine’s dismissal was reversed by the kangaroo Ghanaian courts. Good news!

But when Mr. Okine who could not get his right privileges restored questioned why, the man who caused it all, Mr. Asamoah-Boateng told him to go to hell. He claimed that if the man thought that by going to the media he could get his judgement enforced, he was wrong! He said the only time the man could get reprieve was if he begged him (Asamoah-Boateng)!

Well, this writer has just tried very hard to profile the Minister of Information and National Orientation and it his hope that Ghanaians do not start getting oriented the Asamoah-Boateng style. While it is his hope that you savour this article, the writer also hopes that you join the call for the minister to be dismissed.

My plea is that President Kufuor should axe this minister before he causes further havoc not only to the people, but also to the image and sense of judgement of the President. Mr. Asamoah-Boateng’s way is certainly not the way to manage the impressions being created on the minds of Ghanaians by the present regime. Nana Olege Akomea (now Minister for Manpower and Employment) was the best Information Minister the President has had. But certainly, in Africa truth is a bitter pill so instead of giving the right dosage of a bitter pill to cure an illness, native African wisdom says that offer a palliative. That is our story.

Credit: Kwabena Mprah Jnr [Email: kmprah@gmail.com]

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DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.