In their strategic efforts to court and capture the politically massive "youth vote," our parties have brandished all manner of enticements and inducements. Prominent among these, especially for the ruling party, is the prospect of becoming a Deputy Minister–becoming "Somebody"–in an instant. 

"As for us, unlike our rivals, when you join us you will rise to the top quickly." This has been the message of the ruling party to Ghana's materially-anxious youth, a generation justifiably desperate for an opportunity to break through the despair of a jobless economy and an uncertain future. And this is one promise the party has easily and speedily redeemed once in office. This is what has given us the Victoria Hammahs and Rachel Appohs. This, from a party that has no shortage of well qualified and better prepared men and women.

This cheapening of government did not begin with the current President. It began with his immediate predecessor, who brought into high office a bunch of ill-prepared, often ill-mannered, deputy Ministers whose energy and zeal far exceeded their wisdom and preparation. Our current President has merely ensured gender balance in this new mediocrity. 

It's a shame, this state of affairs that trades high public office–and the conduct of the public's business–for short-term partisan advantage. More ominously, it signals to the beneficiaries that the opportunity to become a Deputy Minister is an opportunity for self-enrichment, a lucrative payback for loyal party service, not an opportunity to serve country. This is where the politics of putting party over country has brought us. 

There are ways to give opportunity to dedicated party "youth" without compromising, trivializing, or sacrificing the quality of government. We can start by giving them leadership and "grooming" opportunities within our political parties. But, curiously, the same seasoned party politicians who may consider certain key party positions too "big" or too important for the party "youth", and thus often confine them to the "Youth Wing" or Youth Organizer position, somehow do not feel the same way when it comes to the post of a Deputy Minister or Minister. Thus, persons who might not be considered fit or ready to lead the party as General Secretary or Chairman or Deputy Chairman are somehow considered fit and ready to head up a Ministry or serve as Deputy Minister. Is the public business that less important or critical than the party's? 

In the end, the best hope and assurance our parties and governments can give the youth of Ghana is to devise and implement policies and programs to build a strong productive economy, educational system, and an entrepreneurial sector that can create jobs and an a ladder of opportunity for all–not just for loyal party youth. Doling out Deputy Minister positions to a few freshly- or recently-minted university-educated youth is not a solution to the growing problem of youth unemployment. Nor does it signal a sincere or serious commitment to creating meaningful opportunity and a secure future for the youth. What it does signal, at best, is short-term political opportunism and a cynical trivialization of government. We must retreat from this precipice before this new trend sets off an all-party "race to the bottom".


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