Early subdued professional uncertainty overcome by rising political success! Which, perhaps, is as it should be. Or so, the sages will have it when the fascinating story of Dr Okoe Boye, MP for Ledzokuku is told.
A medical doctor at 25, a winning parliamentary candidate at 34, Chairman of the Governing Board of a teaching hospital at 36, and this week, nominated by the President to the prestigious position of Deputy Health Minister at 38, the stars of the young politician are baring their irrepressible incandescent glow. Circumstances, as they say, maketh the man. And yet, the stars have not always aligned.
At least the future did not look so promising when we first met over seven years ago. I, a national executive of the Ghana Medical Association, and he, an ambitious young doctor whose boisterous handling of certain affairs had rubbed off certain senior colleagues in the wrong way.
On the basis of certain utterances made by the young doctor, perceived as embarrassing, a senior colleague had stoutly refused to support an administrative procedure that would officially usher the young man into a young career.
Subsequent urgent pleas fell on deaf ears, with the said senior colleague turning down an apology and an opportunity for in-person meetings and resolution.
Without the administrative procedure, Okoe Boye’s young professional career in medicine seemed all but snuffed out, before it could even begin. In the end, we resorted to other mechanisms to demonstrate that his conduct, however unpalatable, could not constitute sufficient grounds for denying him a fairly earned administrative procedure.
To his credit, he remained unbowed, pursuing a master’s degree in public health. And here we are today, with Dr. Okoe Boye in the senior-most echelons of the very system that had once sought to suffocate him. And therein lie the key life lessons worth assimilating.
As Lucky Dube succinctly put it, be good to the people on your way up, for you will meet them on your way down. For Dr. Okoe Boye, I would hope that far from gloating in personal triumph or vindictiveness, his appointment by the President at a time of the COVID-19 health crises, would be received as a call to higher duty and an opportunity to serve.
Certainly, the appointment of a medic to the high office of Deputy Health Minster may once again revive debates about whether the place of doctors ought not to be in consulting rooms rather than in the policy making space.
Fortunately for Okoe Boye, Victor Bampoe, his colleague, and immediate predecessor in the John Mahama presidency, is generally perceived to have played a commanding role in the management of a similar Ebola epidemic in the sub-region and more.
On the basis of that and other examples, he is encouraged to approach his role with confidence, diligence, and humility.
Thirdly, in our setting where some might irreverently dismiss him on account of his youth even before hearing him out, his is to remain focused, deliver on the mandate, and take solace in the likes of Okudzeto Ablakwah, similarly appointed by the late President John Evans Atta Mills into a deputy ministerial position at the age of 28.
Finally, a word to experienced senior professionals who sometimes lose sight of the distinguished opportunity to coach and mentor young ones, often yielding to over personalization and vindictiveness. In transient power centers, some see themselves as career crushers instead of career enablers, only grasping a tad too late that the steps of good men are ordered by God, not by men.
Years ago, as spokesperson of junior doctors leading various agitations for improved house job training and welfare, some senior colleagues in management positions would shamelessly ask, “Which part of the country does he come from?
Is he interested in furthering his career through a residency program in this institution?” Alas! Who could have predicted the globalized career paths that God would open up for the son of man?
The unvarnished truth though is that all of us ‘troublemakers’; student leaders, activists, spokespersons of junior doctors, aspiring national politicians, party foot soldiers etc.; at our very core simply want fundamental design adaptations to the status quo for better outcomes.
And by constantly pushing the limits of existing systems, we become the faces of inevitable feather rufflers. As to what that makes us –affirmative disruptor or demons – your guess is as good as mine.