My heart is full and brimming with joy not because you won but because the majority of our people chose to save Ghana on December 7, 2016. As you are well aware, the last four years have been hard for Ghana, nearly all of us, except those who were close to the political feeding trough of John Mahama, struggled. Your victory has given us the much-needed break from the incompetence, corruption and disrespect of the Mahama government. For that, I’m pleased and grateful that you won. I’m also delighted you won because it teaches us to be resilient even in the face of a well-resourced opponent. Your victory is evidence that the third time’s certainly the charm.
So congratulations again, Sir!
When you came by Citi FM where I work for an interview, you came across as someone who cared about Ghana almost as much as my friends and I do. (Almost) because politicians always sound passionate and ready to serve until they win power. During the campaign, you emphasized your love for Ghana as well as your readiness to change how we live, work, and play. All your well-written speeches after the victory have reiterated this too. I’m therefore writing to suggest a few simple things you can to do clearly show your love for the nation and along the way, etch your name in the sands of time and our hearts.
Firstly, our joy on your inauguration has been marred by the discovery that parts of your showpiece speech were plagiarized. As a writer, I can see how easy it is to commit such a blunder. Sometimes improper paraphrasing can land you in this mess. But it should never have happened to an important speech like this one, and not on such an important day like your Inauguration Day. It is embarrassing, particularly because many of us found your speeches touching, stunning and well-written. One thing I cannot bear again is to be embarrassed by the leader of my country. We had enough of that in the last eight years, it’s one of the reasons you won the elections by a landslide. Neither you nor your team members should humiliate and make us the butt of jokes again.
Secondly, I don’t expect you or ministers to do abominable things like airlifting millions to pay footballers. But when you make unpardonable and sometimes avoidable mistakes like the speech faux pas, do not offend us by defending the indefensible. Contrary to the existing template, an apology will not make you seem weak. The statement issued by your Communications Director for the mistakes with the speech was swift and great but it’s not enough. A real apology for something as grave should come from your office, on a proper letterhead, even if issued on Facebook. You are human running a government full of flawed human beings. You’re bound to make mistakes. When you do, the defense of your team should never be: “the NDC did worse or same when they were in office.”
Some of your people have been using this line of defense over the pesky speech business. This is completely unacceptable because your landslide victory is an indication, the people rejected the NDC. You see, the reason no one checked Mahama’s speeches is that no one cared about the value of his words. By the way, I did check some of his speech and realized that he didn’t coin “purposeless lamentations” and the “vortex of cynicism”.
Thirdly, so far you’ve chosen people whose CVs suggest are excellent. Even though CVs can be deceptive (there was a Harvard educated lawyer that had me cringing throughout the last government) I want to believe you will enforce rigour and excellence among your team by clearly defining job roles and expectations. It is estimated that you will be appointing over 5,000 people for various positions. It would be impossible for you to know and meet everyone you appoint but please have a team that will vet these and define roles. Under no circumstance, should we be told by an appointee that: “I just heard about my wonderful appointment on the radio and I want to thank the president for the honour.” This format of selection has not helped because people come to their positions without any idea of what is expected for them. Whatever you do, do not do what your predecessor did – appoint a foot-soldier to occupy a sensitive position at CHRAJ.
Fourthly, so far your choices seem excellent, at least on paper. As you proceed, please be kind to us and remember that we suffered a bunch of arrogant incompetents over eight years while Ghana retrogressed. Do your best not to burden us with loose-talkers, idiots, corrupt folk and incompetents. Importantly, do not inflict incompetents and loose-talkers on yourself. You cannot deliver the change you promised if you surround yourself with people who will make us question your judgement all the time by their words and actions. Your team must have your back by doing their best all the time for you. (Always remember the speech and do better.)
Five, speaking of loose-talkers and incompetence, you must have a team that will monitor how your people – the people you appoint to speak and work on your behalf speak to us. There was a period, again under your predecessor that government and party communicators thrived on insulting us. Again, that margin of victory is an indication we do not want another dose. You should watch how you treat us – we are citizens, not subjects, do accord us the respect we deserve.
Sixthly, please spare us populist and ill-thought decisions, lectures and policies. Those may generate a few moments of good feelings but are never sustainable. So instead of storming the ports to give a lecture about the thievery that goes on there, give whoever you appoint a list of things you expect changed within a specific period and hold them to it. You do not need to go all the way to Mallam Atta market to buy kenkey to establish the cost of living. Of course, you should make unannounced visits and stops – makes you human and helps you connect to us.
You must innovate daily. It is obvious that you will not have money in the first year to implement revolutionary reforms in health, education and public sector. But there are things you can do with the monies allocated to various sectors in the budget. You must be innovative – if we’re spending 40 percent of the national revenue on health-care, the team you select must ensure we get the best outcomes with the money available. You must innovate everyday from Monday, January 9, 2016. There won’t be any change if you do things the same way your predecessors did.
No one expects sudden miracles, we’ve heard all your promises but we expect to see you and your team working hard at building the economy from the ground up. We don’t want any short-term decisions that will hurt in the long run. I promise you, you have a limited time to do this, so don’t spend your days receiving funeral and party delegations.
This job you fought so hard for is a difficult and challenging job but we are easy to please. Do well and we will praise you. And if you fail or disappoint in any way, you will be criticized. What you should not do, is to see all your critics as people who hate you or want you to fail. Many of us want a better country and we know how quickly our leaders become surrounded by yes-men. Criticism will be the only way you’ll know how well you’re doing. (The NDC will be in opposition, you should know when to pay attention to their criticism and spin.)
Finally, you are now president of Ghana, show us that you care by putting Ghana ahead of your party’s interests. Which means, contracts should go to Ghanaians, not NPP contractors. It also means you seek the best for Ghana in all your dealings with China, the West and others. Never again should we have to read that a foreign contractor got a deal though his offer was the most expensive. Often hard decisions are avoided because of votes, but if you love Ghana as you claim, then you must take the hardest and unpopular decisions.
There is more, but this will be all for now. If you follow these, you’ll do better and succeed at leaving a legacy, generations will praise you for. I wish you all the best as you start with this magnificent and challenging job to transform Ghana. We’re all rooting for you. Do not let us down.
A proud citizen
PS: My name is Nana Ama and this will be the first of many letters I’ll be writing to you. As a citizen, I want to help you succeed and as a journalist, it is my duty to keep you in check. The tone of my letters will depend on the quality of your governance, policies and such. I will suggest you do your best not to upset me. Your handlers will tell you lies about my hatred for you but ignore them, no one will tell you the truth like I will.