Spio’s baptism of fire was not unconnected with a controversial article he wrote in a national daily in September, 2009, about then President Atta Mills’ ‘Team B’ appointees.
Nine months into the administration of John Evans Atta Mills, Mr. Spio-Garbrah, who many people thought would have been part of the government, wrote an article in the Daily Graphic in which he described the Mills’ appointees as ‘Team B Ministers,’ adding that out of the lot only two were seen to be experienced and mature, with many of the so-called experienced members of the party having been sidelined, contributing to the sluggish performance of the government then.
When the issue was raised by Kwasi Ameyaw-Cheremeh, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament (MP) for Sunyani East who asked what the nominee thought about ‘Team B’ Ministers in a ‘Team B’ government, Ekwow Spio-Garbrah said he was very much expecting that question and that the issue had been taken out of context and given a propaganda twist.
In what appeared to be eating the humble pie, the nominee said he never described the Ministers as ‘Team B’ but as a communication and public relations expert, he was only conveying the public sentiments about the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government under the leadership of Prof Mills to those in the helm of affairs, explaining further that that was the impression being created on a number of radio stations by members of the public.
According to him, even though he did not mean any harm in that publication, he had gone ahead to apologise to members of the government, if that publication did cause any embarrassment to them.
He had asked “why the government may have chosen to field some players from its ‘Team B’ when many ‘Team A’ players are available and ready to play.’
He claimed, ‘I was reporting on what I have heard on radio about some members referring to ministers as ‘Team A’ and ‘Team B.’
‘If one were reading this article carefully you’ll reach the conclusion that Ekwow Spio-Garbrah has not said that all members of the government are ‘Team A’ or ‘Team B;’ neither has he said that any member of the government was ‘Team A’ or ‘Team B,” he stated.
‘I was reporting what had been debated on radio stations and drawing the attention of my party and the government to what people were saying,’ he clarified further.
He maintained that his article was not an opinion piece, saying, ‘I am not saying that I myself felt that way, but by virtue of propaganda, the content of the article was politically distorted to create the impression that this was my view.’
Spio also denied writing the article because he was desperate for appointment in the Mills government.
‘…If it was because I was seeking an appointment, I think with all due respect…at the time it was written, I was the Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO).’
A Deputy Minister for Local Government and Rural Development and NDC Member of Parliament for Akwatia, Mohammed Baba Jamal, asked the Minister-designate how he was going to relate with Ministers he described as ‘Team B’ now that he had been appointed as a Minister.
Mr. Spio-Garbrah, who appeared before the Committee with a large retinue of chiefs and sympathisers from the Central Region where he hails from, explained that he had already put that behind him, now that he had apologised over that publication, and that as a team player, he was going to open up to every Minister since his ministry inter-depends on other ministries to be able to discharge its functions effectively.
The Minister-designate was again asked how he would be relating with the President who was his (Spio’s) Deputy at the Ministry of Communications when he (Spio) was the Minister. He replied, “I had a good working relations with the President at the Ministry of Communications and he (the President) knows I am a nationalist and very passionate about nationalism,” stressing that despite the fact that he was the President’s boss sometime ago, he would be working under the instructions of the President and also respect him as the first gentleman of the land.
No Magic Wand
When he was asked what different he was going to bring on board as an experienced politician with huge depth of knowledge to improve the economy, he said he did not hold the magic wand to help change things overnight; but he would be setting a reasonable and achievable target and work closely with all stakeholders in the Ministry and also listen to experts’ advice.
“I would not mind consulting with my predecessors, both in this government and past governments, on the way forward to make the Trade and Industry sector very vibrant to help create employment for the teeming youth,” he articulated.
On how to address the budget deficit and strengthen the weak local currency, he said massive industrialisation drive must be pursued and also Ghanaians made to consume or patronise locally manufactured goods.
According to Mr. Spio-Garbrah, he was going to embark on huge educational drive or national sensitisation campaign to educate Ghanaians to patronise ‘made-in-Ghana’ goods and by so doing, importation of all kinds of goods would be reduced and the demand for the dollar to trade would also reduce.
“We can improve upon the economy if the government can start by asking all public schools and universities in the country to buy only ‘made-in-Ghana’ rice for students, ask ministries, departments and agencies to buy only locally-made items for their use,” he said, urging Parliament to lead the way by buying locally-made furniture to furnish MPs’ offices in the refurbished Job 600 complex.
He was taken on this by Alfred Kwame Agbesi, MP for Ashaiman and Deputy Majority Leader, who said the apparel the nominee wore was not made in Ghana, citing Spio’s cap.
On the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), the Minister-designate said he was aware of various concerns raised by civil society and pointed out that the nation could only benefit from the EPA if it made the efforts to add value to its raw materials like cocoa and gold before sending them to the European market or if the country could negotiate with EU member countries to help the country with technical expertise and also machines to help add value to products the country would be exporting abroad.
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By Thomas Fosu Jnr
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