‘Since Osagyefo cannot division himself into twice, he has disappointed me to come and open this pipe. Now pipe open, water come, people drink, it can cook, it can wash, it can do nothing at all’.- DC Kwame Kwakye
This is said to be a speech given by DC Kwame Kwakye, a minister in the first republic government of Dr Kwame Nkrumah when he commissioned a water project somewhere in the Eastern region.
Most Ghanaians have heard this quote so many times. It is not a great speech but I am sure the community had their water, their lives improved and their level of development improved as well, a great speech or not.
Last week, I heard some people calling for the resignation of Victoria Hammah, a deputy minister of communication. Her crime, she went to a public function, could not find her speech and decided to read from her head or deliver a speech extempore. People were not happy that she made the situation public. In their words, this is immature.
But truth be told, if she cannot find the speech, she cannot find it. She is not a magician. She cannot conjure one.
She went on to demonstrate intelligence by continuing with the function and delivering a speech extempore. This shows she is on top of her job. The fact that she was quick to realise that the speech placed before her was different from the one she had edited shows her level of intelligence. Making the situation public shows transparency a virtue many people run away from.
In Ghana we love to cover up things that should not be covered up and this has had negative consequences on our style of governance. The people who had gathered for the function; chiefs, journalists, Directors, etc are all human and will understand the failings of a human institution.
Our ministers should play it simple. This is how we can reduce the ivory tower relationship between politicians and the electorate who put them there.
The modern generation has been blessed with gadgets which make it easier for journalists to record speeches via their mobile phones or other handy electronic gadgets so there is no problem with the reproduction of speeches.
I remember after President Obama gave his first address in Cairo shortly after he became president, someone who had never heard of a teleprompter asked whether the president gave the speech from his head because he did not appear to look at any piece of paper.
With all respect President Obama is an orator but tries to keep his speeches as short as possible.
The problem with Ghanaians is that we are obsessed with ceremonies. We like to make a ceremony out of everything.
A minister is appointed to head a ministry. The first thing that takes place is a welcome party. Then if he is moved during a cabinet reshuffle there will be a send-off party. And when he goes to his new ministry the same thing is repeated. In short if a minister serves in three ministries within the four year term of a government, there would have been three welcome parties and three send-off parties all at the expense of the state.
My advice to the government is to stop these parties and many needless ceremonies. That is one way to reduce expenditure on the public budget.
Recently I posted a comment on imitating other people’s way of doing things without regards to our own. We need to move on where it is necessary and stop tying ourselves up in some dogmas or lifestyles which is not taking us anywhere.
I have seen the queen of England commission a project with a five minutes speech. Yes, 5 minutes. No big English, very simple.
Imagine this was in Ghana with Nananom and many dignitaries present who have to leave only after a short period. The comments that will follow can be guessed.
As I wrote at the beginning of the piece, Kwame Nkrumah’s government is being touted in Ghana as the best the country has ever had in terms of development projects, but this is the government that had the least of western educated graduates as ministers, such as Kwame Kwakye whom I quoted above. All of these people served their country well and they delivered without big English and without long speeches.