The Paradox of Prof. Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang
In the last few weeks, President John Dramani Mahama of Ghana has been pulling interesting people for various ministerial positions in his government. As with his win in the last election, President Mahama keeps surprising everyone and is yet to disappoint.
For instance, he appointed Dr. Raymond Atuguba as his executive secretary; then came the appointment of Lawyer Nana Oye Lither a human rights activist as the minister designate for Gender, Children and Social Protection. Some watchers think the President is becoming soft to “gays and lesbians” by adding “social protection” to the Gender and Children’s Ministry. That notwithstanding the appointments in the first and second list of the President has been intriguing and has received a lot of positive commendation.
I particularly feel happy for Ghana and the future because in the last two lists of appointments I have seen less of party names – of course given that Nana Oye has some connection to NDC lawyer Tony Lithur makes my last statement not 100% true. My intrigue has been Pro. Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang. Prof. Opoku-Agymang who is the outgoing Vice Chancellor (President) of the University of Cape Coast – my Alma Mater has been appointed the minister designate for Education. The ministry of education is notorious for teacher and educational workers’ strikes among others. The quality of education has increasingly fallen since Ghana changed its educational system to the Junior-Senior High system.
Many employers have complained that the quality of graduates they hire has decrease; the association of university Vice-Chancellors, the employers association and other unions have had their issues. The University of Cape Coast has held a couple of conferences to find solutions to the problems of the turn out of low quality graduates. For many having Prof. Opoku-Agyemang assigned to the Ministry of Educaton (MoE) is the solution to Ghana’s educational problems.
To be fair, Prof. Opoku-Agyemang has an impeccable academic profile. She has published countless papers and given lectures across the world.
Herein lies the problem of Prof. Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang: as a new appointee to the position of Vice-Chancellor, there was a huge expectation that with her connections around the world, the University of Cape Coast will gain financially and prestige-wise. Indeed she travelled a lot for this purpose and was at a point nick-named: “The absentee VC”.
Because of her alleged travels, her critics say whatever good things happened during her tenure as VC was the fruit of her deputies and every bad thing that happened is her fault. I have no counter argument for that than to say as an academic, she works hard but as a leader, she has has some capacity gaps.
So how would she make the miracle happen at the MoE? I think its a case of Schrödinger’s cat- Schrödinger’s cat is a concept out of quantum physics. The “interpretation implies that the cat remains both alive and dead (to the universe outside the box) until the box is opened”; but how does this paradox concern the appointment of the learned Professor?
Well, before we start praising or vilifying the appointee, I see that she has a tall order. Ministries across Ghana are a heaven for corruption. The concept of decentralisation has only been a matter of lip-service; the ministry is to set policy goals and the departments and agencies work to actualise these policy goals. But the Prof, comes from a similar background that preaches decentralisation and yet practices centralisation. In 2003-4 academic year, a corporate strategy was promulgated to decentralise the University of Cape Coast. The strategy has roles for student leaders, unions, etc to the extent a new main administrative block was commissioned for construction (this administrative building is 70-80% complete and has been going on for more than 8years) so that the vision could be more real. Unfortunately, this has not been successful mainly because there are systems and individuals that do not want power disbursed- they enjoy having concentrated power. Now since the Professor in a smaller microcosm of the University of Cape Coast could not break that system and implement a decentralised system, it is worth musing how she plans to do same for a whole country that from the office of the President has not adhered to an 80’s policy to decentralise.
So, we can not assume the Professors’ success before she is done with her term (or even scales the vetting hurdle). So there is the paradox. Is the cup half full or half empty?
I would say that for a successful term, the learned Professor would have to consider:
- What would make a successful ministry?
- What are the inherent traditional problems with the ministry?
- Who and what are the internal forces?
- Who are the Mafia? Who are the good guys?
These are some of the questions she would like to be considering.
Then she might want to consider revising protocols for the ministry as long as they do not infringe on the constitutional mandates. Also, what mandates can she change to reduce the bottle-necks and make the ministry a lot efficient and decentralised?
I would also say, invest in young graduate students – float internships that incorporate research that will benefit the ministry at national, regional and district levels.
My one last advise would be the good Professor to stick to being the academic she is and produce the knowledge that government needs to work.
But we will know sooner than later the paradox – would the cat be alive or dead when the time comes to review the Professor?
Good Luck -Professor!
S. Eyram Tsike-Sossah holds Msc Political Science from the University of Amsterdam. He is the author of “Youth and Local Governance: Youth Participation in Local Governance: Bringing Youth to Decision Making in Sierra Leone“