Great Institutions Are Difficult To Build, Easy To Destroy And Impossible To Restore – By Selorm Branttie

The title is borrowed from the last line of Prof. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng’s press release, and as a young Ghanaian, I cant begin to describe my dismay at what seems to be going wrong with our leadership today.

For most of us born in the ’80s and the late ’70s, we did not get to experience very vividly the dire times of the military rule that spiralled Ghana out of contention amongst the entire world. We grew up in a renaissance of sorts where Ghana was finally reasserting itself on the international scene in the ’90s.

Back to the point. The press release mirrors the kind of sentiments described above. Against all odds, and with the support of the then Presidents, we have a man who defied the pessimism of the Ghanaian bureaucratic service, which is quite a formidable roadblock, and built something great out of an idea.

Those who should have taken the initiative, stood back and folded their arms as greatness was evolving right in their faces. They then decided to strike when the iron was hot; right when they thought that they needed to get rid of him and use what he has helped to build to cover their own failures, ineptitude and lack of vision.

Here is a man who devised a management structure so rare in this country; a culture of succession and a culture of maintenance, fairness, equity and respect for merit in terms of knowledge and ability. Being so agnostic to individual personas, but being so attentive to what you can bring on board, he created a center of excellence that has saved so many lives, only for some self-serving petty men to come together and wrangle a minister who should have known better to do such a despicable act.

From my little experience dealing with Ghanaian establishment, these are the observations I have made:

  1. That Ghanaians do not generally respect the culture of knowledge driven skills and expertise. they do not appreciate what goes into creative thinking and innovation. When someone innovates, they only want to find out the possible loopholes in it without thinking about ways in which it can be enhanced to create a great institution. We disrespect ideas, and we disdain those who think up those ideas. They are the “too-known” people who are “going to spoil our small chop chop”.
  2. We will rather perpetuate mediocrity when there is a corrupt interest that promote efficiency when it eliminates corruption. We have our psyche so influenced and fed by corrupt practices that any form of efficient management is seen as an obstacle to skimming off the top. Time and time again, there are gaping chasms in our management processes that are ignored just because that is where a “big man” or a crony of a “big man” gets his extra daily bread. This level of corruption is now so widespread that even in private organizations people in management position abuse their clout against the interest of their own employers.
  3. We as Ghanaians have honed our skills expertly in the art of subterfuging people who have the potential to make a very great impact on the status quo. Usually, the main idea is to check out their backgrounds to see if they have any alliances or friendships that they deem might tarnish the person’s image. If that doesnt work, your lack of material wealth will be used as a tool against you. People who have ideas that could change the nation therefore have to resort to unworthy mentors just to push their cause.
  4. In Ghana, there is this useless perception that age is the only cause and justification for you to be able to do something great. The only place where that does not count is in sports. In most disciplines, you might have a great workable idea with all the right feasibility studies and even working prototypes together with operational plans. You have them evaluated by the best reviewers and have a go-ahead, only to be antagonized by someone who thinks that you are a “small boy”. That small-boyism has become so pervasive that we have been led to believe that young people do not have a right to carve their own niche in any endeavor, and even if you do that, you should as a matter of obligation have a grey-haired man or woman to be your frontman, or else you are shown out the door.
  5. We suffer from BRAIN-SCARE, not BRAIN-DRAIN. I diagnosed brain-scare, but did not discover it. Its been with us for a long time. The innumerable young Ghanaians who do not feel appreciated when they have left the shores of developed countries to do something great here, only to be told in their faces that it will never happen because “who are you?” and “who do you think you are?” and “when we were we, where were you?” That has deterred so many Ghanaians from seeing it as worthwhile to sweat it out here when they could be out there and brave whatever racist undertones ringing out to them because they will make 10 times more, remit their families and be seen by the same people who sacked them away as achievers, when they have spent all their productive lives out there and come back only to retire.
  6. The management of most Ghanaian institutions, especially the MDAs and the government institutions do not deserve their MBAs and their MPAs (for those who dont know, they do Masters in Pubic Adminstration). They only go to the classrooms to get those degrees and increase their pay grades. This is just so that they get the entitlements of the next fleet of higher end luxury vehicles that come with the job. They hardly implement very simple administrative restructuring activities such as decentralization of power, efficient rewards motivation, devolution of duties and activities, setting up strategic goals and the such. All they do is write budgets with inflated figures and wait for the government stipend or allocation for that ministry and that is that.
  7. In addition to the above, they only wait until there is a huge problem before they rectify it. Let me give you examples: What will it cost the ministry of education to have a good, efficient and robust human resource management system to allocate staff numbers to both trained and untrained teachers? What innovation do they need to ensure that ghost names are removed from the system? What stops the Ministry of Local Government from devising a system where District and Municipal Assemblies have their own decentralized addressing system, and putting that data up on a national website for use by national agencies and postal services like DHL, EMS, National Identification Authority et al?
  8. Or are we waiting for a white man to come and state the obvious, grant us loans and then have LEADERS pat themselves in the back for getting us LOANS to solve problems that we could have solved with a little innovation?

I could go on and on, and the list is endless. If there is anyone reading this that is in a position of power and authority, this is what i humbly ask of you:

  • Please do a management audit of your institution, not the one with the long meetings – no. Look at the organizational structure, and if nothing at all, please read your textbooks and manuals on organizational management and operations, and try and point out where you think things must change.
  • Look at your expediture from operations, and look at your structure. Is there any component that you logically think is too high? What implication does that have on operations? How do you improve that aspect of operations  to without interfering with basic core operations?
  • How many innovations do you think will enhance your operations? How many times do you have to depend on paper based files when all you need to do is exchange files by emails? Have you thought about the savings in terms of space and time when documents can be processed faster?
  • Do you have to be there all the time before any small decision can be taken?

There are more questions, but ponder over these and get back to the basics. The government grant that was used for your education was not meant for you to go and show off at funerals. You are a role model and an icon to a new generation, so please begin to get used to that identity.