Lack of public education hurts Mahama-led administration

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Folks, I will bluntly say upfront that the Mahama-led government has lost the communication and information sector as a potent force in good governance. And it will continue to suffer the negative backlash.

The main problem facing this administration is its inability to sell itself to prevent its opponents from poisoning the minds of Ghanaians (home and abroad) about its accomplishments, failures, and strategies to advance good governance. Whenever I read anything complaining about the damaging of its interests by political opponents, I laugh out loud. And I turn to blame the government itself, not those propagating the damaging half-truths or plain lies about it. Don’t ask me why; but it should be clear to you that the government isn’t adept at using the opportunities at its disposal to sell itself.

That problem is not limited to this Mahama-led administration alone but the entire “Rawlings phenomenon” that has shot the NDC into prominence and sustained it in Ghana politics thus far.

Rawlings hasn’t had good press, especially considering the negative campaign launched by his opponents in the mass media to either contaminate or eradicate his good works. There is a heavy political dose in all that dirty press work against anything Rawlings. Those doing so know why and won’t desist just because someone is complaining.

For one thing, Rawlings has braved all that negative storm and still looms large wherever he goes or whenever anything about him surfaces. Those bad-mouthing him know it too but can’t bring themselves to accept the fact that is larger than the life that they live. They are aggrieved to the marrow and hurting themselves for nothing.

To sustain their anti-Rawlings fervour, they are quick to look around for anybody or anything reflecting the Rawlings phenomenon and focus their energies on. They are on a demolition mission, hoping that if they succeed, it will pave the way for them to regain political power and do all they can to perpetuate their hold on power.

On the ground, though, the situation doesn’t seem to favour them. They know it, which is why they are bent on using negative propaganda and not the truth about themselves to do politics. And we know it too.

But it seems the Mahama-led administration doesn’t know that truth, which is why it is not using all the resources at its disposal to sell itself.

The truth may hurt but it is unavoidable in human affairs, especially if it is nothing but the truth that it is.

The main problem I have with the government is that it is not doing enough public education to inform Ghanaians about what it is doing or failing to do and why. It has left everything to chance and opened itself up at various fronts to be attacked anyhow. That’s not how to do productive politics.

Let it be said loud and clear that the government is not performing well in the area of public education despite all the resources available to it. There are many areas of national life that public education can help the government regain public trust and confidence.

Be it in the education sector, labour front, the economic problems, energy crisis, or many other areas, there is a lot not being told Ghanaians to keep them abreast of circumstances as they develop to create the impression that the government isn’t sensitive to the plight of the ordinary Ghanaian or that it is just not competent enough to solve problems. Its opponents know how to jump on this lapse to advantage, which is why their campaign of lies is enough to harm the government’s image. They have succeeded in forcing the government to be reactive instead of being proactive.

And they are using their lackeys in the private media to advantage while the government’s own media relations work has crumbled. How much have Mahama Ayariga and his team at the Ministry of Information and Media Relations done to change the dynamics? Nothing!! Worse still because the antagonism against the NDC since Rawlings time persists or has been lifted a notch higher!!

Why is it that the government cannot use all the resources at its disposal to encourage public education? No one is calling for any knee-jerk measure to paint the government white; but the exigency of the situation calls for measures to use all available means to inform Ghanaians about issues.

Yet, the government has a the Ministry of Information and Media Relations, District Information Offices, and a bunch of useless noisemakers called “Government’s Communication Team” whose staff draw salaries but aren’t serving the purposes for which they are in employment. Waste of the tax payers’ money on such institutions and employees!

I have already assessed the Ministry of Information (and Media Relations) and concluded that it is irrelevant and must be abolished; but there is no indication that the President will take action on that score. That being the case, will it not be prudent to ensure that the Ministry is turned around to serve purposes other than the spur-of-the-moment responses that its political heads (the Minister and his deputies) give to the lies fed the public by political opponents. Apart from such responses, the Minister and his deputies aren’t serving any useful purposes. And those responses don’t even serve any useful purpose.

Take, for instance, the impulsive “Daily Weekly Briefings” that the government announced late last year as its means to explain happenings to the public. Murtala Mohammed, the Deputy Minister of Information, gleefully announced this programme and shot himself into the limelight for a few days and faded. The programme achieved nothing credible and faded.

Since then, nothing concrete has been done to propagate the government’s performance. All that is happening is a slip-shod approach to picking on issues at random and responding to only when the government is pushed to the wall by its political opponents. Is that how to rule a country and expect to retain political power?

Added to that problem is the incompetence of the members of the NDC’s information and communication unit, who are sleeping on the job, waiting for the electioneering campaign season for Election 2016 to rise and disturb us with pleas and useless refutations of the government’s acts of commission or omission threatening its hold on power. A gang of overzealous people who shouldn’t be where they are.

So far, the problems militating against the economy need much public education to allay fears, doubts, and suspicions. Unfortunately, nothing is being done by the government to change negative impressions about it. How inconceivable!!

Not until public education is done to inform Ghanaians adequately about the situation, no one should be surprised at what political opponents gain when they put out lies to be accepted as the truth about the government’s shoddy performance.

No one is saying that the government can claw back lost public goodwill through such public education stunts; but the truth is that it stands to gain more if it levels with Ghanaians and sufficiently answers the concerns that the people have. Its performance should sell it but it can’t do without public education too. Sadly, the government has all the means to sell itself but is incapacitated by its own lethargy. Truly, in the abundance of water, the fool is thirsty (Bob Marley recalled here for emphasis).

I shall return…

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