PrimeNewsGhana

Elizabeth Ohene writes: Parting is such sweet sorrow

By Justice Kofi Bimpeh
Elizabeth Ohene

I have always been fascinated by the phenomenon of the high-rank sacking of the political kind. The sacking of a Minister of State always has an aura of drama, even a relatively painless one like the departure from office of Mr Rockson Bukari as Minister of State at the Office of the President.

According to a statement from the director of communications at the Presidency, President Akufo-Addo had accepted the resignation of Mr Bukari who had written in his letter that he had taken note of the tape circulating in the media and had decided to resign “in order not to allow the tape to disrupt the focus of government in delivering on its mandate”.

Mr Bukari is reported to have said further in his letter that he had exercised judgement contrary to what he had known the President to stand for and require of servants in running the country.

The British have perfected this business of a minister leaving the government and the exchange of letters between the departing minister and the Prime Minister would be published. The minister could be leaving after a full-scale row over some policy difference or a sex scandal of some kind, it always ends with a polite exchange of letters.

It is rare that the contents of the letters would tell you anything about why the minister was leaving office. There would be something like wanting to spend more time with his family. You always got the impression they wanted to leave room for a future re-entry into the government after the passage of a decent period of time.

Some difficulties

A resignation could be just that, a resignation; but more often than not, the departing minister would have been asked to resign rather than be sacked. A resignation has a more dignified ring to it than a sacking.

And then, of course, the President might need to tell the chiefs of the area why their beloved son is no longer in the government and he can always cite the fig leaf resignation letter.

It is always a complicated thing, this business of putting together a ministerial team; there is the geographic and ethnic consideration to think of.

Sacking a minister from a particular district or region might destabilise your carefully crafted team, and it might mean having to find a replacement that is not immediately obvious. The minister might have political clout that a President is unwilling to tackle.

Sometimes a departing minister is unwilling to make things easy for the President by offering the resignation being demanded. Why should he make things easy for the President when he probably feels aggrieved and believes he is being treated badly?

They might be good friends who have been through a lot of political struggles together. In which case, the word goes out: Dear Mr President, you would have to sack me, I don’t think I have done anything wrong, I have been working diligently and if you want to throw me out of your government, you would have to do it without any help from me.

The President then would have a difficult few days trying to find the appropriate words to sack someone and hope that the fallout does not destabilise his government.

Often when a minister comes into the crosshairs and there is a public outcry for his or her blood over some infraction or the other, the decision has to be made on whether the offending minister should be thrown under the bus or whether he deserves to be kept in the government in spite of the outcry.

Would the sacking satisfy the public or would it instigate the lust for more of the appointees to be thrown out? What does the sacking say about a President?

This President of ours appears not keen on sacking people. Do we take it that he is humane and doesn’t want to cause unhappiness? Or do we take it that he covers up for his people? Mr Bukari was brought to Jubilee House from being Upper East Regional Minister. Maybe whatever the reason was that necessitated his move from Upper East should have ended in his sacking and not transfer. He would have saved himself and the President a messy resignation/sacking.

Overqualified and not fit for purpose

Grades and qualifications are really funny things. I have recently been having to deal with some grading anomalies that have brought back to the fore for me the subject of what grades you get in your main exam in school.

A young man of my acquaintance has been trying to find a job and been having a difficult time of it. He has a 2.1 (Second Class Upper) HND from Accra Polytechnic in some subject or the other and so I thought grades shouldn’t be a problem.

He recently went to a job interview with a bank, did well and we all got excited he might finally get a job. He has been turned down at the very last step because he does not have a credit in English at WASSCE, he has a pass grade and the bank insists on a credit in Maths and English.

(I agree with the bank. I don’t want anybody without a credit in Maths and English messing with my money).

It seems the polytechnic did not insist on a credit grade when he was entering. So he has a good post-secondary qualification which cannot serve him well because he has not got a credit in English at WASSCE.

In trying to pursue this matter, I am making some worrying discoveries.

There are quite a number of people with very bad grades at WASSCE who have gone on to many of the private universities. Some of them have even got First Class degrees from these universities; but they do not qualify for jobs that require credit in English and Maths at WASSCE.

In other words, your university degree is not worth the paper it is printed on because you have not got credits in English and Maths.

Whilst I was trying to work that one out, I came across an interesting story that is worth sharing.

Data published by the Office for National Statistics in the UK shows that almost a third of graduates are overqualified for their job, with students of the arts, biology and humanities the most likely to be overeducated.

The data shows that 31 per cent of graduates had more education than was required for the work they were doing in 2017 and this included 22 per cent of those who graduated before 1992 and 34 per cent of those who graduated in 2007 or later.

London had the highest proportion of over-educated workers in the UK, with 25 per cent overqualified for their job. Apparently, this was partly due to the relatively high proportion of migrant workers, who are typically over-educated, according to the ONS.

I take it these graduates had credits in English and Maths at WASSCE.