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Abla Dzifa Gomashie – My Person of the Year 2014

Culled from Ablah Dzifs Gomashies’s Facebook wall.

Abla Dzifa Gomashie – My Person of the Year 2014

The last article for my Mirror column in 2014 was a plea to government communicators to tell it as it is to the people. The premise was that we, the people need credible information on which to make informed judgment and choices. I am happy to begin this year on a brighter note.

Last year was difficult, and that, of course, is an understatement. However, it was not all doom and gloom. There were several moments of magic and flair, and one person who made so much difference for me during the year was Madam Abla Dzifa Gomashie, the Deputy Minister of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts.

I am not privy to how the government assesses its officials but I expect a very high score for this lady who must be one of the hardest working people in the executive branch of government. Many have been the times when I have marveled at the sheer energy she brings to her engagements; there have been times when I feel dizzy following the number of events she attends, sometimes within the same day.

Wearing my other hat as the president of the Ghana Association of Writers, I cannot recall a single occasion when she has turned down an invitation; she even chaired the Book Festival in September, barely a week before her mother’s funeral. In November, she attended a Copy Ghana event even after she discovered the theft of some items in her house that same morning.

In addition to her hectic schedule as a Deputy Minister, the redoubtable Dzifa Gomashie is still the inspiration behind Values for Life, an NGO she founded many years ago which, among other activities, organises several careers training events for young people in the country. I was privileged to attend a few of these events and felt enriched by the experience.

One of the brightest spots in my year was the launch of the MOTHER book which had been co-authored by 50 Ghanaians to honour our mothers. Dzifa Gomashie had been one of the first contributors to the book, and without her all-round support the launch would not have happened. Indeed, a couple of months before we launched it, I had all but given up as the challenges stood like an insurmountable Everest before my mind’s eye. Thirty minutes into our conversation, that mountain of problems had been broken down as she said in her emphatic way, “we will launch the book”.

On top of all that and more, Dzifa is a great communicator who has taken to social media as a duck to water. She uses these platforms to encourage people to participate in her many activities and thereby contributes to the creation of virtual communities that support not only arts and culture but also youth work to which she is heavily committed.

At a time when budget shortfalls can be used as a legitimate excuse to do nothing much, the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts should be given credit for finding resources or even doing things with very little resources and the Deputy Minister, an arts and culture professional, is often at the centre of the effort.

I know that Dzifa would be quick to point out that she does whatever she accomplishes with the support of her Minister and her team of officials and volunteers, but as the focus of much of that effort, and in line with the tradition of this column, the Deputy Minister of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts, Abla Dzifa Gomashie is my Person of the Year 2014.

…And Let’s Hear it for the Central Regional Minster

As readers of this column know too well, I do not rate government spokespersons high on the plain speaking side of the equation. They tend to be too defensive and treat every question as if it was an opposition trap. Consequently even in private they tend to quibble and fudge where some plain speaking is required. I am pleased to report that in the dying embers of the year just gone I met a government minister who was refreshingly different.

It is true that I met Mr. Aquinas Quansah, the Central Regional Minister on a relaxed shorts-wearing, charley-wote kind of morning during the holiday period. Perhaps, the fact that I was not advertising any links to the media or politics may have put him at greater ease, but somehow I don’t think that set of circumstances would have made a lot of difference.

We met at a car-wash somewhere on the Spintex Road. I arrived shortly before he did; indeed, he arrived while I was still preparing my car for the wash. Technically, he could have insisted on going first, which is the default position of most Ghanaian men driving big cars. Indeed, most ministers don’t even go to a car wash; they have an army of “boys” to carry out such mundane tasks. Anyway, the gentleman graciously agreed to let my car go first because I had arrived ahead of him.

I was minding my business when he came to the waiting area. He greeted me courteously and we exchanged season greetings. After concentrating on our respective digital devices for a while we started a conversation about nothing in particular. Naturally it got to appoint where some form of introduction was called for and it was then that he told me who he was.

Readers of this column (of whom he is not one) are aware that Kasoa and its traffic are to me as a red rag to a bull. Therefore to meet the Central Region Minister live and unprotected was an irresistible bait to pounce and I wasted no time in asking him what they were doing about the Kasoa traffic which has become an impediment in attracting tourists to the Central region.

At this point, most ministers would adopt the defensive posture and provide the stock answer or go into high level obfuscation. To his credit, the Central regional Minister treated the question seriously and without any power-play or arrogant display of insider knowledge. He explained in simple man-to-man language how the Interchange was going to be built, the creation of relief roads before the main works start and other measures that were being considered to ease the traffic in the interim. All this while, I had not mentioned my rather humble role as your columnist in the Mirror so he had no reason to be nice to me. In any case, some ministers would take the opposite posture if they knew about my media connection.

I think he was just a nice guy trying to give helpful information to another human being in need of it because he then proceeded to school me in how to beat the Kasoa traffic; I will keep the details to myself! I think Mr. Aquinas Quansah whom I had only met for the first and only time impressed me with his forthrightness as both a person and a minister.

As a sometime critic of people in authority, I think it is right to focus on positives and encourage people in authority to relate to Ghanaians who have questions or concerns as compatriots and not a hostile force. I don’t know when the Kasoa Interchange will be built but after a few minutes listening to the Minister I went away relieved that it was not a lost cause.

This is the opposite effect to what happens when you listen to THEM on morning radio. Perhaps the President should order ministers to go more often to have their cars washed… on the Spintex Road.

First published in the Mirror

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