After a rather sweltering grilling at the hands of the Appointment Committee, Isaac Kwame Asiamah, eventually cruised through – later swaggering away with a benediction from President Nana Addo-Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
Lead up to his nomination was tough as a myriad of names were thrown up with lobbyists and canvassers working indefatigably around the clock to ensure their nominees were picked for vetting.
Some of the names that came up for consideration to take over from then incumbent Nii Lante Vanderpuye included the former Chief Marketing Officer of MTN Ghana, Glo Ghana’s Chief Operating Officer, a renowned marketing tycoon and Member of Parliament-elect of Awutu Senya West, George Andah.
Ex-deputy Sports Minister Osei Bonsu Amoah, former Ghana Athletics Association (GAA) boss, George Lutterodt, ace football administrator and MP for Dadekotopon Vincent Odotei Sowah, who is acting General Manager of Accra Hearts of Oak, were all favoured for the position.
But all these venerable personalities were sidelined for the Member of Parliament for Atwima Mponua Constituency in the Ashanti Region – Asiamah, suggesting a huge relaxation of faith in him by the government to deliver in one of the nation’s most controversial ministries.
Arguably, in view of the foregoing, there is likely to be a googol of pressure on Asiamah to repay the trust reposed in him by President Akufo-Addo, especially.
Listening to him critically during the vetting, one gets the impression that Asiamah, who is Ghana’s 23rd Sports Minister since E.RK. Dwomon was appointed as Sports Commissioner in 1978, is hungry to work and achieve results.
His body language, overall demeanour, self-assurance and poise throughout the session, gave passable hints of a man all-too determined to turn Ghana sports around. Even so, there were scores of people who think he was not on top of issues. For such critics, Asiamah has the opportunity now to prove them wrong!
But as a man who also believes in the philosophy of team effort for effective development, he could just steer the sports ministry to nirvana.
What could probably incur his displeasure is, if he overly concentrates on football, as most of his predecessors have done.
Admittedly, football is the nation’s number one sport, but we risk rendering the other disciplines dormant and make their future dreary, should we turn our back on them.
It is heart-warming and indeed gratifying to note that Asiamah himself stated that no sporting discipline should be referred to as a lesser sport, “as all the disciplines were important and required attention”.
“I will give equal attention to all the sporting disciplines in the country. I will not be a minister for only football. There are 40 other disciplines and I will promote all with a special desk at the ministry,” he told the Appointment Committee.
Indeed, disciplines like weightlifting, judo, karate-do among others, can churn out dozens of medals for the country at international championships and must be accorded the respect that it deserves.
To underline his commitment in that regard, he said a College of Sports Act would provide the framework for the support of all sports, adding that he would also craft a Youth in Sports module, with special spotlight on women’s participation in sports.
Undeniably, there are hundreds of young talented women who have abandoned sports for one reason or the other and the module could serve as the magic potion to whipping up their interest.
Again, though there is the existence of the tax rebate law which offers some incentive to contributors, many corporate bodies seem to be shying away from sponsoring activities of the ministry. The new minister has to take a critical look at that and find a way to reverse the gloomy situation
Back to football. It was good to hear the sports minister also talk about inspiring local football. According to the minister, he would engage the Ghana Football Association (GFA) to include a Local Content Policy (LCP) in its player selection that will ensure at least six local players from the Premier League make into the national team.
“Any coach under my leadership would be bound by the policy to improve our domestic league,” he stressed, adding that the local league would be attractive “when we have local stars in the national teams to increase our support base to reach our domestic league”.
“Foreign players are normally selected to play to satisfy their foreign contractors so that they are seen outside. Whichever coach replaces Avram Grant would be bound to comply with the local content policy,” he said.
The LCP is said to have received some criticism by some members of the FA, but it is hearty to hear the GFA Communication Director, Sannie Daara, talk about employing a coach who would have enough time to monitor the talents in our local league and give them the opportunity to express themselves in the senior national team.
Experts of the local game foresee a friction between the GFA and the sports ministry with regard to the latter’s decision to route all of its programmes and documentations through the National Sports Authority (NSA), rather than have direct interaction with it.
It is not too clear how the sector ministry intends to do that without any scintilla of abrasion with the FA. Perhaps, the minister would rely on his fine relationship with the football semi-autonomous body to ride away any expected storm.
“I will not be using ‘buga buga’ (brutal) tactics. I will be ensuring that I engage the Ghana Football Association. We cannot afford to be going at each other publicly. I think that Kwesi Nyantakyi has done a lot for Ghana football.”
That probably ends the argument.
More importantly, it is the expectation of avid disciples of Ghana sports that there would be a semblance of consistency at the Sports Ministry, this time around. Changing ministers in this sector as though they were underwear is not good for the general development of sports.
Director of Research and Sports at the ministry, Mr Osei Adjin, recently told the Daily Graphic that his outfit had not been able to attain much over the years due to the numerous change of ministers which did not allow the ministers ample time to settle first before putting their plans and strategies into action.
“Whenever we make a little progress then there is a reshuffle and we have to start all over again. I’m against it because this is not helping the ministry and the nation as a whole,” he told the paper.
“Just before the yuletide, we had a meeting and identified a few sponsors who we were going to get assistance from to help solve the many problems facing Ghana sports and suddenly there is a reshuffle. For how long will this continue?” he queried
Indeed, it is quite a disconcerting phenomenon that has negatively rocked the sports ministry, all this while.
In the last decade, we have seen more than 10 ministers at the ministry (an average of one per year), thus forestalling development as well as creating a negative impression in the minds of the people.
One hopes Mr Asiamah would be given enough time to implement his policies and see them grow progressively to the benefit of the nation.
To be successful, what he needs to do now is to be accommodative, humble, disciplined, focused and see his subordinates as partners in development. That way, the nation’s new sports minister is assured of carving a niche for himself and Ghana as a whole.
By John Vigah