When special benefits of ‘big men and women’ stifle the progress of institutions they are supposed to build

Thursday, November 17, 2022.

I celebrated my birthday last week. On one of my favourite WhatsApp platforms with over 260 members [mostly alumni of the Cervical Cancer Prevention and Training Centre (CCPTC) in all 16 Regions in Ghana], the day started with birthday wishes for me.
This was my response:

Good morning, all.
Thank you very much.
But I generally don’t like WhatsApp platforms where such birthday wishes and ‘pomp’ are reserved for only a few ‘top’ people.
If we shall celebrate people here on birthdays, it should be for everyone who celebrates her/his birthday.
I don’t see this happening here often so I find it odd.
My humble opinion.
I know I am ‘controversial.’

There were divided opinions. A member put this on the platform:

Good morning boss.
I agree with your suggestion boss, that not withstanding I also suggest birthday reservation be made for only our tutors and you.
If not the page may lose its value.
My humble suggestion.

There are more serious things than WhatsApp birthday wishes to ‘big men and women’ that are collapsing institutions in Ghana. Gradually they have become part of our culture, and they amaze me!

In 2017, the President of Ghana was going on a national tour and the districts he was visiting in the northern part of the country were supposed to contribute money for the his visit. The Northern Regional Coordinating Council had tasked each of the 26 Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies in the 3 regions of the North to contribute GH¢ 5,000 each to make arrangements towards President’s visit. This is in spite of the fact that Presidency has its own budgetary allocation for these ‘tours,’ considered working visits. After a lot of public discussions/debates, they were told not to pay any money for the president’s visit [1].

This is not limited to the Presidency. I have seen this in the Ghana Education and Health Services over the years. Some big men from the very top – Director Generals, Regional Directors, District Directors etc receive envelopes with money when they attend programmes. Smaller institutions that hardly make any money to survive have to ‘perform magic’ to raise money for the visits of these ‘big men and women,’ which actually are announced as ‘working visits’ and should have budgetary allocations from the top.

The first time I saw this, I was shocked. I wondered what the money was for. Were they not doing their work? If it was for fuel, is it the (small) institutions where these programmes are held that should bear the cost?

I have spoken to many heads of (smaller) institutions who feel strongly that this practice should stop, but were afraid that they would be victimised if the kicked against it publicly. Sometimes when a ‘big man/woman’ is going on retirement, these poor institutions have to raise money to ‘send off’ the ‘big man/woman.’ The money used for these often pose accounting challenges to the accounts departments of these institutions.

Should we as a country continue on this path? I always say: “Change begins with me and you.” Change may start when we address issues in the small area we find ourselves as ‘big men and women’ and it may start on a WhatsApp platform, and with an issue as simple as how birthdays will be ‘celebrated’ on the platform.


  1. Don’t pay for Nana Addo’s visit – O.B Amoah to MMDAs – October 2, 2017 https://citifmonline.com/2017/10/dont-pay-for-nana-addos-visit-o-b-amoah-to-mmdas/
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