By Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo
After several months of speculation, lobbying and waiting, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has finally issued an official memo nominating among others, Mark Okraku Mantey as the Deputy Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture.
Contrary to what transpired some four years ago, this nomination process, as far as the arts industry is concerned, was not characterised by any blatant tussle for the position, no formation of groupings in support of personalities and clearly, no open denigration of personalities who were tipped for the position. In effect, this nomination seems not to have given the president sleepless nights.
When approved by Parliament after the vetting process, Mr. Okraku Mantey would become just the second person from the creative industry to assume the role in the last eight years.
The industry usually is not united when it comes to offering support for persons assuming essential roles, either within the industry or in government – but strangely, the earlier mention of Mark Okraku Mantey as the potential nominee for the deputy minister role was not greeted with much disapproval.
In fact, the official announcement by the President looked like a formality to the industry, like we were just waiting for that official word and it was also not met by any open disapproval.
If anybody had an issue, they probably sulked about it in their bedrooms.
Pedigree – whether academic, stock, heritage or expertise, counts when it comes to any person assuming the role of a Deputy Minister in government and Mark actually has it.
With decades of experience in such a topsy-turvy industry and a Master’s degree in academia bagged, Mark seemed like an undisputed choice when heeding to the incessant calls to make the deputy minister position go to someone from the industry.
Albeit having expertise in music production, his oversight of the Creative Arts Council did him so much good – giving him a taste of how to manage the affairs of all the sectors within the creative space.
Most importantly, his pedigree attracts respect from most of the players within the industry, a critical attribute he would need when he assumes the role.
Mr. Okraku Mantey is not the first industry stalwart to occupy the deputy minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture position. Dzifa Gomashie, the Member of Parliament for Ketu South, who is an accomplished actress, was the Deputy Minister of Tourism from 2013 to 2017 when the National Democratic Congress (NDC) was in office.
Clearly, that position has been experienced by an industry person before and we all know how it panned out.
Interestingly, just like Mark’s, Madam Gomashie’s appointment also came with little drama, rancour or opposition but the expectations were extremely high. The pressure to deliver and appease the creative industry was also high but at the end of her tenure, the records are there to show for how she delivered.
The expectations for Mark are undeniably high, the pressure being mounted on his head is strong and the level of enthusiasm that awaits his tenure is at fever-pitch.
The expectations are obviously high because it is the first time in the administration of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) that a true industry fellow is manning the office and also because there have been so many unfulfilled manifesto commitments to the industry.
Players within the creative space are expectant that Mark, who was one of the influential figures who drafted the creative sector’s portion of the NPP manifesto, would fulfill promises such as the initiation of processes to establish large seating theatres in various regions, establishment of the Copyright Office in some regions, setting up of large recording studios in some regions, implementing provisions in the Creative Arts Law, construction of a large Convention and Exhibition Centre in Accra plus a plethora of other pledges.
Lower your expectations
The chatter that has greeted Mark’s nomination gives the impression that his appointment means he now has the mandate to fix all of the industry’s issues. Wrong, he is not the Minister!
Again, based on the celebratory remarks from industry folks, the impression is that the expectation for Mark to deliver is on an all-time high. Some have even remarked unequivocally that he cannot fail.
In governance, the deputy minister is assigned to assist the minister, so in effect, Mark is just an assistant to the minister. He is expected to assist the minister to project the ideals of the President as well as execute whatever plans the government has for the sector.
The job functions of the deputy minister would be drafted by the minister, which means, Mark would be answerable or accountable to the minister. He must report to the minister and is expected to discharge all duties required of him by, you guessed right – the minister!
Mark can only sit when the minister says so, he can run only when the minister asks him to and when the minister asks him to jump, all he has to ask is – how high, Sir?
Have hope and patience
Thank goodness and the President for such an appointment. It brings a creative person closer to core decision-making that would affect the proceedings of the industry.
However, the truth is Mark Okraku Mantey is not in charge so the earlier we lower our expectations, the lesser our disappointment would be.
What Okraku Mantey needs is our prayer, hope and support in ensuring that the minister recognises and respects his influence and clout, for the minister to understand the vision of the industry and to allow Mark assist him to bring solutions to the industry.
The industry must eschew the habit of making Mark bigger than the minister and must shun the habit of making him the Absalom when there’s a David on the throne.
As was realised during the Elizabeth Ofosu Agyare – Dzifa Gomashie era, industry persons would always gravitate to the most popular one, the creative person. They would fixate their affection on that person and make that fellow look like a god.
Mark must try and always make the minister lead and fixate all the attention on his boss and work closely with him.
As an industry, we must just have patience and hope for the best as we lower our expectations of a deputy minister.