Who is Vincent Kuagbenu?

With I.K. Gyasi

Mr. Vincent Kuagbenu is currently the Director of the National Service Secretariat.The humiliation Mr. Kuagbenu suffered when he unsuccessfully tried to address a gathering of members of the Tertiary Educational Institutional Network (TEIN) at Winneba recently is one more instance of the danger of unhealthy partisan polarisation of certain institutions of the state that should normally be free from party politics.

Dear reader, permit me to go back a bit. The first time I heard of Mr. Kuagbenu was when some members of staff at the National Service Secretariat, including the Chief Accountant, accused him of a number of offences. They demanded his resignation or dismissal, otherwise, they were going to withhold their services.

In the long run, it was the ‘aggrieved’ staff who were defeated, while Mr. Kuagbenu stayed put.

I told myself, thus, “Mr. Kuagbenu must be a very powerful man. He must have the right connections in the circles of those who matter, one way or the other. He has his feet firmly planted in the ground like an oak tree. He has tethered his cow to a tree that cannot be uprooted, even, by a hurricane. He is the colossus from whom weak men like his staff must run to find themselves dishonourable graves. A true Goliath indeed!”

Well, perhaps, every Goliath must have his David. And so it proved when ‘’Invincible Vincent’’ sallied forth to Winneba to speak to TEIN, whose membership is made up of student members of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) studying in the country’s tertiary institutions.

No matter how hard he tried, the TEIN members would not let him, and he was eventually forced to retreat in ignominy. What had Mr. Kuagbenu done wrong?

First, the students accused him of being arrogant. His other ‘offence’ was that whenever National Service persons asked him to change their postings for them, he would refuse.
I have nothing to say on the accusation of arrogance. I have seen Mr. Kuagbenu’s picture in the newspapers and on television. I have never met him in person, or dealt with him in any shape, way, or manner.

Shakespeare’s King Duncan says in the play, “MACBETH”, that, “There is no art to find the mind’s construction in the face.” Consequently, I cannot judge Mr. Kuagbenu’s character by merely looking at his picture. I am no physiognomist, able to deduce a person’s character by studying his features. It is the second accusation which interests and intrigues me.

I expected the protesting TEIN members to add that while Mr. Kuagbenu would not change postings for some people, he showed his partiality by doing it for others. That meant that Mr. Kuagbenu was firm, fair, and impartial.

Was he arrogant because he had exhibited traits of arrogance, or because he steadfastly refused to change postings for those who wanted that favour?

If the charge of arrogance stemmed from his firmness, then it seemed that the charge of arrogance should rather be put at the door of those protesting members of TEIN.

Strictly speaking, I did not do national service, in the sense that the National Service Secretariat did not post me anywhere.

That was because the National Service Scheme officially, did not exist at the time I finished school. But, in a way, I also served my country in education for nearly forty years as a teacher and educational administrator.
However, my children did national service under the National Service Scheme. Naturally, I would have wished all of them to do their service in Kumasi, where I was (and still am).

The Secretariat posted one of them to the Northern Region, and later, another one was posted to the Upper West Region. Both went.

I can understand it if service persons or their relations want postings changed for them. I can understand it if people become disappointed, or even angry at having their request turn down by the Director. But it was extremely rude, and an overbearing show of power for Mr. Kuagbneu to be treated the way he was at the gathering.

The behaviour of the TEIN members brings me to one question: In what capacity did Mr. Kuagbenu try to address the gathering? Did he go to the gathering as the Director of the National Service Secretariat, or as member of the NDC?

I have asked the question because, when JOY FM asked Mr. Ludwig Hlodze, the NDC National Youth Organiser, about what had happened, he (Mr. Hlodze) gave a glowing account of how Mr. Kuagbenu had contributed, and was contributing to the efforts of the NDC.

So did Mr. Kuagbenu go to the gathering to give a talk on the work of his Secretariat, or to talk about NDC matter?

Sometime ago, a public speaker, speaking in Kumasi on journalism, identified what he described as “politician-journalists.” He had four classifications.

First, there was the journalist who was a recognised, card-bearing member of a political party, or held a position in that party.

Secondly, there was the card-bearing journalist, not actually openly identified, but whose activities betrayed him.

Thirdly, there was the journalist with a symbolic affiliation, for example, by wearing party symbols.

Fourthly, there was the journalist who, on certain issues, was ideologically identified with a particular party.

Adopting this classification, one could also talk of politician-public servants who, otherwise, should be strictly neutral. Where does Mr. Kuagbenu fit in?

It is a big pity that over the years, politicians have destroyed the political neutrality of certain institutions of state. Why should institutions of state like the National Service Secretariat, Drive and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA), National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), School Feeding Programme, National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP), etc., be the objects of political football, such that incumbents of the top positions in those organisations are simply sacked with every change of government?

But for constitutional guarantees, I am sure that the Electoral Commission (EC), the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE), the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), even the position of Chief Justice, would have seen changes at the top at the whims and caprices of politicians.

From all indications, Mr. Kuagbenu appears to be doing well.
His agricultural scheme has attracted the attention of the Conference of Heads of Assisted Secondary Schools (CHASS), which wants to buy maize from the scheme’s farms. But it is obvious that he has also made enemies.

Mark my words. If members of TEIN do not raid his office or get the powers-that-be to sack him, he will definitely be sacked should a new non-NDC government come to power. That is what politicians have done to the country.

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