Who is an expert?

The term expert is now becoming a word that is losing its importance in Ghana.  In recent times, when an incident occurs such as armed robbery, a fire gutting a building, someone committing suicide etc., it is not uncommon to hear or see depending on which medium you are dealing with, to hear or see a so called expert being invited by media personnel to comment on the issue. 

When a careful analysis is made of what these experts present in response to various questions put to them by the various media people, one begins to wonder if, indeed, these people are really experts.

An expert can be defined as “a person who has a broad and deep competence in terms of knowledge, skill and experience through practice and education in a particular field”.  There are issues that are critical to national development and which must be explained well to the populace. 

Some of such issues even border on national security and, therefore, people who are called to speak to the issues must be people who are knowledgeable enough to address pertinent issues. 

We will be doing ourselves harm as a nation by not letting people with the requisite knowledge,  of the issues involving  in any particular sector of our  national life, to talk about them.  Media personnel must be admonished to be careful in the selection of people who are called to be panelists in the discussion of topics on their shows. 

What worries me are the so- called security experts who have mushroomed all over the place and the eagerness with which the journalists call them onto their shows to seek their opinions on issues. 

Recently when the murder of the Mfantseman MP occurred, it became a hot topic on various media platforms.  There was suggestion that it was high time personal bodyguards were provided for members of parliament to ensure their safety. 

This issue became a debatable one with a section of the populace supporting such a move and a section opposing it.  Then comes some of these so-called experts wading into the discussion.  The arguments they used in opposition to this move by government were, indeed, laughable to say the least. 

I listened to a few of them and the argument was that the UN standard for effective policing ratio of one to 500, has not been achieved in Ghana, hence that should be the focus instead of trying to focus on personal security for the MPs.

What they fail to realise is that these MPs play a very sensitive role in our governance structure and must be given protection just like other arms of government. 

Our constitution frowns on discrimination and if the other arms of government are provided personal security, it is only right that the members of parliament are also given the same treatment.  Any fair minded person would readily agree that the MPs also deserve their fair share of the largesse of the state given to the other branches of government. 

There is the first group of these so-called experts who do not have depth in the particular subject area they claim to be experts in.  They come into the discussions with comments and categorical statements that make you wonder the institutions and training they went through to become what they claim to be. 

They go about commenting on issues without any deep technical knowledge and do not profess any practical solutions when asked for the way forward on the issue or issues under discussion.

The other group consists people who by their comments show that their party considerations have influenced their comments.  This group is made up of two sub groups; those who are always quick to blame everything on the government especially if their party is in opposition and the issue under consideration has to do with a decision taken by government.  

Those whose party is in government also see nothing wrong with actions taken by government and their comments betray them.  It appears that once someone is in academia the title expert is readily conferred on him. 

In election year like the current one and more especially with elections a few weeks away, those for government and against government behaviours are not uncommon. 

On a few occasions, we find real experts talking on issues and they are a delight to watch and listen to.  Those are the people this country needs and media personnel must be encouraged to do a proper search to identify real experts to invite them to their shows. 

Real experts do vote but they do vote based on their careful assessment of policies of political parties and based on sentimental reasons.  Such people are very professional when commenting on issues and do not allow any other considerations to influence their comments on issues.

In conclusion, there has to be a way of defining who an expert in a particular field is and a clear criteria lined up.  This would go a long way to ensure that journalist would invite real experts in every sense of the word and do away with all manner of people parading themselves as experts in various fields of endeavour.

Laud Kissi-Mensah

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