General News of 2014-01-17

Mahama’s Terkper comment angers NDC

Just as many thought officials at the seat of government and leadership of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) have buried the hatchet and have parried the frostiness that existed from the inception of the current government, President John Dramani Mahama has once again stirred the hornet’s nest with his audacious and unequivocal confidence reposed in his embattled Finance Minister, Mr. Emmanuel Seth Terkper.

The President’s forceful confidence in Mr. Seth Terkper, whose style of leadership and performance at the Finance Ministry is not well appreciated by sections of the ruling NDC party including ministers of state, heads of some departments and agencies, and party supporters; has not only stunned his party folks but has outraged them too.

Mr Terkper is said to be at loggerheads with a lot of the officials of the ministry of finance both past and present and was accused of forcing a lot of them out of the ministry over professional disagreement when he was the deputy minister.

It’s not only the governing NDC party that has been angered by the president’s vote of confidence in his finance minister as the opposition New Patriotic Party isn’t enthused either.

Former President Kufuor’s Chief of Staff, Mr Kwadwo Mpiani also criticized the President for the comment, saying "It is very interesting for the president to come out with such a statement.

Information picked by The Al-Hajj less than 24hours after the news broke indicate that many NDC linchpins, and even ordinary party supporters consider the President’s statement as a stab in the back and an attempt to blackmail non-admirers of the finance minister, which they say will further strain the already not-too-good relationship between government and the NDC party.

Some NDC insiders and sources at the seat of government claimed to this paper that, the President, who had penciled Mr Terkper for reshuffle, had to rescind his decision because it was met with strong resistance from a cabal of inner circle advisors.

This pro-Terkper cabal, this paper has gathered is spearheaded by the President’s political prima-donna and Ghana’s first lady, Madam Lordina Mahama.

She was said to have made a strong case to her hubby, the President, why the yet-to-be outdoored reshuffle list should not contain the name of the finance minister.

Leading members of the party and many supporters including ministers of state and Heads of MDAs have persistently accused Seth Terkper of starving their offices of the needed funds, and thought his name will feature prominently on the much-talked about reshuffle of ministers.

Mr Terkper is also accused of lacking what it takes to turn the economy around and only engages in apportioning blames and always looking for scapegoats.

The rate of inflation, which was below 10 per cent when he took over as the finance minister early last year, has been trending upwards and is now inching to 14 per cent.

Growth has been slower in his first year as a finance minister, and the revenue agencies have performed abysmally despite his credentials as a tax-policy expert.

The cedi has also been depreciating despite stringent fiscal measures introduced to trim the budget deficit early last year.

But President Mahama unexpectedly gave thumps-up to his finance minister when he met the new Managing Director of Barclays Bank Ghana, Patience Akyianu, at the Flagstaff House on Wednesday.

As if to give practical meaning to his recent comment that “I’m the coach and I decide on who serves in my government,” President Mahama revealed that there is pressure mounting on him from within his own government to sack his finance Minister.

“I mean several times they’ve interceded with me to sack Seth because he’s hurting the politics. He doesn’t understand the politics. ‘If there’s no money he should go and borrow’, as if it were that easy…It’s a vicious cycle we need to break and that is why a lot of the reforms that Seth is carrying out in the finance ministry with regards to the GIFMIS and making sure we budget properly and MDAs follow budget discipline and all that are issues that we’re trying to introduce," he stated.

But his comment has since been met with intense rage from NDC supporters, particularly on social media, who, despite appreciating the fact that the President per the constitution has the sole prerogative to ‘hire and fire,’ said it was wrong for him to openly make that comment which suggest that some individuals in the NDC are against Mr. Terkper and wants to see his back.

Minutes after the president’s comment went viral on social media, a Hamza Sayibu Suhuyini believed to be brother of Radio Gold’s morning show host, Alhassan Suhuyini, who wrote on his facebook wall “The open statement by the president that there are calls from within on him to sack his finance minister was needless and a political blunder. He has simply succeeded in sacrificing other vital info that could have come from these same sources. It doesn't also auger well for team work!”

His comment was followed by several furious reactions from NDC supporters on social media, some of who questioned what extraordinary changes Mr Terkper brought to the finance ministry that the President is praising.

“What is JDM talking about? What is it that Terkper is doing that will turn the economy round? Every day GIFMIS here GIFMIS there. Is he the first finance minister to be doing economic fiscal policy discipline? Ya teabr3. To be frank, I don't think Terkper got anything to turn anything round right from day one… I was skeptical about his appointment and still continue to be not that he is corrupt but I don't think he got the magic to turn anything round anywhere in this country. It will be as usual the economic discipline hallelujah chorus. He could be deputy and not the minister himself. I did not like his appointment right from day one cos I did not think he could do anything different. Being a disciplined and a strict person is not the synonym of performance. I don't think sitting down and refusing to release money will grow economy anywhere”. A Wisdom Akpaloo posited.

Indeed, some party stalwarts who spoke to this paper on condition of anonymity could not fathom why the President chose that forum to give out those who may have reported Mr. Terkper to him. “I’m just shocked that the President did that, the mere fact that he came out openly to say this means that it was possible he would have mentioned names of members who don’t like Terkper to him” an astute NDC member asserted

Former Chief of Staff in the Kufuor administration, Mr Kwadwo Mpiani, also chided President Mahama for publicly stating he is under pressure to sack his finance minister saying such petty party politicking and the president's remarks can dampen the spirits of the appointees.

“Presidents have pressures from all manner of people but at the end of it all, it is you the president who appointed somebody to a position.

"..If the person is helping you to achieve your vision and pressure is coming from people to remove the person you may have to explain it to the people why the person is there and what the person is doing."

But reacting to the issue himself, Mr Terkper said the President’s verdict on him was “humbly”, he described as "sobering" the president's continued support and promised not to disappoint him”.