Opinions Mon, 21 Jan 2013
President Mahama’s new appointments: Matters arising (Part II)By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Friday, January 18, 2013
We can confirm that President Mahama is intent on forming a team that knows what his agenda for “Better Ghana Phase Two” entails and will commit themselves fully to enunciating and implementing policies and programmes to actualize his dream. His appointments have revealed a lot that we have been discussing.
New Ministries/New Faces
President Mahama’s appointments into new Ministries include Hon. Benjamin Bewa-Nyog Kunbuor (as Minister in Charge of Government Business in Parliament), Nana Oye Lithur (Minister of Gender, Children, and Social Protection); Akwasi Oppong-Fosu (Minister of Local Government and Rural Development); Prof. Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang (Minister of Education, and also ex-Vice Chancellor of University of Cape Coast).
These new faces—a blend of known NDC activists and those not known as such—give me a clear idea about how President Mahama is going about things, bringing into his government names that we haven't heard associated with the workings of the NDC. Should I call it an attempt at an “all-inclusive” government, then?
The designation of Hon. Kunbuor as Minister in Charge of Government Business in Parliament is a novelty. It meets the demand of the NDC majority for such a Minister to liaise between Parliament and the Executive in terms of laying bills before the House or answering questions that the Majority Leader should—on behalf of the government.
Some Ministries have either been re-designated or collapsed into others, which doesn’t really add anything substantial to the equation. We know that a mere nomenclature won’t solve problems. I can see a problem in the designation of Ministries, especially where Alhaji Collins Dauda is for Minister of Water Resources. What is this new Ministry, and is it necessary at all?
These questions bring to mind the new Ministry that has been created for Nana Lithur (Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection). Though not discounting the need for official attention to be given to gender, children, and social protection, I wonder if there is need for a whole new Ministry for these areas. We’ve had a Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs before that can’t be said to have solved any problem to improve the conditions of women and children.
The new faces now being appointed may have their strengths that President Mahama wants to tap into to enhance governance.
Mrs. Marietta Brew Appiah-Oppong, Minister-designate for Justice and Attorney-General, isn't known to me as an NDC operative. We have gathered that she is a lawyer of high repute who used to work with Tony Lithur, President Mahama’s lawyer in the NPP’s Election 2012 lawsuit. She came to light during the sitting of the Ghana @50 Commission when she asked “tough” questions I hope she is the one to clamp down on the Ministry and make the expected difference.
I believe President Mahama brought these new faces on board because of their competence and dedicated service. Prof. Opoku-Agyemang is known for her administrative acumen and contributions to education while Nana Lithur is a strong human rights advocate whose inclusion should give her the opportunities she needs to work for the good of society.
Prominent Personalities not given appointments
Some concerns have also been expressed that some notable NDC figures (such as Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, Fiifi Kwetey, Kofi Adams, etc.) haven’t been appointed yet. The appointments so far don't include those people. We don't know why. How certain can we be that Spio-Garbrah, for instance, is interested in being appointed to any Ministry? Or that anybody on people’s lips is even interested in working in the government? For reasons best known to President Mahama, such people may not be on his list or may be reserved for other assignments. Let's wait to see what unfolds.
The appointments include those who easily come across as “revolutionary cadres” whose inclusion may be seen as an attempt to satisfy the cadre corps in the party. Akwasi Oppong-Fosu, Ms. Hanny-Sherry Ayittey, etc. are not new, having served in various capacities under the Rawlings’ P/NDC.
The Youth Factor
We see also a good number of youths on the list of appointees, which reaffirms the President’s determination to empower that segment of the population. Our politics should be aimed at grooming the youth for them to hone their governance skills and serve the country better. Placed in such leadership positions, these appointees should learn how to handle affairs properly and shy away from practices that endanger national life.
Obviously, these appointments are appropriate inasmuch as they reflect the calibre of government that President Mahama wants to put in place. None of them matters more than that of the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney-General’s Department which, under the previous administration, failed to solve problems and ended up disgracing the government instead.
We have in mind the infamous Woyome judgement debt scandal and all others rolled into one as the judgement debt debacle. We also have in mind the ease with which government lost prominent cases at the courts, which dented its image. Thus, we expect the new Minister to stamp her authority on that sector to clean the mess and give Ghanaians the hope that the situation will change for the better. To make a difference, President Mahama must formalize the appointment and dismissal of his government’s functionaries. The existing norm by which appointments are made and dismissals announced through mere radio announcements without the affected appointees being informed beforehand must cease forthwith. That norm often tended to create animosity and turn the victims against the government. Appointments and dismissals must be taken through the proper channel so that no enmity is created to turn the victims against the party. It must be possible for those victims to remain members of the party even if they lose their official appointments because in politics, numbers count.
Appointments to other major sectors are yet to be made. We hope that the President will choose those who can do the work, not necessarily those busily sloganeering the loudest. We want to see a better approach to governance in all sectors.
As we wait for the vetting of these appointees to begin, we look forward to a healthy public debate on governance strategies and the role of these Ministries in our national life.
I shall return…
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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.