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President Mahama's new appointments: Matters arising (Part I)

Friday, January 18, 2013

President Mahama has begun forming his government, appointing all manner of personalities to Ministries and not narrowing the scope down to only those widely recognized as die-hard NDC functionaries. He has given us the chance to know how he is dismantling the government machinery that he presided over in his care-taker capacity and rebuilding it now as the substantive President of Ghana.

Forget about the NPP's lawsuit against his legitimacy as the winner of Election 2012. Life must go on.

His moves open a window through which to take a sneak peek at what he intends to do to carve a niche for himself as a youthful, dynamic, and astute leader.

One fact is clear. In making these appointments, President Mahama has demonstrated maturity because they cut across the various areas of interest: regional and gender balance; calibre of appointees; retention and discarding of former appointees, re-designation of Ministries; elevation of former Deputy Ministers to full Ministerial status; exclusion of “babies with sharp teeth” and “evil dwarfs” and many more. He seems to be poised to form a team that he trusts to help him accomplish his goals.

By these appointments, we can see President Mahama making a good political move to shape and shave his administration to suit his agenda for the country.

We look forward to more appointments at the Ministerial and Deputy Ministerial levels. What we don't expect is a bloated government. I advise President Mahama not to rush to create new Ministries just for the sake of “job-for-the-boys,” which will end up bloating government portfolios. I expect him to shrink his administration to a manageable scope so as to reduce expenditure and make governance less cumbersome.

Previous situations where Rawlings and Kufuor created more than 80 portfolios and filled them with all manner of Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Special Assistants to Ministers and Deputy Ministers, Liaison Officers, and many other analogous portfolios shouldn't be replicated.

Regional Balance
So far, the list of appointees suggests that the President has brought on board Ghanaians from different geographical parts of the country and diverse ethnic extractions. Although some have been quick to criticize him for leaning toward those from Northern Ghana, I don't think that the primary motivation for making those appointments is nepotism. The President must be looking for competence and efficiency as the guiding principles and attractive qualities in those he has chosen to work with.

Feminine Factor
So far, the President's list of 7 appointees includes females among the appointees, which isn't bad at this stage. Although males dominate, the gender balance that we see in the appointments is encouraging. We expect more to be given responsibilities to confirm that the government is balanced in its dealings.

Elevation of Deputies to Status of Substantive Ministers

One significant feature of these appointments is the elevation of former Deputy Ministers to substantive Ministerial status. Among them are Mrs. Dzifa Attivor, Seth Terkper, Elvis Afriyie-Ankrah, Alhaji Inusah Fuseini, and Dr. Edward Omane Boamah.

This elevation is heart-warming because it proves that the appointees have learnt useful lessons with which to enhance governance in their various portfolios.

Removal of Former Ministers/Deputy Ministers
The exclusion of Ministers and Deputy Ministers in the Mills administration isn't strange. After all, it is to be expected that a new king will definitely come with new laws.

However, some of them, such as Samuel Ofosu-Ampofo and Haruna Iddrissu have been mentioned as those President Mahama should by now have re-engaged. We don't yet know what lies ahead but will not have the need to lose any sleep if they are sidelined for reasons best known to the President.

Others such as Alban-Bagbin, Alhaji Mumuni, Joe Gidisu, etc. may easily come to mind, but they haven't yet been re-assigned, which is nobody's cup of tea.

The only issue that some critics may raise is why Ofosu-Ampofo would be removed from that Ministry, having performed well there to warrant being retained. But the President knows better.

“Old” Ministers Retained
The President also retained 9 former Ministers who had worked under him and his predecessor but has re-assigned them for reasons best known to him. These can be said to have learnt the ropes and need no lecture on government business.

We hope they will use their acumen to improve governance and not for serving self-interests.

Among them are: Emmanuel Armarh Kofi Buah, Ms. Hanny-Sherry Ayittey, Nii Armah Ashietey, Clement Kofi Humado, Hannah Tetteh, Alhaji Amin Sulemana, Alhaji Collins Dauda, Mahama Ayariga, and Dr. Oteng Adjei. It is just a matter of musical chairs—their being moved around to new domains.

Of all the appointments in this category, that of Mr. Emmanuel Armarh Kofi Buah, Minister-designate for Energy and Petroleum, is interesting, especially if we consider the warning given by the chiefs and people of the Western Region yesterday to the effect that they would prefer “only a son from the Western Region” to be in charge of the oil sector.

Even though he can't single-handedly solve the problems that prompted the chief's baring their teeth, he can at least be seen as a source of relief. It means President Mahama has listened to (and respected?) the wishes of those chiefs and people. A very good political manouevre for goodwill?

Absence of “Babies with Sharp Teeth” and “Evil Dwarfs”

Conspicuously absent so far are names of those generally regarded as “babies with sharp teeth” and “evil dwarfs” (apologies to JJ Rawlings), who did the “trench war” to cut the government's opponents to size in the internecine wordy warfare that characterized the pre-Election 2012 period.

One may be wondering why the President should exclude them, although he is not compelled to retain them in their various capacities as Ministers, Deputy Ministers, or Presidential Staff. I may have a good explanation for it.

May be, President Mahama wants to give his administration a “facelift,” to prove that his approach to governance will be more refined than what characterized the previous one. Indeed, the “babies with sharp teeth” created a lot of credibility problems but fought hard to counteract the NDC opponents' open attacks.

Or he may have something for them to calm nerves but is not in a hurry to release it. If he doesn't play his cards properly, he will incur the anger of their admirers. And they will definitely begin rocking the boat all too soon to his disadvantage. Any intra-party bickering over posts all too soon will be dangerous.

I shall return…

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Disclaimer: "The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article." © Michael J.K. Bokor, Ph.D..