The Deputy Minister of Education, Science and Sports, Mr Osei Bonsu Amoah, has defended the provision in the constitution of the New Patriotic Party which calls for all ministers and DCEs aspiring to be the party's flagbearer to resign after filing to contest.
The Statesman newspaper says Mr Amoah, who is also the longest serving member of the Legal and Constitutional Committee of the NPP, admits there is “bound to be some turbulence” if some eight Cabinet Members resign to contest. Nevertheless he insists that the provision, inserted in 2003, was put there “for a good purpose.”
However, others have argued that it has failed in preventing the mischief it sought to cure, namely a rush for the flagbearership, with nine members of Cabinet, including the Vice President, known to be actively campaigning.
But Mr Amoah believes it is still too early to say, with the NPP presidential nomination probably some eight months away.
Former Speaker of Parliament and National Chairman of the NPP, Mr Peter Ala Adjetey, also wants to see minister-aspirants resign. But his reasoning is that their ministerial positions prevent such presidential hopefuls from coming up boldly with their own vision and programmes making it difficult for delegates to make a well-informed evaluation of all the candidates.
A Minister-aspirant, he argues, cannot be his “own man” in carrying his campaign messages to delegates. He said: “This is because they might have their own ways of achieving certain goals and visions of the party, other than what the sitting President is doing.”
The Statesman said a former serial Deputy Minister and aspiring NPP presidential candidate, Nkrabeah Effah-Dartey, has dismissed the issue as an “unnecessary topic.”
It says since its publication last week urging the ruling party to review the constitutional provision, the party's National Executive Council have met and discussed the matter.
Information reaching the Statesman is that there are at least two prominent Ministers, including one in charge of a significant social sector, who are preparing to resign. One, whose interest in the flagbearership peaked only this year, believes he needs more time to campaign.
Again, in support of the framers of the constitutional provision, there is growing evidence of Ministers spending less and less time on their official duties as the competition intensifies and the contest draws nearer.
The Statesman can disclose that the compulsory resignation provision was sponsored by some very senior members of the NPP, including President Kufuor, at the party's annual conference at Cape Coast four years ago. Since then some prominent members, including National Chairman Peter Mac Manu and Brong Ahafo Regional Chairman Nana Obiri Boahen, have expressed serious reservations about it.
But OB Amoah sees the whole debate as “academic,” saying there are other NPP constitutional provisions that rather require urgent attention. “We went to Cape Coast and took quite some time to deliberate over this. It is a carefully thought-through provision. The minister-aspirants should rather focus their minds on what the party constitution says,” he said.
Mr Amoah believes the President can exercise his discretion to bring back some former Ministers after the contest if he so wishes.
“It's not easy to lose about eight Ministers. But if that's what it's coming to then let's deal with it,” he stated.
Mr Amoah believes some deputies can fill the shoes of their substantive Ministers and “others can also be brought in.”
In any event, he shares the growing view that alliances could be formed as the days draw nearer and that probably not all the Ministers currently testing the waters will end up filing to contest. The general expectation amongst the NPP is that the risk of foregoing your ministerial portfolio for a position that your chances of winning are at best slim would discourage several wanna-run-too to “check” themselves.
He dismissed the suggestion that the NPP resignation ultimatum could be at variance with the national Constitution.
“There is nothing stopping the party from setting for itself its own standards. There are Cabinet members who are actively campaigning at the moment and the party has not stopped them and has no such rule of denying them their constitutional right to contest. The party constitution only requires of them to resign once they file to contest,” he said.
NPP former National Chairman, Mr Peter Ala Adjetey, says though all candidates may belong to the same party and adhere to the same political ideology, each candidates has a different means by which he could achieve a certain policy framework of idea, and since there are no clear cut routes to achieve an aim, an aspirant might find it difficult and inappropriate to pursue a route contrary to that favoured by the President, who is their employer.
Mr Adjetey notes that there is no one hard rule to amending the constitution, as most Ministers are likely to run campaigns diametrically opposed to what the present administration might be doing.
“You cannot eat your cake and have it; you either support what is being done now or you create your own ways of achieving goals in a different way. Once you are seen campaigning on the same policies that the sitting government has, then you have no aim and can therefore not be your own man,” he stressed.
Current estimates suggest that at least eight Cabinet Ministers are on their way out of Government. They are Hackman Owusu-Agyemang, Water Resources, Works and Housing; Nana Akufo-Addo, Foreign Affairs, Regional Cooperation and NEPAD; Kwame Addo-Kufuor, Defence; Mike Ocquaye, Communications; Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, Tourism and Diasporan Relations; Alan Kyerematen, Trade, Industry and PSI; Felix Owusu-Adjapong, Majority Leader, Parliamentary Affairs and acting Road Transport Minister and Papa Owusu-Ankomah, Education, Science and Sports.
An amendment to the NPP constitution, passed in 2003, states: “Any Minister, National Officer, and District Chief Executive who files to contest to become a Presidential Candidate of the Party shall resign his/her position.”
Source: The Statesman