Papa Owusu-Ankomah, Minister of Education, Science and Sports, has refuted rumours making the rounds that he was set to resign his post, possibly as early as next month, in order to focus on his presidential ambitions.
Recent media reports to this effect are "unequivocally false,” according to a statement released by the Education Minister yesterday. “I have made no such plans, nor have I announced them to any person in the media,” he said.
Mr Owusu-Ankomah is one of 19 candidates thought to be gunning for the New Patriotic Party presidential ticket - with the ruling party's eventual flagbearer due to be elected this coming December.
The competition is tough, but suggestions that he may abandon his ministerial responsibilities to give him a head start in the race have no basis in reality, is the message from the Education Minister.
“Continued speculation along these lines is a mark of disrespect to His Excellency, President J A Kufuor, to whom I would first communicate any such news,” the press statement said.
“In addition, it is injurious to the ongoing mission I have undertaken to carry out the President"s very important agenda within the Ministry I head.”
Just two weeks ago, Mr Owusu-Ankomah helped launch the most ambitious reform of Ghana's education system in 20 years – a drastic overhaul of the entire school system, which increases the length of basic education from nine to eleven years, introduces two years of kindergarten for all students, and places a stronger emphasis on competence in core literacy and numeracy skills.
The new system will be gradually rolled in from September this year, to be fully functional by 2015. Mr Owusu-Ankomah is not about to turn his back on this lengthy process, was his message yesterday.
The Education Minister is not the only one who has been subject to speculation; indeed, as the race to replace President Kufuor hots up, rumours are rife about many of the candidates.
Moreover, rumours of resignation come alongside a current reality: Mr Owusu-Ankomah may have no immediate plans to give up his position, but he may not have a choice in the matter. Of the currently known eight Cabinet Ministers contesting the top spot, all will have to resign once nominations are opened in September, if the party's present constitution is not amended.
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.”
This would mean the resignations of Hackman Owusu-Agyemang, Water Resources, Works and Housing; Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Foreign Affairs, Regional Cooperation and NEPAD; Kwame Addo-Kufuor, Defence; Mike Oquaye, 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; as well as Papa Owusu Ankomah at Education.
There have been calls to overturn this constitutional provision, with proponents, including this newspaper, arguing that the work of Government may be disrupted if eight of its finest brains are forced to abandon their portfolios.
Nana Obiri Boahen, Brong Ahafo NPP Regional Chairman, has lent his voice to this campaign for an amendment of the new provision, describing it as counter-productive to the party's own programme of ensuring that they return to the electorate in December 2008 with a very good track record of delivery. He says the situation calls for a review since the framers appeared not to have envisaged a situation where such a sizeable number of the best materials in government would be required to all quit more than a year before the general elections for a position that can be one by just one person.
Debate on the provision continues.