...FROM 88 TO 66 MINISTERS? Big changes are expected to be announced this week as President John Agyekum Kufuor moves to sharpen the delivery spikes of his government for the remaining 32 months of his tenure.
The most fundamental of the planned changes is a reconfiguration of some ministerial portfolios. Some existing Ministries are likely to be absorbed by other Ministries to make the government leaner and meaner.
The exercise would naturally lead to some Ministers losing their jobs, with the size of government expected to be cut down by more than 20, from the current 88 Ministers and Deputy Ministers to about 66.
The changes are also expected to affect some potential presidential candidates who the President has compelling evidence to believe their “peaking” before time is affecting their official duties to the State as appointed agents of the Executive.
Heads are to roll but it is a decision that the President is to take with a heavy heart and informed squarely and entirely by what he considers to be in the interest of his government, his country and his party.
The President is said to be agonising over weekly reports he receives about the ever-growing campaign activities of some members of his Cabinet who are working extra hard to succeed him. Particularly worrying are reports of some aspirants or their agents projecting their candidacy by bad-mouthing the others seen to be in the race, too.
While the man who tried from 1992 to 1998 to lead the NPP has some sympathies for the early starters, he believes the situation becomes very tricky when such NPP aspirants, unlike the pre-2001 situation, hold important State portfolios today.
But, as is usual with President Kufuor, he is only deciding to act after a long and hard look at the situation and how it may be frustrating his government's delivery programme.
Nominations for presidential candidate for the New Patriotic Party is, according to the party's constitution, scheduled to be not sooner than December 2007, about 20 months away.
Yet, already some have publicly announced their intentions and have followed (or in some cases preceded) that with gun-jumping sprints at unleashing their electioneering machinery.
This is causing grave concern at the seat of government, the Castle and NPP headquarters, Kokomlemle, as the leadership fear it is diverting the attention of party executives, especially at the constituency level, from the all-important task of reviving grassroots support for the good of the whole and not for massaging individual ambitions.
As hinted last Monday, information reaching The Statesman is that eleven days ago the President sent, what an aide describes as, “his last warning” to his Cabinet members who are actively campaigning for support from party executives nationwide in their bids to become the flagbearer of the ruling party. The President addressed his Ministers, in the presence of the ruling party's national chairman and general secretary, Peter MacManu and Nana Ohene Ntow, respectively. Mr Kufuor spoke sternly about the need for the party's leading members to conduct themselves in ways that ensure and strengthen party unity. The President told his Cabinet, which boasts of at least seven such potential candidates, that the party risks polarisation at this time when unity of purpose is needed for the party to focus on enhancing structures at the constituency level.
Last Thursday, another leading member of the NPP added his voice to the growing concern, urging the President to sack his “ambitious Ministers” whose actions were “weakening the party and the Government,” if they would not resign. Kwame Amoako Tuffuor described it as “morally wrong” to see Ministers deviating from their responsibilities into other areas because of their presidential ambitions.
“It is unacceptable. It is definitely wrong for such people to be found using their honourable positions and the trappings of their offices to achieve their personal ambitions at our expense. For them to go round the country, pleading with people and soliciting their support, while leaving their ministries behind is definitely wrong and 'un presidential.' They have really lost their focus,” he said.
He continued, “I am earnestly pleading with His Excellency the President, to give them the sack, if they do not have the nerve and decorum to resign honourably. All those who agree with me on this note should support my campaign to ensure that they fail miserably in their attempt to win the enviable presidential slot.”
Ironically, Dr Amoako Tuffuor is widely known within the NPP as a campaign manager for Vice President Aliu Mahama. Since, constitutionally, the position of Vice President cannot be said to be captured under the group of Cabinet members that Dr Amoako Tuffuor is calling for their removal from office, it may not be difficult to predict who may benefit from the prospect of the “ambitious” Ministers being challenged by Dr Amoako Tuffuor's campaign to have them fail miserably in their attempt to win the enviable presidential slot.
Additional information reaching The Statesman is that Mr MacManu plans to meet all of the actively recognised potential candidates to find common ground on the way forward.
Mr MacManu's influence as a respected, commanding and assertive leader is becoming increasingly greater. This was tested in Tamale recently. All the national party executives who were sent up to Tamale earlier could not break the news that the party had decided not to contest the Tamale Central seat, after the MP, Wayo Seini's resignation from the National Democratic Congress to return to the ruling party.
It was left to MacManu to do it, and although his announcement was initially met with anger and derision, his decision afterwards to call the constituency executives on a one-by-one basis to explain the rationale to each persuasively, soon got everyone coming on board.
The Tamale Central by-election is slated for Tuesday, April 4.