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03.05.2006 Politics

Kufuor’s seemingly ‘punitive’ cabinet reshuffle:Is The President Confused?

By Ghanaian-Chronicle
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The long-awaited cabinet reshuffle has come with its attendant shocks. And naturally, it has become the subject of discussion at almost every drinking spot, lorry park and market square. Indeed it must be discussed because it has many implications to many people, so much so that was it not effected on the last day of the just-ended BECE, the new designations would have been part of the 'wahala' of those taking the social studies paper. What sounded unnatural about the development was the claim by Nana Ohene Ntow, New Patriotic Party (NPP) General Secretary, that the president owes no one any explanation on what prompted the reshuffle for the simple reason that he did not consult anyone before he made the appointments. He was quoted in the May 1, 2006 issue of 'The Heritage' as saying, “The President does not owe anyone any reason for his reshuffle. The president is under no obligation to crosscheck with anybody whom he intends to work with. When he was appointing those ministers (Osafo Marfo, Dan Botwe) into those positions, nobody asked why he appointed them”. That explanation, to me, was the most horrible public relations job by any politician in recent times. In fact to me, Ntow's sycophantic display has glaringly placed him in the bracket of those in the ruling party who are doing a great deal of disservice to the president. His explanation is a complete gaffe because while it is true that the president has all the power under the sun to do what he did and how he did it, the party secretary is quite ignorant of the fact that the president does not possess all the wisdom under the sun to do all things. It also makes nonsense of the president's institution and decentralization of the People's Assembly concept, in which the president humbly explained his actions and inactions to every Ghanaian who cared to listen to him, and the countless 'Meet-The-Press' series. Many people still remember how minutes after he took his oath of office in 2001, Kufuor, the then fresh president, explained why there was the need for a Women and Children's Affairs Ministry, and another for Girl-Child Education. If Nana Ohene Ntow does not know the essence of these actions and directives of the president, then it is unfortunate. But thank God the president knows his general secretary is doing him no good and he would listen to me no matter how unpleasant this piece would be. But if perchance he too reasons with Ntow, then so be it. As for me, I will still tell the nation's number one citizen what my mind tells me about his actions. After all there is a saying that 'always stand for the right; then you win even if you lose'. I have had some time to go through the just announced reshuffle and find the motives quite baffling or should I say, inconsistent. It is baffling because if the motive is to clip the wings of those aspiring to become president, then it will be of no effect. In short, does it mean that there will be another reshuffle the moment any of the minister at post ventures to express interest in the presidency? On the other hand if the move was aimed at trimming the size of government, then I do not see how it is going to be achieved. In the first place there are many aspects of these changes that are quite comical. For instance, we no longer have 'Modernization of the Capital City'. Even when it was there, it prompted a valuable question like whether or not other cities in the country needed no modernization. And now that it has been removed, does it also mean that Accra is no longer going to be modernized? Most importantly, did Ohene Ntow consider the implications this could have for the Greater Accra NPP before asking the general public to virtually shut up? Another area Ghanaians cannot simply be mum over is why the need for a Minister devoted to Diasporean Relations when we have ambassadors and embassies/missions in most parts of the world. Is the Foreign Minister (Nana Akuffo Addo) unable to take care of the issues of Ghanaians in the Diaspora, or will the new minister (Obetsebi Lamptey) now be traveling out like a foreign minister does? Again, one must question the addition of "National Orientation" to the Ministry of Information. This is because in a pluralistic society such as Ghana, with diverse cultural and religious backgrounds, are we all to have singular National Orientation? It is totally ridiculous. Recall that that was the purpose of socialist and communist governments, which sought to erect a sacred canopy under which all were to gather in a shared singular view and to impose a central vision and orientation on society. This is therefore clearly contradictory to the Danquah/Busia political tradition and Kufuor should not make a laughing stock of the free-market/free-thinking ideology of his noble party. SENIOR MINISTER The idea was stolen from Singapore. This was after the impressive performance of Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew, who, after ruling for 40 years (1959-1999) and transforming his country dramatically, had acquired so much experience that he was recalled into the next government as a senior minister. He became indispensable due to his rich experiences even after he had stepped down because he was still a force to reckon with, and hence the position of a senior minister, whose is higher than a chief of staff and lower than the PM. When the NPP took over power in January 2001, it is a fact that but for J. H. Mensah, all the members of party's team, including the president and his vice, had never attended a cabinet meeting before. And pride would then not permit them to 'seek guidance' from the NDC, whom it had succeeded. That was when the Sunyani East MP was badly needed to play the role Yew played. But sadly enough, Kufuor failed to clearly explain to the good people of this country what the position was all about to disabuse the minds of skeptics. Its objective was shrouded in secrecy; no doubt it was soon crippled and relegated to the background. His move will not energize the Party for 2008 nor will it sharpen the government to help it deliver for the remainder of its term. I think you guys ought to take him to task and put him on his toes so he does not wreck the in the remaining last days. AVIATION My bit here is that since the creation of any new ministry has legislative and budgetary implications, there is no way the Aviation ministry can be different from others. Otherwise how is it going to be funded? And yet somebody somewhere is saying we have no right to call for explanations when public money is going into its operation. The fun here is that the nation has not got a single national airline, yet a whole ministry is being created for a partnership like GIA. If anything at all, parliament needs to be brought into the mainstream of the new agendum. ALTERNATIVES If the essence of the historic reshuffle is really to trim down government expenditure, then it should have seen the following consolidations: There is no need for a Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs under an Executive Presidential system where powers are supposed to be separate. A hard-working majority leader with an efficient parliamentary caucus is enough, and there is absolutely no need for the executive to supervise the legislative arm of government. Similarly, there is no need for a Minster of Presidential Affairs since that is precisely what the Chief of Staff is really doing. There is therefore no need for a separate Ministerial title for it. 1. Aviation and Ports & Railways should have been re-integrated into a realigned Ministry of Transport and National Infrastructure as departments. 2. Fisheries could also be re-integrated into the Ministry of Agriculture without any negative impact. 3. A realigned Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources could easily absorb Mines, Forestry, Water and Environments as departments. 4. A realigned Ministry of Health and Social Services could practically absorb Women & Children Affairs as departments. CONCLUSION This move will by no means energize the Party for 2008, nor will it sharpen the government to help it deliver for the remainder of its term. This reshuffle is not performance-enhancing. And with just two years to go, what is going to be Kufuor's legacy to the NPP after his punitive reshuffle? For now the seed seems to have been thrown away, leaving only the shell. And to me, when the dust