The calibre and character of Mills’ men

…an objective comparison with the Kufuor era

Atta-Mills’ commitment to the positive transformation of the existing political culture should not only be seen in his drastic reduction of presidential privileges but also in the nature of his ministerial appointments.

A look at the Kufuor era will reveal that the nature of appointments was mostly influenced by consideration of the private loyalties to the man KUFUOR. Childhood friends, personal friends, in-laws, brothers, relatives and old school mates constituted most of Kufour’s power circle. The most important consideration for public office was never contribution to the party or even competence.

Kufuor’s Prempeh College clique; the appointment of relatives and in-laws to sensitive government positions are too recent to forget. That era marked an unprecedented substitution of the public interest with a private agenda. This explains in part the tolerance and gravity of corruption in the Kufuor regime

One aspect of Kufuor’s political backwardness was the appointment of persons who have spent most of their useful lives outside the country and thus alien to the existing conditions in the country or the party. Kufuor never even felt accountable to his own party, not to talk about the Ghanaian citizenry.

The distinguishing factor of the Mills appointments is that it has no trace of personal loyalty and self-patronage. It also has no reflections of tribal and ethnic bias. A preliminary overview of the list ministerial appointees reveals features of a national character. This is on one part a result of Atta-Mills’ own ideological make-up and the other an expression of the basic character of the NDC.

It is difficult for any keen social observer to fail to recognise that part of the noise being made about the ministerial nominations stems mainly from a conservative mindset on the rights to public office. That assumption is no different from the main thrust of the NPPs claim to power; a claim founded on a largely pre-independence assumption of rights, power and privilege.

There might generally be questions over the character and competence of some ministerial appointees; no doubt about that. But what is the usefulness in such a statement. Mr. Osafo Marfo is one of the most respected appointees of Kufuor. As Minister of Finance he signed a bilateral agreement with the German Government on-behalf of the state. By his own admission, he had no knowledge of the text of the agreement because it was in German!

The unfortunate aspect of the Rawlings outburst, describing some of the appointees as mediocre, is that it seemed to strengthen a prevailing mindset and perception, thus produces a far different result from that intended by Rawlings.

At this point it is important to examine the character of the mindset of leaders of largest opposition party with respect to the rights to public officer and privilege.

The New Patriotic Party is the product of a fascist, sectarian and conservative political and intellectual tradition. It was forced to adapt to popular political culture and a national out look to win its first ever legitimate elections in 2000. Its essential features have always been regionalist at best and at worse fascist. With the exception of the 2000 and 2004 elections its dominance has only been felt in the Asante region.

The 1992 and 1996 electoral efforts of the NPP were based mostly on tribal and sectarian jargons. One of the popular slogans was Yegye Yen Man: a resurrection of the 1951 Asante secessionist political outcry: “Coming for our nation”.

From this point of view can be understood why Atta-Mills’ decision is not in agreement with the entrenched values of the New Patriotic Party. The NPP cannot come to terms with the fact that Ghanaians have equal rights to public office irrespective of ethnic identity. Most of the opposition to the nominations stem from tribal and ethnic prejudices; and an entrenched belief that certain people cannot have the right to power and public office.

The NPP may have chosen a northerner as Vice-President; but that can only be concerned with electoral strategy. Aliu Mahama for eight years in office as Vice-president was never seen as part of the NPP; his humiliation in the 2007 leadership contest, is enough proof that there is no tolerance for the growth of any non-Asante influence in the NPP.

Major Courage Quashigah is a former National Organiser of the NPP. He has been one of the most effective leaders of the NPP. For the eight-years he served as Cabinet Minster, he had avoided the negative trademark of the Kufuor era. Notwithstanding, he never had enough courage join the undignified scramble for power in the December 22nd 2007 leadership contest that never produced a convincing winner.

The character of Atta Mills’ nomination must have been largely fuelled by a deliberate policy to introduce youthful and dynamic elements into the political landscape and also reward key actors in the power struggle with the NPP.

Most of the reaction against Mills’ nominations bears semblance to the uproar against the cabinet line-up of Nkrumah after the 1951 elections. Nkrumah challenged the status-quo by bringing in youthful personalities into the centre of government. He also rewarded the most active persons in the nationalist agitations. Social status was never a factor.

Atta-Mills has done something much similar. Most of his appointees were vociferous elements in the processes that led to removal of the NPP from office, especially the militant phase.

Radical student leader Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa was recently sworn in as the youngest Minister ever in the fourth republic. Haruna Iddrisu, Fifii Kwetey, Edward Omane-Boamah and Elvis Afriyie-Ankrah are also youthful products of the tradition of student leadership

These are intelligent and dynamic young men respected by their generation. Equally brilliant youth activists have only ended up as errand boys in the New Patriotic Party. Atta-Mills has shown decisively that he is committed to the engagement of the youth in the governance process.

Already, this has sent shock waves in the NPP Youth Wing. Leading youth activist and former General Secretary of the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS), Haruna Mahama has recently indicated that the actions of Atta-Mills is an indictment on the Kufuor era. He stated in a write-up that the NPP had ignored the Ghanaian youth in the political administration of the country. Mr. Mahama is not leading a one-man crusade. Public commentary from equally important youth leaders of the NPP betrays support for Atta-Mills’ nominations.

This article has sought to explain that criticism of Atta-Mills’ ministerial nominations boils down principally on obsession with tribalism, ageism and status (whether acquired or inherited.) But the determined attack on Fiifi Kwetey (Deputy Finance Minister) by the Minority in Parliament betrays another important factor.

Fiifi Kwetey undoubtedly has eloquence and a mental agility beyond that of the average middle class politician and is not likely to sign a bilateral agreement without knowledge of its contents. The opposition to his appointment stems from the fact that he was one of the key actors, and in fact radical agitators for the removal of the NPP from office. The minority did not want to see a reward for the public faces that threw the NPP from office. This point is crucial.

The NPP is in need more than ever in its history to rehabilitate its horrific legacy of corruption, abuse of power and the cocaine menace. The vetting by the appointment committee was meant to embarrass the energetic figures that forced the NPP out of office. It also served as a means to force ministerial nominees to retract campaign statements made against the NPP.

The condition for approval from the minority was the denunciation of the political and electoral campaign standpoints of the NDC by the nominees. The Vetting of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice was a significant case in point. A remarkable 80% of all questions from the minority centred on comments made by Mrs. Betty Mould-Iddrisu concerning the trial and sentencing of Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata. The purpose was to extract retractions.

Fiifi Kwetey of course had the most hectic time. He spent a record-time before the appointments committee. Dr. Edward Omane-Boamah was certainly not nominated for the Education Ministry. His authorship of “GETFUND; A NUGS President’s account had meant that, the Deputy Minister-Designate for Environment and Science will have most of his questions from the minority concerned with the tertiary education policy of the NPP and the management of the Ghana Education Trust Fund. He was drilled by NPP members of the committee to force out a denunciation of his famous and irrefutable claim of mismanagement and diversion of GETFUND revenue by the Kufuor administration.

Rawlings’ has said that some of the nominees are mediocre. This should be appreciated within the context of an unavoidable struggle for political space amongst internal factions.

Ironically the outcry by the opposition media and the parliamentary minority was directed against people who are arguably one of the finest materials in the political landscape. The Rawlings outburst had served an unintended consequence. It has given ground to an otherwise almost useless agitation against the most dynamic and loyal ministerial nominees.

The Minority voted unanimously against the appointment of Mr. Fiifi Kwetey; there is reasonable doubt that Rawlings is on the same wavelength with the NPP.

Appointments are made with reference to diverse considerations and within certain constitutional and political limits in addition to the general expectation for ethnic and gender balance. We only have to look back the legacy of Kufuor to understand that Atta Mills is mindful of the fight against corruption by not appointing cronies and relatives and committed to lead a government that has the representation of a national character.

Above all, by the introduction of youthful elements, Atta-Mills has shown that he is guided by enlightened values.

By Evans Smith

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