Mahama Sweeps Flagstaff House

President John Mahama has finally relieved the Chief of Staff, Douglas Prosper Bani, of his duties at the Presidency in the latest changes effected late Sunday night.

It follows weeks of speculations of the likely exit of Mr Bani after the Executive Secretary to the President, Dr Raymond Atuguba, and the head of Communications at the Presidency and Presidential Spokesperson, Ben Dotsei Malor, were sent packing from the Flagstaff House under very bizarre circumstances, even though it is believed to be the resultant effect of a turf war in the President’s kitchen cabinet.

Mr Bani has been replaced with Local Government Minister Julius Debrah.

Yesterday, Ghanaians woke up to the shocking news of major changes at the Flagstaff House in what looked like a house-cleaning exercise.

Sources said the Deputy Chief of Staff, Valerie Sawyerr, who was earlier rumoured to take over from Prosper Bani, is on her way out as well, as a new person has been appointed to that position.

The Flagstaff House statement was silent on Ms Sawyerr’s status in the changing face of the sweeping exercise.

In Prosper Bani’s place is Julius Debrah who, until his elevation as Chief of Staff, was the Minister for Local Government and Rural Development, while Bani has been reduced to a more lowly position that comes with a more grandiose title, Ambassador Extraordinaire and Plenipotentiary (a diplomatic official of the highest rank sent by one sovereign state to another as its resident representative), to possibly one of the Caribbean countries.

Julius Debrah’s sudden rise on the political ladder has come as a major surprise to many including members of the NDC, given that he was initially appointed Executive Director of the Ghana Tourist Authority and later became Eastern Regional Minister.

He is seen as a results-oriented leader whose introduction of the once-a-month national sanitation day has been applauded by many including traditional authorities.

Other major appointments as contained in a statement which was issued and signed by the Minister of Communications, Dr Edward Kofi Omane Boamah, included William Kwasi Aboah, National Security Advisor, who has been reassigned as a Presidential Advisor responsible for the restructuring of the Narcotics Control Board (NACOB) into a fully-fledged Commission.

He is also expected to assume the chairmanship position when the Board, which was dissolved sometime last year over a scandal, is reconstituted.

Surprise Package
Interestingly, the President has also appointed one of his right-hand men, Alhaji Baba Issifu Kamara, who was neck-deep in the infamous Mabey and Johnson bribery scandal, as his National Security Advisor, replacing Mr Aboah, a former Commissioner of Police and BNI Director.

Until then, he was a Senior Advisor for Special Duties at the Presidency and a former High Commissioner to Nigeria.

His appointment as National Security Advisor also comes as a surprise to many in view of the fact that Baba Kamara does not have any known security background except for his closeness to the President and membership of the Gonja Mafia.

He is said to have engaged Bani in a turf war over the control of the Presidency.

One other appointment which seems to have taken many by surprise is that of the Deputy Minister of Works and Housing, Johnny Osei Kofi, a former lecturer at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), who has been made the Deputy Chief of staff.

He is seen as a grassroots member of the ruling party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), and served as a government appointee on the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly in 2013.

Osei Kofi, whilst lecturing at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, was appointed as a sub-committee member and served on the development planning sub-committee of the KMA.

He spent a little over a year there before he was appointed Deputy Minister for Water Resources, Works and Housing in June 2014 and is now a Deputy Chief of Staff.

More Changes
Sources at the Flagstaff House have told DAILY GUIDE to expect a few more changes at the top, with Valerie Sawyerr likely to be affected by the raging tsunami sweeping through the Presidency.

It was gathered that some ministers will also be sent packing to make room for more experienced hands, with the hope of stabilising the tottering Mills/Mahama administration in its seventh year.

Bani’s Woes
Founding President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of policy think-tank IMANI-Ghana, Franklin Cudjoe, examined what could have possibly led to the dismissal of Prosper Bani as Chief of Staff, saying that the office slowed down public sector reform efforts over the last decade, worsened by what he described as ‘the incredible amount of brazen scandals within some public institutions.’

‘Over the last two years, this office has been reputably ineffective and profusely wasteful. Last year, the Office of the Chief of Staff alone overspent its budget by about GH¢41 million ($13m) on items that are not clear to the public,’ he said, and that ‘the Chief of Staff gives orders and counter orders which played out comically in public a few times, making a mockery of what is expected of a well-coordinated office.’

Aside that, he indicated that ‘the Chief of Staff seems to have turned the Presidency into a hub for negotiating deals that never get passed in Parliament or when they are sent to Parliament, they are passed at the frightening speed of light.’

Mabey & Johnson
Newly appointed National Security Advisor Baba Kamara is also neck deep in the Mabey and Johnson scandal that rocked the country in 2009.

He is yet to be cleared of the scandal in which he was said to be the kingpin that allegedly facilitated the sharing of bribes to Ghanaian individuals.

Former Commissioner on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), who was leading investigations into the allegation at the time, Emile Short, told Joy Fm:

‘I don’t know what happens to the case as it stands today. The matter is still with CHRAJ….to the best of my knowledge the matter is still under investigations and it is still within their mandate.’

Baba Kamara, former Health Minister Dr George Sipa Yankey who resigned over the scandal, and former Roads Minister Ato Quarshie and others were alleged to have benefitted from a £750,000 largesse from Mabey & Johnson, a British bridge construction firm that sought to win projects in Ghana.

Mr Kamara was alleged to be the conduit by which some of the bribe money got to the recipients.

Kamara had earlier in the investigations refused to cooperate with CHRAJ after he maintained that as a private businessman, he was out of the commission’s jurisdiction.

Emile Short recalled that the Supreme Court ruled that CHRAJ had every authority to investigate him because the allegations involved public officials.

A second legal block initiated by Baba Kamara at the Human Rights Court contesting pre-judicial comments made by Emile Short was also thrown out by the Court of Appeal.

But Emile Short said he left CHRAJ before the Appeal Court ruling that paved the way for further investigations.

It is not clear if Lauretta Lamptey, who took over from Emile Short, ever looked at the file.

Anger Over Bani’s Exit
Meanwhile, aggrieved branch executives of NDC in the Volta Region have given President Mahama a two-week ultimatum to reinstate the dismissed Chief of Staff, Prosper Bani.

The NDC branch executives believe their kinsman has been given a raw deal by the President. The spokesperson for the group, Emmanuel Tokame, told Starr News , the President must reverse the changes or face their wrath.

‘We give the President two weeks’ ultimatum to reinstate Prosper Bani else we will not take part in any party activities.

‘If they dare not reinstate Prosper Bani in the next two weeks, we will advise ourselves and they shouldn’t forget that next year is election year and the campaign has just started.

‘They shouldn’t forget that if Volta Region is peeved, it will be a disaster for NDC,’ he said.

Another group calling itself ‘Volta Youth for Action’ has vowed not to vote for the NDC in the 2016 election following the replacement of Bani.

According to the group, the President’s action is not in the best interest of the region which is noted as the world bank of the governing party.

Spokesperson for the group, Alhaji Belo, said ‘we are not going to vote for the party in 2016.

The President has not been fair to Voltarians and this is not the first time. We have support from MPs in the region, we have support from DCEs, Chiefs and opinion leaders in the region and we are serious about this.’

By Charles Takyi-Boadu

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