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Monday, April 22, 2024

An architect of Ghana’s political landscape –

Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, a man of many talents and unwavering dedication, has left an indelible mark on the political landscape of Ghana.

His journey began in 1997 when he entered Parliament at the age of 40, becoming the third youngest MP on the NPP side. Despite not being initially appointed as a Spokesperson or Deputy Spokesperson, he worked his way up and earned the position of co-deputy spokesperson for Youth and Sports and Works and Housing, the only person to have been so recognized. He was also a strong voice on Lands and Forestry matters.

A non-lawyer back-bencher of the Caucus, he single-handedly wrote the Caucus’ Constitution/Rules which came to guide the conduct of the NPP members in Parliament. He was so preoccupied with the success of the Parliamentary party that he was often assisting the then Minority Leader, the venerable J. H. Mensah. In recognition of that fact, J. H. Mensah appointed him as the Secretary to the NPP group in Parliament.

In recognition of his versatility, the then Speaker of Parliament nominated him to accompany him on several trips including a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) International Conference in New Zealand. Indeed, in the 1997-2000 group, he was the face of Youth and Sports even though Mustapha Iddriss was the spokesperson; he was the face of Forestry matters even though Agyare Koi-Larbi was the spokesperson on Lands and Forestry; he was the face of Works and Housing even though Kwamena Bartels was the spokesperson.

In 2001 when the NPP won the Presidential and general elections, most people expected him to be named as the Minister for Youth and Sports, it went to Mallam Issah. In the meantime, Kwamena Bartels, the then newly appointed Minister for Works and Housing was also strongly lobbying for him to be made his Deputy Minister. None of these happened under President Kufour.

At the beginning of 2001, that is the commencement of the 3rd Parliament of the 4th Republic, the Party, in consultation with the Parliamentary Leader, J. H. Mensah, appointed him as Deputy Majority Whip. He rose to the position of Chief Whip after Abraham Ossei Aidoo moved from Chief Whip to Deputy Majority Leader under Hon. Felix Owusu Adjapong.

When Felix in 2007 announced his intention to contest for the Presidential Candidate of the NPP, he had to leave his position as Majority Leader. Ossei Aidooh replaced Felix Owusu Adjapong as the Majority Leader and Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu moved up to become the Deputy Majority Leader.

As the Deputy Whip, Chief Whip and Deputy Leader, all the Majority Leaders – J. H. Mensah, Papa Owusu Ankomah, Felix Owusu Adjapong and Ossei Aidooh all attest to the fact that Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu was the one person who worked tirelessly to cover their backs.

Unsurprisingly, when the NPP lost power in 2008 and a new Parliament was ushered in, the NPP MPs in one accord, united behind him and had the party appoint him as the Minority Leader even though some elderly colleagues had been strenuously lobbying to be appointed as Minority Leader.

For the eight years Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu served as the Minority Leader, he distinguished himself and positioned the party as a credible alternative administration. His advocacy was not propaganda but thorough, well-researched and very intellectual but at the same time, down-to-earth presentations.

His Leadership style was inclusive and unblemished, and that explains why when a group of the MPs resorted to subterfuge to change the Leader in 2013, their attempt was snuffed out by the larger group in Parliament working together with the central party under Jake Obetsebi Lamptey and Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie, aka, ‘’Sir John’’.

In the lead-up to the 2016 Presidential and General elections, the party suffered severe turbulence. It was as if the elected officers had positioned themselves against the victory of Nana Addo Dankwah Akufo Addo, the hope of the vast majority of the party members. It took the effort of the then Minority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu and the then Chairman of the Disciplinary Committee, Prof. Mike Oquaye to rescue the party by causing and facilitating the holding of the Presidential Primaries which yet again resulted in the victory of Nana Akufo Addo.

If there was one group in the NPP which worked tirelessly, consistently and unrelentingly towards the victory of the NPP in the 2016 elections, it certainly was the NPP Minority Caucus under the Leadership of Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu through their activities in Parliament, the various information platforms including press conferences, lectures, symposia, television and radio interviews as well as other political engagements such as demonstrations.

Many of the Ministers, especially during the first chapter of the Nana Akufo Addo administration, before the advent of COVID-19, sponsored many revolutionary bills. The anchor person who smithed these Bills that Parliament passed is no other person than Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu.

Even in Minority in Parliament, he was the lead person in polishing bills that the government brought to Parliament for passage. The Attorneys-General in the NDC government all attest to this, and that is right from the time of Dr. Obed Asamoah. To Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, this is service to God and country.

Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu reading the 2021 Budget Statement in Parliament on Friday, March 12.
Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu

In terms of parliamentary practice, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu knows something about every subject matter, be it education, local government, agriculture, health, works, housing, finance, energy, trade, industry, sports, forestry, you name it. Indeed, Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu serves as the loom for the party, and it is the reason why every morning, the various radio and television stations want to hear his views on literally every subject matter.

He has been the most principled and stoic defender of the cause of the party and government, in government and in opposition, which arguably no one else has done before. It is the reason why social communicators, especially, the uninitiated always target him for insults, not for any intellectual engagement, of course. In all these matters which others would sprint away from or shield themselves, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu has remained unperturbed, often quoting former Prime Minister Busia that, ‘’to become a successful politician in Africa one must have a large stomach to take in all manner of stuff, the good and the bad’’.

The contribution of Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu to our democracy is in the area of governance and that is where he stands tall. In terms of complementarity, the attributes of Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu cannot be matched by anyone in Parliament now.

In the near-hung parliament, the diplomatic skills of the Majority Leader who leads a skin-of-the-teeth Majority Caucus, are admirable. He is very intentional in bringing the emboldened Minority Caucus who have a sympathetic Speaker to cushion them, on board of major issues.

Kyei Mensah assembly members salaries
Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Osei Kyei-Mensah Bonsu

He is a tough nut when he needs to be, especially when he picks his points on issues relating to the constitution, various enactments, the practices and conventions of the House, and above all, the Standing Orders, gliding his way through suppositions, perceptions and plain farce. That is why the MPs see him as peerless.

The versatility of Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu became manifest when in the absence of a Finance Minister, (because en Ofori-Atta who had been nominated by the President had not been vetted and approved by Parliament and following the Constitution, the Finance Ministry did not yet have a Deputy Minister) he was authorised by the President to present the Budget Statement and Economic Policy for the year 2021. Parliament and the entire nation gave him a standing ovation for an impeccable delivery.

The Majority Leader and Leader of the House that Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu has been for the past seven years, he has been a father, big brother and uncle to many of the MPs from both sides of the political divide. It is why on any typical working day, his office experiences a constant stream of NPP and NDC members visiting for various reasons. The Majority Leader has patience for all of them. That is how harmony is kept in the House of Parliament.

The Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs has been used to harmonise relationships between MPs (on both sides) and MMDCEs as well as Regional Ministers. That is why the rancorous and acrimonious relationship that had existed between MPs, MMDCEs and Regional Minsters is gradually easing off.

The unifier that Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu is, the Technical Committee that exists at the Ministry to input into bills is made up of both NPP and NDC members and the Nation is benefitting from that vehicle.

The Consultative Committee that has been put together by the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs comprises all shades of political opinion and is working assiduously to holistically review the Constitution.

At the international level, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu rose to become the President of the Africa Parliamentarians Network Against Corruption (APNAC). He served for two consecutive two-year terms, having first been elected in Kampala, Uganda and, for the Second term, in Ndjamena, Chad by his peers.

At the global level, Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu was elected as the Vice President of the Canada-based Global Organisation of Parliamentarians Against Corruption. He served for a total period of 4-years as such and only recused himself when he was appointed a minister in the Nana Akufo Addo-led government in 2021.

Within the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) which is the world assembly of parliaments, Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu gained the admiration of his associates when he got elected to chair one of the only four committees at the IPU, representing Africa.

Within the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, he has for more than 15 years been an Executive member for the African Regional chapter.

Within CPA International, he has been an Executive Committee member for four years culminating in his election to serve as Acting Vice Chairman for two years and substantive Vice Chairman for an additional year.

Even though a non-lawyer, Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu was charged with the responsibility of reviewing the constitutions of APNAC and GOPAC which amendments were subsequently unanimously approved by the respective plenary of the two associations.

In reviewing the constitutions of both CPA, Africa Region and CPA International, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu has played crucial roles.

Charity, it is said, begins at home. It is worthy to note that Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu has played a very pivotal role in reviewing the Standing Orders of Parliament which the House may soon adopt and implement.

Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu was the first to identify Dr Bawumia as the successor to President Nana Addo Dankwah Akufo-Addo. He was the first to step out and to stick his neck out for him. That attracted punches from the then potential aspirants including, in particular, Boakye Agyarko. Many chose to remain in their shells.

Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu was the one who mooted the idea about three years ago that the party should build consensus on a Bawumia-Alan ticket (he was not thinking of himself). Nana Akomea was later to retail the idea. He was also lampooned. If people who matter in the party had taken the matter up!


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