Ghana: President’s inauguration, transition challenges, cabinet highlighted in Ghana media

Accra, Ghana (PANA) – The Ghanaian media this week had a huge feast of stories with the inauguration of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, his plagiarised speech, hullabaloo over former President John Dramani Mahama’s official retirement accommodation and nominees for cabinet positions being some of the stories that filled the media.

The media also highlighted the situation where activists and a vigilante group of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) have been invading some state institutions to take over activities there because of the change in government.

Ghana’s new president was inaugurated on 7 January at the Black Star Square (Independence Square) in Accra witnessed by tens of thousands of vociferous supporters of the victorious NPP. Also in attendance were more than a dozen heads of state and governments from Africa, including the chairperson of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, who was guest of honour.

“Momentous!” was the headline of the state-owned Graphic, which reported that the overwhelming victory of NPP at the polls brought with it a wind of change and high expectations from even those who did not vote for the new President.

It said the Black Star Square was a beehive of activities because by 4 a.m. on that day, the stands were filled to capacity.

The Graphic said apart from some NPP supporters who decorated themselves in all kinds of party paraphernalia, all the dignitaries were clad in splendid attire.

The State-owned Ghanaian Times, reporting under the headline, “Nana Akufo-Addo takes office” said Nana Akufo-Addo was on Saturday inaugurated as the fifth president under the Fourth Republic in front of  possibly the largest national gathering ever at the Black Star Square.

Hundreds of thousands of people from across the country and other parts of the world came to witness the investiture of the country's new Commander-in-chief, an event held as an extension of Parliament.

But the euphoria was dented when later in the day it emerged that the speech of President Akufo-Addo had plagiarised the inaugural speeches of two US presidents – Bill Clinton (1993) and George W. Bush (2001). As the news spread on social media, the international media picked it up with embarrassing consequences. The presidency reacted by issuing an apology describing it as “a complete oversight, and never deliberate”.

But that will not satisfy some members of the public, especially the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), whose MPs demanded a withdrawal of the speech since it was delivered in Parliament, which had moved to the Black Star Square for the investiture.

The Deputy Minority Leader, Mr James Avedzi, called for the withdrawal of the plagiarised speech adding that the President would be given the liberty “to resubmit another speech not tainted with fraud and reflecting all attributable sources”.

The Graphic, reporting under the headline, “Akufo-Addo won’t withdraw ‘plagiarised’ address – Majority” said the Majority in Parliament had rejected calls by the Minority in Parliament to withdraw the speech.

The MP for Abuakwa South, Mr Samuel Atta Akyea, said all that could be done was the apology that had been rendered by the director of communications at the Presidency. What was left was to amend the address and incorporate the corrections.

The media was also awash with the loud arguments on whether or not to allow former President Mahama to keep his current residence as his retirement home. Under the laws of Ghana, former presidents are entitled to an official residential accommodation and office.

It has emerged that the new and former presidents, at a meeting with the Asantehene, an influential chief, agreed that the former president could live in his house and have as office accommodation a building that had been used by his wife as her office.

He was asked to put it into writing, which the former Chief of Staff, Julius Debrah, did. However, the ruling party turned down the request.

In the midst of the embarrassing development, fuelled by nasty comments and spins in the media, the former president withdrew the request as agreed between him and the new president.

The Graphic published the story under the headline, “Mahama withdraws interest in retirement home.”

In a letter to President Akufo-Addo, the former president explained that the request had threatened the relationships between the ruling NPP and his former government.

“It would appear that these requests threaten to mar the spirit of cooperation with which we as co-chairs of the joint transition team have managed the smooth transfer of power from my administration to yours. I believe that this controversy is absolutely not needed in these early days as the government settles into office," Mr Mahama wrote.

He said contrary to reports in the media, he did not request to purchase the house, where he had lived since he was vice president. He did not move into the residential part of Flagstaff House, the office and residence of the president.

The former president was again in the news as his political future was disclosed by his family which stated emphatically that he would not contest the 2020 election.

“Mahama won’t run in 2020 — Family,” was the headline of the Graphic which stated that his immediate family insisted that the former President should call time on local politics. However, some leaders of the opposition NDC want him to contest the next election saying he is the party’s best bet for Election 2020.

The former President’s younger brother, Mr Ibrahim Mahama, said the family had been advising him not to contest the NDC primary to select a candidate for 2020, adding: “He agreed with us.”

“John has given his all in politics to the NDC and Ghana and we think it is just fair that we allow him to rest. We were very supportive and instrumental in convincing him to partner the late Prof. J.E.A. Mills, and when the time came for him to contest for President, we supported him and advised him to go for it…Now we have advised him not to make a comeback in 2020,” he said.

President Akufo-Addo’s 36-member cabinet was also given wide coverage. A large number of the cabinet served under former President John Agyekum Kufuor, under whom the new president also served as Attorney-general and Minister of Justice and later Foreign minister.

The size of the cabinet has been criticised and the president has explained that six portfolios would be under him at the presidency.

They are: Monitoring and Evaluation; Railway Development; Business Development; Regional Reorganisation and Development; Inner City and Zongo Development; Special Development Initiatives.

IMANI Centre for Policy and Education, an African think tank, described the additional ministries as questionable, citing, for example, the Interior Ministry, Defence Ministry and National Security as totally uncalled for and superfluous.

According to Franklin Cudjoe, head of IMANI, the new president was appointing more ministers than the previous administration.

“There is a national security minister, there is a defence minister and there is an interior minister, why are we going to war?"

Mr. Cudjoe also referred to Ministry of Transport, Ministry for Railways Development, and Ministry for Roads and Highways and described them as “a festival of Ministries for a single monolithic entity”.
-0- PANA MA 14Jan2016

14 january 2017 07:39:32

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