General News of Tuesday, 15 January 2008
Source: The Statesman
The sudden removal of Francis Poku has re-opened speculations about a Cabinet reshuffle. But, The Statesman can report that a post-congress reshuffle has always been on the cards. Still, the vacancy at the most sensitive portfolio of them all, National Security Minister, makes this particular reshuffle, the third since President Kufuor's second term, the more climacteric, especially in this election year.
Over the Christmas period, the reshuffle talk was on how the public would react to the anticipated official return of former Road Transport Minister, Richard Anane to his desk after a fourteen-month absence, when the portfolio was curiously but strategically left vacant while the resigned occupant battled his case in court.
After winning a technical knockout against the Commission on Human Rights & Administrative Justice just before the Christmas break, there is legally nothing to stop the re-appointment of the prot?g? President Kufuor has described as his most hardworking and trusted Minister.
Though the President has himself assumed the position of National Security Minister since Saturday's surprised dismissal of Mr Poku, the focus is now on who best to fill the gap between now and January 7, 2009.
The name of Seth Obeng, former Chief of Defence Staff is making the rounds. But, The Statesman can report that the man most likely to get the job is Kwame Addo-Kufuor.Until his resignation last August to contest for the ruling party?s flagbearership, Dr Addo Kufuor held the record as the longest serving Minister of a particular portfolio.
Between January 2001 when the New Patriotic Party took office and August 2007, he served as Defence Minister and for sometime combining the two security posts of Defence and Interior, after the resignation of Malik Alhassan during the outbreak of the Dagbon crisis in 2002.
Dr Addo-Kufuor, the President?s younger brother is seen as security-conscious enough and loyal enough to take over Mr Poku?s job. Though not a security operative, our sources say the castle believes he has the experience in security matters to hold the fort this crucial last year of Kufuor?s two terms.
The African Nations? Cup and its associated security issues is barely a week away. Ashes from the Bawku crisis is smouldering. After Ghana 2008, the Dagbon area will have to manage the burial of the last Abudu king.
Above all, in eleven months time the 'war drums? that the opposition National Democratic Congress has been accused of beating, will usher in the crucial general elections.
Internationally, Mr Poku, fluent in French, has been very instrumental in peace efforts in la Cote d?Ivoire as he was in Liberia.
His unexpected removal has opened the public discourse to all sorts of speculation. Our sources say, the immediate cause was a decision taken by Mr Poku, in apparent consultation with Albert Kan Dapaah, Defence Minister, to send a small team of intelligence officers led by Brig Gen R O Sackey, the head of Military Intelligence, to Israel for training without the express knowledge of the President of the Republic.
Mr Poku has received both national and international recognition and commendation for maintaining the peace and stability of the nation. But, a senior intelligence officer, who spoke to The Statesman yesterday assured the country that while Mr Poku would be missed, the integrity of the nation?s security is such that the institutions would function without any hitch in spite of the absence of such a powerful individual.
"Even if something fatal had happened to the President in last year?s road accident, the nation would still have had no choice but to continue functioning. Democracies are built by institutions and not by individuals," the national security source said.
Yet, this has not stopped senior politicians and analysts flapping over who replaces Mr Poku. Lt General (rtd) Seth Obeng, was until January 2005, the Chief of Defense Staff of the Ghana Armed Forces. During his forty-year stint with the Ghana Armed forces he rose through the ranks, beginning as an Artillery officer. He has been the Commandant of the Military Academy and Training School and Ghana Armed Forces Command and Staff College.
He has also been the Chairman of the ECOWAS Defence and Security Commission. President Kufuor appointed him as one of his Special advisers on African Union matters in May 2007.
With Kofi Adda still in limbo, the position of Energy Minister is also up for grabs. Three months ago, the Energy Minister was quietly asked by the President to proceed on leave. Attempts to persuade former Majority Leader Felix Owusu-Adjapong to abandon his presidential ambition in November and take charge of Energy failed. It is rumoured that the President may not reconsider his old loyalist again for the Energy Ministry.
This, however, makes the game more interesting. Alan Kyerematen, the former Trade Minister who came second to Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, is highly thought of at the Castle as a more formidable replacement for the NPP presidential candidate at the Foreign Ministry.
This could see Akwasi Osei-Adjei, the incumbent, being shifted to the Energy Ministry, paving the way for the President?s preferred choice, Mr Kyerematen to take over.
One insider told The Statesman, "Alan would be the natural successor to Nana as Foreign Minister and it is a decision that most people can buy into."