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General News of Thursday, 13 January 2011

Source: Daily Guide

President Mills Fires Three

President John Evans Atta Mills appears to have pressed the action button for the New Year with the dismissal of the Ashanti Regional Minister and the Director of the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS).

A statement containing the presidential order and signed by J.K. Bebaako-Mensah, Secretary to the President announced that the place of sacked Kofi Opoku-Manu is to be taken over by Dr. Kwaku Agyeman-Mensah.

By removing the Director of the GIS, Elizabeth Adjei, the first woman to head the internal security organisation, the number of women holding top positions has been reduced by one, in addition to the dismissal of Zita Okaikoi as Minister of Tourism.

Ms. Adjei has been replaced by Dr. Peter A. Wiredu, Deputy Commissioner of Police at the Police Headquarters in charge of Human Resources. DCOP Wiredu, a lawyer, holds a PhD from the University of London and has worked with the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) in addition to working at the Ghana High Commissioner in the UK as Minister Counselor, Passport and Immigration.

The sacked Ashanti Regional Minister, perhaps the oldest in the Mills administration, gained notoriety when he instigated National Democratic Congress (NDC) supporters to slap their New Patriotic Party (NPP) counterparts when disagreements ensued between the two groups.

So uncouth was the call that it resonated across the country as the media took it up, a development which compelled the crestfallen minister to render an unqualified apology. While some questioned the political wisdom in the call on the NDC supporters to slap their political opponents, others found it unfathomable that a retired top civil servant of many years standing would stoop to that depth.

It has been a chequered ministerial tenure for the old man, having escaped death by the whiskers when he was saved from the wrath of irate foot-soldiers in the Effiduase area of the Ashanti Region. He and a DCE were held hostage by the party hoodlums and, but for the intervention of policemen, the worst could have ensued.

Perhaps for him, this is all but the end of a tumultuous political career fit for the memoirs. The man who is marching to take over from him, Dr. Kwaku Agyeman-Mensah, headed the Ashanti Regional Lands Commission until his appointment, having taught for a long time at the University of Ghana in rural development studies.

He is also a Board Chairman of Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) and a staunch NDC member in the region. He contested the Atwima Nwabiagya parliamentary seat on the ticket of the party but lost. As for Ms. Elizabeth Adjei, her ouster had been in the pipeline since President Mills retained persons appointed during the tenure of his predecessor.

The statement said that she would be assigned elsewhere. She came close to being removed since 2009 but perhaps for the media’s handling of the story, it was shelved temporarily as political informants continued to report on her in the corridors of power.

She could however not escape the ploys in a Mills- dubbed Action Year. At the time that he announced that this year would be laden with action, many wondered what form it would take until he removed two ministers from office and changed the portfolios of others. With this latest action, alongside the hike in the prices of petroleum products, perhaps President Mills has given enough inkling of what is up his sleeves.

Also removed from office is the Ashanti Regional Manager of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Afrifa Yamoah Ponko, the man who was allegedly involved in an office sex scandal recently.

His removal has been nicely couched as ‘to proceed on leave’ and Daily Guide will bring more on his situation in subsequent publications. The gentleman was accused by a lady of making sexual advances at her. When she proved unyielding, Ponko allegedly took punitive action against her.

Political turf watchers consider the president’s action as a continuation of the mini-cabinet reshuffle announced earlier, as they predict more dismissals in coming days.

Mr. Opoku-Manu’s imminent sack from his position was clearly written on the walls for sometime now. Credible information pointed to the fact that there existed bad blood between him and his party’s executives in the region.

Recently, the NDC regional executives of the party unanimously rejected a GH¢2,000 Christmas package that the beleaguered minister gave them.

The NDC gurus, who demanded anonymity, then accused the minister of neglecting the party which helped him to attain his current status. The NDC functionaries said they were surprised at the minister’s sudden act of kindness.

Northern NDC Supporters Forum

In a related development, the Northern NDC Supporters Forum in Ashanti Region, a splinter group in the ruling party, has spit fire AT President Mills for discriminating against northerners in the Ashanti region with regard to political appointments.

They sternly warned that if the government continued to overlook competent northerners in the region from occupying key political positions, it might lead to voter apathy among NDC supporters in 2012.

“We feel cheated and neglected after being the main targets of various brutalities and intimidation by the opposition NPP during the 2008 general elections.

Addressing a press conference, Raymond Po-eriba, spokesperson of the group, said northerners were always overlooked in political appointments.