The National Chairman of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Johnson Asiedu Nketiah, has explained that the changes made in the leadership of the Minority Caucus in Parliament form part of the reorganisation of the party ahead of the 2024 elections.
“We are making the changes as part of the reorganisation of the party ahead of the 2024 general election, which started from the branches then came to the national and now in Parliament and will be concluded with the party's presidential and parliamentary primaries,” he said.
Mr Nketiah was speaking to the Daily Graphic Tuesday (Jan 24, 2023) to flesh out changes the party has effected in the leadership of its Parliamentary caucus ahead of the commencement of the Third Session of the Eight Parliament of February 7, 2023.
The party replaced the current Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, with the Ranking Member on the Finance Committee, Dr Cassiel Ato Forson, who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for Ajumako-Enyan-Esiam.
Per a letter dated January 23, 2023, signed by the General Secretary of the NDC, Fifi Fiavi Kwetey, and addressed to the Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, the MP for Ellembele, Emmanuel Armah Kofi Buah, is now the Deputy Minority Leader, replacing the current Deputy Minority Leader, Dr James Klutse Avedzi.
The party also named the MP for Adaklu, Kwame Governs Agbodza, as the Minority Whip, to replace the incumbent Minority Whip, Mohammed-Mubarak Muntaka.
However, the party’s leadership retained the positions of the incumbent First Deputy Minority Whip and MP for Banda, Ahmed Ibrahim, and the Second Deputy Whip and MP for Ada, Comfort Doyoe Cudjoe-Ghansah.
The letter stated that the “new leadership would be charged to recommend consequential changes in the ranking membership to the headquarters of the party for approval.”
The changes in the NDC party’s leadership positions appear to have taken many by surprise as it is the first time during the tenure of a Parliament that a party has initiated changes in the front bench of its leadership.
However, Mr Nketiah told the Daily Graphic that whenever there was a need to make changes in the leadership of the Parliamentary caucus of the party it was done, saying the outgoing leadership had been the longest serving.
“The last time such changes were made was about six years ago and the outgoing leadership of the Minority caucus in Parliament has been the longest serving,” he stated.
The National Chairman of the party stated further that the party made the changes in their leadership in Parliament depending on the needs and exigencies of the time.
“We are positioning ourselves for election 2024 and everybody knows that the election will be fought on the economy, so we put our best economic foot forward that is why we brought in Dr Ato Forson as the leader," Mr Nketiah further explained.
Mr Nketiah said aside from the area of specialisation, it was also for regional balance purposes in the leadership of the party.
“We realised that Western Region has for a long time been sidelined so when you find Armah Kofi Buah, who is an energy person in there it was to correct that," he stated.
Mr Nketiah added that Kwame Agbodza was the party's lead person in infrastructure in Parliament, adding that the reason was that the New Patriotic Party had started talking about infrastructure and the party needed somebody who had an in-depth knowledge about the area to speak to those issues.
The National Chairman, however, declined to comment on the constitutionality of changes and whether wider consultations were done before they were effected.
Reacting to the new appointments, the NDC MP for Bolgatanga East, Dr Dominic Ayine, said the internal organisation of a political party must conform to democratic principles and its actions and purposes shall not contravene or be inconsistent with the Constitution or any other law.
Based on that, he said, the question remained whether or not dictating the leadership of the Minority Caucus from the NDC party head office conformed with democratic principles.
He said the most democratic way for a party to choose its parliamentary leaders would have been for Members of Parliament to meet, deliberate, nominate and elect their leadership in consultation with the party.
“Anything falling short of that would come close to democracy if there are consultations and the building of consensus but what has happened now, with all due respect to the party’s leadership, falls short of being a democratic decision,” he said.
Take second look
A former Deputy Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Dr Ayine, called for the national leadership to accord reasons why it took the decision.
“The Minority Caucus must be told why the new appointments had been made to legitimise the appointment,” he told the Daily Graphic.
Describing the new crop of leaders— Dr Forson, Messrs Buah and Agbodza — as fantastic legislators and a “great team” that could competently handle the front bench of the Minority, Dr Ayine, however said “procedurally what has happened undermines the legitimacy of their leadership.”
“The procedure that has been used will ultimately raise a storm that will eat into their legitimacy as leaders and they need to weather that storm very well for us not to sink the ship of the Minority in Parliament,” he added.
Sharing his views on the development, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Ghana, Legon, Ransford Gyampo, said the changes in the Minority leadership was no surprise to him.
He said the battle for the “soul of Ghana” in the lead-up to the 2024 general election would be fought on the grounds of the economy and finance.
“And so, I believe that the battle needed somebody who could pontificate on matters of the economy on the floor of Parliament as a way of giving hope to Ghanaians and as a way of letting the international community know the stance of the Minority in Parliament on matters germane to the economy of Ghana,” he said.
Prof. Gyampo added that the 2024 election was not going to be an easy battle as things were very hard and not going on well today, and things may turn around.
“Therefore, a party that is seeking to annex power in the next elections cannot be complacent,” he said.
Prof. Gyampo also stated that the reshuffle pointed to the fact that the NDC party was battle-ready, since the economy and finance issues would be dominating much of the issues that would shape voter behaviour in the next elections.
“Haruna Iddrisu is not an economist but a sociologist and lawyer from the University of Ghana and so you need somebody who has grasp over the economy to be able to pontificate matters of the economy,” the political scientist said.
“When you bring Cassiel Ato Forson, you free Isaac Adongo so that he can also be a Ranking Member on the Finance Committee and he can look at matters of finance, while Ato Forson looks at the economy,” Prof. Gyampo posited.
‘Forson has what it takes’
Describing Dr Forson as not being a novice in Parliament, Prof. Gyampo indicated that the MP was an experienced person as he served as a Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Planning of the country.
“I believe that he has what it takes to properly position the NDC party in bracing themselves to use matters of the economy to determine how ideas are contested in the coming electioneering campaign,” Prof. Gyampo said.
Analysing changes in the Minority Whip position, the governance expert said the Greater Accra and the Volta regions were two areas that tended to produce the highest numbers of MPs for the NDC.
With reports that Dr Klutse Avedzi would not return to the next Parliament, he said: “If you want to give representation to the regions that tend to give the numbers in terms of seats for your party in Parliament then you do not have to relegate the Volta Region to the background.”
“If Avedzi is leaving, Agbodza can replace him,” Prof. Gyampo said, and also considered the appointment of Mrs Cudjoe-Ghanasah as a major decision that would help the NDC pull votes from the Greater Accra Region.
On the First Deputy Whip being maintained, he said when the Bono Region was created, it was only Mr Ahmed’s constituency – Banda – that gave a seat to the NDC in Parliament.
“In the 2020 elections, Mr Ahmed worked very hard to get 50-50 representation for his party in the region and for such a person you cannot easily push him aside,” the Political Science professor said.
With the NDC party being recognised as a party of northerners, he said the reshuffle would ensure a balance in regional leadership representation.
“The Speaker is a northerner; Haruna Iddrisu, Muntaka and the Chairman of the Council of Elders of the NDC are northerners and their presidential candidate is also a northerner.
“But the Akan areas that account for about 60 per cent of the electorate in Ghana do not have that kind of frontal representation and so if they decided to go for a Central Regional man in the name of Ato Forson to be Minority Leader and Kofi Buah to represent the Western Region, that is good,” Prof. Gyampo added.
A Political Science Lecturer at the University of Education, Winneba (UEW), Dr George Asekere, described the changes of the leadership of the NDC in Parliament as normal and could be for strategic reasons.
He said depending on how the leadership of the party would want to handle issues currently affecting the country on the floor of the House, it might want to effect changes in the leadership on its side.
“As for changes, they are normal in politics; it is just that usually we see such changes at the beginning of a tenure in Parliament,” he said.
Dr Asekere said such changes usually happened in the beginning or in the middle of the life of a Parliament.
Asked about the current hung Parliament and whether the decision was right, Dr Asekere said from the Political Science perspective “we argue that organisations, institutions and political parties’ growth stagnate if changes are not encouraged. In other words, if you don’t ensure that there is a change, you become stagnated and that changes would help you build resilience.”
He said very often whenever there was a change, people would be unhappy and that with time they would learn how to accept it and rally behind the party or organisation.
Dr Asekere said the decision would bode well for the party because it was not the personalities that mattered in ensuring efficiency in a group but getting somebody who was fit for a particular situation.
“So coming from that angle, one would say the situation we find ourselves in today and tomorrow and for the next five to 10 years, it is going to be economic and so the NDC might want to have somebody who has more of the economic lenses to lead in that direction,” he stated.
Regarding how the foot soldiers would see the changes, he said naturally they would react since they had followers who were dependent on them socially or economically and so they might not be happy.
Dr Asekere said that depended on how the party would handle the reactions from the grass roots, adding “but immediately expect some uncertainty“
On the future of the personalities, he said, the changes would not have any effect in the case of Mr Iddrisu because he was a good leader liked by all.
“But it would have an effect on Muntaka and so he would not be too happy because the Asawase Constituency is boiling,” the political scientist said.
Juxtaposing it against the country’s democratic culture, he said it meant that the country’s democracy was maturing, but it also depended on the reaction from the followers.
Until his appointment to the highest leadership position of the Minority Caucus, Dr Forson was the Ranking Member on the Finance Committee.
The four-time MP has been in Parliament since 2009 and had remained the Minority Spokesperson on Finance.
He obtained a doctorate degree in Business and Management (Finance option) in September 2020 from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).
The MP also holds two master's degrees — a Master of Science in Taxation from the University of Oxford, UK, and another Master of Science degree in Economics from KNUST.
Dr Forson is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, Ghana and a Fellow of Chartered Institute of Taxation.
Mr Armah Buah is Ranking Member on the Trade, Industry and Tourism Committee of Parliament, while Mr Agbodza is the Ranking Member on the Roads and Transport Committee.
Mr Iddrisu, who is also the MP for Tamale South in the Northern Region, became the Minority Leader in 2017, replacing the current Speaker of Parliament, Mr Bagbin, who did not stand for re-election.
Mr Avedzi has also been the Deputy Minority Leader in the Eighth Parliament from 2017 until he was replaced by Mr Armah Kofi Buah.
Mr Muntaka has been the Majority Chief Whip since 2013 when NDC was in power until the party lost the 2016 election and he became the Minority Whip in 2017 in the seventh Parliament and again in the eight Parliament from January 2021 until his replacement by Mr Agbodza.
Mr Ibrahim was also the Second Deputy Majority Chief Whip in Parliament from 2013 to 2016 in the Sixth Parliament and became the first Deputy Minority Chief Whip from 2017 to date, with Comfort Doyoe Cudjoe-Ghansah taking over as the Second Deputy Minority Whip.