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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Stormy time in parliament as Bagbin, E.T. and John Tia face vetting

One of the toughest interrogators in the Ghanaian Legislature, Alban Sumana Bagbin, will today take his chair on the other side of the exchanges when the Appointments Committee of Parliament vets him and three others who have been nominated for ministerial positions.

Mr Bagbin, who is the Majority Leader; his deputy, John Akolgo Tia, the Majority Chief Whip, E. T. Mensah and Martin Amidu, will be vetted in what is expected to be a crunch but exciting session.

The vetting of the three is expected to attract prime attention because of the personalities involved, as well as the roles they have played in making the committee a banana peel for some nominees.

The storm surrounding the nomination of the three has barely settled and this presents a vital catalyst for a grueling time for the three who may have to brace themselves for difficult questions related to the impact of their nomination on the strength and fortunes of parliamentary democracy.

Although all the four nominees, three of whom are from the leadership of the House, have maintained that the Majority side in the House will continue to remain formidable, even when they are appointed ministers, this has been contested by some MPs from both the Majority and the Minority sides who believe that the institution of Parliament will suffer.

Other key political players and watchers, including a former First Lady and now vice-chairperson of the NDC, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, have raised concerns over the consultation process leading to the nominations. These reservations will, no doubt, also form a strong fulcrum for their questioning before the committee today.

The heat surrounding their nomination has also been fanned by talks of a Team A and a Team B ministers initially spurred by Dr Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, another stalwart of the NDC and now also vice-chairperson of the party, an issue that was referred to, albeit in a light-hearted manner, by President John Evans Atta Mills when he interacted with the press recently.

Again, the perception that some of these nominees have been very critical of the government and that their nomination is a way to silence them is expected to come up prominently during the vetting session.

A ranking member of the committee and Minority Leader, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, has maintained that the appointment of the three will affect Parliament and this argument is expected to be carried to the committee sitting when the three appear.

The Minority Leader stated emphatically that the likes of Bagbin and Tia, if given the nod, would leave the leadership of the House, having acquired an awesome 18-year experience each as parliamentarians.

Mr Bagbin, as Majority Leader, has been eloquent, as he has a witty approach to arguing his way out when cornered during debates and the ability to unite the House when debates get testy - attributes that will defini1ely be difficult to replicate.

Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu believes that Bagbin's experience did not come easy, as the Majority Leader has served as Minority Leader under the leadership of different personalities when the House was under the leadership of the NPP.

The Majority Leader, who is remembered for his grueling questioning of past nominees when he served as a ranking member of the committee, may be given a taste of his own medicine and one question that may give him some uncomfortable moments is whether an appointment as a minister does not amount to a demotion.

This is against the background that Bagbin himself has maintained that the position of Majority Leader towers above that of any ministerial position.

Yet, he stated, after his nomination, that the issue at stake was not whether there had been a promotion or a demotion; it was what was appropriate.

Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu believes that it can mean a demotion, although he also maintains that at best it can represent a horizontal adjustment.

Yet, demotion or not, the nominee for the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing may also have to contend with probing questions on his vision for a vital ministry that many Ghanaians look up to on a daily basis.

The current water crisis will also attract some attention, as well as issues relating to the provision of affordable housing for Ghanaians, particularly public servants.

Mr Mensah also comes along with a wealth of experience, having served as the Minister for Youth and Sports under the previous NDC administration. The lawmaker from Ningo Prampram is a resolute force in the NDC and he may well be aware of the hydra-headed challenges facing arguably one of the most vibrant ministries in the country, the Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare.

Already, there is a raging debate over the Single Spine Salary Structure and this, no doubt, will present a line of questioning for the Majority Chief Whip.

Mr Tia, who has been nominated for the position of Minister of Information, is being counted on to run a government information machinery that many argue has lacked good lubrication for a long time.

Yet, Mr Tia will be the first to admit that even as an experienced journalist he will have to rely on a team in his dealings with a very vibrant Ghanaian media, a view he has not ceased to espouse since his nomination.

Also expected to appear before the committee today is Mr Martin Amidu, who has been nominated for the position of Minister of the Interior.

The former Deputy Attorney-General and running mate to then candidate Mills in the 2000 elections is a rather quiet figure on the political scene, yet many have lauded his credential as a good lawyer.

The Ministry of the Interior also represents another sensitive ministry, especially given the Yendi chieftaincy issue, as well as the fragile nature of the peace in Bawku, issues which are likely to attract some attention when Mr Amidu appears before the committee today.

Many believe that he has the calm head to deliver and his temperament will come under scrutiny when he is vetted today.

Four nominees are also expected to appear before the committee on Thursday. They are; Mr John Gyetuah, the Deputy Minister of Trade, who has now been nominated as a Minister of State at the Presidency; Mahama Ayariga, the Presidential Spokesperson, who has been nominated as Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry; Alhaji Inusah Fuseini, nominated for the position of Deputy Minister of Energy, and Mr Moses Mabengba, the Deputy Northern Regional Minister, who has now been nominated as Minister of the Northern Region.

Source: Daily Graphic

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