Mahama moves to calm restless waters at Flagstaff House

Three heavyweights at the seat of government have in the space of two weeks lost their jobs.

Secretary to the President Raymond Atuguba and Communications Advisor, Ben Dotsei Malor, were the first to pack out of the Flagstaff House after their appointments were terminated.

A press release from government said more was to be expected and it came; Chief of Staff Prosper Douglas Kweku Bani has also gone.

President John Mahama is reorganizing his government and many heavyweights are falling by the wayside. He came into power as president in dramatic circumstances. He grieved the passing of his predecessor, John Atta Mills.

Power was thrust on him and as caretaker President, John Mahama waged a sensational campaign in just four months and won the 2012 presidential polls amidst a groundswell of goodwill and hope.

A day after he was sworn into office on January 7, 2012, Mr. Mahama made his first appointments.

A terse statement signed by his Spokesperson then, John Jinapor said, “His Excellency John Dramani Mahama, President of the Republic of Ghana, has made the following appointments: Chief of Staff at the Presidency-Mr. Prosper Douglas Kweku Bani; Secretary to Cabinet-Mr. Roger Kwesi Angsomwine; Executive Secretary to the President-Dr. Raymond Akongburo Atuguba and Senior Policy Co-ordinator in the Office of the President, Dr. Sulley Gariba”.

These appointments were hailed as a demonstration of political maturity and a declaration of intent by the president to depart from the long established tradition of appointing only dyed-in-the-wool party faithfuls into the president’s kitchen cabinet, after all none of the first four appointees was a known active member of the governing National Democratic Congress.

Subsequently, he appointed retired education professor, Jane Nana Opoku Agyemang, Human rights activist, Nana Oye Lithur, academics Michael Whyte Kpessah, Clement Apaak and former BBC journalist Ben Dotsei Malor into government. None of these people was a known active NDC member before their appointment.

At best they were mere sympathizers. Key figures in the NDC – Alban Sumana Bagbin, Cletus Avoka, Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, Kofi Totobi Kwakye, Professor Kwesi Botchwey, ET Mensah amongst others were virtually left in the cold.

Many independents praised the president for placing competence over political convenience. But Mr. Mahama was roundly criticized by his party both privately and publicly. The comments of now Majority Leader, Alban Bagbin were particularly telling.

He said the NDC government had become and  Mahama family and friends government .

The president shot back, saying the attacks were a stab in the back. He said  those who wanted to see his back should bide their time for 2016 was around the corner.

Things seemed calm after the president replied Mr. Bagbin but rumours about shadow boxing at the presidency thickened early in the year.

Last week  Joy News reported that Dr. Raymond Atuguba, Prosper  Bani  and Ben  Dotsei  Malor were leaving the Flagstaff House.

Less than 12 hours after that story, a press release from the Flagstaff House was issued  confirming that  Dr  Atuguba and Ben Malor were no longer in government.

The unsigned release said nothing about the fate of the Chief of Staff. Curiously, the press release quoted the Chief of Staff extensively. The opening paragraph said, “A statement signed by the Chief of Staff, Prosper Bani, has formally announced that Mr. Ben Dotsei Malor has concluded his one-year contract as Communications Adviser at the FlagstaffHouse.”

The JoyNews team that received the press release thought it strange that a release from the Presidency was quoting a statement from the Chief of Staff who operates from there.

It has to be noted that pro-government and Pro-NDC tabloids in the past week have virtually laid siege on the Chief of Staff.

The Informer newspaper on Tuesday, February 10, carried on its front page a story titled, “Prosper Bani destroying Mahama’s Presidency.” A commentary on the paper’s front page asked, “Has Chief of Staff become more powerful than his boss?” On Thursday, the paper carried another story on its front page headlined, “Prosper Bani’s continued stay at post…NDC to distance itself from President Mahama.”

On the front page was an even more dramatic cartoon depicting Mr. Bani entangled in a fishing net and being dragged out of the Flagstaff House by men with angry faces. On its part, the al-Hajj newspaper had a banner headline, “Reinvigorating his troubled administration, Gentle Mahama gets tough.”

The scandal summed it up with its own banner headline, “Too much confusion in government, President Mahama needs help,” whilst the Herald said simply, “More heads to roll at Flagstaff House.” They must be satisfied now that Mr Bani is out of the presidency.

But it is fair to ask, have the independents brought into government by President Mahama disappointed him for which reason he is sacking them? Or is it the case that the kitchen is simply too hot and they are leaving on their own? I guess we may never know. What is certain, though, is that all is not well at the seat of government. 

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