The resignation of Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa from the Appointments Committee of Parliament has triggered intense civil war in the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC).
The party’s leadership and the rank and file are in a free-for-all fight on social and mainstream media over whether Haruna Iddrisu and Muntaka Mubarak Mohammed should be relieved from their roles as Minority Leader and Minority Chief Whip respectively.
The subtle ‘coup’ against the leadership, who are mostly from the northern parts of the country, appears to be staged by the Volta Caucus of the party.
Volta Region, followed by the northern regions, are the main strongholds of the NDC, and the party’s leadership in Parliament is currently largely controlled by the MPs from the northern parts, a development which has not settled down well with the Volta group, who in turn have fired salvos at the least provocation.
Last week, Okudzeto Ablakwa, NDC MP for North Tongu in the Volta Region, claimed he tendered his resignation as an Appointments Committee member based on ‘personal reasons’ and on ‘principle’.
He announced his resignation in a letter dated March 30, 2021, and addressed to the Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin, saying, “I shall like to state that the reasons for this difficult decision is both personal and on principle.”
Okudzeto Ablakwa’s action stemmed from the fact that the Minority approved all ministerial nominees presented to Parliament by President Akufo-Addo.
Critics of the NDC have said Okudzeto Ablakwa’s action was just a ploy to make the Haruna-led group look bad in the eyes of the rank and file of the party through which there would be unrelenting pressure to enable the Volta Caucus to upstage their northern counterparts.
Interestingly, Okudzeto Ablakwa sat through all the meetings and decisions of the Vetting Committee, and his critics are saying he only resigned to make the Haruna group look bad in the NDC whilst presenting himself as someone who is ‘clean’.
The attacks on the NDC leadership in Parliament started with their Communications Officer, Sammy Gyamfi, who insulted the Speaker, Alban Bagbin, who is a member of the party, as well as the Minority Leader and the Chief Whip, for endorsing the President’s ministerial nominees.
Immediately Okudzeto Ablakwa said he was ‘resigning’, a former Vice Chairperson of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) who was once their National Women’s Organiser, Anita Desoso, without any provocation, called for the resignation of Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu.
Speaking on Kasapa FM, Accra, on Thursday, she said she did not understand why the Minority Leader and his group should lead the endorsement of Ken Ofori-Atta as the Finance Minister, claiming that the NDC leadership in Parliament had betrayed the trust and confidence of the rank and file of the party.
“If they don’t change these guys now, I’ll personally lead a demonstration against the leadership because this can’t continue anymore,” she fired, adding, “The Judas within the party are being exposed and it’s time to remove them.”
The Volta Caucus push against the Haruna-led group appears to have been given further credence when the Volta NDC backed Okudzeto Ablakwa in a statement.
A statement signed by NDC Volta Regional Secretary, James Gunu, said they were saluting the North Tongu MP for his decision to resign from the Appointments Committee.
“The landmark decision has resonated with the party’s grassroots and the overwhelming majority of NDC members in the region and beyond. The reaction from neutrals and objective political analysts have been heartwarming and gives us hope about the prospects of Ghana’s democracy,” the statement partly read.
The Deputy Ranking Member on the Finance Committee of Parliament, Isaac Adongo, who is NDC MP for Bolgatanga Central, also said he had ‘so many doubts’ about the Finance Minister, and the Haruna-led group should not have approved him.
“I have stayed out of the media because of the question of why we approved Ken Ofori-Atta. I don’t want my name to be dragged in the mud when I do not have control over the processes leading to the approval of one of my fiercest critics,” he said in a direct attack against the Minority Leader and his group.
NDC General Secretary, Johnson Asiedu Nketia, appeared to have confirmed plans to upstage the Haruna-led group when he said on Citi TV that the party had plans in place to change the leadership of the party in Parliament.
According to Asiedu Nketia, who has just been recruited onto the Parliamentary Select Committee Board, the move by the party is in line with its practices after every general election, saying, “After every election, we reconstitute the leadership of Parliament even if it means reconfirming them. We haven’t done that yet because of the court cases.”
He said, “We started but got to a point and felt that we need to finish with the court cases first. So it is something we are considering. But there will be a definite statement. I am sure by the time they (Parliament) return from the break, we would have taken this decision.”
Haruna Returns Fire
In the ensuing heat, Haruna Iddrisu fired back, saying he is fully in charge of his caucus despite suggestions that the side is in crisis.
Addressing the press in Parliament, Haruna Iddrisu said his caucus would weather the storm.
“I am fully in charge. I am the Minority Leader. I just engaged the party leadership and Council of Elders and there will be no further comments on someone resigning or not,” he said, adding, “The party is focused to work towards recapturing power in 2024 and the parliamentary organ led by me currently will do what is needful to work in tandem with the party to hold the Nana Akufo-Addo government accountable and to lead the party to victory in 2024. Whatever storm it is, we will weather it.”
Murtala Mohammed, NDC MP for Tamale Central, appeared to take a dig at Okudzeto Ablakwa for claiming ‘moral high ground,’ and said it was hypocritical for anyone to hold that view.
“I am saying that if at the committee it was decided that Ken Ofori-Atta should be subjected to voting, I would not have any problem; but why is it that a decision that was taken, and nobody can tell me that he or she was forced to agree with that decision – you blame others?
He said, “Nobody brought anybody to Parliament. We all contested elections and won so we all are independent MPs, not even leadership can force you to agree with something that you think that doesn’t reflect the wishes of your people,” adding, “Now if you go there and you agreed with that, only for you to come and say that okay some people are so dirty and I am not dirty, that is hypocrisy and not principle.”
He said, “I am saying that a principled position should have been that the very day Hawa Koomson and co were approved, if I were a member of the committee and wanted to be principled, I would have resigned that day,” insisting that “in any case, the committee has finished with their work, all ministers have been appointed. When you talk of Deputy Ministers, our interest was not Deputy Ministers’ appointments because we didn’t accuse Deputy Ministers for unleashing terror on the NDC. We accused Hawa Koomson and co, we accused the Minister of National Security, Minister of the Interior, Minister of Defence; we accused Ken Ofori-Atta for messing up this economy, so having approved them, let us be fair and take the blame and if there is any blame on our side on the Appointments Committee, no one can escape blame. All of us including myself should be part of the blame.”
The NDC MP said, “People had confidence in us so you can’t go there and at the end of the day, having delivered the Speaker and failed to deliver the other ones, you come and say you are resigning. When we delivered the Speaker we were happy. When Ghanaians were calling us ‘great’ we were happy!”
Experienced NDC MP for Zebilla, Cletus Avoka, waded into the brouhaha, cautioning the NDC against any attempt to remove the Haruna-led group as their leaders in Parliament.
“I think that the present NDC caucus has done well. I think if you make a mistake and change the leadership, you divide the caucus forever for the next four years…Haruna Iddrisu is a very strong pillar in the NDC. I think that he has his strengths and I don’t think what has happened will hurt his image. We should let wounds heal and then move on,” he said on Starr FM, Accra.
According to Mr. Avoka, the resignation of Okudzeto Ablakwa was not the best, explaining that “Ablakwa’s resignation from the Appointments Committee is very unfortunate. He’s a gentleman, he’s a good MP, but I don’t think resignation can be said to be the best. I’ll be surprised if more MPs resign from the Appointments Committee because we have met and ironed out our differences.”
Greater Accra Regional Chairman of the NDC, Kobina Ade Coker, said he was against suggestions that the leadership of the NDC in Parliament should be changed, insisting that any such move will rather disturb the NDC as a party.
He said on TV3 that, “There is no need to change leadership now. It will rather muddy the waters. We need to remain focused and also be circumspect. It is premature to attempt to change leadership.”
He said Okuzeto Ablakwa’s decision to resign without giving cogent reasons was giving room for unnecessary speculation, adding that, “In future, your voting record in Parliament can be pulled out. If you go to the US, there is nothing like consensus. We will have to find out during the vetting process what his [Ablakwa’s] voting line was. That will determine and help us to make a judgment on what he is saying about principles.
“If you had consistently voted against the nominees, then you can say it is of no use for me to still be on the committee.”
By Ernest Kofi Adu