7 January 2009

Ghana: Grandma Joyce is Historic Speaker

By sundown yesterday, an overwhelming majority of Ghanaians warmed up to the idea that Mrs. Betty Mould Iddrissu, the second wife of the former Minister of Defence, Alhaji Mahama Iddrisu, should be the overwhelming choice for Speaker of the 230 member of Ghana's 5th parliament of the 4th Republic.

But a strong caucus of experienced, elderly but influential members of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) rebuffed the proposition and put forward the name of 68 year-Joyce Bamford Addo, from Aburi in the Eastern region, for the job.

The respected Supreme Court judge, Mrs. Joyce Bamford Addo, has now been rewarded for her patience and her dignified bearing, when the late Justice Acquah was leapfrogged over her and appointed Chief Justice.

She took a premature retirement, and did not utter a word. She merely quit though she could have stayed on till she hit three score and ten, but preferred to keep her dignity, because she reckoned she will never rise to be Chief Justice under an NPP administration, on account of her sympathies towards the National Democratic Congress.

She retired to become an active grand mother superintending over her grand-children from her five children, who are in their late 30s. She was once married to one Mr. Abankwa, with whom she had three children and then the late Major General Addo, who also died a few years ago.

Sources who know her, say she is not a brainstorming Justice Kpegah look-alike, in terms of temperament, but a generally fair minded person, a lady who takes time to dust her nose and apply mascara delicately, before she goes to court. Apart from playing grandma, she now reads and occasional writes, until this unexpected job as the third most powerful person in the land.

"We would be looking outside for someone," Hon. Alban Bagbin, the tough but widely respected youthful former Minority leader was quoted as saying on TV3, last Monday.

This makes Justice Bamfo-Addo one of the few fortunate women across the world to have had the opportunity to serve as Speaker of Parliament. She is thus the first woman in the West African sub-region to rise to this enviable position. She only comes after the likes of Betty Boothroyed and Nancy Pelosi, who managed to rise to these respective positions in the United Kingdom and United States respectively.

Boothroyed served as the first, and to date the only woman Speaker of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom between 1992 and 2000, whilst Pelosi made history in 2007, breaking the marble ceiling to become the first woman to serve as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. As the highest-ranking elected woman in American history, she is second in the line of presidential succession.

Building consensus across the aisle and within the diverse House Democratic Caucus, Speaker Pelosi has proved to be a strong, pragmatic and effective leader. With Speaker Pelosi at the helm, the 110th Congress has built an impressive record that focused on the priorities of the American people and brought the needed change to Washington and across the country.

Betty Mould-Iddrisu on the other hand is a Ghanaian lawyer and versatile scholar with a graduate degree in law (LMM) from the London School of Economics and Political Science, (LSE), University of London in 1978 and a BL from the Ghana Law School.

Her father, Mr. William Jacob Kwesi Mould hails from Jamestown, Accra, while her mother, Madam Felicia Mould (nee Gsell) hails from Ejuratia (Kwabre District), Ashanti (near Mamponten, Mampong) She is married with three children.

She worked at Ghana's Ministry of Justice from 1978 till 2003 in several capacities rising to the rank of Chief State Attorney. In view of her expertise in Intellectual Property Law she headed the administration of Intellectual Property Rights (Copyright) in Ghana and the administration of authors' rights at the African regional level between1990 - 2000. From 2000 - 2003 she was in charge of the Ministry's International Law Division where she spearheaded several cutting edge legal initiatives.

In 2003 she was appointed the Director of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Division of the Commonwealth Secretariat, an intergovernmental organization comprising 53 member states based in London. In that connection, she oversees the implementation of wide ranging mandates by the Legal Division from the Commonwealth's Heads of State, Law Ministers and Chief Justices.

Meanwhile, credible information reaching The Chronicle indicates that Hon. Alban himself is tipped to be the Majority Leader on account of his razor sharp wits and depth of knowledge on the arcane of parliamentary practice, with Mr. John Tia as his Deputy.

MP for Ningo-Prampram, Mr. E. T. Mensah is also tipped for the position of Majority Chief Whip, whilst MP for North Dayi, Akua Sena Dansua is set to be the Deputy Majority Whip, with the position of second deputy whip set to be filled today.

On the other side of Parliament, the choice of Second Deputy Speaker has been narrowed to Professor Mike Oquaye and Papa Owusu Ankomah.

Hon. Oquaye is the MP for Dome Kwabenya and a founding member of New Patriotic Party. He entered Parliament on January 7, 2005. Prior to that, he served as Ghana"s High Commissioner to India between 2001 and 2004.

He was also the Minister for Environment and Science from 2004-2005, Minister for Energy from 2005 to 2006 and was Minister for Communication from 2006, until he resigned in July 2007 to contest the NPP flagbearership position which he lost.

Hon. Owusu-Ankomah, sometimes referred to as the 'quiet dynamo' of Ghanaian politics has distinguished himself as the Attorney-General of Ghana and become recognized as one of the most seasoned lawyers in the country. He was the managing partner in the practice of Owusu-Ankomah, Amanquah & Co., prior to becoming a full-time politician when the New Patriotic Party took office in 2001.

As a lawyer, Papa Owusu-Ankomah is renowned for his work on behalf of activists of the New Patriotic Party, some of whom have been wrongfully persecuted as they tried to exercise their constitutional rights. Papa's service to the N.P.P. goes far beyond donating his legal services, as important as this was at the time.

MP for Suame, Mr. Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu is set to hold the position of Minority leader. He comes from Bronkong-Afrancho (Kumasi) in the Ashanti Region and married with four children. He holds a B.Sc. (Planning) KNUST. He is a Christian and an Urban Planner by profession.

At press time yesterday, the members of the minority were said to be juggling the positions of Deputy Minority leader, Minority Chief whip and Deputy Minority whip.

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