The role of Minority Leader is a very important one in Ghana’s parliamentary democracy and holders of that position are often seen as unofficial opposition leaders because of the power they weild in putting government in check.
The position has become topical over the past week following the historic replacement of Haruna Iddrisu (Member of Parliament for Tamale South), who had held the position since 2017.
The process of his removal has been widely criticised by colleagues who believe the manner in which the National Democratic Congress (NDC) replaced Haruna, his deputy and Chief Whip was not the best.
According to available records of the House, Haruna is the fourth Minority Leader following in the footsteps of Joseph Henry Mensah, Alban Bagbin and Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu (the current Majority Leader and Minister of Parliamentary Affairs).
GhanaWeb profiles the first Minority Leader of the Fourth Republic
Profile: Who is the man JH Mensah
Joseph Henry Mensah (31 October 1928 – 12 July 2018) was an astute politician and economist.
Mensah began working as an assistant inspector of taxes in 1953 while the Gold Coast was still under colonial rule. In 1958, Mensah joined the United Nations Secretariat at the Centre for Development Planning, Projections and Policies, in New York City, United States.
Mensah returned to Ghana in 1961 as the Head of Agency at the National Planning Commission. The National Planning commission drew and implemented the country’s Seven-Year Development Plan (1963/64–1969/70).
In 1969, he was elected to parliament and became the Finance minister in the Busia government until 1972, when he was replaced by future head of state Ignatius Kutu Acheampong after the military coup d’état.
Mensah represented the Sunyani East constituency in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th parliaments of the Republic of Ghana.
In the year 1996, he won the Sunyani East seat as Member of Parliament in the second Parliament. He was elected Minority Leader between 1997 – 2001 when the NPP first contested for parliamentary seats after boycotting the 1992 parliamentary elections.
He would go on to retain the seat in the 3rd and 4th parliament of the 4th Republic.
When John Agyekum Kufuor became president in 2000, JH Mensah served as Minister and Leader of Government Business from 2001 to 2003; Minister for Public Sector Reform and National Institutional Renewal Programme from 2003 to 2005 as well as Senior Minister from 2005 to 2006 all during the Kufuor-led administration.
His political roots, however goes way back. Beginning in 1974, Mensah worked in the private sector both in Ghana and abroad.
He was imprisoned by the National Redemption Council from 1975 to 1978. Although banned from political activity in 1979, he was active for the Popular Front Party in the 1979 elections.
He also served as Chairman of the Sunyani District Council in Brong-Ahafo Region (1979–1981), and proprietor of Banka Farms. Exiled in England, in 1983 he headed a group opposing the PNDC. He also served on the African Advisory Council of the African Development Bank from 1993 to 1997.
He was the older brother of the former First Lady, Theresa Kufuor.
In his early education, J. H. Mensah attended Achimota School. He proceeded to the University of the Gold Coast (now the University of Ghana) between 1948 and 1954.
He then headed to the University of London and Stanford University, where he earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree respectively with a specialization in economic theory and development. In
1954, Mensah became a Research Fellow in Economics at the University of Ghana, a position he held until 1958.
Death and state funeral
J. H. Mensah died on Thursday 12 July 2018 at the 37 Military Hospital in Accra after a protracted illness, having suffered a stroke a year earlier.
He was accorded a state funeral by the Government of Ghana on Friday 17 August 2018 at the Accra International Conference Centre and buried at the new Military Cemetery at Burma Camp.
Minority Leaders since 1992
a. 1993 – 2001 – Late JH Mensah – Under Jerry John Rawlings’ NDC government
b. 2001 – 2009 – Alban Bagbin – Under John Agyekum Kufuor’s NPP government
c. 2009 – 2017 – Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu – Under John Atta Mills / John Mahama NDC government
d. 2017 – 2023 – Haruna Iddrisu – Under Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo government
e. 2023 – 202… – Cassiel Ato Forson – Under Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo government