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The NAPO I Know: Portrait of a Confident Leader and Mentor

I know that in selecting Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh, Dr. Bawumia will enjoy the unalloyed loyalty of a trusted lieutenant ready to serve with integrity, while tapping into his analytical prowess and high level of intelligence in service to Ghana and to Dr. Bawumia.

On July 4, 2024, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, Vice President of the Republic of Ghana and Flagbearer of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), presented his choice for a running mate in the 2024 general election to the National Executive Committee (NEC) and the National Council (NC) of the party.

His choice is Dr. Mathew Opoku Prempeh, affectionately known as Napo. He is the Member of Parliament for Manhyia South, the current Minister for Energy and the former Minister for Education. Knowing Dr. Bawumia, a man with a spine of steel, yet the agility of a cheetah, a brilliant and analytical mind and a systematic and process-oriented man, his choice must tell us about the future he envisions for Ghana. I see a future of possibilities, hope and prosperity.

At the risk of sounding biased, in my humble opinion, the Napo I know is the man for the job. Contrary to the artificial tags that have sometimes been used to characterize him, Napo is the embodiment of a servant leader. At the heart of Napo is service to people and service to leadership. Working with him and for him at the Ministry of Education, I observed his vision in action, his passion and his determination to ensure that he delivers quality for the Ghanaian people as desired by his leader, the President of the Republic.

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As a mark of his service to his leader, I was fortunate to be close enough to Napo during two critical periods in the country at the Education Ministry. In 2018, Napo handpicked me to be the lead technical officer in the conceptualization, design and implementation of the Double Track System.

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He always, and I mean almost on a daily basis reminded me that we must not fail the Ghanaian children and the President who had bet his presidency on this novel intervention at the time. Napo kept everyone involved and brought everyone along. I observed him organize countless meetings and consultative sessions with key stakeholders, most notably, education unions, CHASS, directors of education, and key CSOs.

He kept the teacher unions close to him in the process and personally took them on a number of occasions to see the President, ensuring that all their needs during this critical time were met. Every time we needed to prepare an update to the cabinet, I was instructed by Napo to prepare two advance copies of the presentation. He will personally write on the back of the two folders – The President and The Vice President. He will seek them out prior to cabinet meetings and provide them with an advance briefing, ensuring that they were always in the know of happenings. Napo serves his leaders.

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In 2020, with the global pandemic crippling the world, Napo again sprang into action, at the marching orders of his President, to ensure that there was going to be continuity of learning for Ghanaian students even with the closure of schools. He exhibited his ability to gather, delegate tasks and get results. In the ambiguity that characterized the COVID-19 period, Napo remained resolute with immense courage and empathy, inspiring us all with his undisputed charisma to deliver for the Ghanaian people and his President. At a crucial meeting called by the President ahead of the announcement to gradually reopen schools, I was privileged to attend as a chief technical officer to Napo. I was dazzled by his sheer sense of self-awareness and respect for leadership. I observed that every time the President will address him saying, Mr. Minister for Education, Napo will effortlessly jump to his feet to listen to the President. At no point did he remain in his seat when his President addressed him directly – this, I thought to myself at the time and ever since, as a magnificent display of humility.

The Napo I know exhibits a deep understanding of complex issues and possesses the quality of being an active listener with the curiosity needed to ensure that the desired outcome is achieved and all involved are satisfied. He is an excellent collaborator and this is exemplified by the fact that his tenure as the Minister for Education saw no labor disputes or strikes – a calm no other Minister for Education has enjoyed in recent memory. Napo, a surgeon by training, has demonstrated tremendous learning agility and adaptability by perhaps acquitting himself as the most consequential Minister of Education in the 4th Republic, overseeing the most transformative educational and social intervention in our nation’s history – The Free SHS. Against all odds, Napo’s lasting impact on education may turn out to have been the greatest in terms of the crises that did not happen. Despite teetering on the edge of an educational catastrophe, as described by his naysayers, the nation’s education did not fall into the abyss that so many predicted. And despite calls and predictions that the double track system will spell doom for educational outcomes, the nation has witnessed unprecedented learning outcomes at the WASSCE with Ghanaian students constantly topping WAEC Excellence Awards. This is all because of Napo’s decisiveness, his ability to communicate his vision and his resilience in the face of adversity. Napo stands the test of time.

I know that in selecting Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh, Dr. Bawumia will enjoy the unalloyed loyalty of a trusted lieutenant ready to serve with integrity, while tapping into his analytical prowess and high level of intelligence in service to Ghana and to Dr. Bawumia. Napo will be an active listener to his boss and complement him in his quest to ensure that the growth mindset is prevalent in his government and administration. It is undoubtedly so that Napo also comes to the table with immense expertise in political leadership that will balance Dr. Bawumia at the helm of the most dynamic political party and a country that has come of age in our democratic dispensation. On foreign policy leadership, all indications are that Napo has the ability to represent his boss and influence the international stage as directed by Dr. Bawumia.

Napo is globally minded while locally focused in his actions and decisions. Kudos to Dr. Bawumia for demonstrating to us, his vision of a Ghana with possibilities, a future we can hope for and a Ghana destined for prosperity.

About the Author

Dr. Kwabena Bempah Tandoh is the Deputy Director-General for Quality and Access of the Ghana Education Service.

Contact email: [email protected]

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