Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh

In recent days, there has been extensive discussion about Dr. Mathew Opoku Prempeh following his nomination by the flagbearer of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Alhaji Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, as his running mate for the 2024 general elections.

As someone who has a working relationship with Dr. Mathew Opoku Prempeh, also known as NAPO, I find it obligatory to provide an overview of his exceptional qualities and achievements that make him a compelling choice for this role.

This paper will delve into Dr. Prempeh’s deep understanding of public service, his exemplary work ethic, result-oriented nature, and his courage of conviction. It will highlight his genuineness, sincerity, and authenticity, as well as his unwavering support for others, integrity, and fairness. Additionally, his critical thinking, meritocracy, resourcefulness, and innovative collaboration will be explored, demonstrating his readiness to drive comprehensive development for Ghana. Through these insights, I aim to present a clear picture of why the Bawumia-NAPO ticket represents a visionary and dynamic leadership team poised to tackle the pressing issues of our time and lead Ghana to new heights.

Early Professional Interactions

In late 2016, I was informed by one of our foremost professors in education in this country, who previously served as the vice chancellor for the University of Education Winneba and chaired the J. A. Kuffour’s Education Review Committee in 2004, Professor Jophus Anamua-Mensah. He indicated to me that there was a World Bank project involving improving the teaching and learning of mathematics and science, and they were looking for a consultant on the research agenda. Having worked with me previously on other similar projects and read my publications, he thought I was in a better position for that job. So, he gave me the email address to contact the project team. At that time, I was in Ghana. I put in my application and sent my CV. Subsequently, I left for the UK to resettle and continue what I was doing before I came to Ghana in 2016.

While in the UK, I applied to universities, including the University of Oxford Centre for Educational Assessment, for a research consultant or assistant role. In early 2017, I received an email from the University of Oxford inviting me for an interview, which I successfully passed and was offered appointment. Around the same period, I got an email from the procurement unit of the Ministry of Education stating that the World Bank team, together with the ministry’s procurement team, had reviewed several CVs for a consultant on a World Bank-funded project and found my CV to be the most qualified. They wanted me to come for a discussion about my consultancy fee. I replied, indicating that I was out of the country and suggested having the discussion virtually via Skype, which was arranged and an agreement was reached.

Faced with the decision between the University of Oxford and the Ministry of Education’s World Bank-funded project, I chose the latter for its flexibility and my desire to stay in Ghana. This decision led me back to Ghana in early February 2017. Upon my return, the government was still being fully constituted, and I faced delays in my consultancy fees. I had filed my returns quarterly, yet my fees had not been paid for six months. This was a significant concern as I had a family in the UK to support.

Having met Dr. Mathew Opoku Prempeh, now Minister of Education, at several platforms but not personally, I approached him after one of our meetings. I explained my situation, and he immediately took action. Contrary to the notion that ministers often delay processes, NAPO’s office was clear of pending files. He discovered that the delay was due to someone else in the system, and he resolved the issue within an hour. This first personal encounter revealed NAPO’s efficiency and commitment to resolving issues promptly.

As I continued my consultancy work, I also set up a civil society organization specializing in education issues and taught at the university. In 2018, I was invited by TV3 to discuss the impact of one year of the Free Senior High School policy. Despite being positioned between two critics of the policy, my extensive understanding of education policy regimes and my experience teaching in both Ghana and the UK enabled me to provide a compelling defense of the policy. This caught the attention of Dr. Opoku Prempeh, who subsequently invited me to support him at the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NaCCA) as the head of the institution.

Working with NAPO

Working with NAPO, I observed several key attributes that define his leadership style:

  1. Work Ethic

Whilst working with him at NaCCA, one thing that I noticed immediately was that if you are looking for a workaholic leader, you will find that in NAPO. He doesn’t know what a break is. He has no time for breaks and is always on the move, tirelessly working to ensure projects are completed on time and to the highest standards. His relentless pursuit of excellence inspires everyone around him to elevate their performance and dedication. He signed performance contracts with all agency heads, outlining specific deliverables and scores, and ensured regular visits from the monitoring and evaluation team. These performance contracts were focused on results, and he accepted no excuses for effort that did not lead to achieving the set goals. NAPO is known as a bulldozer—a leader who relentlessly pushes through obstacles to achieve his goals.

  1. Result-Oriented

If you are looking for a result-oriented person, you will find that in Dr. Opoku Prempeh because he doesn’t take excuses. He doesn’t recognize effort, he recognizes outcomes. For instance, when I faced delays in my consultancy fees, NAPO swiftly intervened and resolved the issue within an hour, ensuring that the project could continue smoothly without any hindrances. His ability to cut through bureaucratic delays and achieve tangible results is a testament to his effectiveness as a leader.

  1. Courage of Conviction

If you are looking for someone with the courage of conviction, NAPO is the ideal candidate. He steadfastly follows the right path, undeterred by political correctness. This was evident in his implementation of several reforms, including the Free SHS policy with the double-track system, the teacher education and licensing regime, and curriculum reform, among others. Despite facing strong opposition, NAPO stood firm, articulating the benefits and defending the implementation of these policies with well-researched arguments. His ability to maintain his beliefs in the face of criticism is a defining trait of his leadership.

  1. Genuineness and Sincerity

If you’re looking for somebody who is genuine and sincere about what he does, then when you find NAPO, you have found one. NAPO’s approach to leadership is genuine and sincere. He speaks his mind and acts with integrity, ensuring that his actions align with his principles. During my time at NaCCA, I witnessed how NAPO dealt with several influential publishers who wanted to circumvent the book review process. NAPO firmly supported me in maintaining the integrity of the process, demonstrating his commitment to fairness and justice.

  1. Authenticity

If you are looking for somebody who speaks his mind, regardless of whether it is politically correct or not, then you find one in NAPO; a very genuine and authentic voice. At the Ministry of Education, there were many occasions when he spoke his mind, sometimes saying things that might have been better left unsaid in public. However, in a highly charged political environment, his straightforwardness often led to issues with the media, necessitating the decision for one of his deputies to handle media engagements at some point. Despite this, NAPO’s authenticity and commitment to truth remained unwavering.

  1. Support for Others

NAPO’s care for the welfare and ambitions of others is evident in his non-competitive nature. He actively supports the aspirations of his team members. Four members of the team he worked with under the Ministry of Education have gone on to achieve significant political success. This includes myself, Prof. Kingsley Nyarko, who is now the MP for Kwadaso and Deputy Minister for Education; Ekow Vincent Assafuah (Esq), the MP for Old Tafo and Deputy Minister for Local Government and Rural Development; and Hon. Mustapha Ussif, the MP for Yagaba-Kubori and Minister for Youth and Sports. Each of us contested and won both the primaries and the general election in 2020, a testament to NAPO’s supportive leadership and dedication to the growth and success of those around him. We also won the 2024 primaries, further showcasing the enduring impact of his guidance and support.

  1. Integrity and Fairness

Let me share with you a typical example of his integrity and fairness. When I started the book review process for the new curriculum at NaCCA, there was this publisher, who is very close to him, long before he became a minister. This publisher was always on my neck, finding faults, reporting me to him and other influential people, saying all manner of things about me because they wanted me to do things in their favour, and I refused. On one occasion, NAPO sent me a message saying he had got some report and demanded explanation. I took my time to explain the issues to him and asked, “Sir, do you want me to circumvent the process for this publisher?” He said, “No, do the right thing.” I said, “Thank you, sir.” I reflected over the conversation and many other such issues and said that this man will go far. He’s a very genuine man. He didn’t want me to circumvent the process we had set. He wanted that publisher to go through the same procedure that everybody else goes through; a person who is genuinely fair and just in his dealings with everybody.

There were many occasions when people went to lie about others. But NAPO always gave you a chance. In fact, he would even mention names and say, “This person has come to tell me this. What do you have to say?” He would give you the opportunity to explain yourself, much like God did to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:11: “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” Once he was satisfied with your explanation, he would tell you to go and do your job. I experienced this on a number of occasions.

On one other occasion, somebody told the minister that I, as the then Director General of NaCCA, had brought polling station executives from my constituency to take part in the curriculum writing process. The truth in this allegation was that one man from Ghana Secondary Technical School (GSTS) in Takoradi, who is from my constituency, was involved. He was the Head of the Mathematics Department at GSTS, had taught mathematics for almost 30 years in both junior and senior secondary schools, and even taught me mathematics. If we were looking for someone who had experience and fit the criteria for selecting the panel members, he qualified, regardless of the fact that he came from my constituency. And in fact, I was not even part of the panel selection team. I explained the context to NAPO, and after hearing my explanation, he said, “Okay.” And he never mentioned it again. Others might not have even given you the chance to explain; they would disregard the principle of natural justice and judge you without hearing your side. But that’s not NAPO’s nature.

  1. Critical Thinking and Meritocracy

If you go to Dr. Opoku Prempeh with a proposal, he will listen to you. However, he will critically examine your ideas, so you must be well-prepared. He will take a decision based on the strength of your argument, not the strength of your relationship with him. Once you convince him, he will give you the go-ahead to work. He doesn’t care where the idea comes from; as long as it makes sense and provides a practical solution to a problem backed by empirical evidence, he will support it. He never pretends to know everything. In the ministry, he was adjudged the best minister on several occasions. Harvard University gave him an award for his outstanding leadership, and I was one of the few people they interviewed about NAPO before concluding to give him the award. He is a good listener who cares about what you bring to the table, not where you come from. Once you can demonstrate knowledge and understanding in your field, NAPO will harness your skill set and support you. This approach led to his success at the Education Ministry and continues to drive his excellence in his current ministerial role.

  1. Resourcefulness

At the Ministry of Education, Dr. Opoku Prempeh demonstrated remarkable resourcefulness by securing numerous resources independent of the government’s coffers. I can recall one of our working visits to London when he asked me to accompany him to a meeting one night. We met with an American lady and had a brief conversation. After he left, the lady asked me a few questions regarding curriculum implementation issues, which I answered. Later, he re-joined the meeting and asked us to leave. The next morning, we had another meeting with the same lady, this time with a larger team. They asked many questions about how we could implement the new curriculum and achieve results, and I, together with others, responded. Immediately after we returned to Ghana, they asked us to send a detailed email about our discussions. This effort brought in about 5 million GBP to monitor the fidelity of implementing the standard-based curriculum after he had left the Ministry. There are several instances like this that showcase his ability to secure critical resources. During his four years as Education Minister, his resourcefulness ensured that there were minimal disruptions in the education space, leading to a generally tranquil environment for teachers, unions, and other labour partners.

  1. 1 Innovation and Collaboration

One of NAPO’s most remarkable traits is his passion for innovation and collaboration. He has been deeply committed to transforming Ghana’s education system through the integration of technology. Together with other colleagues, we traveled to London, Kenya, Egypt and Dubai to explore collaborative opportunities for introducing student assessment tracking, establishing a knowledge bank, and assessing transferable skills, all of which were incorporated into the new curriculum. NAPO is also a fervent advocate of STEM education, leading to the introduction of STEM centers across the country. His visionary approach and ability to forge partnerships are driving the ongoing modernization of Ghana’s education system, preparing it to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Through his innovative mindset and collaborative spirit, NAPO has fostered an environment of continuous improvement and adaptation, greatly benefiting both students and educators alike.

Conclusion

Dr. Mathew Opoku Prempeh is the kind of person we need; a man with a deep understanding of our public service who has sacrificed himself for the development of our country. He has a proven record of achievement as a public officer. Some may dismiss these traits and competencies, focusing instead on a perception of arrogance. However, these criticisms are often politically motivated. At this critical juncture, we need individuals who can unite people, harness resources, and deliver results. Among the names that emerged, NAPO stands out.

The Bawumia-NAPO ticket represents a blend of visionary leadership, innovation, and unwavering commitment to progress. Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, with his extensive background in economics and proven track record as Vice President, has shown his capability to drive economic growth and digital transformation. Paired with NAPO’s exceptional leadership in the education sector and his impactful tenure as the Energy Minister, the Bawumia-NAPO ticket promises comprehensive development for Ghana.

The challenges facing Ghana today require leaders who are knowledgeable, empathetic, innovative, and results-oriented. Bawumia and NAPO have shown these qualities throughout their careers. They understand the aspirations of the Ghanaian people and are committed to creating opportunities for all, fostering an inclusive society where every citizen can thrive.

I believe that the Vice President, our flagbearer, and leader of the party has made an excellent choice in selecting Dr. Mathew Opoku Prempeh as his running mate. Together, they form a balanced and dynamic leadership team ready to tackle the pressing issues of our time. Their combined expertise spans economic management, technological advancement, educational reform, health and energy sector improvements. Their partnership promises a brighter, more prosperous future for Ghana.

To the people of Ghana, this is your opportunity to support a leadership team dedicated to improving the lives of all citizens. The Bawumia-NAPO ticket stands ready to lead our nation to new heights, ensuring stability, growth, and development. With your support, we can, Inshallah, break new ground and achieve the Ghana we all aspire to see. This is my heartfelt endorsement of Dr. Mathew Opoku Prempeh and the Bawumia-NAPO ticket.

The author is the Deputy Minister for Works and Housing and Member of Parliament for Kwesimintsim. He previously served as the Director-General of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NaCCA) and consulted for several projects funded by prominent international organizations such as The World Bank, UKAID, and USAID during the tenure of Dr. Mathew Opoku Prempeh as Minister for Education.