By Francis Kokutse
Accra: Is the Ghanaian head of state finally planning to move into Flagstaff House, the presidential palace that has a colonial past and has been rebuilt with an Indian grant of $30 million?
It would seem so as President John Dramani Mahama has set up a special committee to advise on a phased movement from the Osu Castle in Accra to Flagstaff House, which was onece home to independent Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah.
Presidential spokesman John Abdulai Jinapor said in a statement that the decision follows an inspection of Flagstaff House by the president. He was accompanied by Vice President Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, Chief of Staff John Martey Newman, National Security Coordinator Lt. Col. (retd) Larry Gbevlo-Lartey and other officials of the Presidency.
“The inspection revealed that in addition to other identified problems, there are also leakages in the main block while the central air-conditioning units are also non-operational. The lifts in both the presidential and vice presidential blocks are also not working,” the statement added.
Use of the presidential palace has attracted some debate after it was completed by the previous government under president John Agyekum Kufuor. Soon after taking over the government in January 2009, the late president John Atta Mills, who died on July 24, 2012, refused to move into the palace in line with a campaign promise he made.
Early this month, a leading member of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), Rashid Pelpuo, re-opened the debate on whether or not President Mahama should move to the Flagstaff House.
Pelpuo said the Osu Castle, which is the current seat of the government, had become “a moribund piece of architecture which should no longer reflect the presidency”. The castle was originally built by the Danes in about 1660. Since then, it had changed hands between Denmark, Portugal and the Akwamu, a local tribe before the British took control.
“The Committee will, among other things, review the security, logistics and equipment-related issues required to make Flagstaff House usable and appropriate for the presidency,” Jinapor said.
Pelpuo, who is deputy majority leader in parliament, said in an Accra radio programme that President Mahama, who is serving the unexpired term of president Mills before the next election in December 2012, “should solve the security issues that prevented his predecessor from moving into the palace immediately in order to take occupancy”.
The late President Mills held a number of credential ceremonies and meetings at the Flagstaff House and President Mahama has directed the Committee to work fast so that such ceremonies and cabinet meetings can take place there.
At the time the building was completed, President Kufuor named it Jubilee House, but the ruling NDC changed it to Flagstaff House because, Deputy Chief of Staff Alex Segbefia said, former president Kufuor’s regime tried to wipe out the memory of Kwame Nkrumah, whose name is synonymous with the Flagstaff House. In fact, it was from Flagstaff House that Nkrumah was ousted in a military coup on February 24, 1966.
Deputy Minister of Information James Agyenim-Boateng also said the government took the decision to rename the building because the name Jubilee House had no legal backing.