In 2008, when Dr. Matthew Opoku-Prempeh won the New Patriotic Party (NPP) primary held at Georgia Hotel in Kumasi, and subsequently emerged the Member of Parliament (MP), for the Manhyia Constituency, people not too conversant with the dynamics of the Ashanti Region politics, were surprised.
Their surprise wasn’t because Dr. Prempeh popularly known as ‘Napo’ wasn’t qualified, but widely seen as very young to step into the shoes of Dr. Kwame Addo Kufuor, who was then bowing out of Parliament after faithfully serving the good people of Manhyia.
Those who were aware, however, of the ever-rising political activities of the then young aspiring MP, knew that there would be no vacuum created following the exit of Dr. Addo-Kufuor, as Dr. Prempeh had in his early student’s politics days, already displayed quality leadership skills.
True to their expectation, the MP, as soon as he was sworn-in on January 7, 2009, has never disappointed the people of Manhyia constituency, as his presence was felt in Parliament early on through valuable contributions to Parliamentary business.
The son of Apagyafie was coming on board with exceptional character and unblemished integrity, braced with great courage and resolve in handling affairs.
The leadership style of Dr. Opoku-Prempeh also endeared him to the entire constituent to the extent that, there arose, issues as to where he should serve, when the Manhyia constituency was split into Manhyia North and South. The MP opted to serve the people of Manhyia South.
Significantly, Dr. Prempeh’s contribution to the fortunes of the NPP, in opposition, was something that people within and outside the party would simply not forget as he was extremely active, in ensuring that the party won back power in the 2016 elections
Dr. Prempeh In Government
It was not surprising, therefore, that when NPP took office after it won the 2016 elections, Dr. Prempeh was to be among the first batch of ministers to be named by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. Amazingly, Napo was placed in charge of the education ministry and, obviously became the surprise element because of his background, as a Medical Doctor and largely seen as someone rather caste for the health ministry.
Napo’s leadership skills were thus smithed out the more, as he had to pioneer the government’s flagship programme of the Free Senior High School (Free SHS); and did not have a single reason to fail the system.
With team-work, Dr. Prempeh was able to marshal all necessary forces to roll out the Free SHS, which nonetheless, came along with teething problems that he succeeded in surmounting, with time.
At the end of President Akufo-Addo’s first term, it became obvious that the Medical Doctor without any background in education sector management, had succeeded in making history for the Nana Akufo-Addo administration through achievements lots for the education sector.
Beyond the successful implementation of Free SHS programme, the education sector also witnessed significant reforms during the tenure of Dr. Prempeh as the minister.
He brought dignity and respect to bear by always being himself in touch with workers of the education sector, to know their challenges and prescribing necessary solution. It was not out of nothing that under Dr. Prempeh’s watch, no union under the education sector ever embarked on strike action.
Second Term Of Akufo-Addo And Napo
Dr. Prempeh was again among the first set of appointees named by President Nana Akufo-Addo in his second term and now again placed in-charge of Energy and became an automatic Member of Cabinet.
His quality leadership and teamwork have come to play once again, as he steers affairs to ensure that Ghana’s energy sector improves to meet its huge demand.
Just like he strategically did as the Education Minister, the labour front of the energy sector has also become calm and thus driving the sector workers to offer their maximum best.
Well Deserved Honours
Dr. Prempeh is not a stranger to awards and honours, as he could count them in numbers since, he became a minister. For three times running he was named as the best Minister in the Akufo-Addo government.
Apart from that, he was selected as the 2020 recipient of the Harvard Ministerial Medal of Achievement in recognition of his work, over the past four years, towards strengthening public education in Ghana. Specific criteria include insightful leadership, clarity of purpose, and consistent commitment to the goals, and tangible benefits for citizens from the Minister’s efforts.
In 2021 alone, Dr. Prempeh has already received two Honorary Doctorate Degrees from two of Ghana’s renowned tertiary institutions: One from the University of Education, Winneba (UEW) and the other one from the University of Professional Studies (UPSA), Accra.
The UEW conferred the Honorary Doctorate on Dr. Prempeh on May 26, 2021, for his efficient handling of the education sector whilst he was the Education Minister. A citation read at ceremony held at Winneba, among other things, indicated that the Free SHS was implemented under his watch and he ensured quality placement in all schools, he made lots of reforms in the education sector by establishing National Reform Secretariat to transform all aspects of education in the country, including the upgrade of all Colleges of education to University Colleges; the adoption of a National Teachers’ Standards; the rollout of the Teacher Education Curriculum Framework; and the Tertiary Education Policy for Ghana initiative.
The UPSA on the other hand, conferred Doctorate Degree (Doctors of Human Letters) on Dr. Prempeh on July 24, 2021, for his leadership as the Minister of Education in the first term of President Akufo-Addo.
Parts of the UPSA citation read: ‘’You have invested in making yourself a notable leader, thereby proving that the twenty first century leadership is teachable, learnable, measurable skill. We recognise your deep commitment to leadership and service and celebrate your contribution towards the education of mother Ghana’s future generation.’’
Dr. Prempeh was born May 23, 1968 to Oheneba Kwame Kyeretwie, who was Otumfuo Asantehene’s Apagyahene, and Madam Elizabeth Akosua Nyarko at the Komfo Anokye Hospital, in Kumasi. He started his primary education at the KNUST Primary school and then proceeded to the prestigious Prempeh College in 1980. From there, he entered the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, where he read medicine.
It was at KNUST that he made his first appearance as a leader, after he won the position as the local National Union of Ghanaian Students (NUGS) President, a position he held from 1991 -1992. In 1995, Dr. Prempeh left Ghana to pursue further education and work as a surgeon in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
In 2003, Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh decided to return to Ghana to pursue a career in business and more importantly in politics.
By Ohenenana Kwaku Djan