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Opinions of Sunday, 3 March 2013

Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

Adjaho May Not Be Equal to His New Post

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

Now, that is tough talk when Speaker Edward Doe Adjaho warns "disruptive" Members of Parliament who are apparently making it difficult for him to command his gavel, that they risk forcing him to ruin their careers (See "Speaker Fumes at MPs 2/23/13). The man may clearly have a point because personally speaking, I don't think Majority Members of Parliament have any right to determine whether Minority MPs, largely from the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), have any right to question cabinet appointees whose vetting they summarily boycotted on the floor of the House.

For starters, the active participation of the NPP-MPs in the vetting of cabinet appointees would not have made much of a difference, since the majority NDC-MPs would have readily used their numerical strength to override any substantive objections that might have been raised about the qualifications and competence of any of the executive nominees. Historically, vetting, as practiced by members of Ghana's National Assembly, has been done on a purely partisan basis, with members of the ruling party routinely rubber-stamping nominees presented to Parliament for vetting. On the latter count, I have even wondered whether it would not be far more meaningful for some form of cross-sectional polling of Ghanaian citizens to be conducted in order to determine the true caliber of cabinet appointees presented to parliament for vetting.

In other words, I have yet to take the culture of Ghana's Fourth-Republican Parliament seriously. Still, I perfectly appreciate the cynical and hypocritical attitude of the NDC-MPs. You see, for most of the time that the NDC has held the reins of governance, the party's movers and shakers have luridly behaved like some petty dictators. This is not surprising, since the party was founded by the former Chairman Jerry John Rawlings, the longest-ruling Ghanaian dictator.

In sum, the major players of the NDC have yet to wean themselves off the patently erratic and outright irrational political style of their patriarch. Still, what makes the NPP-MPs' parliamentary boycotts far more legitimate than those of their main political opponents, is the fact that the Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu-led boycotts are indisputably based on democratic principles. In essence, the NPP-MPs cannot legally challenge the legitimacy of the presidency of Mr. John Dramani Mahama before the august Supreme Court of Ghana, and then return to the legislative assembly the next day to unwisely defeat the objective and purpose of their lawsuit.

Put another way, their selective approach to parliamentary proceedings was forced on the NPP-MPs by the adamant and patently unwise decision of Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan and the NDC leadership to prematurely declare Mr. Mahama winner of Election 2012, and then cavalierly proceed to swear him in as the substantive premier of Ghana's Fourth Republic. Largely, the fault, or blame, must be squarely laid at the feet of both Messrs. Mahama and Afari-Gyan.

Indeed, had he wanted his government to be afforded a smooth-sailing opportunity by his most formidable political opponents, Mr. Mahama would have decided to continue to act as a Transitional President while the outcome of Election 2012 was expeditiously determined by the Wood court. Such shrewd strategy would have instantly preempted the NPP-MPs from embarking on the sort of principled, albeit patently disruptive, boycott regimen in which they are currently engaged. For it would then have been clearly illegal. It would also have garnered the Mahama government its direly craved modicum of sympathy.

As it stands, however, about the only institution inviolably empowered to stanch the current parliamentary stalement is the Wood Supreme Court. Dr. Afari-Gyan's contemptuous sneering at the aggrieved NPP leaders, and his rather abrupt and downright flippant gauntlet to Nana Akufo-Addo and his associates to seek redress in court, needless to say, directly provoked the raging constitutional crisis in the country.

Personally, I am elated by the fact that Dr. Afari-Gyan appears to have finally met more than his match. Now, of course, he has nobody else to blame but himself.

Ultimately, I find Speaker Adjaho to be temperamentally unequal to his lofty new job. First of all, he crudely strong-armed his political rivals in order to retain his Avenor-Ave (or some such) parliamentary seat. And the fact that his constituency, like most of the other constituencies in the Volta Region, is a veritable no-go area for members of the New Patriotic Party, also means that his experience and knowledge of a salutary democratic cultural praxis over the past two decades have been, at best, parochial, and at the worst, unsavorily pedestrian.

What the latter also means is that Mr. Adjaho is too temperamentally partisan to evenhandedly rule the roost, as it were. And I hope that Speaker Adjaho did not really threaten to "ruin" the political careers of any MPs whom he perceives to be parlously thwarting his avid desire to maintain his iron grip on Ghana's National Assembly, as has been widely reported by some Ghanaian Internet websites. His own constituents are virtually implacably upset with the man for bringing what most of them deed to be little progress and improvement into their lives in the twenty years that he has continuously represented them.

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Department of English
Nassau Community College of SUNY
Garden City, New York
Feb. 23, 2013