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Opinions of Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

Is Parliament Trying To Sabotage Our Democratic Process?

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

Following the publication of my article titled "Independence Was Declared On A Discordant Note" (Ghanaweb.com 3/8/14), a critic wanted to know why in the wake of Nkrumah's overthrow, the Show Boy's political opponents had not returened Ghana's sovereignty to the British. Well, the glaring fact of the matter is that the road to Ghana's sovereignty, or independence, as Dr. Danquah preferred to cast it, did not begin with the "visionary genius" of Mr. Kwame Nkrumah. There was, first, the reformist human rights spearhead, Mr. Ephraim Casely-Hayford, closely followed by the firebrand nationalist Mr. Kobina Sekyi, Danquah's professional mentor, and then there was the putative Doyen of Gold Coast and Ghanaian politics. Unless, of course, the rather confused critic also wants the rest of us to believe that Mr. Nkrumah was invited by the leaders of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) to assist in championing the blighted cause of British colonial imperialism.

Anyway, the subject of this brief national conversation is the rather obtuse attempt by Ghana's Fourth-Republican Parliament to sabotage the country's fledgling democratic culture at the grassroots. I must, however, from the get-go acknowledge the fact that I have little confidence, if any at all, in the performance of Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan as Ghana's longtime Electoral Commissioner. In my well-considered opinion, the Electoral Commission chairman has outlived his usefulness in his latter capacity.

Still, it curiously well appears that the members of our august national assembly, or parliament, are trying very hard to make an ill-deserved martyr out of this ever-bumbling former University of Ghana political science lecturer. And they are doing this by woefully and, apparently, willfully underfunding our ongoing democracy project. The recent summoning of our Chief Returning Officer before the members of the House, to explain why District Assembly Elections cannot be held october this year, is a striking case in point (See "Parliament Summons Afari-Gyan Over District Elections" MyJoyOnline.com 3/7/14).

Not holding district-/assembly-level elections flagrantly violates our 1992 Republican Constitution; and our parliamentarians were fully aware of this fact when they decided to underfund the Electoral Commission's current fiscal budget by more than 60-percent, anyway, even as the same parliamentarians have had absolutely no qualms, whatsoever, in voting humongous monetary packages dubiously categorized as quadrennial gratuities for themselves. And so, really, when Dr. Afari-Gyan appears before our august House of Parliament, what would these largely self-serving members expect him to say by way of explanation, when the latter is all-too-obviously exemplified by the House's own deliberate refusal to provide the EC with the requisite wherewithal to successfully undertake such a crucial electoral exercise?

There is still ample time between now and October for Dr. Afari-Gyan and his staff to prepare to run the district-level elections. After all, didn't the EC create some 35, or so, new electoral districts with barely four months to Election 2012? Interestingly, this latest summons offers Dr. Afari-Gyan prime opportunity to pontifically lecture our National Assembly men and women on their unsavorily tardy attitude towards the duties and responsibilities for which they were sent to our nation's capital to represent their various constituents.

Hitherto, Dr. Afari-Gyan and a couple of his arch-lieutenants had been at the receiving end of the largely self-righteous indignation of these parliamentarians, although oftentimes it appeared that these representatives merely delighted in showing off a bit of their constitutional powers and/or right to bully the EC chief and his lieutenants, in a clearly unnecessary bid to demonstrating to these veritable kingmakers that, in fact, it was rather these petty chieftains in whom was vested the ultimate shaping powers of our national destiny.

Whether Dr. Afari-Gyan seizes this prime opportunity to condignly dress down these ungrateful and shameless "welfare recipients" remains to be seen. Most likely he would not, for it has been due to the functional toothlessness of Ghana's parliament that has guaranteed the nose-thumbing tyranny of Dr. Afari-Gyan and his seemingly interminable professional longevity. A couple of weeks ago, for instance, when he appeared before one of the parliamentary sub-committes to account for his failure to audit the EC's accounts, for nearly two fiscal years, it was these reprimanders who rather, curiously, ended up apologizing to Dr. Afari-Gyan for putting the latter through the wholly unnecessary hassle of having to appear before them.

Anyway, who said Ghana's parliamentary democracy were any significantly more than a veritable charade and a white elephant?

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*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Department of English
Nassau Community College of SUNY
Garden City, New York
March 8, 2014
E-mail: okoampaahoofe@optimum.net
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