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Opinions of Sunday, 10 October 2010

Columnist: Aboagye, Abdulai

Ghana- A Toothless Paliament Of Yeeeyeeyes And Boycotters

BY ABDULAI ABOAGYE

One quintessential pillar of democracy is the elected assembly called several names throughout the world. In Ghana we call it Parliament. Ghana's Parliament is made up of 230 members elected from carefully demarcated or gerrymandered constituencies. This group of people, also called Members of Parliament, (MPS) has been stationed in Accra to be our representatives. Among their many powers is to make laws that will affect our lives. They are also the guardian of our collective income as a nation and are therefore responsible for making sure that the monies that come into our national coffers be it from cocoa, gold or loans are spent wisely. Again Parliament is responsible for making sure that people who are given positions of national interest are of the right disposition, level headed, and are not corrupt. Oh, and they can also sack, fire, or impeach the President!! In essence Parliament is so powerful that somebody once remarked that the only thing Parliament cannot do is to change a man to a woman and vice versa.

Throughout history Parliaments or representative bodies have asserted their independence and have come up with groundbreaking laws which have had significant impact on their people and even beyond for generations. The Magna Carta which was enacted by the British Parliament in 1215 AD has been the basis for modern freedoms we enjoy today.

Unfortunately Ghana's Parliament ever since it's creation under the 1992 constitution has not made any meaningful impact in the running of the country. Simply put, Ghana's Parliament can be divided into two- The Yeeeyeeye's and the Boycotters. The Yeeeyeeyes are the governing party/parties MPS who always support whatever comes from the executive branch. The Boycotters are the opposition party/parties MPS who are always ready to boycott every bill except car loans for parliamentarians. Honestly speaking, Ghana’s Parliament cannot boast of a single bill that has impacted the lives of Ghanaians since its creation. Even obvious holes in the constitution have been left gapping till now. For example, any Parliament worth its name would have passed a bill to cap the number of Supreme Court judges. Again any parliament worth its name would have passed a bill to reign in on the nonsense that goes on in chieftaincy today in Ghana. Perhaps one would probably not be far from right in saying that Ghanaians wasting money on 230 people whose real importance has not been felt by the people.

Some apologists for our weak Parliament will site trivial grandstanding moments like vetting of ministers as some great works but the question is what has come out of these? Nothing to take to the bank! And therefore the question is why our parliament is so toothless to the point of being useless and what can be done to remedy the situation? The writer believes that the problem lies in one or more of the following reasons

THE APPOINTMENT OF SPEAKER OF PALIAMENT- Whatever the reason for giving the President the authority to nominate the Speaker of parliament, it is one of the greatest reasons why our Parliament is so lame and weak. Considering the fact that the Speaker of Parliament is the highest authority in the assembly in and part of parliament’s job is to check the President, it sounds ridiculous that such a person is nominated by the President. Worse still unlike the Chief Justice whom the President cannot change once nominated and approved, the President can change the Speaker of Parliament every 4 years. This to a large extent has given our Presidents a field day. History has shown us that our Presidents tend to chose people they think can tow their line or will be push-overs. The writer believes that for our parliament to be independent there is the need to amend that section of constitution which gives the power to appoint the Speaker of Parliament to the President. The writer suggests that we adopt the American system where the leader of the majority party automatically becomes the speaker of the House of Representatives. Some people will argue that the majority leader is still a member of the President party and therefore may not be any different from an appointed Speaker but the difference is if the majority leader becomes the speaker his/her mandate will come from the people of Ghana and not at the mercy of the President.

THE APPOINTMENT OF MINISTERS FROM PALIAMENT- By the set up of Ghana's constitution 60% of ministers should come from parliament. In other words 60% of the executive branch should come from the legislative branch. What has happened over the years is that the best of the MPS have been chosen to be ministers. And so these individuals who could have led discussions in parliament and put the executive under pressure have become cheerleaders of the executive. Besides most MPS would not want to be too critical of the executive for fear of not being selected for ministerial appointments should the need arise. This in effect has weakened the august body as the watchdog of the executive branch. If we really want to develop our democracy and ensure parliament acts as the custodian of the national purse, then we need to ensure that parliament stays truly independent of the executive. A legislature which is under the armpit of the executive cannot perform its functions effectively.

LACK OF BI-PARTISANSHIP AMONG OUR MPS- It has been said that the only time Ghana's MPS agree is when they are contracting car loans for themselves. Other than that our MPS are either black or white. There is no middle ground. And so in most cases the members of the governing party are not ready to compromise a little when it comes to debating a bill even when they know that the bill has obvious flaws. Similarly, the opposition parties are also not willing to even admit the good in any bill sent by the government. What they don’t realize is that parliament is a place of compromise where give and take is that order of the day. For our Parliament to become a powerful and successful body as is expected of them , our MPS should sometimes reach across party lines to create strong alliances when it comes to dealing issues of national importance.

AND OH, THEY ARE JUST CORRUPT- Above all our MPS are simply corrupt. Nothing can be said about MPS who openly accept $2500 “donations” from a foreign entity and tries to justify it on the radio as just plain corrupt. Ghana needs a Parliament that works for the good of the country. Sadly our current Parliament of Yeeeyeeyes and Boycotters is simply not up to the task. Let the great minds pick it up from here. God Bless Ghana!!!