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Opinions of Monday, 23 January 2017

Columnist: Ahumah Ocansey

Ghanaians vs Parliament

By Ahumah Ocansey

I have no doubts newly installed Members of Parliament (MPs) would be crooning with delight they have been admitted to the cloistered nest of legislators, and would be preening themselves no end. It has always been a matter of great consequence when we achieve the immediate goals we aspired to. The work that lies ahead of them would now begin in earnest.

In this article, we shall look at practical issues that could affect the output of Parliament and attempt to agree on what the electorate should look for in a person standing for election, and what Parliament must do to win our respect and confidence.

Let’s start off by reminding MPs that the power with which they entered Parliament is not native to them but a borrowed power! The power is adventitious. When it pleases us to remove it, they would fall back to where they were before they entered Parliament.

As legislators, MPs make laws for the nation: they make new ones and amend old ones. It is a house that demands intelligence, perspicacity, knowledge, industry, selflessness, and, above all, sheer patriotism. A parliamentarian should be on fire for Ghana, and to be motivated by the development and progress that come from the good work of Parliament.

Given the wisdom with which Parliament must be imbued, it is right and proper when they invoke God’s presence first, before, they start business, for, indeed, it is folly for MPs to assume they know it all and exclude God from their deliberations. The nations of the earth belong to God and His wisdom is what is required for good governance.

Attendance

Sometimes when we watch proceedings in Parliament, we see an almost empty house. Where have the members gone? Are they on a “frolic of their own”? Are they out, engaged in all sorts of deals to further their private interests? If so, must this be allowed to continue? I say nay. Ghanaians must call their members to order! Yes, they must! We must serve notice to the parliamentarians that they are there to serve the nation; that those of us intent on carrying on with our own businesses are not in there with them. Ghanaians must ,therefore, be on the look out to know whether their members are present in Parliament, and participate in debates or not. We often ask: Do people go to Parliament to serve the nation or to make money for themselves?

Perhaps, a more enduring impact that Ghanaians can make in Parliament is to be keenly interested in what takes place in that house. When issues and bills are being discussed, the electorate have every right to make their views known through their MPs, through articles or press conferences.Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and professional bodies such as lawyers, pharmacists, engineers and so on must make their views known. They must not sit mute and complain later! Ghanaians must no more leave the destiny of Ghana entirely in the hand of parliamentarians. The old order must change, yielding place to the new. At any stage in debates, there are always vested interests being vigorously canvassed; sometimes foreign interests are surreptitiously promoted to the detriment of the nation so Ghanaians must take nothing for granted. We must speak!

Meeting with constituents

Again, Ghanaians must also arrange for their MPs to meet them in their constituencies at least once every six months to exchange ideas on the well-being of the constituency. In my area (won’t mention), I do not recollect the MP (she has been unseated) meeting us in the constituency to discuss affairs affecting us. During her tenure, no one knows what benefit accrued to us by her presence in Parliament. At best, she gained at our expense! And I dare say it might have happened to many other constituencies. But, I have also known that some people go to their MPs for money as often as they want. MPs are not walking banks! Let’s preserve their integrity and leave them alone to work for us. The more we demand from them, the more they find illegal and corrupt means to make the money they give us!

Another rather sensitive point emerges for discussion. Let’s assume an SSS graduate is a rich spare parts dealer and very popular in his constituency. He stands and is elected to go to Parliament. When bills are being debated, and the nuances of language (draft bill) are being discussed, what contribution would he be able to make? Would he be in his elements or not? I don’t know. But knowing what goes into drafting a legal document, I dare say such a person would be like a fish flopping in a dry pond!

Another scenario. A person aged 25 is voted to enter Parliament by a constituency. The MP has not worked before; does not know budgeting; is not married; and is not well read. How could such a person be entrusted with the enormous and profound duty of legislating for the nation? We must not create the impression that Parliament is there for anybody. Ghana’s woes also emanate from the levity with which we handle affairs of the nation.

Qualifications

So, the question is: What qualifications must a person have for Ghanaians to elect him into Parliament? Article 94 (1-5) of the Constitution gives details of requirements that qualify a person to enter Parliament. Some are that he must be 21 years and above, must not be a criminal and so on.

Beyond what the Constitution says, I would wish that Ghanaians elect to Parliament persons who are very educated. A minimum university education is good enough. And not only that: maturity too counts.A person above 40 years could do better than someone about 30. It is not popularity with which debates are carried on: it is what is in the head, and what comes through the mouth!

Last, women have been clamouring for representation in Parliament. Some more have entered Parliament. How well are their MPs performing? Are they making any extraordinary impact over the men? We need a study to tell us what. Can IMANI handle that?

This article is to make Ghanaians aware that we must all be vigilant in promoting and securing the best interests of our nation. Ghanaians must be aggressive in evaluating the work of Parliament. The notion of some parliamentarians that they are superior to the electorate must be disabused. We must keep them on their toes, and let them know their power comes from us!

Writer’s E-mail: akwesihu@yahoo.com.