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Opinions of Sunday, 4 September 2011

Columnist: Atugiya, David

Kick out None Performing Northern MPs in 2012

The call by identifiable groups such Northern Patriots in Research and Advocacy (NORPRA) and other individuals from the north not to renew the mandate of the current Members of Parliament (MPs) from the North in the 2012 general elections is apt and timely. It is about time, voters whether from the north or south of Ghana held the bull by the horn and demanded accountability from their MPs some of whom can be rightly described by their failures and actions as dishonourable.
It is not my intension to cause hurt to any northern MP who might be reading this piece but one strongly holds the view by NORPRA and many northern voters, regrettably so, that the records or performance of our northern MPs over the years in the Ghanaian Parliament has been lamentably abysmal and nothing to write home about. Having painstakingly gone through the Gazette of Parliament from the first Parliament to the current; and considered in totality the performance of Northern MPs in the floor of the house of Parliament, particularly on issues of the North; one has to regrettably and sadly agree with NORPRA and many others that both majority and minority members of Parliament from the three northern regions have over the years failed to champion the cause of their respective constituencies by articulating their issues in Parliament.
There are those who will argue that the north has produced vey good ministerial material over the years some of whom have been MPs, which one proudly agrees with but does not answer the critics the role that northern MPs ought to play as elected representatives of the North.
It is important to remind ourselves the role of an MP. A Member of Parliament (MP) is elected by a particular area or constituency to represent them in Parliament. MPs divide their time between their constituency and the House of Parliament in Ghana. Once elected it is an MP's job to represent all the people in his or her constituency. An MP can ask Government Ministers questions, speak about issues especially concerning their constituencies in the house of Parliament, consider and propose new laws.
Also as elected representatives of the people, MPs are supposed to ensure that all constituency members know who they are, how to contact them, what they can do to help deal with constituency problems, raising other matters in the house of Parliament, dealing with petitions and campaigns (lobbying) and importantly organising tours of the House of Parliament (visiting the Gallery) for their constituency members. One doubts how many MPs including the northern ones can proudly say they have an unblemished record or have passed this test.
It is very sad and heartbreaking to note that as soon as some of our northern MPs are elected and get to Accra, they immediately and deliberately change their telephone numbers to avoid what they commonly and pathetically term “disturbances from their constituencies”. Some MPs hardly go back to their constituencies on a regular basis and even those who do, hardly hold constituency surgeries.
There is this old and unsustainable argument that both past and present MPs put up all the time that MPs are not well paid and lack financial resources and therefore cannot undertake to visit their constituencies as required. Yes, we have heard all these excuses time and time again and yet people still put themselves up to become MPs. Why will someone put his or her self forward to be elected as an MP and then fail to live up to expectation? In this information technology and mobile telephony world today, it is indefensible for any MP from the north to find it difficult to account for his or her work performance in Parliament to their constituencies.
If some of these good for nothing none performing MPs can create pages in some of the social media networks such as Face book to chart to their friends why can’t they use the same medium to reach out to some of their constituency members? The Face book and other social media network might not be accessible to most of the people in the north but the small number of people that are able to access these social media networks can be a force for good in spreading the word of what MPs are doing on their behalf in Parliament.
Lets face it, there has been a catalogue of issues such those mentioned in the NORPRA press statement of 23 August 2011 and others in past press statements and communiqués issued by various northern groups that the people of the north quite legitimately had expected their MPs whether in the majority or minority side, to have raised them for debate in the floor of the house of Parliament; but their expectations have continuously been embarrassingly and shockingly dashed.
The conduct of MPs from the Western and Central regions in the recent debate in the house of Parliament about the $3 billion Chinese loan for infrastructure and other developmental projects in these respective regions deserves commendation from all democratic loving people. Their united and determined voice and action at the floor of Parliament as elected representatives of Western and Central regions respectively; in wooing other MPs to vote for the approval of the $3 billion loan bill, epitomises the role of MPs as the voters or peoples’ representatives. These MPs including some social commentators such as Comrade Kwesi Pratt, were championing the collective interest of the people of the two regions.

This is what the people of the north expect from their MPs even if other Ghanaians view the actions of the Western and Central regions MPs as regionalism or sectionalism.

All MPs and most particularly the northern ones should know that their allegiance is first and foremost to their constituencies; and if they fail to appreciate this basic fact and make amends, then deservedly they should be shown the exit as MPs in the 2012 elections.

David Atugiya
The author is a Human Rights and Social Justice Campaigner, Finance and Management Consultant; Specialist in NGO and Millennium Awards Fellow.