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Opinions of Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Columnist: Adaba, Godfried B.

Re: Parliamentarians express worry about loss of incumbents

... at primaries

The above titled article on General News of Thursday, 22 May 2008 makes unsettling reading. According to this GNA article, members of parliament expressed concern over the loss of incumbent and experienced members of parliament at various political party primaries and suggested that steps be taken to help the situation. I find it rather unnerving that in these times of high and rising fuel and food prices, making life difficult for the average Ghanaian, our honourable MPs are losing sleep over colleagues losing their party primaries.

Ironically, some MPs have forgotten all too soon that they owe their parliamentary seats to the rejection previous incumbents. They seem to be oblivious of the fact that (while experience is important for the work of parliament) experience does not vote, but constituents do. The Ghanaian voter is getting increasing discerning and will not retain experienced MPs who may no longer serve their best interests. There is no place in parliament for MPs who have lost touch with their constituencies or outlived their usefulness and in some cases have become complacent, self-serving, arrogant and regard their seats as a birth right. Why should anyone worry about an MP whose own party members at the constituency level think he or she no longer deserves to be their representative? Is this not what democracy is all about? Is the rejection of such MPs not an indictment on their service to their constituents?

In the report, Hon. Alhaji Mubarak Mutaka cites the case of some MPs in advanced democracies that have been reelected for as many as 19 times to support his case for experienced MPs to be retained. This is indeed true. Edward Kennedy, a US Senator from Massachusetts has been in the US Senate since 1962. But what the Honorable MP does not realize is that a person like Sen. Kennedy has kept his US senate seat for that long on the back of selfless and distinctive service to his constituents and country over the years and not by experience alone. There are examples in the Ghanaian parliament (across the party divide) where incumbent MPs have served 3 terms, this may be indicative of good service. In my opinion, good MPs will always be rewarded by their constituents with a renewal of their mandates in the next election cycle.

I commend those MPs who for some reason decided voluntarily not to contest their party primaries. Such MPs recognize they have had their chance to serve their country and constituents as members of parliament and should make way for others to also do so. I do understand that MPs will miss some of their colleagues who lost at the primaries, but that need not find expression on the floor of parliament when there more important issues to address. Those MPs that lost their party primaries but are a storehouse of knowledge on parliamentary work can continue to contribute to the work of parliament from outside as consultants or advisers. You do not necessarily have to be sitting MP to help in parliament’s work.

I hope good Ghanaians will support me in strongly condemning Hon. Kyei-Mensa Bonsu’s suggestion that relevant portions of party constitutions be amended to retain sitting MPs. In my opinion, this will eventually usurp the will of the good people of Ghana, diminish parliament’s credibility in the eyes of Ghanaians or even make it an elected dictatorship. I am not adverse to MPs seeking reelection for as many times as they want, but this must be done fairly. I won’t be surprised is the same MP calls for a constitutional amendment in the future to extend the term of sitting presidents, gradually taking Ghana down the ruinous trail of Cameroon and Zimbabwe.

Godfried B. Adaba

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