There are many who have contributed immensely to the growth of Ghana’s parliaments over the years. In charting that course, they did not only made names for themselves, but also strengthened the cause of parliamentary democracy at the time.
The relevance of their non-partisan contributions in parliament has today become a reference point for academic discourse; and a subject matter for many political debates on the current state of Ghana’s parliament.
There were the dynamic trio of the National Alliance of Liberals (NAL) in the 1969, 2nd Republican parliament whose contributions and critique of government policies, helped to put Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia’s Progress Party (PP) government on its toes.
However, the relevance of Ghana’s 4th Republican parliament is the subject of intense ridicule by many democrats, although there was the believe that the current 8th parliament of the 4th Republic, was going to be total departure from the previous seven that we’ve had in this Republic.
This is the first time a governing party has failed to command absolute or even simple majority in the chamber of our parliament. The numbers are pegged at 137 each for the ruling NPP and the major opposition NDC.
The decision by the independent candidate to do business with the NPP tilts the pendulum just slightly in favour of the ruling government. But in just a quarter into the 1st year of the 8th parliament, most Ghanaians are regretting their earlier excitement and independent assessment of the current legislature.
Two major events, including the failure of the lead opposition party, to hold the government to proper accountability have informed such regrettable feeling. These are in relation to what many consider, should have been the outright rejection of some of the President’s ministerial nominees, including Finance Minister, Ken Ofori Atta and this year’s budget statement, which has been tagged as “killer budget”.
Nothing hurt many independent watchers like the manner the opposition NDC, somewhat betrayed the hope and trust that many Ghanaians reposed in them to hold government accountable to its policies and decisions. Many also thought it would have been the best and opportune time to take our parliamentary democracy to another level; and by so doing, improve upon our governance system.
Most Ghanaians had anticipated a new chapter in our parliamentary discourse: a total exit from the rubber stamping era of the previous parliaments of the 4th Republic. It would have also saved us the monotonous spectre of the majority always concurring with the executive, no matter how draconian a government policy might be.
Also it was the belief that the new parliament will not hastily move to do the bidding of the President. In effect, we were heading towards a genuinely consensus building parliament. As such, the system where majority MPs often side wrongfully with the executive, to catch the attention of the President to be made minister of state, would be minimized.
The Ghanaian constitution prescribes that two-third of ministers should be picked from parliament and so you can imagine why especially, MPs on the majority side operate on an auto pilot. It made little surprise that our previous 4th Republican parliaments, came to be associated with the debasing refrain “minority will have their say; majority will have their way”.
The current split in representation in parliament, thus offered us the finest opportunity for especially, the NDC caucus to help change such derogatory narrative. Rather sadly, the NDC has failed Ghanaians at least in the first quarter of the current parliament. And these are in relation to the President’s nominee ministers and the approval of this year’s budget as alluded to earlier in the write-up.
Who are the Jones Ofori Attas & G.K. Agamas of our 8th Parliament?
History has a way of reminding us from various perspectives. At least in our current parliament, there is one major landmark decision that then minority group led by J.H Mensah took, that still etches in the minds of many Ghanaians.
The novelty decision by J.H Mensah to stage a walk-out or boycott proceedings because of the group’s intense disagreement with the majority, might not be that popular among NDC supporters at the time. However, with the benefit of hindsight, the walkout vindicates the position of J.H. Mensah and the NPP MPs.
What they did constituted the highest point of protest; and at least alerted the majority, even if they wouldn't agree at the time, that they cannot always bulldoze their way through with their sheer numbers. And that common sense, even dictates that they listened also to the views of the minority.
This is an epoch period in our current parliamentary democracy that our MPs should pick its useful lessons, if they want their names to be etched in our democratic journey. The highest point in our parliamentary governance, was when two opposition factions in parliament, joined forces to torpedo the 1st budget statement of Dr. Hilla Limann, the president of the 3rd Republic.
That budget was presented by then Finance Minister, Dr. Amon Nii Koi. The move for the rejection of the budget was initiated by Dr. Jones Ofori Atta, then ranking member on Finance from the opposition Popular Front Party (PFP). The landmark motion was supported/backed by Dr. G.K. Agama of the governing People’s National Party (PNP), the very party that had produced the sitting president.
Indeed, when the issue was put to vote, the majority joined the minority to throw over-board the Limann budget, which was later re-packaged and presented by new Finance Minister, Dr. George Benneh. Finance Minister, Amon Nii Koi resigned; he never hanged on.
Its clear parliament was able to work independently at the time because it was not an appendage of the President and his executive. The 3rd Republican MPs acted in their collective conviction, without resorting to favouring the executive to in turn, earn some ministerial considerations from the President.
To show how the three arms of government at the time were that independent, Mr. Harry Sawyerr who was an MP on the ticket of the UNC had to resign his position in Parliament when he was nominated by Limann as the minister of Transport.
This is the conundrum we face in our current parliament. How do we ensure our MPs act in the interest of their constituents? Do we consider bringing back the strict Presidential system of government where each institution of government acts separately from the other?
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