And it rained cats and dogs last Tuesday night. Yet, our Parliament sat throughout the rain just to pass the amended Local Government Act which gives the power to the President to change his own appointees to the district, municipal and metropolitan assemblies.
This happened in spite of the fact that the House was drenched in rain water as the windstorm accompanying the heavy rains ripped off the roof of Parliament. The opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) members boycotted the sitting as the rain fell in the chamber, but the majority went ahead and passed the amendment since they had the numbers anyway.
Thunder, lightning and torrential downpour resulted in the normal rain-caused ‘’dumsor’’ and not merely ‘’dumsor’’ qua ‘’dumsor’’, which is a special malaise caused by incompetence, and not the effect of an act of nature like rainfall no matter how heavy it is. Very soon, Parliament would have to make firm arrangements to have the roof fixed as soon as possible and Ghanaians will watch with eagle eyes who will get the contract and the value of same amidst cascading allegations of corruption, insider dealings and the like. Yes, we may well be interested in fighting corruption but cynicism is very much part of it now.
It had appeared that the fare at the vetting of the President’s ministerial nominees would be our only meal this week until Mr Mahama Ayariga, a Harvard-trained lawyer and Member of Parliament (MP), a deputy minister and minister in the previous President Mahama government, and an able and formidable politician in his own right, revealed the bribery scandal which has engulfed the nation and compelled the Speaker of Parliament, the Right Reverend Professor Michael Oquaye to set up a five-member committee to investigate same and make recommendations.
A diversion of attention?
Into this growing meal of accusations and counter-accusations has been added the voice of our own Vice-President, Alhaji Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, who made the fantastic claim that the new residential building for the Vice-President still under construction will cost us a whopping figure of $13.9 million. Yes, you heard right. Apart from the propriety of a whole Vice-President speaking and revealing matters as if he were on a campaign trail, I found it remarkable that he blamed sole sourcing for this allegedly bloated contract. I noticed at once that if we are building a spanking new place for Vice-Presidents to lay their heads, what was the furore about over the place that President Mahama was staying only a month ago? Is he Dr Bawumia not comfortable where he is staying? If he is, then the new place must be reconfigured to serve other needful purposes.
There is a growing body of opinion which says our Vice-President got into this just to divert attention from the Ayariga story. The bribery matter is, indeed, very serious and threatens the integrity of a vital democratic institution. The Joe Ghartey Committee to investigate same, cannot make recommendations to disembowel our Parliament, neither can they seem to be whitewashing a grave matter of state for collegial purposes. Therefore, some of us are rightly unhappy with Parliament investigating itself though it has the legal power to do so. The chairman of this committee, a former deputy speaker himself and a former attorney-general, may have seemed a good choice but for the fact that he is due to appear before the selfsame Appointments Committee as a Minister-designate for Railways, whose chairman and some members he is to investigate.
Of all the objections to this inquiry, the most laughable in my opinion is that since the majority have the numbers to have their way in any case, there was no need for a monetary assist to nudge agreement. Yes, the majority have the numbers but among them and their colleagues are individuals who pray always to catch the eye of the President for ministerial appointments; so if they can create chances for themselves by rejecting nominees in a secret ballot, the better. Hence, the hallowed doctrine of consensus assures the President and party leader that that is a better approach to get his nominees passed than a direct vote. In short, when it comes to appointments, MPs would very much like to vote as independent people with personal ambitions. Some of us are unschooled in the crafty Kweku Ananse ways of politicians.
The bribery investigation thus means the end of consensus and the inauguration of fierce and bitter partisan warfare in which the most mundane of matters assume extremist do-or-die aspects to our disadvantage as citizens, as policy and programmes are each subjected to unnecessary ballots amidst shouting matches masquerading as debates.
A good example of this phase of our politicking was the fact that the majority insisted on sitting through a rainstorm to pass an innocuous amendment to a law which was passed late last year! But it is not innocuous at all, the President and his party seek to influence to their advantage the upcoming elections to the Council of State by the district, municipal and metropolitan assemblies, hence this crucial amendment at this eleventh hour.
In steps, the Vice-President who is now properly elected and sworn in to deviate us from getting to the bottom of the Ayariga allegation, before his election, those in government were doing propaganda and the opposition spoke the uncomfortable truth! I have written at least twice in this column that the pavement alone at the Flagstaff House cost a whopping $12 million but the Mahama administration failed to investigate this matter. I also know that in spite of the nearly $180 million spent on the place, it did not have the essential features of a garage, a reservoir and a fuel station added as part of the initial design. I am challenging Dr Bawumia to cause to be published the works and values of all the subcontracts carried out by Ghanaian subcontractors in the construction of Flagstaff House. In addition, I am imploring him to lead a campaign to have sole sourcing expunged from the Procurement Act as this seems to him to be the conduit for corruption in public contracts.
I know, however, that there is no way any government in the world will give out contracts for installations of a security nature on public tender as the residences of the President and his Vice are security installations.
To end this, let me share an astonishing portion of what I read last Wednesday in an Accra newspaper by one Yaw Owusu-Frempong: ‘’President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo does not have an English name, John. Indeed, the name ‘Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo is very Afrocentric. To foreigners, it may sound a mouthful and tongue-twisting but to me, it is rhythmic and has a heartbeat that epitomises a tradition of rule of law, peace, freedom and justice – cast in the mould of a Black Star.’’ This treacly usage reminded me of how the late Ghanaian journalist, Eric Heymann, coined ‘’Kwamenasem’’ to replace another coinage, Nkrumaism, to reflect his Nkrumaist zeal. I know President Akufo-Addo, such soppy writing would disgust him.