Against all odds, we have a new Speaker from the opposition party. This is historic as it is the first time such a feat has ever-happened in the Fourth Republic with a Speaker not from the ruling party but rather from the opposition.
Since Ghana returned to democratic rule on January 7, 1993, the country has had seven Speakers of Parliament. They are the late Justice Daniel Francis Annan from 1993 to January 6, 2001; Mr Peter Ala Adjetey from January 7, 2001 to January 6, 2005; Mr Ebenezer Begyina Sekyi-Hughes from January 7, 2006 to January 6, January 2009; Mrs Justice Joyce Adeline Bamford-Addo from January 7, 2009 to January 6, 2013; Mr Edward Doe Adjaho from January 7, 2013 to January 6, 2017; Prof. Aaron Mike Oquaye from January 7, 2017 to January 6, 2021 and now the current Eighth Speaker, Mr Alban Kingsford Sumana Bagbin, who assumed duty from January 7, 2021.
Oquaye vrs Bagbin
The high-pitched contest between Prof. Oquaye and Mr Bagbin on January 7, 2021 is not new in our political terrain as far as the election of a Speaker in Ghana’s Fourth Republican dispensation is concern.
In 2006, while the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) proposed Mr Sekyi-Hughes for the position of Speaker, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) proposed Mr Ala Adjetey, who was the immediate past Speaker, for the position.
Interestingly, although both personalities were from the ruling NPP, Mr Ala Adjetey was proposed by the opposition NDC. He finally lost the seat.
However, in 2021, while the governing NPP proposed Prof. Oquaye for a second term, the opposition NDC proposed one of their own, Mr Bagbin, the longest serving Member of Parliament and a Second Deputy Speaker of Ghana’s Seventh Parliament. Mr Bagbin, won the day to become the country’s Speaker in the Eighth Parliament.
With his elevation, we now have a situation where the ruling party (NPP) holds the Executive and the opposition party (NDC) moderating Parliament.
No description can best fit what has happened to Mr Bagbin than to say fate has been kind to him and he must reciprocate this through service to humanity. More importantly, he must remain truthful to the nation and himself at all times.
Authority and neutrality
The Speaker, as a matter of duty, must at all times exhibit authority and neutrality based on the rule of law.
Fortunately, Mr Bagbin has been the Member of Parliament for Nadowli/Kaleo constituency in the Upper West Region in the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh Parliaments of the Fourth Republic and now elevated from a Deputy Speaker to Speaker of the Eighth Parliament.
He himself acknowledged this great feat and declared it in his speech after he was sworn into the high office: “I thank the almighty God for his abundant grace on me and my family. I thank all of you for bestowing this honour and great responsibility on me. Let me not forget Ghanaians, Electoral Commission, all political parties, CSOs, media and more importantly my party, the great National Democratic Congress (NDC), for proposing me to be elected to be the Speaker of the 8th Parliament for the 4th Republic of Ghana. I will submit myself to the will of this house. I will serve faithfully to the best of my ability.”
Today, with the Speaker belonging to the opposition, what it means is that we need a national consensus. Bipartisanship is the only way forward and must be the winner in the Legislature.
Both the NPP and NDC must come together to build mother Ghana. At this crucial stage in our development, we need a forward looking Parliament that will always seek the national interest.
The Eighth Parliament will not be a soft one. It will require tact, great negotiations capability and competence to navigate proceedings.
As a legislator, Second Deputy Speaker and while seeking to become the 2020 Presidential Candidate of the NDC, I have come into contact with Mr Bagbin many times and in all our interactions he comes across as a highly principled person, firm and fair in character with the nation greatly at heart.
These virtues already identified by many political actors, may have won the hearts and votes for Mr Bagbin in the closely contested election to beat the incumbent Speaker, Professor Oquaye.
For the first time in the Fourth Republic, Ghana is looking at experiencing a hung Parliament.
This is because the ruling NPP and the NDC, in the 2020 parliamentary election, are set to equally share the spoils.
Whatever the case may be, with one independent candidate in the mix, is sure to make debates, the passage of bills and the approval of loans, grants and other financial facilities very intriguing and interesting.
Walkouts by the opposing side, as witnessed in the previous Parliament, may no longer be the first option, as both sides may have equal say and votes on every matter on the floor of the House.
Across the country, the expectations are that the composition of the current Parliament will benefit the country and its citizens, as no bills can be rushed through the House without exhaustive debate and due diligence or scrutiny being applied.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, in his acceptance speech last week Thursday, alluded to the need for both sides of the political divide to cooperate and work together in the interest of mother Ghana.
Rise above partisanship
This can be done, if as a nation, we all rise above partisanship on issues of national concern. No side - NPP and NDC - should use its numbers in Parliament to frustrate the legislative processes.
Both sides of the house, under the leadership of Speaker Bagbin, must endeavour to treat every item on the floor on its own merit, and that if there is the need to hasten anything to save the country, it must be done.
If Ghana would chalk up more successes and add to its democratic credentials, our legislators would have to be more country-minded than party-focused.
As has been advanced before, we wait with bated breath for intellectual discourse on the floor of Parliament, which will make Ghana greater, stronger and more prosperous.