Ghana has made reasonable strides towards promoting a liberal democratic culture. This is evident in the six successful elections that have been held since 1992.
Nonetheless, there are many constraints that need to be fixed in order to consolidate the gains of democracy over the period.
This is why the ongoing fracas between the Minority members in Parliament and the Speaker need to be settled without delay.
Mistrust in Parliament
The growing mistrust in Parliament is becoming worrying and to the watchers of Ghana’s parliamentary democracy, a wedge between the Speaker and the minority group at this time of our democratic growth is not healthy.
For some time now, minority members in Parliament have not been happy in the House and are up in arms against the Speaker. They have hinted that if the Speaker, Prof. Aaron Mike Oquaye, does not “shed off his partisan colours”, they may file a motion to impeach him.
To draw the battle lines, the minority members, since February this year, have staged walkouts and boycotts over what they claim is the Speaker's continuous refusal to recognise them in the House and show respect to their leadership, an accusation the Speaker has consistently refuted, arguing on matters of procedure. "All leaders in this house know that what the Speaker is now saying is the decision of leadership so that as many members as possible will have the chance to ask their questions and I am applying those rules impartially," Prof. Oquaye explained. But the Minority won’t buy into these explanations and contend that the Speaker is rather not following the laid-down procedures.
Boycotts and walkouts
To think that the use of boycotts and walkouts by the Minority to register its protest against the conduct of the Speaker for stifling and disrespecting their leadership is mind-boggling. This is because in the long term, boycotts have proven not to be so helpful in the good governance process.
However, the claim by the Minority of the consistent refusal by the Speaker to “deliberately” discriminate against their side by refusing to recognise or allow them to ask more supplementary questions or give hearing to their leadership is equally in bad taste.
Some majority members have said that during the Sixth Parliament when they were in the minority, there were countless occasions when the then Speaker discriminated against them by refusing to recognise them in the House.
Nevertheless, the arguments that the Minority’s viewpoints were discriminated against in the past should not be the basis for the current Parliament to continue in that fashion.
The convention that the Minority must have their say and the Majority, their way, in my view must not only be entrenched but sometimes, when necessary, the Minority must also have their way. It will be so sad if the Minority should lose their say and way in the house of legislature.
Many a time to ensure good governance, one cannot be too dependent on one’s political affiliation. Sometimes, one may have to listen to the views from the opposition.
I have never been in favour of parliamentarians walking out of the house, no matter the situation. My view is that our Members of Parliament have to stay in the House and no matter the challenges, let their voices be heard.
The Minority will serve the nation and their constituents better if they continue to open the door of engagement with the Speaker on their differences.
If we are losing confidence in the democratic system, we cannot lose confidence in the house of legislature. We must work hard to restore sanity around the laws of Ghana, as well as the work of the legislature.
25 years of democracy
Twenty-five years of Parliamentary democracy in Ghana require that the Speaker, the Majority and the Minority work in unity to build a stronger Parliament where it can effectively exercise its constitutional responsibility to check, monitor, evaluate and scrutinise the executive arm of government.
Members of Parliament, be it from the Majority or Minority, must all see themselves as working in the national interest first and foremost.
Indeed, as soon as one is elected to be a parliamentarian, such a person automatically ceases to be partisan and must work for Ghana. It should be Ghana first and party or any other issue second.
Unfortunately, that is not what we see during this democratic transition which began in 1992. Over the period, we have seen extreme partisanship in parliamentary deliberations. Our legislature, in some instances, have argued their cases on extreme partisan consideration.
Ghana’s population is now 29.6 million but our development growth is in sharp contrast to our population growth. We do not have jobs for the teeming unemployed youth, sanitation in the capital city is a nightmare, corruption is rife, insecurity is alarming, health care does not match best practices, infrastructural development is not keeping pace with population growth.
Role of citizenry
Parliamentarians must therefore carry out their duties to the nation and focus on the real hard work and to build a strong Parliament.
We, the citizenry, must begin to punish non-performing MPs because we gave them our mandate to serve our interests and boycotts would not serve anyone’s interest, since by the time they return to do business, certain decisions might have been taken during their absence.
Let us remind members from both sides that boycotts and non-compromised positions are not the best in resolving issues. It is only through ‘’jaw-jaw’’ and compromise that we would promote unity and harmony in the House and accelerate the development of democracy and growth of the economy we envisage for the country.
Twenty-five years into the Fourth Republican dispensation, the house of legislature in particular, can therefore, not drop its guard or lower the democratic standards, much more abuse the trust reposed in them to undermine democratic governance.