Job 600 and Members of Parliament

BY: Joe Frazier

So named as the 600th major construction project undertaken by the Ghana National Construction Company (GNCC) whose name was later changed to State Construction Company (SCC), Job 600 was built in time to host  the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) Summit in 1965. Besides the sweeping architectural touch it offers to the Accra skyline, Job 600 packs a lot of history whose narration is best left for certain venerable members of our society who had played very major roles in the conception and construction of this edifice.

 

Nevertheless, I cannot resist the temptation to share some personal reminiscences with readers in as far as they relate to it being the permanent home for Ghana’s Parliament and modern offices for Members of Parliament.

Messrs. K.A Gbedema and Nelson Maglo were the first MPs I saw and listened to. The two gentlemen were CPP Members of Parliament for Keta and Avenor respectively. In their own words, they had come to Atiavi to campaign for Mr Kulevome, the CPP Candidate with the objective of rescuing the South Anlo Constituency from the United Party (UP) which was represented in Parliament by  Modesto Apaloo.

 On the day of the rally, it rained cats and dogs from early morning to mid –day and the road, never in a motor-able condition even in the best of weathers, was a very messy challenge for the two MPs. In his speech, K.A Gbedema wisecracked that the state of the road should serve as punishment for the people of the constituency for consistently denying the CPP that seat; they should learn their lesson and vote for Kulevome for good roads.

The UP or “the Cocoa Tree” claimed the seat again on the promise of abolishing the poll tax simply known as the l’impot whose introduction had caused a civil disturbance a few years back. It appeared then that it was an issue that touched the lives of the electorate more than the provision of good roads. In addition, the people said they would not waste their votes on a habitual absentee who would abandon the constituency for an air-conditioned office in Accra and would not articulate their concerns in debates.

At the time I came to attend school in Accra, some senior cabinet ministers had a fall-out with Nkrumah and were demoted. Gbedemah and Krobo Edusei dropped from the pecking order of the Cabinet. Worse for Gbedema, he was in real danger of being snapped up by the Prevention Detention Act and he had to flee the country. Even for a young boy of my age, I came to the conclusion that MPs and ministers were, after all, also human. They could be punished or sacked by the President. Today, I wonder if Ghanaians know that in a constitutional tool called recall, they, the ordinary people, have such power over their representatives.

Throughout the history of Ghana’s parliamentary democracy, the complaint about “dumb MPs” has become a standing joke. People who have access to the Hansard would search the pages in an attempt to spot a contribution by their MP. There was a particular MP who, getting embarrassed by his perceived  poor performance, never missed any opportunity to tell his constituents, “Those you read about every day in the newspapers are talkative MPs. We the quiet ones are the most effective in committee meetings where the laws are made.” This may well be true. But, who delivers on all the promises about roads, water, electricity and schools? Are MPs not agents of development?

Lest I get carried away, I need to state that during the construction of Job 600, the building collapsed twice, killing an undisclosed number of workers. The construction was done in such haste to beat the deadline for the OAU Summit timeline. Probably, some of the concrete columns had not cured sufficiently before more loads were added. Thus, a fair amount of the blood of artisans had been poured unnecessarily. I need also to add that only three years ago, the entire 12th floor of the building was gutted by fire. Can one imagine the human life and priceless documents sacrificed here? What are the current occupants offering in return?

Now with the complete refurbishment and inauguration of the 252 offices for our MPs and all the modern add-ons of office complexes matching Westminster Abbey, the usual complaint of lack of adequate office accommodation must belong to the past. The MPs must settle down, read and understand bills. It is then that they can engage in effective debate.

If you ask me who my ideal MP has been, I will, without hesitation shout the name of Ambassador Dan Abodakpi. He represented the Keta Constituency, an area with a challenging terrain for roads. This man fostered self-help. During his tenure, he partnered development associations of even some god-forsaken villages to build roads and bring pipe-borne water and electricity to the areas. I have no qualms with such a person even if he were a Mugabe.

 

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(Author: Blame not the Darkness; Akora; The Sissain Bridge)