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A lesson for our legislators

BY: Kobby Asmah
Kobby Asmah
Kobby Asmah

The past week has not been good for members of the House of the Legislature as they have come under a barrage of criticisms.

Social media is still agog with many Ghanaians from diverse backgrounds sharing their sentiments, frustrations or disappointment at some of the things they do as members of the Legislature.

Rightly or wrongly, our Members of Parliament (MPs) need to quickly learn some useful lessons from the sentiments being shared on the various social media platforms to win the confidence and trust of their constituents.

Dramatic encounter

First, is the MP for Kade Constituency, who has been in the news for the wrong reasons.

His dramatic encounter with the Motor Traffic and Transport Department (MTTD) of the Ghana Police Service on the Legon bypass for road traffic offences by his driver has incurred the wrath of many Ghanaians.

The MP, in a video circulating on social media, is seen challenging the MTTD officers with the excuse that he was rushing to a meeting in Parliament at 8:00a.m. and that he was working in the nation’s interest.

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The video also has the MP threatening to report the police officers to the Inspector General of Police (IGP).

Working in national interest

The truth of the matter is that the legislator dug his own hole by arguing that he was working in the interest of the nation.

Who in Ghana is not working in the national interest? Any Ghanaian making contributions to national development is working in the nation’s interest.

In this regard, many Ghanaians - civil and public servants, farmers, traders and artisans will all qualify to be working towards the national interest.

Using national duty as an excuse to engage in violations and wrongful acts definitely is not the way to go and I want to trust that our lawmaker from Kade will learn his lessons thoughtfully.

That stretch of road our MP was using is noted for recklessness by drivers resulting in avoidable accidents that have caused injury, death and destruction of property.

And so it was most unfortunate that our MP chose to challenge the authority of the Police MTTD officials for discharging their duty of checking recklessness on the roads.

The least we all could do as citizens of the land is to support the police who are on duty trying to instil discipline.

MPs by the constitution are not above the law. Though MPs are the lawmakers, they are not expected to break the law. That is why it was very worrying to see our respected lawmaker do the needless with the police officers.

US$200 million chamber

Then comes the move by the leadership of Parliament to embark on building a new US$200 million debating chamber for MPs.

The proposed 450-seating capacity chamber, which the Parliamentary Services Board hoped to build within three years, has also sent tongues wagging across the country.

But what has occasioned parliament to consider building the new chamber?

There are arguments that the present chamber in the State House is not fit for purpose because it lacks adequate facilities and poses certain security risks.

Are there any merits in the arguments, especially when in 2012, the Job 600 Complex was inaugurated to accommodate 252 MPs and there is even room for expansion to cater for the remaining MPs?

Indeed, Parliament right from Speaker Doe Adjaho’s tenure to date has been asking for a new chamber and a competitive bidding process for the new project was done by Speaker Mike Oquaye. Indeed, both the Majority and the Minority leaders have been fully engaged in the whole process.

But has there been enough stakeholder engagements to get the necessary buy-in from especially the citizens of the land? It appears parliamentary discussions on the proposal failed to consider the views of those they represent.

Wrong timing

The problem Parliament is currently facing in my view is about public perception of the institution. Ghana’s Parliament is increasingly losing its reverence.

The public perception of its relevance based on what they see and hear Parliament do is very discouraging.

Sometimes it is so worrying to see some of our legislators trade insults. All these go to affect the institution negatively.
On the proposal, Parliament has no choice but to go back to the drawing board and take a second look at the project.
And it will be good that Parliament carries the citizens along in all that it does.