Don’t you dare to joke with Ghanaian Speakers of Parliament. They are powerful; after all, they are Presidents-in-waiting, stepping in when President and his Vice are out of town.
I often wonder how those among them suffering from delusions of grandeur feel when, after acting for a few days, the President returns and they have to step aside.
I confess my ignorance: I knew about “Contempt of Parliament”, but never “Contempt of Speaker”. Until Alban Bagbin sat in that chair.
Remember, he is no ordinary Speaker: until his Speakership election the longest serving MP; a lawyer acquainted with the craft of law making. Even the circumstances of his election have gone into thehistory books now. So he is not talking “by heart” when decrees and threats issue from his imperious and imperial throne.
I wonder, though, what is going through his mind, now that it is obvious the Roads Minister will notreverse the Toll Booth “cease work” order, as directed by Mr Speaker. Unsure what exactly the Constitution says in these matters – especially when history of Parliamentary proceedings shows that directives of Speakers are mostly in reference to work in Parliament or by MPs – I am sure the Minister’s wife and children are sitting on thorns, waiting with fear and trepidation to see how unmercifully, Speaker Bagbin’s wrath will descend on their husband and father. They may be wondering:“Can Speakers remove Ministers?”
Same way, Akufo Addo knows what confronts his future against a Speaker who reminds himself that he possesses power to remove Presidents.
What has occasioned these threats? Why has it become necessary for this Speaker to remind Ghanaians that he is powerful? If it is true, as he says, that so far, “all the laws we have been passing are laws we passed to benefit the executive”, does the cure lie in having a Speaker who can remove Presidents?
As if this country had not had enough chaos and upheavals on its hands, what with weekly labour agitations, spousal murders, seemingly never ending horror on our highways, these days we go to bed not knowing what the 6am news on radio and social media will be announcing from the Speaker’s throne.
I have not known all Speakers of Parliament since 1957, let alone their personal idiosyncrasies.Listening to yarns spun about them by those who followed their days in office, I get the impression that they were like judges, sober as a lord. That is why judges are not supposed to be quarrelsome, not even defend their judgements in public.
I remember Rt Hon Sekyi-Hughes (2005 – 2009) but unfortunately for the wrong reasons, namely the ultimatum to him by the Parliamentary Service Board to return soft furnishings in his official residence which he took home at the end of his tenure.
Speaker Joyce Bamford-Addo (2009 – 2013) will be remembered for her shocking “truth is not a defence”pronouncement.
Rt Hon Aaron Mike Ocquaye (2017 – 2021), was the Speaker who told off the western powers in their threats against Ghana on the LGBTQI issue. Mostly, however, I remember Speaker Ocquaye for working, sometimes too hard, to fade off our memory of Kwame Nkrumah.
Speaker D. F. Annan was firm and fair, though at one sitting, he stepped in to save NDC from losing a debate. In that make-or-break heated session, he simply refused to “recognize” an NPP MP who was frantically gesticulating to catch the Speaker’s eye. He later explained later that “I didn’t see him”. Clever man!
Enter Bagbin. Like a headmaster, he resents being disobeyed. And now we know it: Speakers of Parliament can remove a President. I am sure readers have an idea what I am referring to. Speaking at Ho last weekend, Bagbin weighed his powers against Nana Akufo-Addo’s and announced that “as Speaker, His Excellency cannot remove me, but I can, through Parliament, get him removed”.
A historian friend suddenly remembered 2019 when social media was awash with posters of Bagbinannouncing his “decision” to contest Election 2020 on the ticket of NDC. One poster read: ‘Our Hope For 2020, Alban Bagbin’. I asked my friend one question: did Bagbin have a hand in the circulation of the posters?
I am still asking myself: when and where did the very idea of the possibility of removing the President jump from into the imagination of a Speaker?
How should Akufo Addo see this: case of the dog showing its teeth to reveal an intention? Will he listen to those who have his ear, never to be out of the jurisdiction at the same time as his Vice?
I’m still wondering: how has all this become necessary now?
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