From left; Collins Owusu Amakwah, Mark Assibey Yeboah, Ben Abdalah and William Quaitoo

As at the last count around 9 pm GMT Saturday, 39 sitting New Patriotic Party (NPP) Members of Parliament who stood for elections to be retained as the party’s parliamentary candidates going into the 2020 elections had lost their primaries.

That’s almost 25% of all the 169 NPP MPs in Parliament. Simply put, almost one in every four NPP Member of Parliament lost Saturday’s contests. That’s even after about 65 others sailed through uncontested. The casualties could have been more if it was a free-for-all fight across all the 169 constituencies. 

The list of losers includes 13 Parliamentary Committee Chairmen, four Parliamentary Committee Vice Chairmen, three Ministers, three Deputy Ministers and 16 MPs without portfolio. Parliament has 14 Standing Committees and 16 Select Committees that oversee various aspects of the nation’s governance and work in the legislature. Leadership on almost half of the Committees have been given red cards by the people who sent them to the House.

Chairman of Parliament’s Health Committee, Dr. Kwabena Twum Nuamah; Chairman of Food and Agricultural Committee, Kwame Asafu Adjei; Chairman of the Defence and Interior Committee, Seth Acheampong; Chairman of Works and Housing Committee, Nana Amoako; Chairman of Poverty Reduction Committee, Godfred Tangu Bayon; Chairman of Finance Committee, Dr. Mark Assibey Yeboah and Chairman of Communications Committee, Fredrick Opare Ansah have all lost.

Also, Chairman of the Education Committee, William Quaitoo; Chairman of Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee, Ben Abdallah; Chairman of Government Assurances Committee, Collins Owusu Amankwaah; Chairman of the Gender and Children Committee, Dr. Kojo Appiah Kubi; Chairman of the Trade and Industry Committee, Nana Amaniampong Marfo and the Chairman of Youth and Sports Committe, Alex Agyekum have also lost.

Just as vice chairman of Parliament’s Food and Agriculture Committee, Abraham Odoom; Vice Chairman of Roads and Transport Committee, Kofi Brako; Vice Chairman of Trade and Tndustry Committee, Solomon Ato Panford and Vice Chairman of Poverty Reduction Committee, Ahmed Arthur all lost Saturday’s contests.

I’m focusing attention on the Chairmen of the various Committees because they remain very important individuals in ensuring a functioning Parliamentary system. When any government business is introduced in Parliament for approval, the Speaker refers it to the appropriate Committee which consists of about 25 members from both majority and minority sides. So, issues of health get referred to Health Committee, issues of finance get referred to Finance Committee, issues of roads get referred to Roads Committee, among others.

After the relevant Committee examines the referral, led by the chairperson, it brings its report to the floor recommending whether the House should adopt or reject. And so usually, the process of getting parliament to approve any government business is shepherded greatly by the chairmen and vice Chairmen of the Committees.

With all these high-profile persons losing the mandate to return to the house next year, the dynamics in the homestretch of this 7th parliament over the next six months will be interesting. It’s clearly all bad news for the NPP in Parliament. Obviously, morale on the side of the majority will be badly hit. The energy on the part of these Chairmen and Vice Chairmen to even show up in Parliament to do government business will hit rock bottom. They may be patriots, but they are also humans. If you stay home or spend your time doing private business for the next 6 months, you will still earn your monthly salary and ex-gratia after 7th January2021. So why show up in parliament to get the work done after you have been bruised and battered like it’s no one’s business instead of resting?

‘Numbers game’ on the floor 

And a laid-back Majority may well put the Minority in a better position to frustrate government business as the NDC MPs have tried to do on several occasions without success because they don’t have enough numbers. You remember when Parliament voted on the report of the Subsidiary Legislation Committee on the Electoral Commission’s controversial Constitutional Instrument, Public Elections (Registration of Voters) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 C.I. 126, amending the law on the compilation of a new voters’ register? The vote was split along party lines. Out of the total of 106 minority MPs, the NDC was able to marshal 92 of them to come vote. The majority which has 169 MPs only managed to draw out 106 of its members to partake in that crucial vote. So, instead of the 63-member advantage the Majority has in parliament, on this very crucial vote on the C.I., they were able to beat the Minority with just 14 votes. Can you imagine if that was playing out at a time when lackadaisical posturing had set in because almost one fourth of majority MPs are demoralized and uninterested in what happens in the house? That would obviously be dire for the majority side and NPP government.

Debates outside chamber

It’s not only committee chairs who lost their seats. Three Ministers also lost the NPP primaries along with three Deputy Ministers, including Minister for Aviation, Joseph Kofi Adda; Western North Regional Minister, Kingsley Aboagye Gyedu; Eastern Regional Minister, Eric Kwakye Darfour; Deputy Minister for Monitoring and Evaluation, William Kwasi Sabi; Deputy Minister for Roads and Highways, Kwabena Owusu Aduomi and Deputy Minister for Food and Agriculture, Dr. Sagre Bambagni. The list of MPs without portfolio who lost is too long for me to re-produce here and so I would rather not.

When the NDC held their primaries last year, nine incumbent MPs lost. The biggest loss of all being that of Wa West MP and then ranking member on the Health Committee, Joseph Yieleh Chireh. The NPP’s loses is almost four times that of the NDC. That’s big.

The Minority NDC MPs have not won every debate in the court of public opinion over the last three and half years. But they have had more wins than the NPP. Even in the media space, the opposition MPs have outshined the majority MPs. Obviously, that is likely to get worse for the majority MPs who will be nursing their wounds over the next six months even as the minority fire power continues to get fiery and fierce with every passing day. What all these playouts in the chamber and on the corridors of parliament will mean for the polls itself on 7th December is an analysis I will reserve for another day.

Experienced MPs are leaving… And so what?

I believe in democracy. And I believe contest is a significant part of our democratic practices. It’s the people in the constituency who should decide who represents them in parliament. Not political party executives or anyone sitting in Accra. And so, I disagree with the recent call by some leaders in parliament for some form of protection for so-called “performing MPs” so they don’t have to face contest every four years. But the reality is that in every profession, experience matters. That’s why when companies advertise employment opportunities, they consciously discourage people who finished university just yesterday from applying. And place a minimum cap on how many years of experience one should have before they even think of responding to the advertisement. Can you imagine if your company was filled with only fresh graduates who have no experience, networks or institutional memory? It will collapse in days.

This current parliament of 275 members has 136 of them being new entrants. That’s about 50%. So definitely, the loss of more experienced hands going into the next parliament in 2021 will impact work negatively. More than 54 MPs are exiting including 39 losing NPP MPs, four retiring NPP MPs, nine losing NDC MPs, and two retiring NDC MPs, among others. And we know more sitting MPs will obviously lose in the December elections itself.

If everyone leaves parliament to make way for fresh faces every four years, who will teach who what? And mind you, parliament is a house of procedure and precedents. Processes in filing questions to summon ministers, making statements and moving motions on the floor require time to master.