Failed constituents. Unkept promises, and undeveloped projects. If elections were held tomorrow – lost seats. That’s what new research says about some of our MPs. It’s from the Department of Political Science School of Social Sciences in collaboration with Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.
The researchers interviewed 27,500 people. They engaged constituents from all over the country. They were careful to clarify their research was not into the institution of Parliament, but specifically about MPs role in and their relationship with their constituents.
The research revealed development projects were promised as campaigning MPS sought their constituents' votes. Hospitals, roads, employment, water provision were all part of such projects. Vote achieved, an election won, and constituents say they did not see their MPs again. Nor have the development projects manifest. So says the research.
The Speaker of the House has already said he wants to meet the researchers, and bring them before Parliament. This sounds suspiciously like a threat. He cautioned against what he called ‘MP bashing’ due to the research’s findings.
His comments display a certain sensitivity to the research findings and its particular critique of MPs.
The majority of our MPs are men. Men are 48% of Ghana’s population. That’s true given that 52% are women.
Given this research, we must ask questions of some of the 48% within this world of politics.
What kind of man, what kind of MP are you?
You who hold political power but do little for your constituents – you are part of the 48%.
Are you one of those ignoring the needs of your constituents, and instead has your eyes trained on what you can pocket from your time in office? Are you one of these 48%? Are you one of the 48% catching backhanders for contracts?
Where is your dynamism and activism in juggling your work in Parliament and your promises to your Constituents? Have you truly earned your seat at Ghana’s table of political power or indeed organizational or corporate power? Or are you simply taking up space, entitled and privileged?
A Member of Parliament is one who actively seeks to represent constituents by courting their vote. They must do this in order to represent their constituents in that auspicious body we call Parliament. They should then earn the ongoing support of constituents by delivering on promises made.
This research says many from the 48% simply said what was necessary to get a vote. Once the vote was secured, they abandoned their constituents and off they went to enjoy the power and prospects of their office.
I read, listened and watched as a number of the 48% responded in the days following President Akufo-Addo’s deeply problematic statements at the Women Deliver conference. Our President lamented the absence of activism and dynamism by Ghana’s 52%. Some from the 48% went on air and reminded women that we must earn our place, that political representation does not belong to us just because we are some of the 52%. And on, and on, and on.
Women are not nurtured that they are a citizen. And as a citizen, they belong to their nation, and are entitled to be treated as one who belongs. Belonging manifests in multiple forms. One of those forms is to represent your needs at any table and to have your needs effectively represented.
I listened as some of the 52% hit the airwaves and the small screen. They have defended, explained, written, agreed and disagreed with the President, and they have cited example after example of dynamism and activism. I am among them.
There is a powerful and interesting irony here.
The explaining and defending is symptomatic of one thing. Women are taught that they must earn any place at any table. And we believe that. So, we work, try, fight, try harder.
Beyond the world of politics, MPs, there are the millions of others who wield power from the 48%.
Are you one of the 48% inclined to prey on young girls, choosing teaching as a profession and a cover for your predatory behavior? Research by Plan Ghana back in 2009 revealed that teachers show up in the Top 5 men who sexually abuse vulnerable teenage girls. That has continued to be the case for years. Are you one of those 48%?
Were some of the 52% taught by such teachers among the 48%? Are you one of the 48% who stood by, complicit and silent, knowing that teenage girls whose heads should have been in their schoolbooks were instead navigating harassment by men? Are you one of those 48% who are married with children and who lectures about morality and propriety while the next day fiending to put their hands up a teenage girls school uniform? Are you one of those 48%?
Imagine these headlines: ‘The 48% are a disgrace to Mother Ghana!’ ‘They bring shame on our beloved nation with their predatory behaviours, their pot bellies, their broken marriage vows, their brutality towards women, their incompetence, their failure.’ ‘Shame on the 48%!’
And what about our places of worship?
Are you the religious leaders from the 48%? Are you among those Pastors who claim Jesus but practice an unforgiving, unloving religion that castigates young women seeking help as they move through challenging times? Or are you one who is turning their vulnerability into your opportunism?
Or are you from the 48% in the congregation? You who dishonour your vows, but chastise the women with whom you betray them. You from the 48% who shame women for their bodies, for their lack of husbands, their lack of children, or choice not to have them.
Do you, from the 48%, contribute to the progress of this country? Are you part of the 48% that should represent the citizens of this country, or lead its organizations, its vision and its future?
You who are part of the 48% are unused to such scrutiny of the totality of your gender. You are reading this indignant and outraged. I understand.
It is unfamiliar that your incompetence as an entire group would be called out on the pages of a newspaper. You are unused to having your bodies policed, picked apart and laughed at. You are shocked that time would be taken to roundly condemn you as some of the 48%.
Well. Welcome to the world of the millions of the 52%.
And again, I ask, what about the 5,000 of the 48%.
In the days post the President’s comments, there has not been a single piece of news coverage challenging our President about these 5,000 men. Apparently, these 5,000 men out of the 48%, have been recruited and are ready to serve in the #HeForShe campaign.
That is wonderful. But no-one knows who they are, where they are or what they are doing.
Not a single major media house has pursued this story with the same rigour, passion and intention they have pursued stories of women agreeing, disagreeing, willing to argue, or otherwise, engage with our President’s comments.
The question matters. It matters because it is a reminder that we live in a nation where there is little scrutiny of the lives, actions, words and behaviours of some of the 48%. Their power is untouched and their possibility unthreatened.
The grind of the news cycle has moved on to the next story.
I challenge those among the 48%. We know and respect their names and their work. They include Evans Mensah of Joy FM, Francis Abban of Starr FM, Bernard Avle of Citi FM, Daniel Dadzie of Joy FM, Winston Amoah of 3FM. You are part of the 48% who stands tall.
You use the sharpness of your minds and the eloquence of your voices to ask questions, engage audiences, challenge power day in day out. I invite you to lend the power of your mic to the importance of this question: Mr President, who are these 5,000 men? What are they doing? Where are they?
Men in Ghana make up 48% of the population.
Are you citizens, as we the 52% are? Are you simply doing your best? Courageous, powerful, proud, loving, fighting for the future of a nation jeopardized by some among the 48% who fight harder to hold on to their power than they do to reimagine the vision, progress and possibility of the people of Ghana.
You are men. You are citizens. You are brothers, son, fathers, colleagues, husbands, friends. You contribute to our nation’s future. You hold power.
It is time to reimagine how you use that power.