The more I reflect on Agyapa, the more I get entrenched in my belief that politics isn’t worth pursuing if it does not lead to those entrusted with power and our national resources expanding these national assets and increasing our sovereign wealth through transparent and consultative processes for the benefit of all and not forming a cabal of ruling elites with a corrosive entitlement mentality engaging in state capture of the crudest kind.
My greatest disappointment, however, has been the institution to which I belong – Parliament.
The 1992 constitutional architecture which establishes a hybrid legislative system has only led to the creation of a pathetically impotent Parliament which has become a lapdog at the mercy of a dominant executive with the latter having absolutely no restraint in the way it goes about abusing its parliamentary majority.
The shocking courage of a domineering executive to approach Parliament with unconscionable deals like Ameri, PDS, Oslo Chancery, Special Development Initiatives Budget, Agyapa Royalties and many others attest to a peculiar contempt for the gatekeeping role of Parliament. Like a hot knife through butter, the executive armed with majority becomes totally unhinged and impervious to public opinion and good conscience as it rams through Parliament with reckless abandon.
As Members of Parliament on both sides, we should feel genuine and thorough embarrassment that the vigorous scrutiny expected of us in the hallow debating chamber has been left entirely to civil society, the media and the general public. A blatant dereliction brought about by a long-standing tradition of the executive bringing controversial agreements to Parliament on the last day of sitting or under a certificate of urgency ostensibly to impede diligent oversight, curtail painstaking scrutiny and avoid meaningful debate on the floor.
The time has come to urgently amend the 1992 Constitution to terminate this failed hybrid legislative configuration and move towards a truly independent Parliament much closer to what Montesquieu envisaged. This charade is no longer tenable.
The practice of appointing majority of Ministers from Parliament should at once be abolished. You either want to be a legislator or a minister of state, not to be elected into parliament as a stepping stone to ministerial appointment. Consistently across multiple administrations, too many MPs on a majority side instead of carrying out oversight are focused on being in the good books of the President in the hopes of catching his eyes for any of the crumbs from the largesse of the almighty executive.
The rather conflicting and incongruous position of Minister of Parliamentary Affairs held by the Majority Leader who at best has divided loyalty though in most instances is more beholding to an overbearing executive must be done away with.
Sadly, Right Honourable Speakers have not forgotten and cannot forget the fate of Speaker Peter Ala Adjetey when he tried to assert some degree of Parliamentary independence and therefore have been careful subsequently not to step on the toes of the President.
When we have amended the constitution and overhauled the governance structure, the voice vote in parliament should be sparingly used and replaced with electronic voting so that MPs can be held individually accountable for the votes we cast instead of the current tradition of hiding behind a chorus of loud caucus votes.
Constituents and researchers should have a clearer opportunity to assess the positions their representatives are taking in their name on every issue. That knowledge of forensic audit of MP’s votes will most likely make MPs consider the full implications and consequences of their votes.
The reforms I advocate must also take into account the financial independence of Parliament as a marked departure from the status-quo which forces Parliament to go begging Finance Ministers for releases.
Then having done all that, let us usher in a new dawn of grooming and protecting MPs with conscience who put the national interest ahead of all considerations – MPs who are not enslaved to extreme partisanship and whip control. MPs in the mould of Ghana’s P.C. Appiah-Ofori and the late John Lewis of the US House of Representatives even though the irony is that in Ghana Mr. Appiah-Ofori was ostracized by his own party while Mr. Lewis was largely adored within and without the Democratic party.
Obviously, as a people, we also need an introspection on the kind of culture that hangs politicians of conviction and celebrates to the high heavens those without principle and scruples. We must learn to discern political treachery and betrayal from national interest politics.
This particular 1992 Constitution has survived the longest in our history, that notwithstanding, its biggest deficiency is the creation of a monstrous executive without countervailing forces that has become an Agyapa to its cronies while a spineless miserable Agyanka (orphan) called parliament cries out for help in our collective interest and long term preservation of this Fourth Republic.
Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa
[MP, North Tongu Ranking Member, Committee on Foreign Affairs]
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