The Executive Director of the African Centre for Parliamentary Affairs (ACEPA) has argued that the seeming tension between Speaker Alban Bagbin and First Deputy Speaker Joseph Osei-Owusu stems from political differences.
Speaking on JoyNews’ AM Show, Dr Rasheed Draman explained that the 7th Parliament, presided over by Prof Mike Oquaye, was not characterised by the public display of disapproval by the Speaker and his Deputy.
He noted that although Mr Osei-Owusu served as a deputy to Mr Mike Oquaye and may have had some outstanding issues to resolve with the Speaker, they were not made public as can be seen now in the 8th Parliament.
Interacting with Benjamin Akakpo on Monday, Dr Draman, therefore, concluded that “there is certainly politics playing out here.”
“Let’s step back for a minute and ask the question. Assuming we didn’t have a split Parliament the way we do have it now, assuming we didn’t have a Speaker is from a different party than the First Deputy Speaker, would we be seeing this public display of differences between the number 1 and 2 person in Parliament?
“I don’t think so. If it was the 7th Parliament where Prof Aaron Mike Oquaye was Speaker and the same right Joseph Osei-Owusu was the First Deputy Speaker, I’m sure they had their shelved disagreements. I don’t that what the right Honourable Speaker did then was fully supported by the party.”
Dr Draman noted that he believes “they found a way of dealing with their differences in a democratic way and in a way that doesn’t give any impression that the Office of the Speaker is under any threat or that they couldn’t work together.”
He continued, “In every human institution, let’s be real, conflicts occur. I think for me, the way those conflicts are dealt with is what gives a clear sign that in a democracy, we have a way in dealing with our differences without those differences coming out to the public where people who are watching would say there are no rules or mechanisms for dealing with differences.”
Following his submission, he reiterated the presence of “power play”, adding that “somebody watching closely, with having all the details and looking at where each is coming from cannot but maybe arrive at that conclusion.”
For Dr Rasheed Draman, it is irrelevant who is in the right with regard to the matter.
He indicated that “the most important thing is that I think the Right Honourable Speaker and his Deputy must find a way to talk.”
A clash between the Speaker and his Deputy
The Speaker Alban Bagbin and First Deputy Speaker Joseph Osei-Owusu have made headlines for their disagreements on some issues in Parliament.
The first involved the rejection of the 2022 budget statement by the Speaker in the absence of the Majority Group and the subsequent approval of the budget statement by the First Deputy Speaker in the absence of the Minority Group.
In reaction, the North Tongu MP, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, noted that the Majority’s decision to approve the rejected 2022 budget is a declaration of war against Speaker Alban Bagbin and Ghanaians.
Recently, a motion filed by Ajumako-Enyan-Esiam MP, Cassiel Ato Forson, to constitute a bi-partisan committee to probe into the Covid-19 expenditure by government saw the Speaker and his Deputy take a different stance.
The motion, which Speaker Alban Bagbin earlier admitted, was later rejected by Mr Osei-Owusu when he assumed the role of the Speaker.
Following this, the Speaker expressed dissatisfaction with First Deputy Speaker, Joseph Osei-Owusu. Speaker Bagbin indicated that Mr Osei-Owusu’s decision to overrule his ruling over the matter, particularly when he had admitted the motion is unconstitutional, illegal and offensive.
He described the recent happenings as the First Deputy Speaker’s penchant to overturn his rulings. According to him, his comments made in the House were also communicated to Mr Osei-Owusu.
Recalling a statement he made during 2022 budget-related matters, the Speaker said: “Although our standing orders are silent on this, many standing orders and rules from several sister Parliaments provide persuasive rules that suggest that when Deputy speakers are acting as speakers, whatever happens in the House is that officer’s responsibility. Therefore, the Speaker cannot be called upon to overrule it.
Similarly, the reverse is also the case, that when a speaker is in the chair, whatever happens in the House is the Speaker’s responsibility, and the Deputy Speaker or Acting Speaker cannot be called to overrule it”.
Commenting on the issue, the First Deputy Speaker noted that the Speaker’s communication to the House regarding his conduct is unfair to him.
According to him, the Speaker had not made such comments to him during their meeting.
He also debunked claims that the recent disagreements stem from the political party the Speaker affiliates with.
“Frankly, in my view, there is no tension. We disagree on the way we interpret things. That is not the only time we have disagreed; so, disagreeing with him is not new, but to say disagreeing with him now because probably he’s the Speaker is most unfair and, in my view, the height of intolerance of other views,” Mr Osei-Owusu said on JoyNews’ Newsfile on Saturday, February 26.
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