INAUGURATION OF GHANA’S EIGHTH PARLIAMENT AND ELECTION OF ITS SPEAKER
Drama, Confusion, Consensus
While much has since been written, said and discussed events of the early hours and morning of Thursday, January 7, 2021, that day may not fail to go down as the most dramatic and momentous in the annals of the Parliament of Ghana. This is because, when the 275 newly-elected Members of the Eighth Parliament of the Fourth Republic gathered in the Chamber of the House to elect their new Speaker and be subsequently sworn-in, there was drama, disorder, comic relief, but, ultimately consensus was built and hitherto unseen crisis was resolved in the nation’s Legislature.
At that time, as if by a conspiracy of some malevolent forces keenly averse to best practices of constitutional democracy on the global stage, as well as the African continent, extremist Republican supporters of outgoing American President, Donald Trump, had just committed the unthinkable by besieging the hallowed halls of the US Congress. This was just as mayhem was about breaking out in the Legislature of the beacon of hope of African multiparty democracy, Ghana.
There was a common component in both scenarios; it was that common element of “an attempted coup”, as some have put it, when the pro-Trump rioters in the US tried unsuccessfully to forestall the confirmation by a joint sitting of both Houses of the US Legislature of Joe Biden as President-elect; it was reflected when, in the Ghanaian Legislature, fully-armed soldiers invaded the Chamber of the House. This never-before-witnessed breach of the integrity of Parliament was ostensibly to calm the commotion that had erupted in the House.
With the newly-constituted membership of the House currently split right down the middle with 137 Members apiece for both the NDC and NPP, with an Independent candidate, business and decision-making in the Eighth Parliament was already going to be both tricky and tough. Such tricky and tight business and decision-making in the House began with the convening of the House after the midnight of 6th January when the 7th Parliament stood dissolved for the sole business of electing the Speaker.
This is because the NPP, led in this instance by Alexander Afenyo Markin, MP for Efutu, had questioned the Clerk of the House, Cyril Oteng Nsiah, who was chairing proceedings as acting Speaker, about why, James Gyakye Quayson, Member-elect for Assin-North, was in the House to participate in the business of electing a Speaker and be subsequently sworn in. This followed an interim injunction placed on Quayson by a Cape Coast High Court on a case of dual citizenship against the Assin North MP which was yet to be determined. After heated debates from both sides, the Clerk eventually allowed the legislator to participate in the business of the night.
In the end, after fiery, yet fine, arguments, snatching of ballot papers, kicking down of ballot booths, slaps, blows and sprinting, unfortunate snatching of a seat from beneath a female Member, and gun-toting soldiers storming the House, reminiscence of takeovers of Broadcasting House and overthrow of legally-constituted governments in, hopefully, a bygone era, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin – the longest-serving Member of the House and Second Deputy Speaker in the previous Parliament – was duly elected as Speaker. The stage was then set for the Investiture later that morning of President-elect Akufo-Addo before the newly-constituted Parliament which excluded a boycotting Opposition.
Congratulating the new Speaker in a Facebook post, the NDC Flagbearer in the 2020 General Election and Former President, John Dramani Mahama, perhaps summed up the melodramatic events in the Parliament of Ghana on January 7, 2021 this way: “The events of the morning of January 7 have been both a great occasion for Ghana’s democracy and at the same time a day of infamy, which will go down as a low point in our democratic practice. The election of Mr. Bagbin as Speaker however affirms what a great democracy we can build for ourselves and how dialogue and consensus-building can make us even stronger as a nation.
We say congratulations to the Speaker and Members of the Eighth Parliament on their inauguration and may the unity, peace, progress and prosperity of Ghana be their utmost guide as they deliberate on weighty national issues in a fairly balanced Legislative arm of Government.
By Raymond Tuvi