By Maximus Attah, A Business Development Consultant
Recent happenings in Parliament have exposed the faultiness between sectional interests and the greater societal good. The noise and acrimony that often greets Parliamentary business related to charting a better life and providing the necessary social safety nets for the ordinary mass of the Ghanaian people has betrayed the confidence the people once had in the Members of Parliament (MPs).
It has often been said that ‘Parliament is a master of its own rules’, an old parliamentary axiom that is supposed to be the glue for building bridges and mending cracks over serious disagreements in the August House. The near split in the current Parliament, of 137-137 for the two major rival political parties with one (1) independent MP who has decided to caucus with the ruling party has provided our politicians a perfect opportunity for maintaining cool heads, greater consultation and national consensus building amongst all the political actors.
That however has not been the case. The only time there has been immediate agreement or consensus building is during negotiations on salaries, emoluments and vehicle loans for MPs.
Often, when it comes to the vehicle loans and salaries for MPs and, by extension, Article 71 Office Holders, the considerations are handled with the craft of the sages, tact and all seriousness.
The MPs’ car loans, which are heavily subsidized by the overburdened taxpayers, is treated by the MPs themselves as a state secret and justified by the hifalutin alibi that democracy is expensive. It must be said that democracy must not only be seen as expensive because it is able to accommodate salaries and perks for the elites in the society, often at the detriment of the suffering masses of the people.
If it is expensive, then it must apply equally to every citizen of the land, irrespective of status. That is the only way democracy would be seen as beneficial to the ordinary masses.
Anything short of that would only lend credence to the belief that our brand of the democratic experiment is basically a rule for and on behalf of the elites, who ascend the reins of government to implement policies that favour their personal and class interests.
Henceforth, if the honourable MPs want to be taken seriously by members of the public, they must begin to attach more seriousness to matters or businesses concerning the ordinary citizens.
The MPs must begin to build bridges. They must learn to put the greater good ahead of self and sectional interests.
Furthermore, another action of the current Parliament, which leaves much to be desired is the speed with which they haul members of the public who speak against Parliament or MPs in unsavory ways before the Parliamentary Privileges Committee.
A plethora of evidence abounds of MPs carrying themselves in ways that do not speak well of them. Examples include the ballot snatching incident on the midnight of January 6, 2021, the recent near fisticuffs by two MPs during a press conference at the foyer of the House, and the latest brouhaha in the Parliamentary Chamber at the hearings on the 2022 Budget where an MP pulled the Speaker’s Chair from its position in retaliation for ‘what his other colleagues were doing’.
I respectfully submit that the parliamentary privileges should equally apply to errant MPs whose behaviour brings disrepute to the House. Those MPs who convert radio stations into their ‘petty legislatures’ and use those platforms to settle personal scores must also be summoned before the privileges committee. This would serve as a deterrent to MPs who think that their privileged status cocoons them from the laws of the country.
In conclusion, the current Parliament needs serious introspection. This is essential because, if it should be said that Ghana’s democracy has not matured, then it can boldly be said that Parliament has deteriorated.