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The office of the Speaker of Parliament is a revered one. It is regarded by many as a heartbeat away from the Presidency, which is why the constitution allows the occupier of that august position to act as President in the absence of the head of state and his vice.
However, in the last couple of months, it appears Prof Mike Oquaye’s leadership and grip of the position is coming into question.
His recent ‘altercations’ with sometimes relatively younger parliamentarians from the minority have become a source of worry for political watchers and commentators.
Only last week, the Minority described Speaker Prof Mike Oquaye as a dictator for failing to adjourn the House sine die.
It is the latest run-in which further reveals the deep-cracks within Ghana’s legislature.
The description comes after Prof Mike Ocquaye suspended Parliament indefinitely instead of moving for a recess or adjournment of Parliament.
Speaker Oquaye announced the indefinite suspension of sitting of the House Saturday evening, indicating that the “nation is not in normal times” because of the affliction of the Coronavirus pandemic.
This development did not go down well for the Minority Members of Parliament (MPs) as they were expecting a recess as against suspension since the first meeting of the Fourth Session of the Seventh Parliament was scheduled for adjournment on Saturday, April 4, 2020.
The Minority leaders said the development was “constitutional parliamentary dictatorship in Ghana” and would not be accepted. However, Haruna Iddrisu’s tone was described as disrespectful towards the Speaker of Parliament as many asked if he had a problem with the Speaker.
On several occasions, the Minority members in Parliament have walked out during an ongoing deliberation or opposing business in the house.
On November 16, 2018, the Minority boycotted proceedings in the chamber, accusing the Speaker of bias. According to them, the Speaker once again failed to acknowledge their leaders anytime they rose on the floor to put their arguments across.
Last month, Member of Parliament (MP) for Ningo-Prampram, Sam George, wrote a letter to the speaker to communicate his absence from parliament over the threat of coronavirus.
In that letter, Mr George, among other things, explained that the decision was borne out of a conviction that Parliament is “failing to exercise its truly intended role in crisis moments like this”.
“I hold the strongest conviction that we are pandering whilst the flames that may engulf the Republic are being stoked.” He said.
He added he will not “risk exposure to the virus by coming to Parliament every day just to come and work on bills that are of no emergency nature and do not relate to Coronavirus or to come and sit and approve loans and tax waivers for private businesses, many of which are foreign”.
The most recent case was during the last State of the Nation Address in February 2020 where the Minority walked out of the house claiming they wanted to show President Akufo-Addo that if he is insensitive to the issues affecting Ghanaians, they can equally be insensitive to his State of the Nation Address.
Responding to the accusation in an interview, Haruna Iddrisu said he has no problem with the Speaker but just wants to make sure things are done right.
He argues that the Speaker could have given them prior notice before announcing the suspension as he also accused the Majority Leader of misleading the Speaker.
Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, however, refuted this claim by Haruna Iddrisu stating that the Minority leader refused to attend leadership meetings.
This may be a case of the minority playing to the gallery to score political points or just maybe they may have a genuine case.
Meanwhile, the Speaker has recalled Member of Parliament back to the house, three days after he suspended sitting indefinitely. In a communique to Members of Parliament, the Speaker invoked his rights under Order Six of the Standing Orders of Parliament.
This was to allow the Finance Minister present to Parliament, the policy document on Coronavirus Alleviation Programme (CAP), seeking approval to spend GH¢1.2 billion. This follows demands by the Minority for government to provide details of funding of the money requested by the Minister to tackle coronavirus and its impact on the economy. This Finance Committee has, however, approved the above amount for government to access funds from the Contingency Fund to finance the Coronavirus Alleviation Programme (CAP).
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