By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Thursday, November 24, 2011
The NPP’s Kennedy Agyapong is often in the news for the wrong reason. His latest outburst that the country will be turned into “Rwanda” if the NDC attempts rigging the 2012 elections sums up everything about him and all others who have been given the power to help solve problems but often choose to do otherwise. And to have him as a Member of Parliament is a pain in the neck. I pity the Assin South constituency whose representative he is, no matter what he may mean to his followers there.
Kennedy Agyapong’s threatening utterances highlight the weaknesses in our political dispensation and bring into contempt the workings of the Legislature to which he belongs. He is not alone, though.
The African Watch magazine’s recent damning of Ghanaian politicians isn’t surprising, although it drew the ire of the MPs for being put on the spot. That Political Performance Index (PPI) on 309 Ghanaian politicians is a confirmation of what some of us have all along known about our politicians. They are lazy to the marrow and very slow in making efforts to solve national problems but very quick to tackle anything that threatens their own wellbeing. They’ve created the unfortunate impression that their self-interests supersede national ones. If you ask any Ghanaian whether he/she feels the impact of this 5th Parliament of our 4th Republic and get any response other than a big “No!” you shouldn’t be surprised. That’s the undeniable fact. Our Parliamentarians are a drain on our resources, doing nothing significant to advance the cause of our democracy as expected. I want to ask our MPs what exactly they have done so far to justify the huge expenditure being made on them.
While some critics are quick to condemn President Mills’ government as incompetent, they forget to question the performance of the MPs. Or at best, they don’t pour as much anger on the Legislature as they do the Executive, which creates the wrong impression that improving the lives of the people is necessarily the sole responsibility of the Mills-led government. The truth may hurt our MPs but they can’t escape it. They must be told in a plain language they can understand that the country isn’t feeling their impact because they are not performing well. What new laws have our MPs initiated to address problems that continue to drag us back? From all indications, it is clear that they have reneged on their functions and are all over the place, looking for loopholes in the system to exploit just because of who they are. I throw a huge challenge to anybody who disputes my claim to point to a single specific significant achievement of this 5th Parliament of the 4th Republic since being sworn into office on January 7, 2009. Let no one cite the routine ritual of debating the government’s budget statement, the President’s State of the Nation address, confirmation of the President’s nominees for Ministerial/Ambassadorial appointments, or the endorsement of contractual agreements entered into by the government for loans. Such routine tasks can be done by any other group of people if permitted by law.
I am talking about important legislation to tackle contemporary problems that continue to worsen the plight of the people. Events that have happened (such as the Fulani menace or the recent floods in Accra) demand prompt legislative measures to handle. Our MPs have stood aloof from serious crisis situations and created the wrong impression that they are satisfied with the status quo. Laws needed to tackle pertinent systemic problems and others arising out of spontaneous human folly cannot be enacted because our MPs fail to attach urgency to such problems. This crop of Parliamentarians will be better recognized for their lethargy and wastefulness. They have been the laziest MPs that this country has produced.
I can’t credit them with any single significant accomplishment over the past three years. Yet, they (especially those in the NPP) are quick to point accusing fingers at President Mills and his government as incompetent. Important events have happened to warrant their intervention through legislative action to help the Executive solve problems but they have chosen to stay back, finding fault only. There is more than ample evidence to confirm how lazy and uninspiring these MPs are.
Take the much-talked about bill on the Right of Information, for instance, which has still not been passed into law, and you should see our MPs in their true light as lazy people. They are a drain on the poor tax payers whose sweat and toil nourishes them and supports their self-seeking agenda.
Throughout this period, the country has been negatively affected by industrial action from almost all sectors, including the MPs’ own drivers who made their voices heard on their poor working conditions but were quickly cowed into submission. Strike actions retard progress and demand conscientious action to stem. Have our MPs bothered to initiate any action to solve problems? In other countries practising the kind of democracy that we have embarked on, the Legislature actively pushes bills as soon as any issue crops up that demands legislative action (whether in the form of Legislative Instruments or full-blown laws) to tackle it. The Legislature acts with dispatch because it knows how to contribute its quota to national development, complementing the efforts of all sectors that matter.
In our case in Ghana, the situation is different. Our MPs are so bent on doing other things that they can’t tackle national problems. Let nobody tell me that the Legislature has its purview and is not expected to be dragged into everything. The situation is not so elsewhere. Those elected representatives of the people can’t detach themselves from their constituents or the situation on the ground without being kicked out. They are in constant touch with their constituents and promptly initiate action to solve any problem that affects them. They frequently consult those who matter in their constituencies and gather ideas that they formulate into bills for the Legislature to act on. As members of the local government system, our MPs can help the various District, Municipal, and Metropolitan Assemblies initiate measures to address local problems and then follow up at the regional and national levels. Do they do so? No! Instead, they come to notice solely for locking horns with the District/Municipal/Metropolitan Chief Executives over the award of contracts and disbursement of the MP’s share of the Common Fund or instigating their followers to confront their so-called “enemies.”
There is friction between our MPs and the local political heads all over the place, especially when money is at issue. Some of the MPs too are not on good terms with their own party officials at the local or national levels. They abhor any criticism or scrutiny and consider anything contrary to their wish as a frontal attack on their personality that must be counteracted with all measures, especially recourse to brute force. Such MPs shouldn’t have any place in our political setup.
By raising these negative aspects of our MPs’ standing, I am not attempting to impute any wrongdoing to all MPs; but I want to suggest that as elected representatives of the people, they are not helping us grow our democracy. For as long as they are not visible in the struggle to solve problems that hinder the development of the local areas and the country, generally, they lend themselves to this kind of scrutiny.
I want to opine at this point that despite this blanket condemnation of the Legislature, some of its members are doing well and must feel confident of being re-elected at the 2012 polls. Others who haven’t made their presence felt through positive contributions toward improving well-being—and they are in the majority—know how shaky their position is. They are all over the place, either using subterfuge or intimidation in a vain attempt to secure their future. It won’t help them.
What can turn the situation around positively for them is nothing but a marked performance that will reassure their constituents that they are the right calibre of people into whose hands to entrust their destinies. Anything short of that will endanger our democracy. And the people are poised to show these non-performing MPs where naked power lies, whether Kennedy Agyapong and his NPP beat war drums or take physical action to foment trouble. War-mongering doesn’t build democracies. Good deeds do!