In the wake of the tragic, and some say the premature or untimely, passing of Mr. Emmanuel Kyeremateng Agyarko, the ruling New Patriotic Party’s Member of Parliament for the Ayawaso West-Wuogon Constituency, in the Greater-Accra Region, the main opposition National Democratic Congress’ MP for Kumbungu, in the Northern Region, Mr. Ras Mubarak, was reported to have written on his Facebook Wall that rather than have the two major political parties waste fiscal resources electorally duke it out to find a replacement for their late colleague, a gentlemen’s agreement should be struck among all members of the august House in order to ensure that the party that has lost its MP name an interim representative until the next election season comes around (See “Don’t Put Up a Candidate for Agyarko’s Seat – Mubarak to NDC, Others” Peacefmonline.com / Ghanaweb.com 11/22/18).
This is quite a laudable proposal and the sort of constructive governance contribution that ought to be routinely coming from the membership of loyal parliamentary and political opposition groups, in particular from the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC). Such a proposal, or rather proposition, is quite laudable because it psychologically meliorates the pain and anguish that such crisis may engender for all members of the House, irrespective of ideological or political party affiliation; it also provides temporal space for the respectful grieving that may be expected to have been precipitated by the passing of a key member of the House, such as Mr. Kyeremateng Agyarko was widely known to be. Indeed, at his passing, at 60 years old, the late MP was Chairman of the Parliamentary Environment, Science and Technology Committee. The pharmacy graduate of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, also served as Chief Executive Officer of the erstwhile Food and Drugs Board (FDB), presently renamed the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), under former President John Agyekum-Kufuor, between 2001 and 2009.
At any rate, the Kumbungu MP’s proposition is one that merits being taken up for debate on the floor of the House, if only because it is predicated on a commonsensical observation. For the most part, about 80-percent of the time, byelections are won by the party whose seat was either lost through the natural occurrence of death, physical incapacitation or seismic circumstances in the fortunes of the protagonist, thus making the choice or decision to give up her/his House’s seat. Sometimes it may be such significant sea change as the decision by a serving MP to assume a chieftaincy title or position among the people s/he has been representing in our National Assembly for a remarkable number of years. Or sometimes having hit a proverbial brick wall or even simply lost interest in the mundane activities of our National Assembly, an MP may simply decide that it is time to try his or her hands and brains on other things that may seem to be far more exciting and/or lucrative.
What I am not particularly certain that I agree with Mr. Ras Mubarak on, is the fact of whether the decision not to any longer hold byelections in situations as that occasioned by the death of Mr. Kyeremateng Agyarko, ought to be made as a matter of a yet-to-be-established convention or simply per the so-called gentlemen’s agreement. Chances are that the best way to go at it is to table a motion with the Office of the Speaker of the House, debate the relevant details of the issue/issues at stake and then pass the same in the form of a Constitutional Amendment or simply into law or a convention, whatever the case may be.
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By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., PhD
English Department, SUNY-Nassau
Garden City, New York