By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
February 17, 2010
The NPP MPs are once again cutting off their noses to spite their own faces. By the end of that ordeal, they will emerge none the better. Once again, they have come to notice as a nuisance—up in arms, daring the government and the law enforcement agencies, and threatening to cripple Parliamentary work. Their decision to boycott Parliament until the Attorney-General drops the criminal charge against Nana Darkwa reinforces my claim that they are a danger to Ghana’s democracy. They don’t understand nor do they have the inclination to appreciate the tenets of democracy. I pity them.
This move to boycott Parliament is an outright blackmail and an affront to the integrity of the country. It beats my imagination why these NPP elements cannot see the criminal aspect of what Nana Darkwa has done and be responsible enough to allow the law to takes its own course.
The picture of criminality is clear. Nana Darkwa went on air and accused ex-President Rawlings of deliberately setting fire to his own residence and dared the authorities to take him on if they had the guts. He said he had proof to substantiate his assertion. His claim came at the time that the law enforcement agencies have begun investigating the burning down of the ex-President’s residence at Ridge in Accra. By that assertion, Nana Darkwa had made himself a person of interest to the authorities.
Responding to Nana Darkwa’s challenge, Kofi Adams (an aide to Rawlings) took the appropriate steps to report his claim to the police, who arrested Darkwa and took the matter to court. At this point, the onus of proof lies on Darkwa, not the political machinery of the NPP. So, why are the NPP MPs crying wolf and diverting attention from the real substance of Darkwa’s case? Why will they not allow Darkwa to disburden himself of the onus in court? Why should they want to stop the court from performing its legitimate function for the whole world to know what Darkwa knows about the fire disaster?
The picture is clear that the due process of law is functioning in this case and should be allowed to run its full course. How many times haven’t these NPP elements called for the due process of law to be followed in the handling of cases? Now that it is being followed, why shouldn’t they allow it to run its full course but seek to truncate it with this arm-twisting political intrigue by way of boycott of Parliament?
Their allegation that the NDC government was manipulating the law enforcement agencies to handle Darkwa’s case with an unprecedented alacrity is obnoxious. If anything at all, the law enforcement agencies should be commended for taking prompt action on a matter that has the potential to set a very damaging example in public discourse in the country. If not expeditiously tackled, this misconduct by Darkwa will open the sluice gates for indiscipline in the work of the media. It will create a free-for-all situation in which anybody at all can make allegations against anybody with impunity. Is that what the NPP and its MPs are looking for to be the order of the day in our democracy? Some democrats!
On what basis are the NPP MPs kicking against the prosecution of Darkwa? That the charge brought up against him is not in the statute books? Or that he shouldn’t have been arrested for prosecution at all even though he was making such criminal utterances in the open? Or that the matter was more “political” than “criminal”?
Any reference to restriction of freedom of speech in this context is misplaced and will not hold water. Hiding behind this ideal of freedom of speech smacks of cowardice and belies the hidden intent of the NPP Minority in Parliament to cause mayhem. It also makes nonsense of the party’s claim to be democratic.
In democratic dispensations, citizens act and speak responsibly so as not to create tension. They are guarded in their utterances because they know that if they resort to propagating outright lies and criminal intentions as this NPP’s Darkwa has done—and which the mischievous NPP MPs are supporting—they will endanger politics in the country. Democracy demands civility in public (and private) conduct. It doesn’t allow the citizens to poison public discourse with inflammatory utterances that create needless tension and hostility. Democracy calls for maturity in public discourse.
We are all aware that Darkwa’s criminal behaviour is of public interest. If the NPP truly believes in the ideals of due process of law, why will its supporters and MPs not allow the law enforcement agencies to do their legitimate work in prosecuting Darkwa? Why the recourse to arm-twisting and categorical display of stupidity? Why are they politicizing an outright criminal issue?
Some NPP lame-brains have been quick to say that ex-President Rawlings had made wild allegations against the NPP, especially in the murder of the Ya-Na and 40 of his followers, Alhaji Mobilla, and the serial murder of women but no one took him to task. Then, why should anybody be taken to task when the mud is now being thrown against him?
Such a claim is lame and absurd. If the Kufuor government knew what to do, it would have taken Rawlings on when he made those utterances; but because it either was afraid of the consequences of any such move or because it feared that the skeleton in its cupboard would be exposed, it didn’t take action on the matter. Should Rawlings take himself to the slaughter house in that case? Someone who should have acted, failed to do so, leaving him to himself.
Now, under a different government, if the law enforcement agencies want to enforce the law against such propagation of criminal utterances, what justification does any sane person have to kick against it?
What may be surprising about the Darkwa case, though, is the speed with which the police went about arresting the culprits and prosecuting them. One will not blame the police but wonder why they should act with this supersonic speed in this case while numerous (and more serious) cases reported to them have either not been prosecuted or acted on for many years. The slow pace of handling other cases reported to them is a cause for worry, especially within the context of the zeal and determination with which they are handling this Darkwa case. To me, that’s the crux of the matter. But no one should blame the police.
Apparently, reading a deeper political meaning into this case is what has inflamed passions and pushed the NPP elements to this brink. They must, however, not have their own way, and are advised to behave in a disciplined manner if they want to help our democracy grow. There’s more to the issue.
Nana Ohene Ntow’s assertion that the NPP would make political capital out of the Darkwa case suggests that the NPP is desperate, indeed. I say so because it was this same Ohene Ntow who had declared that the NPP considered the calamity that struck the Rawlingses as a “national disaster.” If it were so—and for which the NPP consoled the Rawlingses—why should this same NPP turn round to want to profit from the developments associated with this “national disaster”? It is unconscionable for the NPP to hold such double standards.
I agree with Alban Bagbin that the NPP is condoning with criminality and advise its MPs not to do what will adversely affect governance. There is already so much public anger against the MPs for their non-performance despite the huge sacrifices that continue to be made to support the Legislature.
These very NPP MPs have done unproductive things in Parliament, making their presence felt mostly in the sense of mischief and trivialities. Take their frivolous and vexatious contributions to Parliamentary proceedings, for instance. These are people who parade themselves as “intellectuals” and the “apostles of democracy.” Such characters!!
This recourse to boycott of Parliament at the least prompting must be tackled to ensure that Ghanaians benefit from their franchise. I challenge the leadership of Parliament to take the first step to review the Standing Orders of Parliament to curb this kind of wanton misconduct by MPs.
The time has come for stringent measures to be taken to prevent such a course of action that impairs Parliamentary business. One expects that the code of conduct in Parliament will make it punishable for any boycott of Parliamentary business based on cases that have nothing to do with the status of Parliament or proceedings in Parliament. I think that if sanctions are imposed on erring MPs, the situation will change for the better. One way to punish them is to slash their pay in accordance with the number of absences they record. They must not be paid if they don’t perform Parliamentary duties without good cause.
Such a move will not be a novelty. Public and private-sector workers who don’t turn up for work are sanctioned by management. Recalcitrant ones even lose their jobs. Why shouldn’t there be that measure against the MPs too? Are they to be allowed to do things anyhow?
This boycott by the NPP MPs should be the starting point to introduce such measures. They shouldn’t be paid for the period that they absent themselves from Parliament. If they choose to resign from Parliament, the Electoral Commission should conduct elections to replace them. There must be a limit to human endurance of such mischief.
On a wider scale, the citizens have to be bold enough to take on any MP who errs this way. It appears that we have been lax and are not exercising our right to perform that watch-dog role to keep our MPs on their mettle. In that sense, they have become a law unto themselves and are doing things anyhow. Even in Britain where it is said that Parliament has the power to do anything except to turn a man into a woman, there is a clear code of conduct that curbs indiscipline among the MPs.
The situation in Ghana must change for the better. If the leadership of Parliament cannot act decisively to inject discipline into the House, the citizens must do so. If we sit back to allow these MPs to continue taking us for a ride, our democracy will collapse. As of now, it stands endangered by the pettifogging of these petulant NPP MPs. Who knows when this arm-twisting will lead to something else?