Let's drop this chamber pot. It's too smelly for our health!

Our democracy is broken. The insensitivity of the political class is mind-boggling. It is Animal Farm all over again. Parliament is the w...


Our democracy is broken. The insensitivity of the political class is mind-boggling. It is Animal Farm all over again. Parliament is the weakest link in our democracy.

The Rt. Hon. Mike Ocquaye, a retired professor of political science and a minister of the Gospel of Jesus in the Baptist Church, is the speaker of the Parliament of Ghana. And he is leading parliament to spend $200m to build a new 450-seater chamber for parliament when we already have one of the most magnificent parliamentary chambers in the world. The Speaker and his “Honourable” colleagues think it is prudent to spend such an amount of money on a new chamber of parliament at a time when our major referral hospitals have no beds to admit patients and either have to turn patients away or put them on the floor. They think it is prudent to spend such an amount of money on a new chamber of parliament when there are only 55 functioning ambulances in a country with a population of about 29 million, bringing it to an embarrassing ratio of 520,000 Ghanaians to one ambulance.

Growing up, one of my favourite political science books was one by a young Mike Ocquaye titled “Politics in Ghana 1972 – 1979” published in 1980. In this book, Mike Ocquaye catalogued a series of opulent and insensitive behaviors by the ruling class since independence that justified the various military interventions in our politics. Mike Ocquaye saw the June 4 revolution and the bloodshed as a necessary evil required to punish the enemies of the people and the working class and to set us on a path to responsible and sensitive political leadership.
I wonder what the Mike Ocquaye of 1980 would have thought of the Mike Ocquaye of 2019.

The Majority Leader of Parliament, Hon. Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu, has mounted a spirited defense of the proposal and has advanced such very strong arguments in favour of it. He says, among other things, the current chamber is too far away from the parking lot and so MPs have to walk a long distance from their parked cars to the chamber; the current chamber has pillars that block the view of the speaker and so some MPs never get to catch the eye of the Speaker during parliamentary debates; and that in the current chamber, the space between the Majority and the Minority seats is so narrow that in the event of a heated argument the two sides can easily clash. If this is the kind of logic displayed by the Leader of the House, then you can imagine the quality of debates on important national issues on the floor of that House.

The MP for Bantama, Hon. Daniel Okyem Aboagye, says Ghanaians should not complain about the cost and timing of the building of the new chamber because “democracy is not cheap”. That is the mind-set of the people who promised they will serve the national interest. Our politicians should stop threatening us with this "democracy is expensive, so deal with it" thing as if we have no choice to an alternative form of government. The American Declaration of Independence says explicitly that "To secure these rights [the rights described in the previous sentence], Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the Right of the people to alter it or to abolish it , and to institute a new government, laying its foundations on such principles and organizing its powers in such a form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness". What that means is that practicing  democracy is not "by force". If our politicians make it unnecessarily expensive for us, we have a right to initiate a discourse on altering our present form of government and its structures.

MPs in Ghana have a monthly salary of ¢9,000 after taxes, in addition to a ¢90,000 rent allowance. They are given at least $80,000 each in a state-guaranteed car loan. MPs are the only people in Ghana who get an ex-gratia after every four years. In the last payment in 2012, returning MPs collected ¢276,000 while exiting MPs took ¢311,000. That is what our “Honourable” Members of Parliament are doing to us, and they are saying we should shut up and suffer in silence because democracy is expensive.

Our democracy is broken. The insensitivity of the political class is mind-boggling. It is Animal Farm all over again. Parliament is the weakest link in our democracy.
As someone has suggested, if the present chamber is too small or not conducive for parliamentary business, then the MPs should operate via a WhatsApp group with the Speaker as the group admin. Or they should operate a double-track system.

The good people of this country will have to rise up and say “enough is enough” and when they do, I believe the Mike Ocquaye of 1980 will agree with them.

Let's drop this chamber pot. It's too smelly for our health!

Dr. Richard Tia, Senior Lecturer- KNUST Computational Chemistry Department, writes...

krlivez.com

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KRLIVEZ.COM: Let's drop this chamber pot. It's too smelly for our health!
Let's drop this chamber pot. It's too smelly for our health!
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