The Eighth Parliament of the Fourth Republic of Ghana made history at its first sitting by electing the country’s longest-serving lawmaker, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, a member of the opposition party, to steer the affairs of the House as Speaker for the next four years.
That outcome was not without a ‘fight’ between the New Patriotic Party (NPP) caucus, who nominated the Speaker of the Seventh Parliament, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, and the National Democratic Congress (NDC), who flagged Mr Bagbin, a seven time MP for the Nadowli-Kaleo Constituency.
With 137 members each and an independent candidate, the election of the Speaker went down to the wire amidst chaotic scenes.
A critical component of any democratic dispensation, Parliament has been accused of over-politicisation and acting as a rubber stamp for the executive arm of government without recourse to the national interest.
An experienced lawmaker with 28 uninterrupted years of service in all seven parliaments of the country since January 1993, Mr Bagbin, 63, is expected to bring his rich know-how to bear on the House.
The country’s current legislature is described as a hung parliament, a situation where no party has enough seats to secure a majority, so Speaker Bagbin would first and foremost be expected to weather the affairs following claims by both caucuses that they are in the majority.
With the 2020 general election now a subject of litigation at the Supreme Court, some have expressed fears that should the ruling not go in favour of the opposition NDC, parliament could be used as the forum to show the government where power lies by frustrating its programmes and policies to make it unpopular ahead of the 2024 elections.
This must not be allowed to happen and Speaker Bagbin, who commands respect from both sides as a result of his long years in the House, must guard against any such agenda since same would not be in the interest of the country.
The second expectations from Ghanaians, the Ghanaian Times thinks, would be to end the excessive politicisation of national issues where everything that comes from the executive arm of government, over the course of the fourth republic, is approved en bloc.
Over the years, minority caucuses have raised red flags about deals that come before them,though those concerns have been dismissed by the majority sides and governments. With an opposition member in the hot seat, we expect every controversial deal that comes before the House to be properly looked into to ensure that the best interest of the country is served.
These concerns, however, must be germane and not without political malice and or mischief. As a former minority and majority leader himself, Speaker Bagbin, we believe, would be able to decipher between mischief and genuine concerns of the caucuses.
As he pledged at his swearing-in to submit himself to Parliament and to serve his dear country faithfully to the best of his ability and to conscientiously discharge his duties as the Speaker of this Parliament, Speaker Bagbin would be highly expected to steer the law-making House using his vast experience.
The Ghanaian Times wishes Speaker Bagbin well and takes solace in his affirmation to “wholeheartedly put at the disposal of parliament and the country the store of knowledge, immense experience and the huge data I have accumulated and accommodated over the 28 years.”