- Irrespective of where you stand, the outcome of the election for a Speaker, can succinctly be captured in the words of a renowned legal practitioner, Sam Okudzeto: “I think it’s a shame. It’s a big shame."
Ghana’s governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) is known for many “firsts”. However, on 7 January 2021, the party chalked up a first that it cannot be proud of.
Never in the 63-year history of Ghana has a governing party had an opposition member as Speaker of Parliament. Alban Bagbin – a veteran with 28 years of experience as an MP, but on the ticket of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) – will preside over the House in President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s second term of office.
What makes the situation worse is that the new Parliament is split down the middle between the NDC and NPP, a scenario likely to affect the smooth operation of government business.
So, how did the NPP lose such a strategic position in Parliament, with the odds on its side before the election of a Speaker at dawn last Thursday?
This article examines three probable factors.
1. The “David and Jonathan” of Ghana’s Parliament
It is an open secret that the Majority Leader in the seventh parliament, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu of the governing NPP, has a brotherly affection for Alban Bagbin of the NDC. At one point, when the Suame MP was at his lowest ebb and came close to losing his hold on his seat in the NPP’s Ashanti Region stronghold, it took Bagbin and others to “invade” his constituency to canvass votes for him.
How many people from an opposing party would be ready to die for an “enemy” in the line of battle, especially when such a move would incur the wrath of your supporters? Bagbin was, and it cost him greatly. But he remained resolute, standing by the “Suame Mugabe” and reminding Ghanaians of the biblical story of the friendship between David and Jonathan (1 Samuel 18:3).
So, how did the NPP lose the speakership to the NDC? Maybe, just maybe, the time has come for certain people to return a favour. After all, one good turn deserves another.
2. The Dome Kwabenya showdown
Sarah Adwoa Safo, the NPP MP for Dome Kwabenya in the Greater Accra Region, is returning to the House a bitter woman. Her parliamentary career was almost cut short, having been challenged in the party’s primaries by Mike Oquaye Jr, son of the former Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, returning from India to set up camp.
She managed to scale through the primaries by just eight votes. Fast-forward to 7 January 2021, when the NPP had presented Senior Oquaye – the father of her “opponent”, who nearly cost Safo her job – as its candidate for re-election as Speaker.
Just put yourself in Adwoa Safo’s shoes. What would you have done?
3. Fomena MP’s unfair treatment
The story of Andrew Amoako Asiamah, the independent MP for Fomena, teaches us an important lesson. Professor Oquaye, acting as the Speaker, practically sacked from the last parliament and he was rejected by his own NPP. His crime? Asiamah lost the party’s primaries in June 2020 under “unsatisfactory circumstances” but then decided to go solo.
Asiamah caused an upset in the election by winning massively. He is now the kingmaker of the House, as each of the main parties has 137 seats in the chamber. Both parties need his nod to determine which party will constitute the majority side in the 275-seat Parliament.
Officially, he sits with the NPP and has even been rewarded with a deputy Speaker role. What was going through his mind when the NPP pitted Oquaye against Bagbin for the Speakership?
A crying shame
Regardless of where you stand, you will admit that the outcome of the election for a Speaker is captured succinctly in the words of the renowned legal practitioner Sam Okudzeto: “I think it’s a shame. It’s a big shame.”