The Speaker of Ghana’s parliament, RT Hon Alban S. K. Bagbin, has given his opening remarks for the first meeting of the second session of the eighth parliament of the fourth Republic of Ghana.
Here is the full opening remarks by the Speaker, RT Hon Alban S. K. Bagbin
“Hon Members, today marks the First Sitting of the First Meeting of the Second Session of the Eighth Parliament of the Fourth Republic of Ghana. It is my pleasure and privilege to welcome you all to this meeting from the short yuletide recess. I acknowledge the hectic but joyous time you had with your Constituents and I know, from experience, how stressful it has been for you to tour your Constituencies.
Hon Ladies and Gentlemen, I want to take this opportunity to commend you highly for discharging a crucial duty of an MP, – the duty to reach out, interact and explain government policies and their impact or effect on the people and country. Whilst performing this duty, you also listened to the concerns and views of the people and in fact tapped from the collective wisdom of the constituents you voluntarily and willingly decided to lead to make their lives better.
I am sure you are now renewed and energized by the expectations, hopes, and aspirations of the people you represent. In doing this, you demonstrated a practical aspect of a perspective of the representative function of Parliament and why the MP is referred to as a representative of the Constituency and the people. I say Ayekoo, Y3 Garibanye, Mia W3l3 Dodzie, San da kookari, Aaa-ny3 Koo, etc.
Hon Members, as leaders of your people, you need to be supported to perform this function effectively and ethically to inspire many more up-and-coming youth to be motivated to see politics as an honorable career or profession.
This underscores the urgency for the provision of offices, not the use of private residences, the provision of open, lawful, and verifying sources of funding not funding from opaque sources or money bags, and technical staff, not party apparatchiks or activists only, to assist you in the performance of this arduous duty.
Hon Members, this is the Parliament of Ghana, a unique made-in Ghana product and we must showcase and market it to the world as a brand. We must create a unique set of values and norms that will give a unique character to our Parliament to set it apart from the colonial legacies of the British system.
My outfit today, as the Speaker presiding, is to set in motion that agenda. The practice of MPs decently dressed in traditional attire led by the Speaker is long overdue. Ghanaians accept representation of the people to include representation of the full identity of the Ghanaian – i. e. culture, tradition, and more importantly their dress code.
I am glad that this decision accords with some of the propositions of the first President of Ghana, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, and the other founding members of the Parliament of the First Republic.
The dominant dress code of members of the National Assemblies of independent Ghana was a native costume. The Speaker of the first Parliament of the First Republic of the Country – 1960 to 1965 – Rt Hon Joseph Richard Asiedu appreciated and practiced it.
Hon Members, the robe, i. e the long garment, the headgear, and bib, constitute the ceremonial dress of the Speaker. This ceremonial dress is worn to distinguish the Speaker from members and to reflect the pomp and pageantry of special national occasions. It was therefore meant to be worn on only those special occasions. The ceremonial dress is not meant to be a daily apparel of the Speaker. Even the British have long abandoned this dress code.
Ghana has long abandoned only the headgear and the bib. Hon Members, I assure you, we are not on a walk in the park in this journey of renaissance and transformation. We will not walk alone in this matter. We have a lot of followers and supporters. It is with this, I happily invite all of you to wear Ghana, grow Ghana, eat Ghana, brand Ghana, and transform Ghana. From now I want to see more Members appear in Parliament decently adorned in traditional dress.
Hon Members I call on you to dig deep into the wealth of your innate wisdom and let us do this together in peace, joy, love and respect for the diversity of cultures, traditions, and way of dressing in the country. All that leaders, particularly the Whip and myself must ensure is to enforce the rule of prim, prompt, and decent dressing in the House.
Hon Members, since this meeting commences the second year of implementation of the decision of the 2020 general elections of a hung Parliament and in view of the challenges we encountered in the first session, I deem it necessary to take this opportunity to throw more light on the need for Ghanaians to be more tolerant to what happens in Parliament and to appreciate the essence of that decision. I will give a review of our performance in the first session later in the week.
Hon. Members, beloved Ghanaians, the results of the 2020 elections brought a new order of political engagement. In effect, the character and norms of the power game changed, especially, in Parliament. The ultra-majoritarian rule, where the Majority party marshals its numerical strength to back the presidents’ policy or program, leaving no space for dialogue, compromise, and consensus-building is no more.
The outcome of the elections signifies two things; 1(a) rejection of the practice of blind, unbridled, and excessive partisanship in politics, the winner-take-all option; and (2) blind, partisan opposition and obstruction of government policy. The preference is for the practice of dialogue, coordination, cooperation, consultation, compromise and consensus building. The clarion call in our dear nation today, is now Ghana first, everything else second.
Hon Members, the product of a hung Parliament marks a clear departure from the mantle “let the minority have its’ say, and the majority its way.”
Democracy has long gone beyond majority rule to participatory and inclusive governance – a type of governance where both the majority and minority will have their say, but the national interest will have its way. I think Ghanaians are right to move along with this improved system and the future of democratic governance in the world.
In fact, this decision gave Ghana a pride of place in the celebration to mark the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations with Denmark. I had the singular honor to participate in a global panel discussion on the topic of inclusive party governance and the future of democracy as part of the celebration.
Hon members, we should not also forget that this is in tune with the spirit and letter of the 1992 Constitution. The 1992 Constitution creates an opportunity for either a majority or a minority government or even an independent President to rule in the country. It is important, as a people and nation we take serious note of these possibilities and work on the current state of our mindsets, conduct, and attitude, to accept any of these decisions of the electorates whenever it is so decided.
Understandably, teething problems and challenges of definition of the concept and practice of such a system and applying the current rules to a new order, will rear their ugly heads. These ugly heads would definitely produce friction and uncertainty in the initial stages. These transitional problems and challenges, should not deter us as a people and country from doing what is right and just.
What is right as enjoined by Chapter 6 of the 1992 Constitution, – the Directive Principles of State Policy, – is to establish and practice a just, balanced, open, transparent, fair, and free society. The country could only achieve this when parliament matures into an autonomous organ of state, able to define its relationship with the executive as one of the equal and coordinated powers.
This is the only way to sustain, consolidate and secure multiparty democracy in Ghana. It is only there and then that the dividends of democracy could accrue and seep down to the ordinary Ghanaians.
Hon Members, we all understand the saying, old habits die hard. This is because habits develop into a way of life and a culture and it takes a long time to change cultures. So, I believe with time, focus, and determination all these habits of “I am in government and I must have my way” shall come to pass.
The political elite should understand democratic politics as a process encompassing a variety of interests and requiring cooperation, compromises and consensus arrived at through bargaining so that at all times decisions will be made in the framework of a broad coalition.
I have so much confidence in the commitment of the Ghanaian to democratic governance, the will power and the can-do spirit of the Ghanaian and I am optimistic that these initial teething challenges will be turned into opportunities sooner than later.
Hon Members, apart from the above, let’s always keep in mind that one cannot sew what is wrong to reap what is right. One reaps what one sews. The wise saying “whatever you do, you do it for yourself” is also a truism. Please, Hon Members, whatever you say or do, be guided by these natural and divine determinants of life.
It is also important to acknowledge that in the midst of the teething challenges of disharmony and discord, Parliament has given a clear indication of taking advantage of the opportunities offered by a hung Parliament. It ought to be clear to Ghanaians by now, that Parliament has taken some steps to claw back a bit of its lost image and brand as a willing tool of the Executive.
This gives a glimmer of hope that Parliament will not continue to be in the belly of or a rubber stamp of the Executive. The unique architecture that Almighty God graciously gifted to the country through the Eighth Parliament of the Fourth Republic must be appreciated by all lovers of democracy. Let’s give the hung Parliament a chance.
Clearly, there is no opportunity now for a roaring and tumultuous majority vote which sometimes gets it catastrophically wrong. Neither is there an opportunity to be an obstruction opposition. The unique composition of 137 Members apiece, with equal numbers in terms of the gender distribution of 117 males and 20 females, and just one Independent Member altering the equation, gives this Parliament a unique membership structure indeed!
Beloved Ghanaians, we have no choice but to comply with the dictates and consequences of the new order which comes with such a composition. Indeed, it captures one of the four important traditional insignia of the Parliamentary logo; Akofena – the state ceremonial swords symbolizing the balance of power, political and legal authority, and legitimacy.
Hon Members, another area the eighth Parliament has shown a bright light is the vigorous implementation of the decision of the Seventh Parliament of the Fourth Republic to permit the introduction of PMBs. This is a welcome development.
I am very encouraged with how Hon. Members have seriously taken advantage of this opportunity and are submitting draft bills in various areas of our lives for my admission and reference to the Legislative drafting Department to process for further action.
I commend and urge Members to continue to identify these challenges or shortcomings of the legal regime of the country to proffer solutions through the initiation and sponsorship of PMBs. Under my leadership and the support of the Parliamentary Service, Parliament will continue to provide the requisite logistical and technical support to such private member initiatives.
Hon Members, this is one of the reasons why Parliament must quicken its efforts to create an enabling environment for civil society actors to engage and partner Parliament in the performance of its functions, whilst it takes action to reform, restructure, strengthen and empower itself.
It is with this commitment that I, once more, call on and invite civil society and private sector leaders to assist in the formulation of an acceptable framework on how to formally engage and partner Parliament in the performance of its functions.
It is crucial for Ghanaians to know that democracy is not a determinant of just politicians and officials in government, but a collective product of the leadership of political, social, private, and academia in collaboration with the people. This is how democratic societies are created.
Hon. Members, in view of the way the first session of the Eighth Parliament of the fourth Republic ended without the closing remarks of the Co-Leaders and the Speaker, I direct the Hansard Department to receive the written closing remarks of the Co-Leaders and capture them as so presented. I also attach my closing remarks to this statement and the same should be captured in the official reports of Parliament as so presented. I, so direct.
The lessons of the first session have been learnt by us all and we, should all pledge not to see, particularly, a repeat of those violent nasty scenes as well as defend and uphold the image of Parliament. To achieve this, I will, together with my Deputies and leadership, hold members to strict adherence to the rules, ethics, courtesies, and code of conduct of Members of Parliament.
We will work to promote disorderly behaviour and the use of decent parliamentary language in the deliberations of the House. More efforts will be put into organizing forums and workshops to enlighten members on these rules, norms, and ethics of civil behavior and conduct.
Parliament will do all it can to create the environment for a collective effort to educate and inculcate the culture of a democratic society in the country. I reiterate the need for members to constantly refer to the literature and publications of this House on these matters and interact with their constituents on these values and principles of good behavior and conduct.
With this, I once more, warmly welcome all of you from the recess to the second session of the Eighth Parliament of the Fourth Republic of Ghana.
May the Almighty God in whom I have most trust, continue to bless Ghana and all Ghanaians. I wish you all a productive and fulfilling session.”