By Dela Sedode
What will you say to a woman in an abusive relationship? A woman who is intent on doing her best for the family she is running but the one person responsible by law for building bridges for her to thrive is only interested in his parochial interests and abuses her at will.
That man perpetrating abuse and wanton rape of the law is Alban Bagbin, the Speaker of Parliament. And that is why the NPP majority group walked out of Parliament in the 2022 budget considerations on November 25, 2021.
What is Bagbin really about? Three answers will suffice. Politics, politics and politics. Nothing more. He is not in deep thought about the focus of the country, the urgent need to build forward better out of the impact of the Corona Virus pandemic nor the continuous need to make Ghana an example of development even in the sub-region. All Bagbin is concerned with is atomistic, inward looking, narcissistic politics. “I have been here 28 years.” “I am number 3 in Ghana”. “I can remove the President and he cannot do f*ko.” “In fact, I am the number two most powerful man in Ghana.”
When was it last you heard or saw Bagbin make a definitive statement or make moves to use the power of the House he presides over to move the country forward? When? I challenge the Rt. HonourableSpeaker himself to do some introspective thinking.
Of course, with all the self-focus and Bagbin lime-lighting, the Majority in Parliament has clashed with him more than a few times. Yes, the Speaker was himself a parliamentarian for 28 years, the longest serving member ever in the House. While that makes him a repository of experience, it does not make him infallible. His pronouncements on the Anti-Gay Bill and other happenings in the House have clearly shown that the Speaker who by law is supposed to be an Arbiter or an Umpire has not shed his partisanship and bias representation of the NDC.
Yes, his candidature for Speaker was put up by the NDC who forcefully campaigned for his election and subsequently, won. However, once he became Speaker, his allegiance should have been to the country’s agenda and not unalloyed loyalty to his party. Bagbin must reflect on the question; “are my activities advancing Ghana on a daily basis”? Maybe, we need a catholic answer from him.
The 2022 Budget Matter
Parliament has been preparing for a showdown since November 17, when the Minister of Finance Ken OforiAtta presented the budget on the floor of the House. The NDC has off course whipped its members to vote against the budget and they have the e-levy (a proposed tax on electronic transactions including, Mobile Money transfers above a threshold of Ghs 100) as their main lever. The largest opposition claims the tax is obnoxious and objectionable and they are not amendable, even though government is open to adjusting portions of the budget to reflect the consultations so far with the representatives of the people. NDC had indicated they were going to ground the budget. No opportunity for negotiation.
NDC’s agenda is to play on the emotions of Ghanaians to rile up people against the government. It is a fairly simplistic strategy. Stampede government into a rut so the citizens will reject an NPP successor to Nana Akufo-Addo in the 2024 elections.
Pay attention to two inflexion points or swings in the debate in Parliament that clearly show that Bagbin was not thinking about Ghana but himself and the extreme partisanship that clouds his actions.
First, Ken Ofori Atta, the Hon. Minister of Finance had literally begged the Speaker for time to further engage the members of the Minority to insert some changes they were passionate about in the budget, like relief efforts for the Keta tidal waves victims. The Speaker chose to put the request to a voice vote when he indeed, could have used his discretion to grant that. He decided to put it to a voice vote. Nothing wrong with that as it is in keeping with the Orders of Parliament. Both sides of the House were loud, even though it seemed the Minority had an edge to their negation. If Bagbin was thinking about building bridges so that Ghana is the ultimate winner, there is no way he would have shut out the time honored tradition of consultation right before a vote. I mean who does that? Let usengage so we both see our way clear; Bagbin said an absolute no. Unbelievable!
When the Deputy Majority Speaker challenged his ruling, Bagbin showed his full hand of bias by asking for a head count, an unnecessary route that could have been avoided by simply granting the time to engage. Then, the Minority Chief Whip, Muntaka Mohammed Mubarak, based on the layer of the head count demanded the removal from the House of the Ministers of State who were there to do Business with Parliament. Again, Rt. Hon Bagbin concurred with a gleeful heart, ordering the Ministers of State out of the Chamber.
His bosom friend, Asiedu Nketiah, the General Secretary of the National Democratic Congress and a member of the Parliamentary Service Board was of course seated in the public gallery, not the Chamber. When Bagbin’s attention was drawn to it, a Speaker who had the country at heart and was interested in the optics of objectivity could have either asked AsieduNketiah to leave his seat or recommended the same space to the Ministers of State. But No! in Bagbin’s mind, he called the shots and was fully in charge. So, he took a lot of pleasure in chasing the powerful Ministers away and leaving General Mosquito in the gallery.
The NPP felt abused by Bagbin hence, staged a walk out occasioned primarily by the Speaker’s conduct.
Further bias of Bagbin is evident in the Speaker’s decision to put forth the question of the acceptance or rejection of the 2022 Budget when the law technically does not permit him to do this. The law is specific. For a Speaker to put forth a question on the serious business of approving the 2022 budget, he needed at least half of the 275 members of parliament present. When the NPP members of parliament walked out, the NDC even at full capacity, would have been 137 which is less than half of the members. Mind you, the question of whether the budget should be accepted is different from the question of whether the Finance Minister should be given time to further engage the Minority members. The law permits the House to transact business with a quorum with 137 members. However, the Speaker is not permitted to pose a question without half of the members sitting. It’s a tiny nuance that propagandists want to overlook and brush away.
The speaker is in the wrong. He knows it but has chosen to evade admission of wrong doing. There are even suggestions that two members of the opposition were absent from parliamentary duty. So, there would have been 135 members in Parliament when he mooted the adoption or rejection of the budget. Whew! Not good!
The NPP’s case against Bagbin is not about the specifics of the budget. It is his actions and posturing that reflect partisan bias and self-adulation.
Of course, the e-levy is difficult for everyone. E- transactions have become a financial behemoth and it was inevitable that a tax would be introduced there to try and shore up government revenue. Various associations have advocated a reduction in the 1.75 entry point of the tax. There is also the small matter of the threshold or the taxation floor of Ghs100 a day. Public Opinion, which is in favor of the tax wants the revenue accruing to the state to be ring-fenced for specific use, like road construction and entrepreneurship development. Some argue that it must not go into the Consolidated Fund for general use of the state. They want to see direct use of the tax for the benefit of all Ghanaians. The roads will be great pacification for bearing the extra tiny burden in theeyes of the people.
Of course, the Majority Group needs to do more bridge-building and negotiations to forestall such gridlocks like what is unfolding in Parliament now. If this budget stays down, it could lead the country into unchartered territory. A lot depends on the NPP, but the Speaker must be overarching in his view of how the country gels and moves forward than being fixated with his own hype. He must stop abusing the NPP in this ‘Domestic Relationship’.