THE ELECTION OF RT. HON. SPEAKER AND MATTERS ARISING
There have been several narratives in the public domain since the election of the Speaker of Parliament in the morning of 7th January, 2021. In what was an unanticipated delay in the election of Speaker of the House, the mantle of leadership as Speaker fell on the Rt. Hon. Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin as Speaker of the 8th Parliament of the Republic of Ghana.
Let me use this opportunity to congratulate him as the elected Speaker in a stiff competition. It was worth the effort, and all commendations to those who reposed confidence in the then retired 2nd Deputy Speaker of the 7th Parliament.
Readers would recall, and especially those who watched the live proceedings and those who might have watched later, that the journey to the election of Speaker for the 8th Parliament, was near chaotic, unfortunate, and something we could have done without. The election of a Speaker, sets the tone of the kind of Parliament we anticipate.
Ordinarily, once a candidate is nominated and seconded, if there were no further nominations, there is absolute consensus in that regard, and the speaker so chosen, is thereby declared as having been selected on the basis of consensus. As stated, this sets the tone of the nature of the next parliament.
In our case, in the morning of the 7th of January, two candidates were nominated – the former Speaker Rt. Hon. Professor Mike Ocquaye who was nominated and seconded by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Caucus in Parliament following the nomination and secondment of the then retired 2nd Deputy Speaker A.S.K. Bagbin. It is important to emphasize that nominations could have proceeded beyond just two candidates.
Thereafter, once there are more than one candidate, elections are expected to be conducted under the authority of the Presiding Clerk of Parliament. The results are thereafter declared after the ballots are sorted and counted and the candidate who secures the most votes is then declared winner.
In the typical case of 7th January, two candidates were nominated and seconded as indicated above. This required election to be conducted for the candidates.
Per the law, Constitution 1992, this election is expected to be conducted by a secret ballot. This is provided for under Article 104 (4) of the Constitution which states under VOTING IN PARLIAMENT as follows:
“Where Parliament is considering a bill to amend the Constitution, or where the voting is in relation to the election or removal of any person under this Constitution or under any other law, voting shall be in secret.”
The key word for emphasis here is SECRET. By secret, it is the state where no one sees whom any of the person votes for, and where there is no possibility of one being able to ascertain which ballot was cast by who and for whom.
In other words, it prohibits identifying ballots in a manner that makes it possible to trace a ballot cast and associate same to the one who cast that ballot.
Others have argued the possibility of waiver of this right of protection to the situation where one chooses to show for the purpose of identification, whom he or she has voted for.
Granted as it may, what was engaged in in the House of Parliament by the NPP side, was not a voluntary decision by members of their side to show their ballots, but were under compulsion so to do. This would amount to a flagrant violation of the provisions in Article 104 (4) of the Constitution.
This resulted in the National Democratic Congress (NDC) insisting on the provisions in article 104 (4) to be respected and enforced. What the NDC Caucus did, was to ensure the right and protection for one to vote without being identified and intimidated.
We were hopeful, that, given the chance to elect Speaker without the compulsion to show ballots to any persons, we would secure the mandate of Speakership for our nominee Speaker.
We were hopeful because we have in Rt. Hon. Bagbin, an experienced hand, a man who has been in parliament consistently since 1992, served in various capacities, was a former minister, was instrumental in our parliamentary democratic practices, was a former 2nd Deputy Speaker, and was experienced enough to lead the House.
We knew that some colleagues in the NPP believed in that too, and we harnessed the provisions of the Constitution 1992, to provide a fair ground for the election of Speaker. In the end, we succeeded, and we elected Rt. Hon Bagbin as Speaker for the 8th Parliament.
There were unfortunate incidents which cannot go without mention. There were series of disruptions which were avoidable. The mere demands for ballots to be cast in secret, should not have degenerated. Parliament, mirrors our entire democratic practice as a country.
If parliament is not tolerant to transparency in our balloting processes, it simply means the nation has not embraced same across the country. It is for this reason that one would expect Parliament to lead the way.
Efforts were made severally to discourage the strategy adopted by the NPP Caucus to intimidate its members by demanding display of ballots. What was the fear? If the NPP Caucus was so united, there must be no difficulty in having confidence in whom their members would vote for.
Their conduct simply exposes the lack of trust and the knowledge that some of their members would be more comfortable working with the nominee of the NDC. And we are glad to have inspired such confidence in the members who reposed confidence in our nominee.
The snatching of ballots by my colleague Carlos Ahenkorah was to say the least, unfortunate, regrettable and unacceptable.
Not when the ordinary man we seek power to serve has been jailed for a similar conduct and not when some have been shot in doing a similar thing. There cannot be any attempt to justify the conduct, as we are hopeful that the singular action would be dealt with in accordance with the laws of Ghana.
Then we came to the lowest of all – the invasion of Parliament by armed military officers. This matter, require serious investigations. That very scene, mirrors the country on 7th and 8th January following the various declarations in various constituencies.
The country was inundated with reports of attacks by armed men and shootings which could not be explained. Up to today, we are yet to see any serious actions targeted at investigating these barbaric acts more than a month after the elections.
We saw innocent citizens being shot at, and these require investigations into the circumstances leading to the shootings and punishments carried out on those who perpetrated those crimes.
The Parliament of Ghana is the only institution or arm of Government that suffers anytime there is a coup d’état. Whenever a coup is staged, parliament is suspended until the next elections.
However, the Executive Arm and the Judiciary, continues to function. It was on this note that Members of Parliament from especially the side of the NDC felt frightened by the invasion. For those who watched the videos, the NPP side were comfortably seated and unperturbed by the invasion, an indication that they had knowledge of the deployment or that they have endorsed the deployment.
Anything could have happened, and that informed some of us to stand up to defend the institution of Parliament and for that matter the Constitution of Ghana.
Parliament has an anticipation for events like the one we had on the dawn of 7th January, and has for that matter, established the Marshall’s office to deal with matters of security of Parliament.
On the day in question, Parliament’s security was under the control of Parliament, and it is expected that investigations would be carried out to ascertain the circumstances that led to the invasion of the floor by armed and external security and under whose authority those men were deployed.
Having gone through all these tussles to emerge victorious with our nominee, the narratives are being changed. What comforts some of us is that this event was watched by people outside of Parliament, which provides them with the facts.
At what point did we build consensus as the NPP side is now claiming? At what point did that happen? Was it after we counted the 136 votes for Speaker Oquaye with one rejected ballot? Or before the conduct of elections which eventually meant we never held the elections in the first place?
We cannot be this untruthful to ourselves. There were brochures distributed to the public which purports to contain the image of Speaker Oquaye as Speaker of Parliament on the day of the investiture of President Akufo-Addo.
What consensus was built at that time? We won a hard-fought victory for the Speakership, and no one should attempt to undermine the effort.
The NPP was very confident of winning the Speaker position. They did not see a reason not to nominate a candidate with a long read CV after the Hon. Leader Haruna Iddrisu nominated Rt. Hon. Bagbin.
They went ahead to nominate their candidate and took us into elections. After the votes of Speaker Oquayre was counted and the rejected ballot removed, it was simple to ascertain the votes obtained by our candidate.
It is on the basis of this that we knew Rt. Hon. Bagbin won. The declaration was marred by several unpleasant manoeuvres. The disruption of the counting process for the NDC nominee is common.
The snatching, chewing and swallowing of ballot papers were confirmed to us. In the end, the Presiding Clerk to Parliament declared the Rt. Hon. Bagbin as Speaker Elect and was subsequently sworn into office by the Chief Justice.
If the events were anything to go by, the NPP side which currently forms government pending the determination of the Supreme Court case on the Election Petition 2020, must begin to show some respect to the NDC side. Government Bills. Agreements, etc. may come up for deliberations and approvals, and the earlier they reset their current mode into one of respect, the better.
We shall continue to serve Ghana in the best of our abilities, and we are determined to safeguard our resources and to ensure their efficient and judicious use.
Rockson-Nelson E.K. Dafeamekpor
MP, South Dayi