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27.06.2020 Opinion

Ghana’s Political Primaries And The Way Forward

By Vincent Anthony Oppong
Ghana’s Political Primaries And The Way Forward
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Ghana is a democratic country after its independence from its British colonial rulers. Ghana became a republic after July 1, 1960. In as much as the country became a Republic, it suffered some Government overthrow like coup d'etat between 1966 to 1992 as well as some elections.

In the year 1992, the country decided to be stable and hold fresh elections after the drafting of the 1992 constitution which was geared towards the Fourth Republic. After the 1992 elections which made the Former President, Jerry John Rawlings as the First Gentleman of the country. Through 2020, the country has had seven consecutive parliaments awaiting its eighth after the yet to be 7TH December 2020 presidential and parliamentary elections.

The parliament of Ghana under the 1992 constitution (Article 93(2)) which states “subject to the provisions of this constitution, the legislative power of Ghana shall be vested in parliament and shall be exercised in accordance with this constitution.” This means the governance of the country cannot be smooth and valid if there is no parliament. Before a person can be said to be a candidate to an election of a political party, he or she must be approved by the party through its delegates in accordance with the constitution of the political party.

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) are the two most powerful political parties in Ghana hence every decision taken by them whether in power or opposition affects the country’s democracy .The National Democratic Congress(NDC) held its primaries to decide on their candidates for the upcoming election on 24th August, 2019 which was held in one hundred and fifty-seven(157) constituencies with about five hundred and twenty-four aspirants were cleared to contest. It is on record that thirty-nine (39) constituencies were incumbent members of parliament who contested unopposed. Out of the winners, nine incumbent MPs lost their seats including Hon. Joseph Yileh Chireh of Wa West, Hon.Ras Mubarak of Kumbungu and others who will not be seen in the upcoming parliament not forgetting Hon.S.K. Bagbin, the Second Deputy Speaker who is retiring from parliament after the seventh parliament.

On the other hand, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) held its primaries on Saturday, June 20, 2020 to choose their parliamentary candidates for the 2020 elections. A total of three hundred and seventy-four (374) aspirants in One hundred and sixty-eight (168) constituencies which consisted of fifty-one (51) women contesting. About sixty-seven (67) went unopposed, and also forty (41) incumbent MPs lost their seats including, Hon.Kwabena Owusu Aduomi of Ejisu,Nana Akua Afriyie of Ablekuma North ,Hon.Daniel Okyem Aboagye of Bantama,William Quaitoo of Akyem, Hon.Ben Abdallah Banda of Offinso south and Hon. Mark Assibey Yeboah of New Juaben South Constituency not also forgetting some retiring MPs from their halves like Hon. Anthony Osei Akoto who is also the Minister of Monitoring and Evaluation and Shirley Ayokor Botwe who is also in charge as the Foreign Affairs Minister.

The decisions were made only by the delegates of the parties based on little or no feasibility studies on the various aspirants from their various constituencies. This means the involvement of the constituents were not taken into consideration which may affect the parties during the December 7 polls. Some of the reasons of ejecting the incumbents were sickening and below the belt as a basis of choosing a leader for such important exercise which was based on their parochial interest and not the country as the motto of SUSEC says “Me man nti, enye me nti” as the House loses some “fine brains”. This was so when some delegates across the country allegedly took monies and items worth ranging between two hundred cedis to six thousand cedis including television sets, fridges, blenders and bicycles.

Though I will be wrong doubting the competencies of the yet to be parliamentarians when given the nod by their respective constituents, it is really going to be a difficult task. The rudiments of the House cannot be studied overnight to become as good as the experienced, the thousand miles journey still begins with a step. This will demand guidance, perseverance and time in other to be abreast of the status quo. Some first timers who went into the seventh parliament and are performing very well includes, Hon. Kojo Oppong Nkrumah of Ofoase Ayirebi Constituency who doubles as the Minister of Information, Hon. Bernard Oko Boye of Ledzokuku and also Deputy Health Minister, Hon.Samuel Etu Bonde of Kintampo North,Hon.Zenator Agyeman Rawlings of Korle Klottey and Hon. Sebastien Ngmenso Sandaare of Daffiama Busie Issa constituency. This makes the seventh parliament to have a total of one hundred and thirty-six (136) representing 49.45% first timers. This therefore calls for attention as some first timers like Hon. Daniel Okyem of Bantam has been axed in the just ended primaries allowing a new candidate into the House if voted for. This sounds a bit worrying because the adaptation to parliament by the new candidate will be longer than the already known parliamentarian.

This sometimes affects the development and progress of the constituency and country as the people tend to change aspirants every four years due to the lack of focus exhibited by some first timers. As the country wishes to have the likes of Hon. Kyei Mensah Bonsu and Hon. S.K. Bagbin always in our parliament, it should be noted they never became better off after a four-year mandate as some first timers are compared to.

The eviction of some parliamentarians is traded to the highest bidders and some members who may not be significant in this time of our country’s development. Therefore the two main political parties and the other parties must make sure before primaries are organized, there is a need for conduction of feasibility studies to focus on the strength and weakness of the aspirants from the constituents as the parties may understand the plight of the people than delegates who cannot be trusted.

Again, in cases where the above mentioned continues, leadership roles in parliament, participation, continuity and standards of parliament may shrink if not outright deterioration which may not affect the country alone but rather Africa and the world. The very few experienced may seem to be overburdened as they will be seen doing all the talking in the House which may also allow them have less time for the constituents paving way for “the volcanic eruption” of the experienced ones.

Going forward, political parties must make sure the following alternatives are considered. The various political parties must make sure delegates are of high standards including integrity. When delegates are of integrity, they do not accept gifts and bribes which tend to affect their level of reasoning to vote an aspirant not ready to push the course of our country.

The parties must cater for the delegates well to demotivate them from receiving monies, bicycles, fridges, and other items in exchange of a competent aspirant as if it was a “barter trading exhibition”. The question that keeps pondering is “will it be wrong if the constituents adapt the style of delegates”? Absolutely, no but that means we are going to sell our pride as a country since the winners of our elections shall be people who were able to pay than people who are competent and poised for action.

Furthermore, the parties must have a look at increasing the tenure of first-time aspirants to eight years to allow them to have the time to focus both on the constituents and the betterment of parliament. This would ease pressure on them as they sometimes get stuck and confused trying to serve two masters. By this suggestion, aspirants who turned MPs would have no complaints to make about time since they may have completed enough of the promises, if not all. This will equally prevent the spending of monies used during primaries every three to four years to enable the parties to have enough resources to fund their campaigns and other related election costs. The extension of the tenure approach will make delegates think thoroughly before choosing a candidate “ceteris paribus”

The democracy of our country geared towards development cannot be tattered with the interest of a few delegates whose delight is to sell their conscience and make the country ridicule among other countries as it’s known to be the “Beacon of Hope”.

In conclusion, I urge all political parties to demonstrate decorum in speech and attitude and a sense of patriotism during and after elections. Ghana must still be peaceful as we near the polls. The peace of this country can never be traded for anything. Observe the necessary protocols and stay safe.

God bless our homeland Ghana.

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