14.02.2005 Feature Article

The role of opposition is not always to oppose

The role of opposition is not always to oppose
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Parliament has already resumed and I was hoping that things would be done differently this time by the NDC MPs. Certainly, we need an opposition in Parliament to hold the government to account but whilst the CPP and PNC MPs have been judging issues on their merits and determining their positions, the NDC MPs have taken their role as an opposition party to mean opposing everything that the government does.

It does not matter to the NDC even when it is clear to the whole world that the government's action is in the best interest of the country! NDC opposed the National Insurance Scheme, the computerisation of Accra Airport, the opening of Apedwa-Bunso Road, the Information Bill, etc, etc. NDC also opposed the increase of fuel prices in 2002 and later opposed the government for not increasing fuel prices in 2004. It even opposed the Ministry of Agriculture for asking for more money to prevent post-harvest losses. Had we listened to their negative voices, Ghana would have been a country in dire need of food.

The events surrounding the election of the new Speaker of Parliament (Mr. Sekyi Hughes) on the day that the President was sworn into office made it clear that the NDC continues to bask in the glory of being a party of archaic ideas, which has little to offer in terms of moving the country forward as far peace and stability is concerned. All around the world, from the poorest country (Haiti) to the richest and the powerful (USA), negotiations are held in camera by the main parties regarding the appointment of the chairman or speaker of Parliament or Congress or Senate. I have never seen a situation where MPs vote openly on the choice of a Speaker. How can those who prefer one candidate to another still trust the one who wins to pursue their cause in Parliament?

It was embarrassing, to say the least, watching all the dignitaries waiting endlessly at the Independence Square just because the NDC wanted to serve its interest rather than uplift and uphold the good image of Ghana. A visitor I met near the Square confided his state of confusion in me "I find it strange that Ghana has been able to organise general elections peacefully but it cannot agree peacefully to elect a Speaker?" I replied that he should not blame me nor the President, but he should put the blame squarely on where it belongs – on the NDC. The NDC was interested in creating confusion that all was not well with Ghana.

Another foreign correspondent who had come all the way from the Netherlands to cover the event said "This is bizarre! Doesn't the Parliament have a procedure for electing a Speaker?" I replied "you bet it does". He probed further "Why should the NDC support the candidature of the previous Speaker, and why should the previous Speaker also accept the support of the NDC?" I said it shows the intentions of the NDC. They think they are in opposition and for that reason they have to criticise anything the government does. Since the corrspondent comes from a society where the opposition is effectively developed he continued "If that is the strategy of the NDC, I am afraid they are going to lose their credibility as an opposition party because people will be weary of their complaints". A passer-by who overheard our conversation said "Hmmm, as for NDC, they think opposition is only about criticising and reciting a catalogue of complaints".

In the midst of all this confusion, what surprised me also was the behaviour of the previous Speaker (Mr. Ala Adjettey). What in heaven's name did he sign a document allowing the NDC to challenge the NPP on his removal? What would Mr. Ala Adjettey have done if the NDC had managed to mobilise enough support to allow his re-election? It beats my imagination that he was waiting in the lounge of the Parliament House ready to be introduced to the House if he had won.

The NDC continued with its strategy of destructive criticism also to the vetting of the minister-designates. Vetting is comparable to being interviewed for a job. You are asked questions, which are related to your ability to do the job. If you are part of a Vetting or Interview Committee and you do not have any relevant question to ask, the best thing to do is to keep quiet. I was ashamed to listen to Mr. Bagbin asking Mr. Dan Botwe to explain how he got his name. What would have happened if Mr. Botwe had said "I don't know." Would he have been disqualified because he did not know the origin of his name? One thing the advanced countries have learned to do is to separate politics from personal affairs unless the personal things have bearing on your functioning as a politician.

I was equally amazed to hear NDC MPs on the Vetting Committee questioning the Central Regional Minister on how he acquired his property. Who has the moral authority to question someone about corruption and amass of wealth? Many NDC members came into politics with nothing but they left as rich men and women. According to Mr Rawlings' own mouth, he could not afford "yoko gari" at the time he staged the coup (1981) but his children are now studying abroad, he imported 4 new bullet-proof cars and he lives in an expensive area in Accra. I suppose he was able to do all these things because won the National Lottery!

Sadly, the NDC had not learned anything from the torture that Ghanaians suffered from the committees which it set up to seize the property of ordinary citizens when the members of P(NDC) lived in luxury. As the saying goes, "every misfortune is a blessing". The performance of the NDC MPs on the vetting committee has shown to Ghanaians, the path of decay and retrogression which the country would follow if NDC were to be voted into power. As for the Minister whose certificates could not be found, I have learned that Odorgonno Secondary has confirmed that he did write the examinations. I would like to point out that in 1996 all the sitting NDC ministers were not vetted. Do the NDC MPs on the Vetting Panel regret for not vetting their ministers at that time? Freedom is enjoyable, and I am pleased that NPP has created a free environment, which has enabled the NDC members at Parliament to exercise their rights to freedom.

NDC will become irrelevant to the development of democracy of the country, if it does not truly practice what is expected of an opposition party. The major role of NDC in Parliament is to propose alternatives to what the government does so that the public gets the benefit of political debate between different directions. If the NDC criticises the government in a positive way, it can cause government to adopt positive proposals. The NDC seems to neglect this advice because it is comfortable losing elections. As somebody said the other day, Mr. Rawlings is happy when NDC loses a Presidential election because he wants to go into history as the only NDC President. My prayer is that CPP will rise and fulfil the role of opposition, which the NDC is not able to fill.

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