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11.03.2013 Opinion

Stealers Is A Word, But Are Our MPS Thieves?

By Ghanaian Chronicle
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By I. K. Gyasi
This article is not aimed at teaching English to anybody, but rather attempts to warn our Members of Parliament over the danger of exposing themselves to hatred, contempt and ridicule, through their own behaviour and utterances.

However, I cannot but comment on the word 'stealer', its use, and some people's reaction to it.

Trust the colourful and irrepressible Sheikh I. C. Quaye to stir controversy by using the word. Sheikh I. C. Quaye was greeted with derision and ridicule when he first uttered that word. Apparently, the use of the word underscored Sheikh's illiteracy.

Before the minority New Patriotic Party (NPP) Members of Parliament walked out to avoid listening to the President's address on the State of the Nation, they flashed cards with the inscription, 'Stealers' on them.

Mr. Johnson Asiedu-Nketiah, the General Secretary of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), whose stock-in-trade is being deliberately offensive, contemptuously described the NPP Members of Parliament as being a bunch of illiterate people, who had wasted the money spent on their education.

I read from my very good friend and Vandal Mate, Mr. Africanus Owusu-Ansah, that Mr. Nii Lante Vanderpuye had, in equal measure, poured scorn on the use of the word.

According to Mr. Owusu-Ansah, Mr. Vanderpuye had stated in a TV programme that his 5 year-old son had asked him whether there was such a word as 'stealer'. The contempt in Nii Lante Vanderpuye's face and voice must have been unmistakably clear.

Well, the shoe is on the other foot. The ignoramuses are not (repeat NOT) Sheikh I. C. Quaye and his fellow NPP people, but rather Mr. Asiedu-Nketiah, Nii Lante Vanderpuye and others who think like them.

As Mr. Owusu-Ansah made it authoritatively clear in his article entitled 'STEALERS!, STEALERS!, STEALERS', and published in the Thursday, February 28, 2013 issue of the DAILY GUIDE , 'stealer' is, indeed, a word.

I will not repeat the thoroughly enjoyable lesson by Africanus. I will merely refer the ignoramuses who have not drunk deep of the fountain of knowledge to page 1363 of THE CONCISE OXFORD DICTIONARY hard-cover copy of the 1995 Edition. As the incredible Kweku Baako would say, 'I rest my case.'

Thanks to television, I have witnessed how, sometimes, Members of Parliament on both sides of the House ridicule one another in a very good-humoured way. It is all part of the show of camaraderie to indicate that political opponents are not enemies.

But, is it good humour for Members of Parliament from one side of the House to call members on the other side thieves, even if the word used is 'stealers,' which Mr. Asiedu-Nketiah says is not a word?

Currently before the Supreme Court is a petition by three members of the NPP, namely Mr. Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, National Chairman of the NPP, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the 2012 presidential candidate of the NPP, and Dr. Muhamudu Bawumiah, his vice presidential candidate.

The three persons were at pains to stress that their quarrel was not with the NDC, or even with Mr. John Dramani Mahama, but with the Electoral Commission, which, they suspected, had cheated them of victory. So why call the NDC Members of Parliament thieves?

You might think that the conduct and utterances of some NDC Members of Parliament would mark them out as deserving the title 'Honourable', unfortunately not.

Or was it also a joke for a so-called Honourable Member to say that the NPP members' decision to attend the reading of the Budget sprang from a desire to enjoy the snacks awaiting the delivery of the Budget Statement?

One NDC Member was also reported to have contemplated taking the NPP members to the Supreme Court. There is even talk of moves to stop them from taking their salaries and allowances.

There is another disturbing trend. It is shameful that some Members of Parliament, who used to be panel members on radio and TV discussions, have taken their mutual antagonism, their sometimes bad manners and indecorous language to the House.

NPP-NDC animosity is still at work, as if those people think that Parliament is just another forum to continue their misbehaviour. How can so-called honourable people descend into the gutter to pick stench-drenched language to throw at one another, and still expect to be called honourable? How can they serve notice to one another that they are prepared to fight? Are they truly honourable? Banter, yes, but insults that hurt so much and display such ill-breeding? The answer should be 'NO!'

If our MPs are not careful, partisan political considerations will break their front and expose them as people with just a veneer of respectability, which scrapes off at the touch of the least provocation.

Sometimes, one wonders whether, in the 20-year history of our Parliament, that body has covered itself with glory. They have jealously guarded their privileges. The other day, they dragged a public official before their Privileges Committee, and subjected the poor man to public ridicule, as they chastised him.

In 2010, they felt so offended by an AFRICA WATCH rating of MPs that they talked of summoning the Editor, Steve Mallory (actually a full-blooded Ghanaian called Raymond Opoku who once worked with THE PIONEER in Kumasi) to appear before their Privileges Committee.

What is the picture? Members of Parliament did the unthinkable, when they broke faith over the appointment of a Speaker. Ask Mr. Ken Dzirasah.

In the subsequent vote, there was one ballot more than the number of parliamentarians present and voting. Was the extra ballot issued by mistake, or was it smuggled in?

It is on record that at one time, a taxi driver was assaulted by an MP, who also took away the driver's taxi. This same MP was later to assault a journalist.

What happened? Nothing! MPs are always ready to seek refuge behind Article 117 that grants them immunity from criminal and civil processes when they are engaged in parliamentary business. Is an MP on parliamentary business if he is attending hospital or a funeral?

Is dishonour not brought to the House when an MP is jailed in a foreign country for drug trafficking? Or engaged in some shady deal involving somebody's money?

The cynical observation out there is that for all the cut and thrust that creates the impression that Members of Parliament as enemies, they are always seamlessly united when it comes to their salaries, allowances, ex-gratia, loans, funerals of members or their relatives, etc.

If our MPs want us to treat them with respect, they should be the first to work hard to earn that respect. Their past history, and current trading of insults against one another, cannot earn them any respect. Once more, I rest my case.

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