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Politics | Jan 10, 2005

Inside Story of Melodrama in Parliament

Ghanaian Chronicle

Ala Adjetey sparks ... but crashes out There was no clear sign that the decision of President J. A. Kufuor to nominate Mr. Begyina Sekyi Hughes to replace the Right Honourable Mr. Peter Ala Adjetey was going to meet resistance. And from all quarters, not from within the NPP.

That it was going to be a cakewalk was widely written in the print and electronic media with varying degrees of precision. The minority and majority had met and decided to continue the convention of allowing the majority present their nominee with no opposition, and the position of deputy speaker and first deputy speaker distributed among the minority parties.

The fact that Mr. Ala Adjetey had made public his intention to continue for the second term when he made his views known to the Parliamentary press corp did not matter. He did not make any representations to the Commander-in-Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces and Executive President of the Republic. That may have been a crucial mistake despite the fact that he was the national Chairman of the NPP. Chronicle learns that he did not make a personal intervention to the President who originally nominated him for the position in 2000.

No wonder when The Chronicle reached him on his home phone to interview him about the views of the majority leader that that party wanted a Speaker who would be fully supportive of the majority in Parliament, indicating that his days were numbered, he refused to make a direct comment, but expressed surprise -"Oh, is that so?" was all he would say. It appears that when he found out for himself that he was not going to be renominated, he went into his armoury and drew up a battle plan. He was not going to allow himself to be drawn like a lamb to be slaughtered.

He drew his battle plan but like a martial arts fighter, he had known that he could lose. He knew he had the support of his secretariat, but they did not have voting rights. They had probably benefited from the profligacies that characterized his office as Chief Executive of Parliament. But his main backbone was the NDC minority which had openly supported his bid for a second term by making salutary, charitable statements about him.

So last Friday, while the nation waited expectantly to see the swearing in of the new Speakers and Members of Parliament and subsequently the much awaited swearing in of the president and vice, a four-hour drama of haggling and intrigue unfolded in the corridors of parliament, and in the chamber.

In the final analysis, consensus crashed out and in a historic process, the new Speaker of parliament, Mr. Ebenezer Begyina Sekyi Hughes was chosen through a nerve cracking secret balloting process. In reality, it was no secret ballot as the majority leader went round with a three horse whip, ordering members to show their signed ballot papers to their colleagues so that the unthinkable would not happen. It would have been a runaway parliament, and deeply embarrassing to the President. Nowhere does this sort of thing happens.

As early as 6:30am, MPs especially in leadership of the house had begun to arrive presumably to engage in the convention of consultation process by which the Speaker and his two deputies are chosen by consensus.

Signs of trouble began to appear when by 9am, members of the leadership had still not arrived in the chamber instead of the previous agreed time of 8am in order for the house to adjourn and proceed for the swearing in.

Chronicle intelligence can reveal that by the night of 6th January, beleaguered Speaker Ala Adjetey had resolved not to go down without a fight because he knew with the minority votes and those of the Ga caucus in the majority, he would get the numbers.

Feelers had been sent out to both the majority and minority to assess whether he could get the necessary majority to force an election for the post of Speaker against the power of the President's choice, Mr. Sekyi Hughes.

BEWILDERMENT There was further bewilderment when shortly after, the whole of the minority filed out of the chamber supposedly to hold a quick caucus meeting to deliberate on what position to take on the issue of election of the Speaker.

After a nervous wait of another 30 minutes, the minority resumed their seats and the clerk to parliament, K.E.K Tachie, called the house to order.

The clerk then called for nominations for the position of Speaker. Majority leader, Felix Owusu Adjepong sprang to his feet and proposed Mr. Ebenezer Sekyi Hughes, a Takoradi-based lawyer considered to be a close pal of the President and instrumental in the NPP's good showing in the Western region.

The majority leader read out the Curriculum Vitae. There was a clear intake of breath from the public gallery when minority leader, Alban Bagbin, rose and proposed former Speaker, Ala Adjetey to take the chair as Speaker. He proceeded to read an elaborate and distinguished record of the man from his CV which clearly put Sekyi Hughes' in the shade.

Having received two nominations, the stage was set for a showdown. Ala Adjetey's battle was on, and he will be remembered and be an inspiration in Ga Folklore, not as a timorous soul who went out squealing, but as a man with two balls between his legs. The clerk called for a secret ballot, and the first shot rang out.

The secret ballot saw members of the majority exchanging ballot papers to show each other whom they were voting for so that no member betrayed their side of the house as they had discussed the process earlier at their caucus meeting.

The process of the vote was not without its surprises. At the end of the ballot, the total votes counted were 231(135 for Sekyi Hughes and 96 for Ala Adjetey). This exceeded the total number of MPs which stands at 230. The minority protested but the clerk overruled them and declared the results as 134 for Sekyi Hughes and 96 for Ala Adjetey.

First deputy speaker, Freddie Blay, was elected unopposed. The motion for his nomination was moved by deputy majority leader, Abraham Ossie Aidoo, and seconded by minority chief whip, Doe Adjaho. It worked according to plan and Freddie Blay was seen giving a thumbs up sign in excitement.

There was further drama when the majority proposed Malik Alhassan Yakubu as second deputy speaker against the minority candidate Ken Dzirasah, the former occupant of the position.

This was seen as punishment for the minority for breaching the agreement that they were not going to oppose the majority's choice.

Malik Yakubu won by 135 votes to 94. In an interview with some MPs after the sitting, they expressed displeasure at the shabby treatment of the former Speaker. One member who preferred to remain anonymous said even as at the morning of the election of the Speaker, neither the president nor any member of the NPP had had the courtesy to call the former and inform him of the government's decision to appoint a new person to that position.

'WE WERE NOT SURPRISED" The minority leader afterwards in an interview told The Chronicle that they were not shocked at all about the output of their colleagues on the other side of the house because they knew the majority had already planned to put someone up for 2nd deputy speaker.

"We were not surprised at all," he insisted. Bagbin said the majority whipped their caucus in line to vote for Malik Alhassan Yakubu, the former Minister of Interior, but the minority insisted that the right thing be done and the national interest should prevail because going through the submission of the majority, they had not been able to come out with any other reason why the former could not be Speaker.

He said the minority had had a number of problems with the Speaker but they thought that on a point of principle, the former had endeared himself to the house and had four good years of experience.

He noted that with a new legislature, and good percentage of the number being first timers, they thought the house needed someone with experienced hands to handle matters of the house to a successful end.

"We have 118 new faces then; bringing a new face as speaker would take us back because he would also start learning from those of us who are experienced and his impartiality might be compromised."

He mentioned that they applied the rules and provisions of the constitution and went through the process of electing a Speaker but there was no consensus this time so there had to be a secret ballot.

Behind the scenes, The Chronicle observed the quietly seated pair of Professor Atta Mills and Dr. Obed Asamoah, monitoring proceedings. There had been consultations with them. It was confirmed by some minority MPs that the founder of the NDC, former President J.J Rawlings had insisted that they did not give the majority any quarter. 'Give them hell' was said to be the orders given to the MPs, and they dutifully obliged.

In the arrangement, Hon Albin Bagbin had been penciled in for deputy Speaker. When the NDC opposed Hughes, the majority decided to mop up the other office. That left a highly chuffed Kenneth Dzirasah completely marooned and at sea.

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