columnBy Stephen Odoi-Larbi
The sixth Parliament of the Fourth Republic of Ghana seems to have started with a limp. Ghana's Parliament has gone for a two-week break to enable the leadership find a lasting solution to the congestion problem in the Chamber.
The 273 MPs (excluding the vacant seats of Buem and Akatsi South) are not comfortable with the overcrowding in the House, leaving the leaders, especially, those on the minority side, to voice out their concerns.
The British parliament, the Palace of Westminster, has a Chamber which is quite small and when there is an important issue to be discussed, the chamber can become very crowded and MPs squeeze on to the benches or sit on the steps. These seating arrangements have existed for hundred of years.
Since the beginning of Ghana's fourth republican constitution, the sitting arrangements in the chamber of parliament have been a semblance of comfortableness for the members of parliament.
The Fifth Parliament was made up of 230 MPs, but the approval of the controversial C.I.78 added 45 MPs to the house, bringing the total number of MPs to 275, with no expansion works done in the chamber. The increase in numbers is what is obviously taking us to the symbolic ambience of the British parliament.
The house is now on a two-week break, and as we have been informed, it is to allow for some renovation to be done in the house to provide the MPs the needed comfort to carry out their duties when they return.
On January 7, 2013, the Sixth Parliament of the Fourth Republic began its activities with the first week of the sitting ending on Friday, January 11, 2013.
A recap of activities of the first week's sittings showed some interesting moments in the august House.
From the election of the Speaker to the announcement of first ministerial appointments by the President, the House has been an interesting place.
For the first timers in the Chamber, especially the new faces, the experience, as many put it, was like "my first day in school."
Though many were taken round the facilities of Parliament, moments after registering for the Sixth Parliament, their experience in the Chamber was a different ball game altogether.
On the first day in the house, besides imbibing the new procedures of the House, the dress code was predominantly traditional, portraying Ghana's rich culture in the august house of parliament.
The traditional regalia ranged from 'fugu' or 'batakari' and 'agbada' in the north, and the famous 'kente' from the south, amidst a variety of continental borrowing, as exhibited by Alhaji Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka, Member of Parliament for Asawase, who was resplendent in a Northern Nigeria costume.
A few wore shirt with the British or American jacket and a tie to match. Notable in this category was the new Speaker-elect, Rt. Hon. Edward Doe Adjaho and the Majority Leader, Hon. Benjamin Kunbuor.
But the one who stole the day with his traditional regalia (a cloth and a pair of 'ahenmaa' to match) was the new MP-elect for Tema East, Hon. Daniel Nii Kwartei Titus-Glover.
Not only did his dress catch the attention of his colleagues, but also his new found nick-name, 'MP3'. Titus-Glover, according to the official verdict of the Electoral Commission (EC) beat his contender for the Tema East Constituency with three votes, hence the name MP3 (Member of Parliament 3).
Another interesting aspect of the first week sitting of the Sixth Parliament that was worthy of note, was the healthy collaboration by both sides of the House, in the election of Speaker and deputies.
It is a known fact that the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Edward Doe Adjaho had been a true friend to both sides of the House when he sat in the Speaker's chair for most part of the last parliament.
Despite the 'guerilla' tactics for which he was noted, which he sometimes used in pushing controversial legislations through, and the minority indeed had some torrid times with the 'Ave Aveno Mugabe', the latter has indeed warmed his way into the leadership of the minority, judging by the way his nomination and acceptance went smoothly.
Conceivably, the best part of the event was the drama before and during the reconciliatory message delivered by the new Speaker-elect.
Moments after taking the Oaths of Allegiance and Office, the Speaker took his seat, looked left and then right, and announced his arrival by calling on members to remain silent in the House. "Order, Order, Hon. Members, Order," he announced his Speakership authourity in a typical Ala Adjetey baritone voice.
In his acceptance speech, the Rt. Hon. Speaker called on both sides of the House to build consensus in doing business in the House. He promised to bring to bear on his new found position the experience he has gained over his twenty-year presence in the House.
Despite sounding more reconciliatory and solemn in the delivery of his message, the Speaker did not miss the opportunity to display his light-hearted nature.
Prior to concluding his acceptance speech, he assured the Minority Leader (perhaps in the language the Minority leader understands best) that in the performance of his duties, "I will not be capricious and whimsical."
His comments ignited the entire chamber and just as everyone thought he was done, he handed over the title of 'forces of darkness' to his very good friend, Papa Owusu Ankomah, the MP for Sekondi. Whatever the forces of darkness mean, I leave it to the two honourable gentlemen of the house.
When members thought that they have had enough for the day, then came the man with 'No Case'.
With the mention of his name, it reminds us of Alfred Agbesi Woyome, who earned a whopping GHÂÂ¢51m from the state, and is being challenged in court.
He may be disliked by many Ghanaians, but his constituents in the Cape Coast North Constituency love him.
He was not among the first names to be shortlisted by his NDC colleagues for the 1st Deputy Speaker position in Parliament, but when the time came for the roll call, he was the chosen one; perhaps, a later day saint.
The Hon. Ebo Barton Oduro was elected by his colleagues to the position of 1st Deputy Speaker. He was a Deputy Minister for Justice& Attorney-General over the last four years.
He is a legal practitioner by profession, but what brought him to fame nationwide was his infamous pronouncement of the "State Has No Case" in the biggest scandal that has ever rocked this country; the Alfred Agbesi Woyome scandal.
And so, when his name was proposed by the Majority Leader in Parliament, Dr. Benjamin Kunbuor, for the 1st Deputy Speaker position, it wasn't surprising that the minority started calling him "No Case."
"No Case, No Case, No Case", energetic members from the minority side shouted to approve of Mr. Oduro's nomination for the said position.
The shouting was accompanied with laughter from both sides of the House. One could have thought that Mr. Oduro would have objected to his new name, but he enjoyed it.
As members continued chanting "No Case, No Case", the Cape Coast North MP started nodding his head and put up a big smile to respond to the cheers.
His nomination was not objected to. So, when "No Case" was pronounced by the Speaker, Edward Doe Adjaho, as the 1st Deputy Speaker-elect, he received a rousing applause from his colleagues.
The house erupted into more jubilant mood, when he was called by the Speaker to take his new seat.
The gentle giant walked majestically from his old seat, directly opposite the Speaker, shook hands with some colleagues around him and exchanged pleasantries with the 2nd Deputy Speaker, Mr. Joe Ghartey, by gently tapping his shoulders, before taking his seat.
Four days later, Mr. 'No Case' was called by the Speaker to perform his first major assignment; admission of Statements from members of the august House.
Presiding over the House with a deep voice, he made his first pronouncement; "Hon. Members, the member for Juaben was on the floor making a statement. You may proceed, Hon. Member," he directed.
Having been gladly greeted with a Statement, Mr. 'No Case' then called for contributions from members of the House to the Statement read by Hon. Ama Pomaa Andoh.
Another Statement duly admitted was from the MP for Bunkpurugu, Solomon Namliit Boar who cited lack of infrastructure development in his area.
Contributions from members on the said Statement were also admitted by the Chair. One of such contributions was from the MP for Keta, Richard Mawuli Quashigah.
In his contribution, Mr. Quashigah tried to compare infrastructural development projects between the NPP and the NDC administrations, but was quickly cut short by the 1st Deputy Speaker.
"Hon. Member, could you please stick to the issue on the floor. In Parliament, when contributing to a Statement on the floor, you don't make contributions that will draw debate," he counseled.
The ruling of Mr. Oduro was really a landmark one, in preventing the MP for Keta from getting into trouble.
Perhaps, Mr. 'No Case' realized that Mr. Quashigah had no case in contributing to the Statement made by the MP for Bunkpurugu.