Opinion: Parliament Is Overpopulated! by Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., PhD

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Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jnr., Ph.D.

The Editor-in-Chief of the New Crusading Guide, Abdul-Malik Kweku Baako, may be grossly underestimating the steely resolve of the Ghanaian citizenry vis-à-vis the proposed new 450-seating-capacity parliamentary edifice boondoggle, estimated to be worth some $ 200 Million (USD). Which is why the ardent Convention People’s Party (CPP) ideologue would insist on the imperative need for the construction of a new National Assembly Building at all costs (See “We Must Start New Parliamentary Chamber One Way or the Other – Baako” MyJoyOnline.com / Ghanaweb.com 7/6/19).

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You see, the debate raging over whether a new parliamentary chamber needs to be constructed to accommodate the exponential burgeoning of the membership of our National Assembly grievously ignores several salient issues that, when appropriately and logically put into perspective, would immediately force our parliamentary leaders to rethink and revise their rather scandalously facile trend of thinking to become more critical and progressive thinkers. For starters, our politicians need to fully appreciate the fact that the current rule by which every parliamentary representative gets to represent approximately 35,000 to 50,000 is the crux of the problem of spatial strictures with our current parliamentary chamber.

A cursory comparative survey that this writer conducted, recently, showed Ghanaians to be woefully overrepresented in parliament. For example, here, in the United States of America, every 100,000 (one-hundred thousand) people get to be represented by one Congressional Representative, while in the United Kingdom of Great Britain, every parliamentarian represents anywhere between 63,000 and 68,000 people. What is even more significant to bear in mind is the fact that both the United States and the UK operate far better national assemblies than it is the case with Ghana, where parliamentary absenteeism and policy-rubberstamping is more of the norm than the aberration.

In Australia, for example, one parliamentarian represents at least 150,000 (one-hundred-and-fifty thousand) people. What this means is that Ghana’s parliament may be the most fiscally wasteful of any functional democracy around the world. Now, something needs to be done, and quickly so, before Ghanaians begin to experience a bizarre situation whereby every building in our capital city of Accra begins to get choked up with parliamentary representatives in need of more lebensraum, in proto-Nazi parlance.

In other words, what our country needs presently, even as clearly, albeit inadvertently, stated by the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, who also doubles as the Parliamentary Majority Leader and the New Patriotic Party’s Member of Parliament for Kumasi-Suame, in the Asante Region, is a rational approach towards the efficient use of space. And the better approach will necessarily entail the immediate redistribution of the number of voters and/or people that each and every parliamentary representative will be required to represent.

Once this most efficient use of space in the chamber of our National Assembly Building has been wisely taken care of, then and only then can we constructively, progressively and meaningfully begin to discuss the need for more space for the functional enhancement of the work of our representatives. We also need to start asking critical questions about whatever happened to the Old Parliament House that was bequeathed to our leaders by the departing British colonial rulers. I vividly recall that the aforementioned edifice, across the street from the Accra Arts Center, if memory serves yours truly accurately, was the venue that housed the parliaments of the First Three Republics of the Democratic Republic of Ghana.

In brief, we need to first rediscover our practical sense of history before we can more meaningfully discuss the need for a new parliamentary edifice; and not merely because some of our politicians who traveled abroad and saw some ultra-modern parliamentary edifices would, copycat-fashion, vaingloriously want to have the same things here. Heard of that tired, old but, nevertheless, very sagacious maxim: “Cut your pants according to your size, and not according to the size of your political, intellectual and administrative betters”? *Visit my blog at: kwameokoampaahoofe.wordpress.com  Ghanaffairs