Opinion: Whatever Happened to Free Speech in Ghana? – By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

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Mr Sydney Casely-Hayford

At a forum on good governance in Africa, renowned financial analyst and human and civil rights activist Mr. Sydney Casely-Hayford was widely reported to have said that the present 4th-Republican Ghanaian Parliament had outlived its usefulness and needed to be promptly dissolved and decentralized. Mr. Casely-Hayford, the great-grandson of the immortalized Mr. Joseph Ephraim Casely-Hayford, founder and leader of the celebrated National Congress of British West Africa (NCBWA), the precursor of the present-day Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), was also alleged to have said that Ghanaian parliamentarians were in the unsavory and politically regressive habit of passing “stupid laws,” as well as making “stupid decisions” because they, almost to a representative, did not read up on most of the documents pertaining to the issues brought before the august House to be debated and/or passed into laws (See “ ‘I Went Over the Top; I’m Sorry’ – Casely-Hayford” Citifmonline.com / Ghanaweb.com 7/14/17).

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The critic has since been reported to have profusely apologized to members of the country’s National Assembly who may have been miffed by his comments. Well, I have read several versions of news reports carrying the alleged comments of Mr. Casely-Hayford and find them to be in no particular manner offensive (See “My Comments Were Harsh – Casely-Hayford Begs Parliament” Starrfmonline.com / Ghanaweb.com 7/14/17). But, of course, it bears promptly adding that yours truly is not a parliamentarian. Even so, anybody who has been sedulously and studiously following the quality of debates on the floor of the country’s Parliament would almost definitely arrive at pretty much the same conclusions reached by the renowned financial analyst, to wit, that the membership of our National Assembly clearly appears to be unhealthily composed of clinically demented morons who appear to have absolutely no idea of what they are supposed to be doing or talking about most of their time on the august floor of the House.

You see, I read up on most of the news reports detailing the vetting of the cabinet appointees of President Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, and the only reasonable conclusion that any levelheaded reader or auditor could come up with was none other than the unmistakable fact of most of these parliamentarians, especially the main opposition National Democratic Congress’ members on the Parliamentary Appointments Committee (PAC), being grossly out of touch with the realities of Ghanaian political culture on the ground, as it were. For example, it was insufferably nauseating to see nearly every NDC member on the Parliamentary Appointments Committee being inordinately fixated on how some particular cabinet appointees-designate widely known to be virulently critical of former President John Dramani Mahama still felt about the personality and political performance of the latter. Most of these NDC-PAC members were fanatically hell-bent on extorting undeserved apologies from these cabinet appointees-designate in exchange for the approval of their nomination’s confirmation by the NDC’s PAC minority.

In other words, the decision of whether to vote for or against any particular Akufo-Addo cabinet designee was almost wholly based on an idiotic litmus test of whether that candidate or designee was willing to recant or retract their deeply convicted impugnation of the personality and professional or administrative competence of their electorally defeated leader, rather than professionally and objectively concentrating on the performance profile or curriculum vitae (or CV) of the designee. This is clearly what Mr. Casely-Hayford meant, when he poignantly and accurately observed that the overwhelming majority of our parliamentarians woefully lacked the requisite competence, intellectual acumen and professional preparation for the job. Which, as far as many of us are concerned, is the unalloyed truth.

In sum, instead of being mordantly castigated, incriminated and threatened with being hauled before the proverbial august House for dressing down, Mr. Casely-Hayford actually ought to be thanked and applauded for fearlessly and progressively speaking truth to power. The characteristic and all-too-predictable and shameless deployment of Boko Haram Tactics by Mr. Ras Mubarak, the National Democratic Congress’ Member of Parliament for Kumbungu, in the Northern Region, will not wash. I mean, why charge Mr. Casely-Hayford with “Contempt of Parliament,” when the quite perfectly in order criticism by the highly respected financial analyst was not even made on the floor of the House? And then to be hauled before the so-called Parliamentary Privileges Committee (PPC), almost as if Mr. Casely-Hayford was a bona fide member of the House who had violated one of the standing rules governing membership conduct therein.

Now, tell me, dear reader, if this capricious resort to the terror tactics of raw intimidation and the patently unconstitutional abridgement of the free-speech rights of the Ghanaian citizen is not a “stupid” move, what else is?

Visit my blog at: kwameokoampaahoofe.wordpress.com  Ghanaffairs

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