New NDC MPs share Experience on first year in Parliament

Parliamentary election victories are equal, but some victories are more equal than others. Such could be said of Members of Parliament (MPs) who made headlines for defeating household political names.

In their constituencies, like in the nation, they gave watchers a rematch of the Biblical David-Goliath battle that launched them into political prominence because of the big names they defeated.

“He who fells a big tree, must be ready to extract all its barkcloth”: Now, a year on, the MPs are still being viewed, even judged, in terms of the men or women they succeeded.

The 7th of January marked one year in office for Parliamentarians in the 7th Parliament of the Fourth Republic, who were declared victorious after some of the hottest contests in the 2016 presidential and parliamentary polls.

THE REPUBLIC parliamentary correspondent  followed some MPs of the opposition National Democratic Congress(NDC) who made it to the august house  to find out how they have found their first taste of being lawmakers of the legislative arm of government of Ghana.

Most of the first-time MPs who spoke to the paper expressed the conviction that, Parliament is an institution of highest learning and any person who found himself or herself in the august house has to learn and understand the procedures of the House so he or she could be  able to catch up with the older ones.

Hon Andrew Dari Chiwity

Hon Chiwity is the MP for Sawla/Tuna/Kalba constituency in the Northern Region. He told the paper he contested the NDC parliamentary primaries in 2015 with an incumbent District Chief Executive and won handsomely. He said, initially he was advised to step down for the DCE to go, but the grassroots protested saying they preferred him rather. Eventually, he won the primaries and became the candidate and subsequently won the national election to secure the seat for the NDC. What curtailed his victory celebration was the fact that, the party lost the presidency even though he won.

Hon Chiwity is now in Parliament and told the paper he had learnt new politics in parliament within the first year and that though partisanship still permeates the august house, the procedures and orders that one has to follow to put in concerns made it quite principled.

“Well, in my first year, I will say I have learned several new things; the Standing Orders, which are more or less a “Bible” of Parliament. Parliament is an institution in which you have to learn all the time and be able to understand and follow. It is all about procedure, from asking a question, making a statement or contribution on the floor. But I think it is also an interesting place,” he shared his experience.

He added that the experience has been both empowering and humbling; he has made it his mission to stand up and fight tirelessly for his constituents. Mr. Chiwity said his aim is to be a strong voice for the people of Sawla/Tuna/Kalba in the face of poverty as the demands being placed on MPs kept increasing. According to him, he used the recesses to visit the constituency. To reduce abject poverty in the area, the young affable and soft-spoken MP said he assisted needy students in education, helped drill boreholes for drinking water, and donated to several groupings.

Hon Sophia Karen Ackuaku

Hon Sophia Ackuaku is the MP for Oboum/ Domeabra in the Greater Accra Region. She succeeded an MP who did not seek re-election at the party parliamentary primaries. For her, parliament is a new environment where one must be ready and willing to learn through procedures. She had learnt a lot in the august house, with particular reference to the do’s and don’ts.

The female lawmaker added that even though partisanship exists in the House,  respect for leadership of the House is very high. The respect for rules and the Standing Orders are the norms one dares not play with in the Chamber of Parliament.

Hon. Sophia said she has learnt how to ask questions, make statements and when to talk in the House. “In parliament you do not talk when the front-liners are on their feet. The Speaker controls all business on the floor,” she said.

At the Constituency level, she felt she has done a lot for her people. But she acknowledged that there is still a lot to do. She never knew parliamentarians assumed the role of caretaker; every constituent’s problem is heaped on you as a lawmaker, be it child naming ceremony, marriage ceremony, funeral or school or apprenticeship  graduation. You must be there, your contribution must be seen. The demands, she noted, “are too many beyond the responsibility of an MP, but our people will never understand.”

She promised to serve her constituents through  parliament for a better development for the constituency.

Hon Sam George

Sam Nartey George, alias Gyata, is one of the few new faces in parliament representing  the good people of Ningo-Prampram in the Greater Accra Region on the banner of the NDC. He  knocked out septuagenarian and long serving legislator, E. T. Mensah at the party primaries and subsequently retained the seat for the NDC, a seat the party has held since 1992.

Sam George told this paper that he had had both good and bad experiences during the December 7, 2016 general election. He said, after winning the primaries, he knew he had another mantle to fight up and therefore did not underestimate anything political.

He had to ensure that, he retained the seat; he, therefore, engaged in serious campaign and got  the people to buy into his ideas to develop Ningo-Prampram.

He said, even though he won the seat by winning the whopping majority of 82 polling stations out of 93, his victory mood was shortchanged for sadness when results monitored nationwide indicated the party had lost the  presidency and some more parliamentary seats.

Nevertheless, he said he had come to learn from parliament, especially from the contributions made both on the floor and at the committee level. At the other end of the spectrum, Sam George said he had the opportunity to lead his people and what made him more humble was the fact that, he now has responsibilities than ever. He had, within the period under review, helped many needy students, made some donations and many other interventions for his constituents. He promised a brighter future for the youth if his constituency.

Hon Alhassan Umar

Hon Umar Alhassan , MP for Zabzugu in the Northern Region came to parliament after dislodging the incumbent MP of the New Patriotic Party (NPP). He said on the eve of December 7, all indications of the elections were in his favour, but he was not sure of the victory margin. He stated that, after he was declared winner, the entire constituency besieged his house with congratulations. However, the excitement and the jamboree around him died down as soon as results nationwide revealed his party has lost the presidential election to the NPP.

Coming to parliament to represent his people, Hon Umar said, has been his utmost desire and being in the august House for the past year has been a mixed experience on national and political dynamics in the country. He had learnt, and continues to learn, from the front bench and the more experienced lawmakers in the house.

At the constituency level, the Zabzugu lawmaker admitted that, leading the constituents is not as easy as in other  more advanced democratic countries and that the demands made upon MPs by some constituents were beyond their responsibility. He blamed the central government for failing to meet the developmental needs of the people. He also criticized colleague politicians who go about promising more than the role of MP can really deliver. In his candid view, there should be a paradigm shift, where the electorate are educated on their civic responsibility to vote MPs into office to articulate their concerns in the legislative house rather than becoming development agents.

Hon (Dr)Sebastian Ngmenenso Sandaare

Dr. Sandaare won the parliamentary seat to represent the people of Daffiama/Bussie/Issa, in the Upper West Region. He earlier beat three other contestants at the NDC party primaries after the then sitting MP, Mathias Pouza decided not to seek for re-election.

He told this paper that, on the eve of the December 7, 2016 elections, though he knew he was going to win per the results trickling in from most polling stations, he was not certain of the margin. But eventually, his victory was declared by the Electoral Commission (EC), late in the night and the whole constituency went into mammoth jubilation, but he later had the shock of defeat at the Presidential level which rendered him and his people sad.

In parliament, Dr Sandaare said he had learnt a lot and described parliament as an Institution of its own and that, irrespective of one’s profession, he or she would have to start from scratch and learn and learn fast if one was going to be able to follow proceedings.

He said, as a Health Officer who cares and serves the public, he never dreamt to be in such a position, ” noting, “That’s why I can never forget the trust that thousands of people in my constituency have placed in me to speak up for them in Parliament.”

Just like his colleagues, Dr Sandaare also bemoaned the kind of demands from constituents, stating, “all the time you find yourself  confronted by constituents with one problem or the other.” He, however, promised to give out his best to develop the constituency but appealed to his people to be patient while he lobbies the government for needed projects such as a District Hospital.

Hon Mohammud Bawah Braimah

Hon Bawa Braimah, MP for Ejura-Sekyeredumasi in the Ashanti Region, said, after winning the NDC primaries, he knew he was going to snatch the seat which was then in the hands of NPP. He said he won the parliamentary seat based on the developmental projects and personal relations with the people following his effort as  the then  MCE for the area before the elections.

Hon Braimah opined that, parliament is an institution with its own rules and one must learn to be able to contribute meaningfully. He promised to articulate the concerns of his constituents on the floor and at the committee level, stating, “the work of parliament is not as easy as we think when we are outside it.”

Having been an MCE, he said he was not new to the demanding nature of his constituents and promised to always make himself available for their needs when there is the means.

Hon Albert Akuka Alalzuuga

Hon Albert Akuka Alalzuuga is one of the political David’s who  beat Goliath to represent the good people of Garu in the Upper East Region. Mr Alalzuuga , a former DCE for Garu, defeated Dominic Azimbe, one of the country’s longest serving legislators, after a serious battle in the NDC primaries in 2015.

He said, on the election day, December 7, 2016, all indications of the results were in his favour and that when the EC finally declared him victorious, he had to hide due to the number of jubilant supporters that thronged his house.

Now in parliament, the Garu lawmaker said, been an MP is a job with many challenges, the most immediate of which is learning to navigate partisanship politics in the august House and the rules of the chamber.

Mr Alalzuuga indicated that parliament is an institution of its own and that  representing his people in the august House was an honour to him judging from where he started his life. He added that, the privilege to mingle with prominent personalities in society and the opportunity to regularly and effectively engage the media are all overwhelming.

Generally, he said, his interest  as MP is to articulate the views of his constituents on the floor of parliament, and at any given opportunity, “My focus as MP is on tackling poverty and securing good employment opportunities for my constituents.”

He said the challenges are enormous as an “opposition MP” but vowed to use his experience to help promote development for the good people of Garu.

Hon Ernest Henry Norgbey

Hon Ernest Norgbey is another political David in the Goliath battle who fought and defeated Mr. Alfred Agbesi, a longest serving MP for the Ashaiman constituency in the Greater Accra Region, at the NDC primaries in 2015.

He told this paper, he has learnt the parliamentary procedures, the Standing Orders  and could confidently say that, he is becoming knowledgeable in the processes both at the plenary and  at the committee level.

Just like his colleagues, Hon Norgbey said parliament is an institution of learning and one must learn quickly to be able to understand  the environment and to know when and how to conduct oneself as MP. He admitted that, coming to parliament has changed his initial perception on parliamentarians when he was a private man, whilst working with NADMO, a public institution.

Mr Norgbey said, “It’s an incredible privilege to represent the people of Ashaiman, one of the largest populated cosmopolitan settlements in Accra, where the youth work hard daily to make a living despite the huge challenges. He promised to give voice to the constituents in parliament and lobby for developmental projects.

 Hon Yussif Sulemana

Hon Yussif won the NDC parliamentary primaries against other contestants who were all trying to succeed the then incumbent MP, Hon Joseph Saaka Akati, who  did not seek re-election, having served two terms for the Bole-Bamboi constituency, one of the more popular constituencies in the Northern Region.

At the national elections in 2016, Mr Yussif said, he knew he was going to win the seat, because, it has been the NDC seat and then incumbent President, John Mahama, had also held the seat for more than three terms.

“As a new MP, it is hard to know how to focus your time in Parliament, but I am someone who learns quickly, so I speedily became familiar with the rules and procedures and I think I am picking up very well. For me, I think it may have been easier than for others as I arrived here with a clear agenda to improve upon what  my predecessors left,” he said.

He added that, entering parliament has had its highs and its lows, but the overall interest is to serve his people, arguing that, though the demands from the constituents are many, he would do his best to provide most of the demands, if not all, at the same time.

Hon Charles Agbeve

Hon Charles Agbeve is the MP for Agotime-Ziope in the Volta Region. He said, after  the most challenging campaign, the occasional rebellious votes, and the enthusiasm of the youth to rally behind him, his first 12 months in parliament have been very memorable.

“When I was elected on December 7, 2016, my constituents put their trust in someone who has lived amongst them for decades. In this spirit, my priority in Parliament has been to give our local issues a national platform.

“Growing up, I never thought of entering into politics let alone entering parliament. My opinion about politicians was such that I viewed politics as a waste of my time. What made my election possible was when I started helping some deprived communities in my capacity as a private man, but little did I know they were watching me.”

Parliament itself, Hon Agbeve said, is a bizarre but wonderful place to work, “I am sure I am not alone in finding the rules and procedures of the House  to be restrictive.” He added that, the experience taught him just how difficult it is to achieve procedural reform in the august House.

Just like his colleagues, the Agotime Ziope lawmaker expressed the concern that the demands from MPs from constituents are becoming more than what a Legislator could logically handle, and that there should be national education or campaign of a sort to let the Ghanaian voter know the real duty of Parliamentarians.

Most of the new MPs expressed the view that in parliament, every day brings a new challenge, a new source of frustration (especially as an opposition MP) and a new sense of urgency; but also a sense of overwhelming privilege and responsibility.

For them, parliamentary work is a job with many challenges, the most immediate of which is learning to navigate the anachronisms and the rules of the chamber.


Source: Engsalige Nyaaba

The Republic News Online

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