By Dr Frankie Asare-Donkoh
I’m very surprised that the National Democratic Congress (NDC) MPs in the Ghanaian Parliament are calling on the Vice President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, to apologise to them for saying they were ignorant of the government’s recently-issued domestic bond, because they find the word ‘ignorant’ offensive.
I’m sure everyone who uses the English language and understand English words would know what the word ‘ignorant’ means. In my uneducated understanding of the English language, when one is not aware of or doesn’t understand an issue or a situation, one could be described as ignorant of the issue or situation. Even when one does not know that something exists, one may be ignorant of the existence of that thing.
The Oxford Dictionary & Thesaurus, Third Edition (page 459) defines ignorant as “lacking knowledge or information”, while the Cambridge English Dictionary also defines it as “not having enough knowledge, understanding, or information about something”.
From these definitions of the word ‘ignorant’, I’m at a loss how the NDCs Minority Members in Parliament, some of whom are very good and respected lawyers, with Hon Harruna Iddrisu, one of the respected young lawyers of the country as their leader, would openly show their ignorance of the meaning of the word ‘ignorant’, and call on the Vice President to apologise for using the word in what any person who understands English would agree was the correct usage.
While the country is faced with many development issues and Ghanaians are looking up to the opposition parties to hold government accountable on issues which would lead to solving national problems, our Minority MPs, only a few days after wasting our resources and time following their ridiculous allegation of bribery against the Chairman of Parliament’s Appointments Committee and the Minister of Energy, would without any shame come out again, this time with a time-wasting and unproductive issue.
With all due respect to our MPs, the English language is not Ewe, Ga, Twi, Hausa, Dagbani or Fante language. If our MPs want to use the English language, which unfortunately is our national language, then they must properly learn the usages of English words and stop wasting our time with frivolities.
We expect our Minority MPs, paid by tax payers, to effectively hold government to account on serious issues dealing with how the people can get kenkey or banku and fish to eat, and also how we can industrialise the country to stop us from depending on aids from other countries, and not waste our time on useless innuendoes.
We have had enough of their time-wasting antics and they must be seen to be serious with their duties.
There is nothing for the Vice President to apologise for, and the earlier the NDC MPs stopped their chorus calling for apologies ignorantly began by Richard Quashigah, Member of Parliament for Keta, and ignorantly being supported by his colleagues, the better it would be for themselves and the country.
When recently some Minority MPs raised issues with the investigations conducted by the Philip Addison committee on the contract between Ghana and the Dubai-based Ameri company, I supported their concerns that the Addison Committee did not act properly by travelling to Dubai to investigate Ameri while Ameri paid for their first-class air tickets and provided the committee members with first class hotel accommodation.
In my view, the report by Philip Addison, a private legal practitioner, and his committee members must be set aside because their conduct was unacceptable and unethical. How could they depend on the company they were investigating to pay for their flight costs and hotel accommodation, and genuinely investigate it professionally with their minds still on the first-class hotel accommodation, first- class plane tickets, and probably first class pocket money offered by Ameri?
I have shown support for the Minority on this issue and called on the Minister of Energy to shelf Addison’s committee report, surcharge Addison and his members with any taxpayer’s money spent by the committee, and set up a new committee to investigate the Ameri contract, which many Ghanaians believe was not in the interest of Ghana.
The Ameri deal was signed as an emergency power agreement in February 2015, between the Government of Ghana represented by then Minister of Power, Dr Kwabena Donkor, and Ameri Energy, to ameliorate the country’s power challenges at the time.
It emerged after the deal was signed that, the original company that built and financed the plant charged US$360 million yet Ameri presented a bill of, and was paid by the previous government an amount US$510 million, a situation which the present government does not accept, for which the Energy Minister, Boakye Agyarko, set up the Philip Addison’s 17-member committee to investigate. Though Addison’s committee report said the previous government fraudulently paid extra US$150 million for the contract, the general public opinion, which this writer supports, is that the Addison committee members did not act professionally, fairly, and transparently for taking the travelling package from Ameri without first declaring the circumstances which led to the acceptance of the offer.
Even if Ameri was not prepared to come to Ghana to face the committee, Government (Ministry of Energy) could have paid for the flight costs of the committee members, arrange its own hotel accommodation for the members and then surcharge Ameri in a transparent manner. Therefore, for the committee to quietly accept the offer and travel to Dubai on Ameri’s terms, only for the former Energy Minister (who definitely still has contacts with the executives of Ameri) to expose the deal, was in my view foolish and infantile.
This is what we want the opposition parties and the Minority in Parliament to do and not to waste our time with their ignorance of English language usage.
The Minority has been speaking about the opaqueness of the recently government issued domestic bond which brought in $2.25 billion. They claimed the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, sold the bond to his cronies and family members, and that there was no transparency in the whole transaction. Ghanaians would be interested to get more details of these accusations from the NDC MPs in order for us all to take up the right action and not unnecessary English language lessons.
Regrettably, instead of the Minority bringing out evidence and further details about what they are complaining about, they are now shifting the goal posts by dwelling rather on English language usage.
We all aspire to have the type of democratic governance systems in what we call the ‘advanced’ countries, but we are always drawing ourselves back when we have every opportunity to grow our democracy.
“. . .with some political parties, especially the NDC and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) having certain constituencies as their “World Banks” where whoever wins their primaries have a guaranteed place in parliament no matter how dumb, inexperienced, and ignorant (of politics) they may be we will continue to face teething problems after over 20 years in the Fourth Republic . . .
I’m still not fully convinced that all the people who find themselves in our parliament are supposed to be there. Parliament is supposed to be the nerve centre of every democracy and it is sad to note that in the case of Ghana, there have always been people who had found their way into parliament merely by default because our immature political system still gets some people voting for any one at all a particular political party would present as a parliamentary candidate.
In fact, with some political parties, especially the NDC and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) having certain constituencies as their “World Banks” where whoever wins their primaries have a guaranteed place in parliament no matter how dumb, inexperienced, and ignorant (of politics) they may be we will continue to face teething problems after over 20 years in the Fourth Republic. It doesn’t therefore come as a surprise sometimes when we hear some weird statements and commentary form some members of parliament.
Until our political parties, particularly the NPP and the NDC take a serious look at their enclaves termed “World Banks” where one gets automatically elected into parliament after winning the primaries, but rather ensure that good and knowledgeable candidates are selected, the Ghanaian Parliament would continue having some undesirables in the House, who from time to time would make our Parliament come under public ridicule and mockery, as we have witnessed in recent weeks. The NPP and NDC, in particular, must put in place stringent measures in their selection of parliamentary candidates if the they want our democracy to grow.
On the current issue, may I appeal to the Minority Leader, Harruna Iddrisu, to start stamping his authority on his members because, if he has already not realised, his personal image is at stake especially when his colleagues cannot understand a simple English word like ‘ignorant’.
God told the Israelites in the Book of Hosea 4:6: “My people perish (are destroyed) for lack of knowledge”. If our Minority MPs would continue to stay in their ignorance and make a mockery of themselves instead of sitting up and beginning to learn, they will eventually perish from the political scene.
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