At the end of last year, I saw how Prince Charles of Wales was welcomed to Ghana – pomp, circumstance, and reverence – during his royal visit to West Africa.
I had an eerie feeling until I saw the billboards where Prince Charles and Ghana’s president stood together under the text “Shared History, Shared Future”. How could we understand this? To understand (but also fuelled by anger and disgust at this public, at very best, omission), I blogged and attended an event at Libreria to decolonise and discuss, but only this year with another visit, that of the Hollywood actors in the FullCircleFestival, I could tie it all up in a bow in an essay for Africa is a Country.
During her parliamentary hearing, she had to use some “double speak” to be able to go through and still not alienate her fanbase. My favorite careful wording from the vetting was when she said she has “not said any word that I will promote homosexuality”. Luckily, noone asked her if she will “promote heterosexuality”! See clips from the vetting below, my favorite quote starts at 1.27.
I have met her once, at the Humanist conference late last year, and took this photo of when Nana Oye Lithur told us about a front page of (Ghana’s largest newspaper) the Daily Graphic that was a “worst case scenario” for an activist as it zeroed in on her as a supporter of something that is more than controversial in Ghana. However, as an encouragement for others with views against the norm she concluded “it wasn’t all that bad, no real bad things happened after this” and indeed she was right, it even didn’t stop her from a ministerial position just a few years later!
Although there were people against the nomination and much conspicuous debate, others also supported her and in the end she sailed through the vetting process and has now worked her first day. I am happy for Ghana. Oye Lithur is a clever woman and this is – even if no homosexual promotion will be carried out – a clear break with the homophobic past of Ghanaian political leadership.
The Communication ministry led by Haruna Iddrisu last week made known they are providing laptops with modems for Ghana’s 230 members of parliament (No official information on this on the Ghana Government website yet, but see JoyFM’s report here).
There was immediately an uproar. Most of the critique goes along these lines:
Many villages in the 3 Northern Regions fetch water from stagnant waters and used for cooking and washing. Hon. Haruna Iddrisu, just this morning when I was traveling from Yendi to Tamale, I saw one of your bill boards you used for the 2008 campaign in one of the villages I am talking about. You could have lobbied for the money to sink 230 bore holes this year in 230 villages in the north. Next year another 230 and here we go. God bless us all !!!!! (this is an acctual comment from myjoyonline.com)
Now I strongly disagree, and this is why I say providing laptops for Ghanaian MPs is a good idea:
In today’s world, to be able to do any political work you have to have access to good communication tools. To be able to make important decisions on water, politicians have to read proposals, write motions, communicate with citizens etc.In fact, it is shocking that it is news…did Ghana’s MPs not have access to ICT before last week?
Now we can easier demand accountability. Make MPs send all official emails through a centralized system so there will be transparency and a backlog if anything goes wrong. (Today many Ghanaian government officials send you emails from yahoo and hotmail accounts…)
Efficiency. Imagine if all motions and bills could be stored online. Maybe finally things could be done earlier than “the last year”?
Mzalendo in Ghana. Lets set up a website that keeps track on MPs work! This could never be done if MPs did not have access to ICT.
The problem in the past has been the personal ownership of all “tools”. Like the personal car loan. I think governments should provide a car, an office with suitable equipment etc. to elected officials – just as for administrators – but it should not be given/donated/offered to the individuals. May I remind you of Plato’s idea of denying the right of property to the rulers of his Republic (called philosopher kings)?
I’d like to challenge Osabutey Anny and Emmanuel Adu whom I know disagrees with me o this matter to respond.
And you, what do you think about MP laptops. Long overdue or a waste of money?
From Graham, I got the tip about Ghana’s Members of Parliament having been assessed in an Political Performance Index performed by the African Watch Magazine.
Out of the 230 parliamentarians, 24 received F’s. Others received As and Bs. There were also Cs and Ds. See the full list of grades for Ghanaian MPs here. From a teacher’s point of view, I know that grades sometimes create “learning moments” – reflection and insight could come out of a low grade. This seem to not have happened here. This morning, some of the politicians are lashing out on the grading exercise.
One Member of Parliament that was upset was, Honourable Abayatei from Sege constituency (rated ‘C’), he said to Citi News:
“they sit down and talk rubbish and write rubbish. If they have no work to do, they must shut up…What right has he got to grade us? What assessment has he got the right to do? …Those of you in the Media must call your friends to be sensible. Criteria don’t even come in because he has no right. Worldwide has there been any grading of any Parliament?”
It seems the rating has been done by independent professionals looking at several criteria. According to Ghanamma it was “MP’s Knowledge of Law Making and the Constitution”, “Participation in Legislative Business”, “Contribution to Parliamentary Debates”, “How The Ideas and Suggestions of MPs Reflect Societies Need” and “Interest and Tolerance of Divergent Political Views”. Although this might not be the best and fairest rating, I applaud this survey.
And this is why I think MPs should also be grateful for their grades:
1. The parliament is weak in Ghana, the only way of getting more power is getting more public support, then we need to see you are working.
2. You were probably rated high in the public eye. Only yesterday, the news of laptop computers with Internet connections being given to MPs was shared (following the car loan etc.), and Ghanaians were heard muttering about not having water in their houses. That’s an F grade the Ghanaian people have given to you already (although I personally think the laptops was the best investment the Government of Ghana could do at this point, but that is another post, I guess).
3. Discussion and information sharing should be encouraged by politicians so that you who work hard stand out and get reelected. Someone has done your work for you!
4. It is a PR opportunity. Maybe you initiated something we haven’t heard of, this is your chance to inform us!
5. A hardworking MP loves accountability. Do you really want to share benches with people who do not do their part?
On this note, I have for some time been thinking about how to introduce something similar to Mzalendo, The Eye on the Kenya Parliament. It is a website that publishes information on MPs and their parties. There are also sections for what MPs do; questions, motions and bills they are involved in hence “grading” can be done by the Kenyan people using the facts available. Through such an innovative parliament watch, we can judge for ourselves.
Now with such information available, it would be easier to do a fair assessment. But regardless of that and regardless if a politician feels we have the “right” to do so, we will grade MPs performance.