In what could be described as a near coup d’etat, the military had to come into the main Chamber of parliament in the early hours of Thursday, January 7, 2021, to calm nerves after confusion rocked the august House during the inauguration of the 8th Parliament of the Republic of Ghana.
For well over 30 minutes their encounter with the charged Members of Parliament-elect (MPs-elect) who chanted patriotic songs amidst beating of their tables the joint platoon of military and police officers had to leave the Chamber of Parliament where they have entered with their guns and other weapons.
It is believed that the Minister for National Security, Albert Kan Dapaah, who was seen hovering around and making calls around that time could be responsible for the presence of the Military in the Chamber when official business was ongoing.
This followed the chaotic and anarchistic situation that had characterized the inauguration and swearing-in of the elected parliamentarians.
It all started when around 9:30 pm on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, the MPs-elect on the ticket of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) walked briskly into the Chamber in unison and occupied the right side of the Speaker’s table which by law is reserved for members of the Majority side of the House.
The Beginning of Confusion
On their arrival at about 9:40 pm the seemingly confused MPs-elect on the ticket of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) settled with difficulty at the left side of the Speaker which by law is also designated for the Minority side since the majority side which they had earlier arranged with their name tags had been taken by the NDC MPs-elect. This paved way for hostilities between the two groups as they traded in open insults and insinuations amidst the singing and beating of their desks. In the ensuing confusion there arose a scuffle between the NPP MPP-elect for the Ablekuma West constituency Ursula Owusu-Ekuful and the NDC MP-elect for the Asutifi South constituency Collins Dauda.
Ursula, on seeing that her place had been taken over by the then minority chose to stand in-between the two sides thereby attracting the attention of the media people present. In the final analysis, she went and sat among the NDC side suggesting she had crossed carpet.
Peter Amewu causes a stir, attracts boos from NDC
On his arrival, a charged John Peter Amewu – the disputed MP-elect for the Hohoe constituency challenged the NDC MPs-elect over their sitting arrangement. This attracted boos and name-calling “ewi, ewi, ewi oo” (thief, thief) from his opponents in the NDC.
Enters the MP-elect for Fomena
At around 11:02 pm the controversial MP-elect for the Fomena constituency in the Ashanti Region, Andrew Amoako Asiamah was ushered into the house by the NPP MPs-elect as they all sing the popular “aba mu awie” while the NDC side shouted, “the rejected stone, the rejected stone”.
Chairman enters the Chamber
At about 12:09 am when the tenure of the 7th parliament had completely elapsed, the Clerk-to-Parliament, Cyril K.O. Nsiah, took his chair as chairman for the occasion to oversee the election of a Speaker and the swearing-in of the MPs-elect. After reading correspondence from the Electoral Commission of Ghana and citing a number of Articles from the constitution of Ghana and the Standing Orders of Parliament, he set the way forward for the commencement of proceedings.
Then up-stood, the MP-elect for the Efutu constituency and the designated Deputy Majority Leader Mr Alexander Afenyo Markin, who raised constitutional issues drawing the attention of the chairman and the House to a ruling of a High Court in Cape Coast on the MP-elect for the Assin North constituency. According to him, the court had ruled that the said MP-elect should not hold himself up as an MP until the final settlement of a case brought against him at the court. As such he should not be made to take part in the election of a Speaker for the House. This did not go down well with the NDC MPs-elect who started beating their tables amidst loud singing and thereby increasing the confusion and chaotic situation further with tempers really rising high.
After a protracted debate from both sides on the matter, it was agreed that he could vote but at his own peril as he might have to suffer the consequences (if any) alone.
Proposal of a Speaker
At this juncture, the chairman for the occasion urged both sides of the House to propose their nominees for the Speakership position. Hon Haruna Iddrisu proposed Hon. Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin who was the out-going MP for Nadowli/Kaleo constituency and the immediate past second-deputy speaker of Parliament for the dissolved 7th parliament, while the MP-elect for the Suame constituency and the immediate past majority leader and Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Hon. Osei Kyei-Mensa-Bonsu proposed Prof. Aaron Mike Oquaye for the position.
Hereafter, the issue as to whether the affected MP-elect could vote or not took the center stage of the discussion but tempers went higher and the situation in the Chamber turned chaotic and confusing. In the ensuing confusion, there arose physical scuffles between some of the MPs-elect from both sides of the House.
At this juncture, armed police officers deployed to ensure peace and order went to the Chamber of Parliament ostensibly to calm nerves but to no avail.
Tough time for Clerk Chairman
In what can best be described as a baptism of fire, the chairman, Cyril Nsiah, had a tough time controlling the agitating MPs as he shouted himself hoarse with “Order!, order!, order!” but this was swallowed by the thunderous noise in the chamber. Subsequently, the chairman and his team left the chamber for a while.
Military storms the Chamber
With the situation virtually getting out of control, a platoon of combined armed soldiers and police stormed the chamber in higher numbers. However, their presence flued the confusion and anarchy in the Chamber further as the charged NDC MPs-elect kept chanting, singing, and beating their tables. For close to 30 minutes the chaotic situation in the chamber grew further and the soldiers had to leave for the MPs-elect to do their own thing.
More Drama ensues as MP steals Ballot Papers
Thereafter, calm seemed to have prevailed though intermittently some confusions emerged. Then came the climax where voting began for the election of the Speaker. During the counting of the ballots, the NDC MPs-elect who felt that their candidate Alban Bagbin was in the lead took to jubilation amidst singing and dancing.
But before one could say “Jack Robbinson!” the NPP MP-elect for the Tema West constituency, Carlos Ahenkorah, had emerged from nowhere and snatched the ballot papers, chewed some and, like Husain Bolt, took to his heels. However, a hot chase from the NDC MPs-elect got him arrested, and after giving him a few slaps and blows the rest of the papers were retrieved from him and returned to the clerk.
The result of the balloting shows that Hon Bagbin had 138 votes, Prof Mike Oquaye got 136 votes and there was one spoilt ballot. Hon Bagbin was subsequently sworn into office as the Speaker of the 8th Parliament of Ghana, and in accordance with the constitution and the standing orders of the House he in turn sworn the MPs-elect into office.
By S. O. Ankamah || ghananewsonline.com.gh