Feature Article of Saturday, 18 July 2015
Columnist: Ibrahim, Abdallah Malcolm
Quite frankly, the word ignorance is not in itself derogatory, and it certainly is not a denigrating word either. It could best be described as one’s state of knowledge about something at a point in time. It cannot be a perpetual label to be tagged to someone, because no one knows nothing about everything and at all times. In view of this, to be ignorant about something presents the finest opportunity to learn something or perhaps everything about that thing. However, to deny your alleged ignorance by reaching out for the low hanging fruits (using the powers vested in you by the Constitution) is not only unfortunate, but speaks volumes of the character of the persons we have for several decades entrusted our hopes, aspirations, and confidence in.
Who represents you in Parliament? And is he or she an NPP, NDC, PNC, CPP or an independent person? What is his or her stand on GM Foods, EBOLA, Dumsor, healthcare financing …? You would be surprised at how many Ghanaians have not a clue to the answers to questions like these. And if you are surprised, I am amazed. These people make the laws that define our lives, and they decide how to spend the money collected by a confiscatory tax system. Well, some argue that we are not entirely to blame for this sad state of our beloved country. The accusing fingers point to the politicians. Politicians have come so close to making themselves obsolete in Ghanaian life. They are speedily going below the radar screen, as far as many voters are concerned. Sadly, they are looked upon as charlatans, thieves, liars, and exploiters. This opinion is very difficult to disagree with.
What is it about this sudden boldness of our elected Members of Parliament today? Not too long ago, a high ranking sitting Member of Parliament alleged that some MPs normally take bribes from lobbyist groups and other corporations to push Bills and to carry out their bidding. Do you recall what happened to this MP? He was only given a slap on the wrist by a very friendly privileges Committee of Parliament. Subsequently, his colleagues went from one radio station to the other in all manner of attempts to absolve him of any wrong-doing. Well, is it a case of them against us? It seems more like it especially that similar opinions expressed on radio by independent minded professionals have had to be retracted, and apologies rendered to a team of well-ironed-out suit-wearing legislators. I still remember vividly another equally damning allegation by one of their own – that members of the august House were bribed or induced with some monetary incentives (USD5000 each) leading up to the sale of Ghana Telecom to Vodafone. Have you any idea what happened to that MP? He was simply ignored. It appears to me that Members of Parliament would prefer to be called thieves and bribe-takers but they certainly would not entertain having to be labelled ignorant and substance abusers.
I made an interesting observation during Parliament’s summon of Blakk Rasta (an Accra based radio personality). One of the committee members asked Blakk Rasta if he understood the work of Parliamentarians. I think it was a missed opportunity for the widely acclaimed strong-minded, loud mouthed Rasta man to return the question to the House since in my opinion the House itself seems to have lost its job description and misplaced its priorities, and this is evident in its member’s countless promises to their constituents during election periods and on constituency visits. They promise to fix and construct roads, build schools and hospitals, some even promise fixing the economy. Do all these fall within the responsibilities of an MP? I doubt, yet they promise to deliver them all. Hardly would you hear a parliamentary aspirant on a political campaign platform make reference to legislations he would work to repeal, amend or enact. So apparently, it appears as though it is not only Blakk Rasta who needs education on what MPs ought to be doing, I am afraid, some of the MPs need it, too.
I wish to end my “ignorant views” with an expression of my sense of disappointment in the high-profiled team of lawyers who went with Professor Alex Dodoo to meet with the Privileges Committee over Prof. Dodoo’s alleged “MPs are Ignorant about EBOLA vaccine Trial” comment. I had very high hopes, and expectation of a meaningful engagement between Professor Dodoo and the Privileges Committee. I was looking forward to see Prof. Dodoo cease that rare opportunity to build a case for scientific research and the need for Africa, and for that matter Ghana to look beyond being end users of scientific research, but become active participants. I was probably over ambitious with my expectations, indeed, nothing happened – Just an apology. Following the apology from no mean a team but that which has for a long time paraded itself as the masters of the rule of law, the know-it-all squad, the vanguards of our democracy, and indeed the masters in shaping national discourse, I feel so let down and I wonder when we will ever have people take absolute responsibility for what they say even in the face of blatant intimidation. To Kofi Bentil of IMANI Ghana, to Lawyer Yoni Kulendi, and others who were with Professor Alex Dodoo, my simple question is, would there ever be a better opportunity to make a case for scientific research? I doubt.
Author: Abdallah Malcolm Ibrahim