Historically, the post of Speaker of the Parliament of Ghana, as I know it, has been reserved for people over the age of 60, except on two occasions when Aaron Eugene Kofi Asante Ofori-Atta, fourth president of the first republic, and Edward Doe Adjaho, fifth speaker of the fourth republic were elected to the office respectively.
By convention, it has also been awarded to individuals with legal experience, although it is not a prerequisite. And I’ll get to the reason why lawyers have always been favored.
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In the UK, age and education do not count as much as years of service in Parliament as an MP.
The current Speaker of the British Parliament, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, is 63 years old. He became a spokesperson in 2019 after serving 22 years as a deputy. He does not have a law degree.
The spokesperson for Sir Lindsay Hoyle is John Bercow. The Rt. Hon. John Bercow was an MP for Buckingham from 1997 to 2010 when he became president. He had a BA from the University of Essex. He also had no experience in law.
The late Michael John Martin, Baron Martin of Springburn, was a Rolls Royce metalworker and trade unionist until his election as a deputy at the age of 33 in 1979. He was a deputy until 2000 when he was elected as the 156th. Speaker of the British Parliament. He had no college degree.
While age and legal background are not the barometer for choosing UK Speakers of Parliament, all past and present speakers of Ghana’s parliament have been older and legally educated.
It has been that way for our colonial history. The President of the Gold Coast Legislative Assembly from 1951 to 1957, Sir Emmanuel Charles Quist, was a lawyer and judge.
Sir Emmanuel Quist later served as Speaker of Parliament when Ghana achieved independence in 1957. He was succeeded by Augustus Molade Akiwumi, from 1958 to 1960. Akiwumi was also a lawyer and judge prior to his election as second speaker of the Ghanaian parliament in the first republic.
The Rt. Hon. Joseph Richard Asiedu, another attorney, was the third speaker until June 10, 1965 when Aaron Eugene Kofi Asante Ofori-Atta, the fourth speaker of parliament, was elected. He held the position until February 22, 1966. He was also a lawyer, a deputy for the Abuakwa Central and Begoro electoral districts, and held the positions of local government minister and justice minister before becoming the fourth speaker of Parliament until the suspension of parliament after the 1966 coup.
The second republic had only one speaker: Raphael Nii Amaa Ollennu. Judge Ollenu served from 1969 to 1972, when parliament was dissolved as a result of the military coup. He had been a Supreme Court magistrate before becoming president at the age of 63.
The third republic had another judge, Jacob Hackenburg Griffiths-Randolph, who prior to his appointment as president served under Kwame Nkrumah as Income Tax Commissioner (the first African to hold that position in Ghana), and a judge in the second republic .
From Judge DF Annan to Peter Ala Adjetey, Ebenezer Begyina Sekyi-Hughes, Joyce Adeline Bamford-Addo, JSC, Edward Doe Adjaho and Professor Mike Ocquaye, it is clear that every speaker of parliament has been a judge or lawyer. with many years of experience in the bar.
The election of lawyers as Presidents of Parliament is one of the vestiges of colonization that we have yet to undo.
As far as I am concerned, the candidate for president of Ghana’s eighth parliament should be someone who has a good understanding of the current rules (the parliament’s rule book).
It should also be someone who has been a current or former MP and who demands respect from both sides of the aisle. Above all, someone who can help build bridges and do the job of running parliament.
Parliament is not a branch of the judiciary and the colonial culture of bringing in retired Supreme Court justices must be overthrown by MPs. A speaker MUST be one of us.
The best thing for the institution is to bring someone who has been a deputy before. Failure to do so will deprive parliament and the nation of institutional memory and the experience and knowledge necessary to go through a time never seen before, as is about to happen in Parliament VIII.
It has never been beneficial for parliament to elect people without a parliamentary background as president. It’s like asking a non-lawyer to be Chief Justice and I hope we don’t review the practice of bringing in outsiders, people who have never been deputies to run parliament.
All the names that have been talked about and speculated would do a good job. But Alban Bagbin, outgoing MP from Nadowli Kaleo and second deputy speaker of the seventh parliament, Joe Osei Owusu, first deputy speaker of the seventh parliament and deputy from Bekwai, Dr. Dominic Ayine, deputy from Bolgatanga East, Papa Owusu Ankoma, Ghana’s High Commissioner in the UK and former MP for Secondi, former speaker Edward Doe Adjaho and current speaker Professor Mike Oquaye would all be fantastic speakers.
Of the PNP names as Speaker of the 8th Parliament, the ones that stand out to me are Professor Mike Oquaye, Joe Osei Owusu and Papa Owusu Ankomah.
Professor Mike Ocquaye would go down in history as one of the great reformers of our Parliament. I have enormous admiration for him: the opportunities he provided for secondary MPs who were willing to learn and rise to the occasion; Bill, the historical member of the private sector, whom he helped us pass and many others. I think he has been very receptive to new ideas and suggestions on the growth of parliament as an institution.
I have had personal disagreements with him on some of his failures in the House, but history would certainly judge him very kindly, especially when it comes to reforms that he has continued or started anew. If I had to advise you, I would suggest that you step down now, while the applause is louder, and that you do not seek to be nominated as president of the 8th parliament.
Joseph Osei Owusu inspires a lot of respect on both sides of the aisle. He has a contagious smile that makes any MP who tries to be loud think again. He could be the bridge builder that Parliament would need more than ever. There is never a dull moment when Joe Wise, as he is affectionately called, is in the chair as a speaker. The only danger is that, unlike the two Vice-Presidents who must be MPs, Mr Joe Wise would have to resign as MP if he wants to be the keynote speaker. In the UK the keynote speaker is an MP, while in Ghana the keynote speaker cannot be a sitting MP.
From the NDC, how could names like Edward Doe Adjaho, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin and Dominic Ayeni not be in the top three?
Bagbin is well liked by MPs on both sides of the aisle. We love it when it’s in the chair. Flexible, attractive, easygoing but tough when it comes to instilling discipline. Bagbin, 63, has spent 28 years of his adult life in Parliament. It cannot be overlooked if you are looking for experience and sympathy, especially in a hung parliament that will require a certain finesse to get things done.
If the nation is looking for a John Bercow-type speaker: younger, talented, a clear break from the past, and someone to appeal to both sides of the aisle, then Ayine is the man. John Bercow became spokesman when the UK had a hung parliament in 2010. Having had a senior spokesperson in the person of Michael Martin, there was great appeal for a younger but experienced spokesperson.
Ayine may not be as young as John Bercow. Dominic Ayine will turn 55 on January 6, 2021. John Bercow became President of the Commons at age 47.
Ayine’s name has stood out as Vice President. He is a good listener and knows his standing orders and the law from the inside out. He would be a fantastic speaker.
However, it is important to note that the President of Ghana is not a deputy. If it is recommended that a deputy be president, he has to resign. By doing so, the number of the Party in Parliament is reduced and will be covered by by-elections. In the current circumstances, it is not advisable to recommend a Member of the 8th Parliament to the position of Speaker.
Rt. Hon. Edward Doe Adjaho was Speaker of the 6th Parliament. Highly respected, with a calm demeanor.
At nearly 64 now, he has the age and energy on his side. He did a fantastic job as a speaker, part of which was continued by Professor Mike Oquaye.
But who knows, it could well be a Johnson Asiedu Nketia, a three-term MP and former Majority MP. Many may have forgotten that he was solid as a legislator and could also hold the house together in the 8th Parliment. Ingenious, level-headed, and capable of breaking the whip when the house gets nasty.
Parliament and the executive must do everything possible to secure a consensual candidate for president of the 8th parliament.
The writer, Ras Mubarak, is a Member of Parliament for Kumbungu and a member of the Parliament’s Communications Committee.