A Test Of The Appointments Committee's Sanctity And Parliament's Integrity

The battle lines are drawn. A showdown in court against a parliamentary inquiry into the alleged bribery scandal that has rocked the Parliamentary Sub-Committee, vested with the power to scrutinize the President's nominees for ministerial appointments.

Both maybe necessary and it will put to rest the speculation and further swearing in the name of Allah, possibly in vain.

The Appointments Committee and bribery allegation have become the most used expressions since last Thursday. They are not likely to end soon.

Following the allegation of bribery by the Bawku Central Lawmaker and Harvard trained Lawyer, Mahama Ayariga, the subsequent drama is still unfolding.

First the Chair of the Committee indicted by the scandal Joe Osei-Owusu was reported to have said that Ayariga had withdrawn the claim. This was baffling. How could an MP of many years standing and a lawyer at that, make such an allegation without basis.

Some have abused him and gone further to link the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) and even ex-President Mahama's integrity to this single allegation.

One of the farcical claims made was that the Bawku Boy made the allegation to equalize same against the erstwhile NDC government.

That would be below the belt and against the grain of the training offered at Harvard. It is important under such circumstances to look at the persons involved and be convinced, based on their previous actions, whether they would reduce themselves to such ridicule.

I have known and respected Mahama Ayariga before I saw him in party politics. Years ago, he and a team of lawyers delivered an excellent presentation at the GHAPOHA Senior Staff Clubhouse in Takoradi.

I say excellent, even then because in my young age then, he and his colleagues brought clarity to the subject under discussion. So I have great respect for him and will be shocked to marrow, if his allegation and subsequent accusations were without basis.

Not until he became Information Minister, I think before the NDC won the 2008 elections, he was one of their most credible communicators and was heard on all major platforms articulating the policies and proposals of then candidate, Prof. John Evans Atta Mills of blessed memory.

At one point in time, when I penciled a piece titled 'What I would have done if I were President Mills', I questioned why the then President, chose boisterous Koku Anyidoho to speak for him, rather than the obviously more affable Bawku Boy.

The elections were won by the NDC; he would become a deputy Minister and subsequently Minister, enjoying and enduring his good days with the bad. His party stumbled into opposition in the 2016 elections and he's obviously not a happy man.

Though he lost the 2008 parliamentary elections to Adamu Daramani Sakande, no one can take away Ayariga's astuteness from him. When the Speaker of the 7th Parliament was nominated and the motion was seconded, he was on his feet, but failed to catch the Clerk of Parliament, who was presiding over the proceedings' eye. Later, when the motion for Alban Bagbin to become the second deputy Speaker was moved and seconded, his counterparts on the majority side taunted him to rise in protest of the nomination.

When I asked him in an interview after the ceremony, he said that he wanted to find out whether the Speaker had either filed his tax returns and made satisfactory arrangements to pay all his taxes.

I thought that was apt. He explained that given the well prepared speech delivered by the Speaker, which obviously was the work of some good research, it stood to reason that he knew well ahead of time that this job was coming his way and needed to abide by the law. That for me was a mind at work.

Given my knowledge of both the House and lawmakers on individual basis, I cannot assume that Mahama Ayariga, a respected MP and a lawyer with the years of experience in his bag, will make such a baseless allegation.

However, the responses of the Chair of the Committee and the Chief Whip from his side, leaves us more confused than ever. As a result of the response of the latter, many have ruled the allegation out as sour grapes and an attempt to take the shine out of the Committee's work.

I take exception to such selective hearing. I have said elsewhere that it would be more than shocking for the Bawku Boy to have made the allegation without basis and convincingly so. However, I do not also think that the Chair of the Committee, Joe Osei-Owusu, will reduce himself to dishing out bribe money.

He's an experienced lawyer and a respected politician, who has a long career in politics ahead of him. He understands the implications of handing bribe monies to MPs and will only do so at his own peril.

Thanks to my wife who knows my interest in these matters, I heard his interview in full and he was emphatic. I'm not sure whatever the mischief is would be cured by a statement on the floor of the House on Tuesday.

It has to take a lot more than that, therefore his proceeding to court, as he has threatened to, would bring some necessary closure to the matter and should be encouraged.

I must say that the Minority Chief Whip, Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka did not help matters by only swearing by Allah and failing to subject himself to further questions. Many who listened to Newsfile would be disappointed.

He should either have fully answered the questions or perhaps remained in his earlier 'unreachable position'. But to just swear by Allah and insist that in leadership you don't engage in public discussion of such allegations isn't in anyone's interest.

After all, the Chairman of the Committee was on radio long before he was reached and remained even after he was gone. There are too many questions than answers in this 'AYARIGATE' and they need to be put to rest.

I reckon it's not that simple, because allowing the bribery allegation to stand have dire consequences on the reputation of Parliament, the Committee, the Nominee, the government and our democracy. It may also water down the cynicism that our legislature endures, for right or wrong reasons.

To my political mind, it would be better for the political class to cut the Bawku Boy loose than to wreck the entire ship of national politics and that is doable, but will Ayariga go down without bloodletting?

After the sweet victory of our heartbreaking senior national team, news went viral on social media that the embattled Lawmaker has gained the support of two others to petition the Speaker to institute a parliamentary inquiry into the allegation. That would be a bold move.

I say so because, all previous allegation of corruption in parliament, died with those alleging. Paul Collins Appiah Ofori's marital issues distracted from his allegations of possible bribery in the Vodafone deal and others, for example. Listening to Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, Alhassan Suhuyini and Inusah Fuseini this morning, it's gotten even murkier. The chicks will finally come home to roost!

A former Finance Minister confided in me that he had to pay MPs to get anything done including passing our budgets and approving loans. That isn't something you run with as a journalist, particularly, when all you have is a minister's word.

The botched STX deal had its share of who went where and the kind of treatment they enjoyed. You need to see ministers when they need approval for major loans. Civil Society Organizations have their own version of how they have to 'pamper' lawmakers to get things done for them. But all of these remain nothing more than allegations.

Before the 6th parliament wrapped up, one of the energy deals saw even journalists given money by the promoters. Therefore as a journalist with parliamentary experience, I cannot dismiss the allegation as baseless until it's proven so.

Ghana's democracy is still nascent. It will only be resilient if the bottlenecks are cleared and status quo politicians give way to a new crop, willing to confront the ills of the system that keeps decent people out of politics.

It is unthinkable that after spending huge sums of money to win political office as lawmakers, 3,000 Ghana cedis would be shoved down their throats to look the other way, while allegations made in the open, based on which the minority said it wouldn't go along with their approvals until they were validated, are now allowed to pass because they were withdrawn during in camera sittings.

Again, the suggestion that the minority agreed in caucus not to take money from anyone is pregnant with many possibilities. But this being Ghana, the battle lines are again drawn with virtually everyone supporting the current government suggesting Ayariga is a liar who wants to throw mud at the government.

Governments are made up of human beings, in this case, Ghanaians. And living in the same social environment, it is foolhardy to suggest that it is only one group of people who do evil.

Did I see a #MAyarigaMustGo? To where? Lose his seat because he alleged bribery at the Appointments Committee? Even before finality is brought to the issue?

Can we be a little patient and allow all processes to be triggered and given effect? That way, whatever conclusion is reached would be based on the law rather than the usual: these people are bad and we are good.

It will serve our country well for both threats to be carried through. After all, even if nothing happens our democracy would have been duly served. The sanctity of the Committee would be maintained as Parliament's integrity is restored. The best is yet to come.