At regular intervals, the man Alban Sumani Bagbin, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Nadowli/Kaleo, sees it fit to let out an ear-splitting noise. He does this in a manner similar to a disciplinarian having a naughty boy’s ear pulled. “Hey, listen,” he says in Super OD style, “I am also a person.”
This legislator knows how to catch national attention when he feels Ghanaians are forgetting too soon about him. He has been a top member of the National Democratic Congress (NDC). Recently, however, he seems to have slipped down the pecking order. Reduced to a “wise man,” whatever that means, he is a bitter man.
Mr Frazier does not know Bagbin well enough but a few years ago, he (Mr Frazier) had heard enough of his deadpans to enable him to poke a joke at him from a distance. It was the occasion when the MP felt overlooked for ministerial appointment. Sourly he questioned the loyalty of people who had the nod from President Mills, describing them as “fair weather friends.” On another occasion Bagbin told an allegorical story in Parliament of an orchestra of lizards and frogs singing in a tree.
Sometimes some of his effusions are vitriolic when he trades words with those he feels are a barrier to his easy access to the President. Not too long ago, he had a shoot-out and a fall-out with Stan Dogbe, a presidential staffer. The outcome was embarrassing and one wondered what his intention was. But clearly it did no credit to his standing as a disciplined statesman.
For two weeks, Bagbin is in the news again. This time he has not portrayed himself as a politician-orator wittily and cheekily savaging opponents or as an aggrieved man whining about an ungrateful president. He has donned an Appiah Ofori cloak of bluntness against his fellow parliamentarians. “They take bribes from NGOs,” he admitted with honesty. This is a charge to which many African politicians have grown very thin skin. Tell a Ghanaian he is a bribe taker? No way. Even when caught receiving the bribe in whatever form, he would deny the act very vehemently and threaten to head for court for defamation.
One needs to hold on for a moment. Has what he had said about parliamentarians, most of whom are Mugabes like himself, been taken out of context? Since the recent “Bagbin bang,” many Ghanaians have called for a probe into the allegation. One wished that there was an easy formula for conducting probes into such woolly allegations. But, luckily, Bagbin is not like some of his countrymen who would allege malfeasance and refuse to provide proof. Bagbin claims he is prepared to provide the evidence if summoned to appear before the Privileges Committee of Parliament.
It is interesting to note that some of his colleagues have started feeling jittery. They are seeking to put a different hue on the matter by portraying themselves as honest power brokers who are entitled to some pecuniary consideration. Thus the term “lobbyists” has been bandied about. Of course, they are elected MPs so that they can lobby for the development of their constituencies but not to take money from NGOs to influence government policy in a certain direction.
It is hoped that if and when Parliament has the guts to haul this man before a committee he will say it all in a no-holds-barred fashion, citing specific causes and instances when MPs take bribes. It would be useful as well to describe the magnitude of the bribes. This clearly is a case of “quid pro quo for consideration” and it has a name which must not be associated with “Honourable” that precedes an MP’s name.
This time, the nation is with Bagbin all the way. He should simply use himself as the example by saying how much bribe (or favours that look like bribe) that he has collected for these eighteen years as a parliamentarian. Mea culpa…mea culpa. And for heaven’s sake, the NGOs that are facilitating this bribe-taking practice should stop it or shut up.
(Author: Blame not the Darkness and Akora available at Legon Bookshop; Kingdom Books, La and PAWA House)