The Kind Of MP I Would Be Looking For By Vicky Wireko Andoh
The upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections were on the minds of some Ghanaians I met on a recent visit to the United Kingdom.
They wanted to know the latest on what was really going on back home, even though these days getting live news on Ghana is at the click of a button. There are live feeds from local FM stations and television. On daily basis, some on-line newspapers and Internet sites also provide readers with vivid updates in both content and on cartoons.
Yes, they had every right to know the up-to-the-minute details from a “you report” and an “eye-witness” account.on events they have heard or read.about; after all, they also have a stake in.Ghana. They are contributing to the health of our economy. They send billions of dollars as remittances to relatives back home every year.
They are building houses across the country and in some cases, commercial outlets such as student hostels, thus giving employment to local artisans. They are keeping in the classroom relatives who otherwise would have become school drop-outs by paying their school fees. They are paying for the National Health Insurance premium of relatives and friends. Their contributions back home are enormous.
In a conversation at a funeral that I attended in London, it dawned on me for the first time that perhaps we do not demand much from our MPs as we do with our aspiring presidents. Both are equally important and the performance of one can add to the fortunes of the other.
Grace, a Ghanaian born British, told me about an unfair encounter she once had with her local Council and a wrongful swoop on her household one dawn by the police. At a loss as to what to do, she was advised by work colleagues to report the matter to her local Member of Parliament (MP). She booked an appointment and met with the MP at his local office where she made her complaints. She was assured of investigations and justice, where necessary. Lo and behold, through the intervention of the MP, Grace received the kind of justice she was looking for at the end of the day. No legal consultations and costs.
In another case, I was told how a neighbourhood in some part of South-West London petitioned their MP about noise pollution from one of the neighbours. Within a matter of two weeks, the Police moved in to caution the family. Since then, the neighbourhood has been enjoying their peace and quiet.
That is the kind of yardstick that I am going to look for to measure the performance of my MP henceforth. Will my MP be accessible and ready to receive our complaints and take them up at the highest level on our behalf? I am promising to be a community watchdog in this case.
If we had MPs who were ready to take up our concerns, I bet the deafening noises by some churches and prayer camps that have become the pain of some residential dwellings in our towns and cities, for example, and the noise coming from the loud music blasting at the highest volume at some of the drinking spots that have littered our neighbourhoods would all have seen some modifications by now.
It is for some of these reasons that for the up-coming parliamentary election, my vote is going to go to no other but the person who, from all indications, looks the type who is likely to be a regular voice on the floor of Parliament, talking for development. On daily basis, I have been assessing the candidates who have put themselves out in my constituency to be voted for. I have been looking for the one who is likely to be active in Parliament and visible in the constituency, ready to listen to petitions from members of the community and take them forward, working hard for results.
Come to think of it; as members of our communities, we should get our MPs to be truly working for us. Why should we as individuals with no voice take up such pressing issues as water, garbage collection and power cuts for which service providers have taken us too long for a ride? We should consider voting for the kind of MP who is a true representative of the constituency. In reality, the problems with the assemblies and other service providers should not be the problems of individuals who are consistently paying their rates.
Last week was really depressing for my neighbourhood. One could just not understand what was going on with electricity and water in the area. We did not have power on Monday morning but that was okay because we were scheduled to go off. Power went off on Tuesday night as well. Fair enough. We thought we were going to have uninterrupted power on Wednesday. No, we were off again around 7.15p.m. on Wednesday. Power was restored in about 30 minutes. Then at 8.35 p.m., power was off again.
The following day on Thursday, we were off at 8 a.m. and on after 30 minutes. At 9 p.m. that same day, power went off and then was back at 9.20 p.m. Sometimes, power off meant no water in our taps. With this nuisance, how could one sympathise with whatever national problem the country was going through? Of course, there is no one to talk on our behalf; we just accept any excuse given us.
I am seriously looking out for the kind of MP who will for example help me and my constituents take the Electricity Company of Ghana and Ghana Water Company on and perhaps get them to understand the dangers their actions and inaction are exposing us to. We are entitled to far better services than we have continued to receive. The excuses have become a bit too much.
Come to think of it too, the system whereby we pay property rates to the assemblies and yet as individuals we see to the provision of our own access roads, streetlights, construct our own drains and arrange our own garbage collection must come to an end. As we prepare to select our legislators this time around, we will beg our MPs to take up, on behalf of their constituents, such short-changes by community service providers.
If only we would all insist on and demand performance from our MPs and vote for them on that score, our communities would be rid of simple inefficiencies from both local and central governments, including agencies. Maybe too, it is time for our MPs to stay in constant touch with the people by setting up offices in their constituencies as our first point of contact, and for us to get to know our MPs better. It would help their cause.
There are people who, apart from seeing their pictures on bill boards and banners, will never know their MPs in person for the entire four years of the MP’s tenure. They never set eyes on them until at the end of the four years when they come back knocking at doors with their campaigns for re-election. I am certainly looking out for the MP who, in my assessment, is visible and is going to articulate our community needs and bring some changes to the constituency.
In helping to decide who to vote for during the coming parliamentary election, one simple question points to who gets my nod. “Can the aspiring MP articulate the constituency’s concerns and bring the needed change?” If the answer is yes, then of course, that is the kind of MP with the winning votes.