Bagbin Dress Code Sparks Debate

Alban Bagbin

Parliament reconvened yesterday but proceedings were without controversy, following the kind of dress that the Speaker, Alban Bagbin, wore to the House.

The Speaker’s new outfit raised eyebrows on the floor of the House as he ditched his usual ceremonial outfit on opening days for an unusual local wear.

Mr. Bagbin turned up in Parliament spotting a Kente and a white jumper as if to mimic elders and royals in some parts of the country.

He also spotted a royal headgear festooned with dots of what looked like gold and left many wondering what informed his sudden dress change.

Outside Parliament, there was also heated debate over the Speaker’s dress code.

While some MPs were bemused about the sudden dress change, others appeared excited when he walked into the Chamber of Parliament around 1:30 pm yesterday.

MPs, especially those from the NDC Minority, where he is a card-bearing member, were seen cheering on the Speaker for his traditional costume, shouting “Father ooo, Father!” while the NPP Majority members appeared to deride the spectacle.

Explaining Action

Addressing the House after reading a formal communication from the presidency, Mr. Bagbin said “this is the Parliament of Ghana, a unique made in Ghana product and we must showcase and market it to the world as a brand.”

According to him, Parliament must create “a unique set of values and norms that will give a unique character to our Parliament to set it apart from the colonial legacies of the British system,” adding, “My outfit today, as the Speaker presiding, is to set in motion that agenda.”

He stated that the practice of MPs decently dressed in traditional attire led by the Speaker is long overdue, and intimated that “Ghanaians accept representation of the people to include representation of the full identity of the Ghanaian – i.e. culture, tradition and more importantly their dress code.”

Back In 1950s

Mr. Bagbin said he was glad that “this decision accords with some of the propositions of the first President of Ghana, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, and the other founding members of the Parliament of the First Republic.”

“The dominant dress code of members of the National Assemblies of independent Ghana was native costume. The Speaker of the first Parliament of the First Republic of the country – 1960 to 1965 – Rt. Hon. Joseph Richard Asiedu appreciated and practiced it,” he added.

He explained that the robe (i.e. the long garment, the headgear and bib) constituted the ceremonial dress of the Speaker, and that this ceremonial dress is worn to distinguish the Speaker from members and to reflect the pomp and pageantry of special national occasions.

For him, it was therefore, meant to be worn on only those special occasions, saying, “The ceremonial dress is not meant to be a daily apparel of the Speaker.”

He continued that the British had long abandoned this dress code, while Ghana had also abandoned only the headgear and the bib.

“Honourable Members, I assure you, we are not on a walk in the park in this journey of renaissance and transformation. We will not walk alone in this matter. We have a lot of followers and supporters,” he asserted.

“It is with this, I happily invite all of you to wear Ghana, grow Ghana, eat Ghana, brand Ghana, and transform Ghana. From now I want to see more Members appear in Parliament decently adorned in traditional dress,” he stated.

He called on the MPs to dig deep into the wealth of their “innate wisdom and let us do this together in peace, joy, love and respect for the diversity of cultures, traditions and way of dressing in the country.”

“All that leaders, particularly the Whip and I must ensure is to enforce the rule of prim, prompt and decent dressing in the House,” he noted.

The Speaker said since “this meeting commences the second year of implementation of the decision of the 2020 general elections of a hung Parliament and in view of the challenges we encountered in the first session, I deem it necessary to take this opportunity to throw more light on the need for Ghanaians to be more tolerant to what happens in Parliament and to appreciate the essence of that decision.”

“I will give a review of our performance in the first session later in the week,” he stated.

E-Levy for Next Week

Later on, the Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu presented the Business Statement for first week ending Friday, January 28, 2022 during which he announced that the Electronic Transaction Levy Bill, 2021 (E-Levy) had been programmed for consideration during the second week of the First Meeting of Parliament.

He said the House was expected to conclude consideration and passing of the bill by the end of the Third Meeting of the First Session, but indicated that “due to unforeseen circumstances” the House was unable to consider and pass the bill at the end of the meeting.

“It was, therefore, within the contemplation of the Business Committee that the bill be scheduled for consideration by the House during the first week of the First Meeting of the Second Session,” he noted.

Mr. Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said, however, that upon consultation with the sponsoring ministry, “the Committee is not able to programme the same this first week of resumption.”

“The Hon. Minister for Finance is undertaking further engagement with stakeholders and sections of the general public in respect of some concerns raised on the bill,” he revealed.

“The Committee will, however, programme the bill for consideration during the second week of this meeting and Hon. Members are, therefore, encouraged to participate fully in the consideration and conclusion of the processes of the passage of the bill for the benefit of the economy,” he stated.

More Questions

He also said the Business Committee had scheduled the Majority Leader and Leader of the House and four Ministers to attend upon the House to respond to eight Urgent Questions during the week.

They are Minister for Defence, Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Minister for Finance, and Minister for Food and Agriculture.

The Majority Leader said, “As the House may be aware, this First Meeting is expected to be demanding of Hon. Members since a number of bills and other important parliamentary business would be considered at this meeting.”

According to him, bills that may be presented to Parliament number about 68, whilst instruments that are being processed to be delivered to the House number about 80.

“There are about 400 questions that have been filed and indications are that the number would climb up since Members have returned from their constituencies, and as usual, after their interactions with constituents, would want to reflect the needs of constituents at Question time.”

He disclosed that presently there are four Public Bills before Committees and five Private Members’ Bills before Parliament.

“In this regard the Committee takes this opportunity to urge Committees with these referrals to expedite work on same for the consideration of the House,” he stressed.

By Ernest Kofi Adu, Parliament House