Alex Afenyo-Markin, Member of Parliament (MP) for Effutu in the Central Region, was recently voted the ‘Overall Best Parliamentarian for 2014’ by Ghanaians in a survey conducted by FAKS Investigative Services, a Ghanaian research and investigative company, with about 5,000 respondents.
Afenyo-Markin, a renowned lawyer and entrepreneur who turns 37 this May, entered Parliament in 2013 at the age of 34.
NEWS-ONE caught up with him for an interview that touched on his recent award, his life in Parliament, political prospects and perspectives on a few pertinent issues.
How does this award make you feel?
I thank God that the effort we are making has gained some recognition. In parliament we work as a team and it is not a one-man business, I have been encouraged and inspired by my own peers and seniors from both sides of the House. I can’t finish if I say I want to mention individual names. Parliamentary staff, press corps and all have helped me to learn.
I was determined that I would do my best as a young person. Combining parliamentary work with my legal work and the demands of the constituency is not easy and at the same time you must have time for the family, have a rest and ensure you are in good health. It has been very tough but we thank God for bringing us this far and I am encouraged to do my best.
Do you enjoy attacking government?
It depends on what you call attacks. I took a decision that in my parliamentary life, I would avoid personal attacks so that persons affected by the issues I raise would not feel offended or think that I am after them. This has been my guiding principle and I believe we need to change our approach to politics in this country and the reckless impunity with which some people do things. That ‘get it at all cost’ attitude has not helped.
That attitude does not seem to encourage young and decent people to venture into politics. People should see politics as a call to national duty and a platform to serve and contribute your quota. But the way we have gone about it scares people and appears to portray politicians as a bunch of crooks playing a dirty game. I’m looking forward to a future where we would put aside our extreme ideologies and gravitate towards the center.
Do you know the exact factors that made people to vote to make you the overall best MP?
Honesty I don’t know. As I said, I was not even aware something was going on until I started receiving congratulatory messages from some elders in my constituency and college MPs. I think the SADA issue I raised on the floor of parliament may have been a factor. Different people look at different factors. The other day, my wife was telling me she heard someone talking about me on TV, and the person said I dress well and polish my shoes like a mirror. I don’t know what exactly but I work on feedback a lot and this may have helped. I remember the owner of Radio Peace, Ghartey Tagoe, once called me and gave me tips on how to handle my colleague debaters when I appear on media platforms. I believe my calls for accountability also helped.
Is it easy to demand accountability when your party is not in power?
My duty as a parliamentarian is to scrutinize, exercise oversight and do a critique. The principle would not change. It is true you can do it with ease when you are not in government. When you are in government and part of the system and if things go wrong you have an opportunity to address it in-house. You would be betraying the principles of governance if you are seen to be going against your own government openly and through the media. It would be more prudent to raise such issues at closed door meetings, cabinet meetings, committer levels and other avenues.
If you come to the Finance Committee for instance and you see E.T. Mensah interrogating issues, or our Chairman, Avedzi, interrogating issues, you would realize we put our parties aside and act as one people with only one interest which is mother Ghana.
Would that not offend your party enough to cause some enmity?
It depends on how it is managed. We are all not pious so there is no need for me to present the issues as though I know it all. But I believe anyone in government means well. No one gets into government with the aim of destroying society, waste resources or abuse the office. It is a matter of us pinching each other and doing peer review. We can encourage each other in the spirit of patriotism and with a good heart.
Would you seek a second term?
I would want to stay on. I started as an Assembly man and I did two terms, I became a Presiding member and I did two terms, now I am MP and would want a second term. I am certain I would seek reelection. I am sure my constituents would give me another opportunity. I have not done badly at all as an opposition MP and when my constituents compare what they are getting now to what they had in the past, I am sure they would renew my mandate. You cannot be in this game forever it gets to a point you have to bow out but as at now I am certain I would seek reelection.
We know about Alex the MP, the lawyer, the lecturer, the business man. Tell us about Alex the family man
I would say politics has made it difficult for me to be an ideal family man. I don’t have enough time with the kids and their mom as I would have wished. Committee work, constituency work and parliamentary demands take a huge toll on your time. Sometimes you see the kids in the morning when they are going to school and balancing the time is difficult. There are times you just decide to shut all things down just to be with the kids, talk to the see them through their home work and oil that filial bond. But I can tell you that in Ghana today, the life of a politician does not give room for a real family life.
Is there any other thing you may want to add?
Yes, I strongly feel that we, the youth of today, must be encouraged to do our best in whatever field we find ourselves. You go to the United States or England and people are so proud of their country and they really love their country. I don’t think we love our country that much. If the older generation, for one reason or the other had made some mistakes, I would encourage the youth to know that the future is ours and we should start a new national psyche, orientation and attitude for mother Ghana. The country is so polarized and everything is either party A or party B. Professor Opanin Agyekum made a point on Peace Fm yesterday and I really agree with him. He was saying that these days it is easier to escape punishment for a crime committed once you can align yourself to a big political party and get your party to politicize the issue. This is true but wrong and not helping Ghana.
Finally I think those of us in authority must position and conduct ourselves in a manner that people would feel there is a need for them to also sacrifice. But this does not seem to be the case and therefore people do all sorts of things to survive.
It is shameful that when we, the politicians and leaders in authority, tell our followers to ‘bite the bullet’, they see us biting cheese and when we tell them to tighten their belts, they see us making expansion on the waistlines of our trousers; this betrayal of confidence and trust in leadership results in what is now known as ‘kpa-kpa-kpa,’ where people, in the name of survival, engage in potentially corrupt acts.
By Halifax Ansah-Addo