On January 14, the Chief Executive of the Chamber of Bulk Oil Distributors delivered a lecture on the pitfalls of the 1992 Constitution as part of celebrations of the annual Constitution Day. Here’s the full lecture.
CONSTITUTION DAY PUBLIC LECTURE DELIVERED BY SENYO K. HOSI ON 14TH JANUARY 2022 TOPIC: AVOIDING THE IMPENDING DEATH OF THE 1992 CONSTITUTION
Special Guests of Honour, Hon. Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, Hon. Dr. Dominic Ayine (Representing the Minority Leader), Chairperson of the National Commission for Civic Education, for want of time, I humbly request to ride on existing protocols.
I wish to express my most profound gratitude to the UPSA Law School and the board of the OneGhana Movement for the courage in nominating me, ‘a layman’, to deliver this year’s Constitution Day Public lecture.
At my last check, my academic bios had no certificates in law at all. I have been content pursuing a career that has had significant impact on the delivery of critical public services and goods, with degrees in Economic Policy Management, Finance, Psychology and Philosophy from the University of Ghana, the only University I can call my own.
Ladies and gentlemen, my nomination to deliver this year’s lecture is no knock on any person who may be considered more qualified, nor a knock on the legal fraternity. It is rather, a definite knock on the hedged-in stereotypical thinking that has long held our public space hostage and validated perceptions of constitution capture, largely by lawyers and politicians.
The constitution is no abstract construct analyzable and decodable by a few. It is the codification of what and how “We the people” seek to live and achieve in the governing of self as a sovereign. A constitution enjoys a special place in the life of any nation. It is the fundamental law of the land serving as the prime document of public policy and impacting all facets of society and life. It is the reflection of the socio-political and socio-economic aspiration of “We the People” and not a given profession.
In the landmark ruling, “Tuffour vs Attorney General” reported in the 1980 Ghana Law Report, our former Chief Justice, E.N.P. Sowah situates the constitution so effectively when he posits, (I quote), “A written Constitution such as ours is not an ordinary Act of Parliament. It embodies the will of a people. It also mirrors their history. Account, therefore, needs to be taken of it as a landmark in a people’s search for progress. It contains within it their aspirations and their hopes for a better and fuller life.” (End quote).
Constitutions organize the basic structures of governance, the distribution of political power, regulation of the intricate relationships between political organs and the relationship between the government and the governed.1It is the fundamental basis for determining when and how we live, eat, build our wealth, make meaning of our work and, as Raymond Atuguba explains in his remarkable piece, “Ebi Constitution we go chop”, the constitution ensures an equitable distribution of our national resources.
The constitution is so powerful that it needs all laws to be consistent with it. Inferring from Chief Justice Sowah’s ruling captured earlier, every law must match the aspirations and will of the people or simply forget it!
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, All that I have stated about our Constitution represent no veiled attempt to appear to sound legalese, nor impose on you a sense that I belong to the revered and fiercely reclusive class of lawyers. I say these things so eruditely about our Constitution because it is a fact that this Constitution, if you like, is what the Italians term the ‘toto’ ‘Riina’, and the Dogombas, the ‘Kpalinkpaa’ and the Ewes will say, the ‘Sogbolisa’. These remarks, ladies and gentlemen, underscore the importance of the Constitution and how a document, no more than just brilliant pages of calligraphy, rules our lives!
It is critical to note that, despite the excessive politicization and partisan fanaticism that engulfs our governance systems today, every president, judge, minister, parliamentarian, soldier, police, public servant, board and committee members of state agencies swear their allegiance to none other than the Constitution. But why so? It is so because the citizenry they are to serve is the object of the constitution. In other words, you, me, and the wellbeing of us as a citizenry is the reason for the constitution. If you care about yourself; you care about your progress and that of your kith and kin, then you should be caring about the constitution.
So, in agreement with Raymond Atuguba, ‘Na constitution we for chop’.
I call on all Ghanaians, from my rice farmers in Adaklu and Weta to the fisherman in Odododido; the market woman in Kejetia; Osei, the mechanic in Suame; Azey, the Takoradi man; Aku, the Kayayo; Iddrisu, the teacher in Tamale and Bro. Kofi, the German Borger from Berekum, to own the constitution and seize their space in shaping the trajectory of the development of the Ghanaian Constitution.
The constitution is about us and for all of us!
So, as the Akans would say “momma menka m’asem”.
Ladies and Gentlemen, When the topic was first suggested, it understandably provoked controversy. How could Ghana’s longest-serving constitution, revered for creating the current governance structures, and which has delivered the longest period of uninterrupted political governance, be presented as a document in hopeless atrophy or to put it mildly, a document on its last legs? Some friends have been even more mischievous in casting me as an almost certain person of interest at the National Investigative Bureau (NIB) for the audacity in suggesting the imminent death of the 1992 Constitution. I am hopeful that for an exercise with such tremendous puritanical and noble intentions for the preservation of our Republic, a jail cell will not be my abode tonight.
Patrick McGowan in an article published in the Journal of Modern African Studies indicates that sub-Saharan Africa experienced 80 successful coups and 108 failed coup attempts between 1956 and 2001, an average of four a year. This average figure halved in the period from 2001 to 2019 as most African nations turned to democracy. The BBC reports that in 2021 alone, sub-Saharan Africa has seen a resurgence of coups with six (6) in the bag. This unsettling observation demands the question, why? Remi Adekoye, a political analyst and Associate Lecturer at York University in the UK, answers this succinctly in a publication on CNN, he puts it this way, “DIFFERENT DECADE, SAME PROBLEMS”.
Just as was the case in the early post-colonial decades when coups were rampant, Africa’s 2021 coup leaders justify toppling governments and constitutions with allegations of corruption, mismanagement, social injustice, tyranny, and poverty. These reasons are similar to those advocated by the coups of Ghana’s past. We must all be reminded also that just as Ghana’s citizens stormed the streets to jubilate after the success of its coups, the 2021 successful sub-Saharan coups have been met with similar jubilations, especially by the youth.
The Arab Spring of 2010 should not be lost on us. It is a reminder of the ability of the citizenry to pursue a restoration of their aspirations captured in a constitution whose people are the repository of sovereignty. I call this the “People’s Restoration” or the ‘Civilian Coup’. The justifications by the uprising youth in the Arab Spring are similar to the military juntas of yesteryears and today.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, the 1992 constitution effectively captures the essence of its being in the first part of its PREAMBLE. I quote: “We, the People of Ghana, IN EXERCISE of our natural and inalienable right to establish a framework of government, which shall secure for ourselves, and posterity the blessings of liberty, equality of opportunity and prosperity” (end quote).
This shares clearly what the goal of the constitution is. A document to assure the citizenry, its youth and generations unborn, an aspiration for liberty, equality of opportunity and for prosperity. The terrifying portion of this section is the instructive power of the words “Shall” and “Secure”. It suggests a demand on the operators of the constitution to ensure certainty in the delivery of the listed blessings, for the constitution to sustain its relevance and meaning.
The preamble also defines the values that should guide how “We the people” and our governments pursue the delivery of the promised blessings. These include Freedom, Justice, Probity, Accountability and Unity.
The question we shall be interrogating will be whether and how the 1992 constitution and the actions ofits operators deliver on the demand of the blessings and values. I am convinced that if the actors of the constitution enabled by the nature of its framing, deplete hope for “We the People” to realize the assured blessings of liberty, equality of opportunity and prosperity, the 1992 constitution shall lose its luster and, inevitably, lose its last leg (which is the people’s support) with thousands of youths, who today are about 70% under-employed or unemployed, calling for its demise. Unfortunately, I cannot say it any better, the clock is ticking.
Do not be perturbed by my bluntness of the doom I suggest. I assure you of my unreserved belief in democracy, in my opinion, it is the best option we can hope for. I however hold firmly that no governance system is one-size-fits all. Democracy must, however, be adapted to fit our circumstances. I call that a ‘Ghanacracy’. In the referred Tuffour vs Attorney General case, Justice Sowah ruled that, and I quote, “the constitution is a living organism capable of growth and development, as the body politic of Ghana itself is capable of growth and development” (End quote). This tells us that the democracy of any sovereign is sustainable and potent only to the extent of its flexibility to its evolving cultural and developmental circumstances. If our democracy is less Ghanacratic and more Americratic, then we are headed, truly for doom.
In this lecture, I shall be arguing that the current framing of the 1992 constitution has enabled its operators to plunge us so easily into a spiral of misgovernance, in a manner that is fast depleting the hope of “We the People” realizing the promise of liberty, equality of opportunity and prosperity. I shall further argue that this spiral of misgovernance, spurred by the non-conformity to the values of the constitution, is birthing the very environment and justifications for the death of constitutions preceding the 1992 constitution. The lecture shall also argue that at core people seek the operations of governance systems that deliver their aspiration and not necessarily hold an addiction to “democracy”. The lecture shall share a perspective on the functionality and constraints of the governance institutions key to ensuring the effective performance of governments in pursuit of our aspirations as citizens.
In direct response to the topic, this lecture shall proffer revisions and amendments to our governance frame and the 1992 constitution in a bid to avoid what it deems the impending death of the constitution.
Success of the 1992 Constitution
I would like, at the outset, to reflect briefly on some of the successes of the 1992 constitution. It is, undoubtedly, the bedrock for Ghana being an icon of political stability in Sub-Saharan Africa. We seem to be an oasis of peace in a political region still recovering from the scars of debilitating insurrections that serve as a chilling reminder of an inglorious past. Often, Ghana’s reality is projected as an expertly managed transition from the turbulence of military rule to a political culture whose by-products have seen more sustained periods of democratic rule, democratic consolidation and political stability.
Recall that within a relatively short period of forty-five years (1957-1992), our nation promulgated and abrogated four constitutions. Within the same period, the military also put in place six constitutive instruments of governance in the form of proclamations.
We remember the thorough consultative process built into the search for the 1992 constitution by the Justice D.F. Annan-led National Commission for Democracy and the Committee of Experts. The rigours and inclusiveness of the process and the hindsight of failure furnished by the previous constitutions, combined to crystallize into the current
Constitution that has lasted three decades. It is commendable that the leaders of the time found it wise to involve many relevant groupings and professions, including farmers, market women, fisherfolks, hairdressers, teachers, engineers, medics, etc. They realised the essence of a constitution was the people and worked to make its drafting as inclusive as possible.
The legal fraternity often highlights article 3(4) of the Constitution in particular, for its magic wand in suppressing the appetite for coups. Permit me to dabble in legalese once again by quoting the provision as follows: “All citizens of Ghana shall have the right and duty at all times- To do all in their power to restore this Constitution after it has been suspended, overthrown, or abrogated”.
Clause 5 of the article, of course, offers non-prosecutorial guarantees to any citizen of the Republic who resists the abrogation of the Constitution. In fact, the provision says, no offence is committed in the process.
But Ladies and Gentlemen, I can only partially agree with the widely held view that this singular clause has fiercely served as a disincentive for coups since 1993. First, the claim is an exaggeration. It perceives coups as being only military and forgets that the will of the people can go against its own former will. Second, it belittles the intelligence of our men in uniform who have gone through significant transformation and orientation since the 1980s.
However, as the evidence bears out, I unreservedly agree that one legacy of the 1992 Constitution is that it has given us political stability. This is important because it was the most sought-after commodity in the period between 1960 and 1990.
Ironically, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen: This is where my difficulties with our current Constitution begins. The delivery of political stability over the past 30 years is no assurance of stability in the next 5,10,20 or 30years. Just in case we may have forgotten there once was a company named Kodak and a phone called Blackberry. It was unthinkable in their prime that an end was certain. But the unthinkable happened because they remained locked up in their success and failed to effectively estimate the future to adapt in time and sustain their relevance. What sure is permanent, is the evolution of change in time. As Justice Sowah rightly pointed in Tuffour vs. the Attorney General2, the Constitution contains within it, the aspirations and the hopes of the citizenry for a better and fuller life.
I opine that the enduring stability from a constitution lies in its ability to sustain the hope for a better and fuller life, and in our case, the blessings and values promised in the preamble of the 1992 constitution. We cannot take our political stability for granted, so we must ask, “Are we delivering on the promises of liberty, equality of opportunity and prosperity?” “Are we living the values of freedom, probity, accountability, and justice?” If not, then the bigger question must be asked, “Are we eroding hope that we will deliver?” If yes, then for sure the death of the constitution may well be nigh.
I will now proceed to share my assessment and position on the above questions.
Are we Delivering the Promise of the Blessings?
Ladies and gentlemen, let us briefly assess each of the promised blessings from the constitution. I will start with liberty. We have delivered, for example, on the provisions for freedom to form and be part of all legal social and political groupings. To that extent one may assume we have our liberties. But this is misleading. Under the operation of this constitution, we have seen many discriminated against in the access to public goods and services. In the last reigns of President Rawlings, it was public knowledge that getting contracts required most to have party cards. The same was the case under President Kuffour and, interestingly many a Ghanaian businessman held both NDC and NPP cards. I don’t think much has changed. Today, when arguments are advanced over issues of policy, we focus on the messenger and not the message. The common refrain is, “forget about that guy, he is from this party or that. He is not one of us.” Whether we admit it or not, your association with a political grouping or not affects your economic and, in some cases, social liberties. I do not believe we have and are delivering well enough on our promise of liberty. Our liberty is in speak and only in the mundane. We easily exercise political and social power against persons considered non-aligned. Criticize a government fiercely, even if constructively, and see how the machinery of state, from regulators to the security services, EOCO and the GRA, may come after you. Unfortunately, I will not join the wagon of hypocrisy and pretend that we do not live in a town where commonsense has become a matter of NDC and NPP. Even our Members of Parliament who are to represent ‘Us the People’ lose their liberties to reason on their own, and act in our interest, but rather act as directed by their respective parties, irrespective of whose parochial interest a party is advancing. How many of them are bold and competent enough to hold their own against the stance of their party or their president. If in doubt, ask the Majority and Minority leaders if they can agree to have the e-levy bill passed by a secret vote?
Ladies and gentlemen let’s look at the issue of equality of opportunity. How can we suggest any success at equality of opportunity when for many of our youth, it is so evident that whom you know has become more important than what you know and who you are in getting employment and access to educational scholarships? We everyday shatter the hope of Kwame Ntim, the plantain farmer in Lolobi, to have his son gainfully employed after selling half of his estate to educate his son at UPSA. Our government sector jobs from ministries to state-owned enterprises have now been overwhelmed by the term ‘Protocol’. You need to be well connected politically or socially to stand a good chance. What at all are we teaching these youth with this culture? We are replacing merit and hard work with patronage, privilege, and political fanaticism.
What for me is frightening is how this culture is overwhelming our security services. We will soon have, if we already don’t, an NDC and NPP silent faction of security services. I have seen first-hand the party caucuses in our state-owned enterprises, regulatory bodies, and educational system.
The same is true in contracts for public goods and services. We now have NPP and NDC businessmen and women. Each goes into hibernation when in opposition or repackages themselves as sub-contractors for new Political businesspersons.
When we look at the economic inequality indices, it is telling. The Gini index which is used to assess economic inequality shows that inequality has worsened from a 33.4 co-efficient in 1994 to 43.5 as in 2018. Inequality has worsened by about 30% since 1994. I am confident that it will be worse at the next publication.
Distinguished guests, It is no surprise that rural-urban migration is increasing. Our urban population has increased from 50.9% in 2010 to 56.7% in 2021. In absolute terms this is an increase of 4.9million people, equivalent to 80% of the total national population increase since 2010. This data tells us this: our decentralization policies are failing and the pursuit of a better and fuller one is not being found in our rural areas. Where is the equality of opportunity?
Even in our justice system, there is no equality. Steal a goat and instead of reform, rot in jail. Loot depositors’ funds in a bank and get to still live large and blow tongues on national television. Snatch a ballot paper, make the front page and rot in jail. Be called honourable, snatch ballot papers at the centre of our democracy, parliament and get hailed as prince of your party.
After 3 decades of a constitution that advocates the equality of economic opportunity and demands governments to ensure the full integration of women into the mainstream of the economic development of Ghana, our public sector remains dominated by men who account for 60% of the public sector workforce.
Our entire public sector system is everyday being shattered by partisan politics and the disregard for meritocracy. The fastest way to rise through the ranks now is to paint every other person a sympathizer of an opposition party. Woe betides you if the sound of your name confirms it even more. Our public service is riddled with so much disappointment and no meaning of hard work and good service. I serve and work so hard to grow through the ranks only for some less qualified party faithful to be appointed as my boss. I will have to teach him everything and practically do his job to even hold on t0 my current position. How do you expect these public officers to feel and commit their all? We are simply nurturing bitterness; we are promoting political fanaticism in a public and civil service that must not be partisan.
Ladies and gentlemen, after 30 years of this constitution, it is unbelievable that we still have schools under trees and yet politicians pride themselves with the status symbol of the latest V8 vehicles. It is obvious that our governance system easily V8 and yet the downtrodden, struggle to elevate. How many of the well-to-do political elite, pontificating over the public education system, educate their wards in our public schools? I am a proud product of Pantang Hospital School. When I left there about 3 decades ago, it was in way better state than I saw in 2021. On my visit, I saw roofs leaking, dirty walls, all science infrastructure gone, with over 70 kids in a class designed for 25. I could not help but weep. These kids will have to compete someday with my kids and the children and Grandchildren of our political and business elite, who school at the premium International Private Schools. Where is the equality of opportunity? If those to lead in the change of our fortunes, do not believe in the system they superintend over, enough to school their offspring there, where is our hope? Can anyone show me which of our past 4th Republican Presidents schooled their children in our Public Universities? These uncomfortable truths speak volumes to the investment of our leaders in the country they lead.
When our Presidents, their Vice, our Speakers of Parliament, and many of the political elite are ill, they jump so quickly on the next available flight at the expense of Maame Adzeley’s taxes, to get the finest of care, even for routine checkups. When Maame Adzeley is ill, she must contend with the pathetic state of our health facilities and the ever-stretched and worn out medical staff right here in Ghana. The symbolism of the surgical ward at Korle-Bu, Ghana’s foremost hospital, is a chilling reminder of the failing hope of many in the capacity of our constitution to deliver goods and services fairly to all.
So, tell me, where is the equality of opportunity? Where is the hope of its delivery?
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, let’s now look into the promised blessing of prosperity.
The ‘Matters of Concern’ survey undertaken by the National Commission for Civic Education has each time highlighted Employment, Education and Health as the primary matters of concern to Ghanaian citizens. On education, we observe a decrease from 23.4% in 2010 to 20.8% in 2021 in the proportion of our population that has never attended school. This is progress but not what we would have wished for. While we do commend efforts like the FCUBE and Free SHS to promote school enrolment, the real question is about the quality of education. Schooling the population is primarily towards an end of making them economically and socially viable. They must be productive and employable. Reading and writing are key but the foremost concern of the majority of our graduates is to be employed.
We look at the employment data and it is frightening. The Ghana Statistical Service reports that the unemployment rate among the youth (15-35yrs) is 19.7% and for young adults (15- 24yrs), 32.8%. The world bank reports that 50% of the youth are under-employed. Bundling both data, we have almost 70% of our youth unemployed or under-employed. This is dangerous and scary. The youth today cannot be held responsible for this melancholic world we have given them. They are bearing the brunt of our actions and indiscretions over the past 30 years.
Ladies and gentlemen, our finances and ability to drive growth through government investments have been dwindling. Despite the many borrowings made by successive governments, the economic productivity of these spendings is yet to be realized. We have grown our public debt from $4.5bn in 1992 to about $60bn as of 2021. Our revenue to GDP ratio remains very disappointing and worrisome. Our wages and interest payments, account for about 95% of our domestic revenue.
Tell me, what is really left to invest sustainably in infrastructure and programmes to stimulate a long-term turnaround? What at all is the economic strategy known by the people to turn things around? Sometimes, it all feels like we are living by the day under some autopilot of grace. When a government needs to dip hands into your digital wallet after paying your income taxes, then you know we have a crisis we must solve together. Why are we failing to also discuss cutting down our many expenditures that continue to prove unproductive? How come a country so small and broke, opts to keep a government so big – 275 Parliamentarians and over 100 Ministers with only God knows how many staffers and special assistants, with everyone feeling entitled to V8 SUVs and Business class travel. If debt-distressed Ghana was a company with our leaders the sole shareholders, I wonder, would they superintend the waste, inefficiencies, and pillage as we see under the 1992 constitution?
We have failed to develop a common economic agenda and rendered the NDPC a white elephant replacing each national development plan with a party manifesto. Rawlings’ Vision 2020 gave way to Kuffour’s Vison 2010 and then a 40-year development plan which has also been denounced. This ping- pong we play with our economic policies is heartbreaking. We seem to have forgotten that we are dealing with real lives.
The lack of a true national agenda is reflective of the adversarial democracy we have developed from the constitution. It is an NDC vs. NPP war on who gets credit and whose face will be printed on the document. And as the elephant and umbrella fight over the absurdity of ego, you, me and little Amina, that 1o-year-old Class 5 girl in Bunkprugu, will continue to suffer.
We have land, good weather, natural and human resources and yet we are hungry and broke! How? Corruption, poor leadership and wastage inspired by the Governance frame of the constitution which yields close to no accountability.
Imagine the United Arab Emirates announcing it is offering citizenship for 2 million Ghanaians through a process to be hosted at the Accra Sports Stadium. I do not think I need to tell you about the stampede that is certain to occur. The United Arab Emirates has shared prosperity for all its citizens, even though it is not a democracy. I am sure most of us salivate at the prospect of annual vacations there. Just so we are reminded, that desert called UAE ranks 21st in the world happiness index while Ghana ranks 98th. I opine that people at core seek dignity and prosperity in living fuller lives for themselves and their children much more than an addiction to democracy. ‘Na democracy they go chop?’
My Verdict: Have we delivered the blessings of the constitution? I conclude, NO. Are we depleting hope that we will deliver? I shall make some notes before I answer. Every time we have been faced with bad governance, we have been patient to see the end of the government’s reign in hope that the next will be well. But after trying both NDC and NPP four times each at elections, many are filled with disappointment and have concluded, it is almost the same wine in different bottles. When it feels like there is no end in sight, hope begins to deplete. The recent survey by CDD that showed that over 70% of Ghanaians prefer having MMDCEs elections on a non-partisan basis, is very telling of the sentiments that ‘We the People’ currently have about our partisan politics. So, my answer, if I may use a friend’s terminology, ‘Enkoyelapa’, it is not going well – we are depleting that hope and it is depleting fast.
The question arises, why has the separation of powers and the democratic institutions setup by the 1992 constitution failed to ensure the delivery of the promised blessings?
The Sham of Separation
Ladies and gentlemen, the suggestion that we have separation of powers to serve as a check in governance is almost a sham. It exists in form but not much in practice. We have an ever powerful Presidency that appoints 50% of Ministers from Parliament and has the power to appoint them on boards. In fact, the majority leader is a cabinet minister. The judiciary on the other hand is significantly dependent on the executive for its appointments, thereby creating prospects of political and executive activism. Everybody wants to catch the eye of the President! This incestuous relationship between the Executive, Parliament, and the Judiciary makes it extremely difficult to ensure proper checks and accountability in our governance frame. The Presidency also holds appointing authority over democratic institutions of State like the NCCE, Electoral Commission, the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, National Media Commission, etc. The Presidency appoints the leaders and board members of accountability institutions like the Attorney-General and Auditor-General’s Departments, Office of the Special Prosecutor and EOCO. All other support institutions like the security services, Regulatory institutions, State-owned Enterprises and administrative agencies and their boards all through to the MMDAs are mostly subject to the discretion of the president. In most cases, there is no security of tenure and where there is, the economic purse of that institution rests in the bosom of the President through his Minister of Finance. As we saw in the case of Deputy Governor Bawumia, Governor Issahaku and Commissioner Charlotte Osei, the force of the executive can force you out even when you have security of tenure. Either way, the Presidency has a hold on everyone. The President in effect shapes the tune in the exercise of the values of freedom, probity, justice and accountability. Needless to say, our constitution created in a President, for want of a better expression, a ‘Democratic Dictator’.
Respectfully, while the crafters of the constitution may have considered this structure necessary for a smooth transition from military rule to democracy, it has become the bedrock of our problems.
This structure has created a winner-takes-all system that has ensured an adversarial democracy (an unending NDC vs. NPP war) and not a consensual democracy. It empowers the executive to exclude anyone at will from fair access or include anyone for biased access to public services and opportunities. It has made it possible for the executive to unfairly utilize the powers of the state against any adversary it identifies. With so much power in one arm of government, the reality of Lord Acton’s views come to play, “Power tends to Corrupt and Absolute Power corrupts, absolutely”. Hence, meritocracy and institutional development have given way to political fanaticism and social corruption. With the stakes so high, party financing has become an entrepreneurial investment, in hope, not for the advancement of philosophical principles for development, but rather opportunities to be included in the economic discretions of the executive, and opportunities to plunder the state. Party financing is high risk and high-risk investments are designed to yield high returns and not regular returns. Who will pay for that premium? You and me. If in doubt, ask successive governments why they have had so much inertia in pursuing and prosecuting culprits of the theft of billions of cedis in petroleum revenue? It is simple: doing so will mean going after their financiers and party faithful. In some cases, the party leaders.
Distinguished guests, the truth that ought to be told is this: corruption is the currency for our democracy.
The excessive power of the Presidency has created a public service and political environment of ‘yes’ men. You are cautious not to do otherwise else your place will be lost. Just recall the tsunami in our ministries when there is a change of Government? If a Chief Director’s office is now tied to the fortunes of the party in government, where on earth will his allegiance be? The constitution or the Executive? In effect, the power of the executive is imprisoning our public institutions. It has also cowed the private sector who remain cautious of the capacity of the Presidency and its political henchmen to negatively impact their businesses through regulatory bodies, government agencies and negative bias in the access to public services and government procurement. As a result, the formal private sector is wary to be seen as associated with an opposing political personality. Simply put, when you are a politically exposed person in opposition, businesses often shy away from you. They will hardly employ you, engage you on their boards or offer you a role as a vendor. In the case of the public sector, you may as well forget it. Will we see Gabby Otchere Darko offered a legal job by the government under the NDC? or Marietta Brew, our very fine former Attorney General, offered legal contracts under the NPP? We haven’t built that democracy yet.
This makes the economic survival of a politician highly risky. Lose your job while your party is in office, and you are close to doomed. Have your party out of office and you are doomed. How then do you survive beyond politics when your salary as a politician barely covers your personal expenses? Corruption, Corruption, Corruption! Ministers and MPs take home a salary of about GHS12,500 to GHS15,000 after statutory, vehicle and caucus deductions. From this balance, they pay their driver, they may pay their rent or mortgage and fend for their families. Have you wondered how they are able to fund the many foot-soldier and community demands on them including school fees, funerals, church harvests, festivals, etc.? Have you ever wondered how some suddenly are able to afford to move their kids to high end private international schools, quickly building and acquiring various houses and properties, and funding travels for their family and other significant associates? I did not say side chicks. What politicians forget is that the people knew them and their lifestyle prior to assuming office. Why such a sudden change after an appointment or election? This unexplained wealth and changes in lifestyle have become less relevant to the taxman, simply because the political class controls the taxman. They are more interested in private men like me. NPP will hesitate to go after the NDC officials on unexplained wealth because there is a silent understanding of live and let’s live. It is the way they sustain themselves and the democracy we adore. Do not be fooled, under this constitution, corruption will go nowhere. It is what keeps the wheels of our democracy moving.
It is no wonder that the corruption perception index has grown from 33 in 1998 to 43 in 2020. The last Afrobarometer survey for 2019, reported that 53% of the population believe corruption increased in the previous year. To make matters worse over 80% of respondents believe that all three arms of government are totally or partly corrupt. This is dangerous, especially when the Judiciary is seen equally as corrupt. The perception that justice is no more about knowing the law but knowing the judge should frighten us. I raise these issues on corruption so passionately because it is a major driver in the depletion of hope that the promises of the constitution will be delivered. It is the easiest and most resounding excuse to justify the toppling of constitutions, especially when faith in the judiciary and accountability institutions wane so badly.
Corruption is so elegant a name that must be reduced to what it is: Stealing, theft!
To relate to corruption, one must picture the life of a sachet water hawker. She needs to sell 200 sachets of water carried on her head to make the minimum wage per day. Let’s assume she has two children and is only able to sustain them on these. Stealing GHS1m is robbing the livelihood of over 240,000 sachet water hawkers and their children. I must admit, we have largely lost our values, and empathy for one another has become so rare. As the Gas will say, ‘Anaa mor morbor’!
Corruption is not simply a financial loss to Ghana. It is the theft of livelihoods. It is the destruction of the future of real lives. It is the perpetuation of hopelessness. It is the tradeoff with that hospital that should have saved Mrs Obiri-Yeboah after her caesarean surgery at Sekondi-Takoradi hospital. It comes at the expense of little Komla Foli’s quality education and his chance to compete with the world in the next ten years. It is the tradeoff with the road network and infrastructure that will propel private sector jobs and give Wombe the dignity of employment and his hope to marry someday.
We, sometimes, forget that the common denominator of corruption is the citizenry. We have lost our values and, sometimes, suggest politicians and public officials emanate from space. They are our siblings, congregants, uncles, and neighbours; they actually reflect us. Citizens demand all kinds of things from our party politicians which we are aware they cannot sustain by their legitimate income. Weddings, school fees, funerals and in some weird cases, abortion funds.
Corruption used to be in the single-digit thousands of dollars, now we talk of millions. It is getting worse and will only be worse with every change in Government. What on earth do you expect if the politically and economically alienated under the current government take over the reins in 2025? People have been hungry for long. They will recover the lost years and store for the next unforeseeable years. I am not talking just about an opposition waiting for its turn to take over the reins of power, but also alienated members of a ruling party waiting for the turn of their man. I call them internally displace politicians. Either way, Corruption is going nowhere; it will only grow bigger! That is the democracy we have.
I am certain that, while we as citizens have failed in our responsibility, we have been moulded by the operation of the 1992 constitution that so heavily depends on the goodness of the heart of man, which is so rare today.
So, what constitution do we need?
Ironically the superintending mid-wife of the 1992 constitution, Flt Lt. Rawlings, gives us the best answer and I quote “We can vote personalities in and out, what we need to do is to establish a situation where even if it were the devil who should come and sit on top of us in Ghana, by virtue of certain procedures and certain practices, the devil can never get away with doing what he wants, he will necessarily do what the people expect of him”. Unfortunately, He failed to give us that, but I agree with him. We must limit the dependence on the integrity and personality of our leadership. Just as Barack Obama said, “Africa doesn’t need strong men, it needs strong institutions”. It is so admirable when you see Australia’s political class in disarray and yet having no impact on the delivery of public service and economic prosperity. That is a country where institutions work! Entertain a presidential election petition in Ghana and the whole public service slips into coma.
So, I propose to you a new democracy, a consensual democracy and not an adversarial democracy. A democracy of a loser-wins-some and not a winner-takes-all; a democracy that makes politics a call and moment of service and not a career of total economic dependence; a democracy that promotes the strengthening of our institutions and reflects the inclusiveness of our people and professionals; a democracy in which being out of government means nothing to your economic sustainability. Ladies and Gentlemen, a democracy that promotes meritocracy.
This, I believe, may require three broad interventions to enable us to avoid the risk of the death of our constitution. These recommendations are not thought of as sacrosanct; they are aimed at provoking thoughts and debate on options to develop the democracy we need.
A. An urgent constitutional reform to reflect the democracy we need. A consensual democracy.
B. Establishment and Management of a bipartisan national economic development agenda- One owned by all stakeholders.
C. Re-conscientization of the Ghanaian with the values needed for our social and economic transformation.
A. Constitutional Reform
I recommend what I term a 7D reform of the Constitution – some of which are covered in various forms in the Constitutional Review Commission report of 2011.
1. Deepen the separation of powers of the three arms of government 2. Depoliticize our governance and democratic institutions
3. Depoliticize our security services
4. Depoliticize our accountability institutions
5. Depoliticize all state agencies, including SOEs, regulatory bodies and agencies. 6. Democratize our Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies.
7. Democracy Funding
a. Deepen the separation of powers of the three arms of government.
1. First, we need to ensure true separation of the Legislature and the Executive. We must enforce full separation of powers and expunge any requirement or option for the executive to appoint any member of the legislature as a minister or member of a board of the enterprises and agencies of the State. The legislature cannot be a player and referee at the same time.
2. To entrench the independence of the Judiciary from the Executive, the authority to appoint members of the judiciary from the lower courts to the appeals court must be made the exclusive preserve of the Judicial Council, which should be required to adopt an open and public evaluation process.
Nominations to the supreme court, and for the Chief Justice should equally emanate from the Judicial Council but be subject to the approval of two-thirds of the members of Parliament. I believe this will force consensus and make both majority and minority co-own confidence in the Judiciary. It will also disincentivize potential political activism from the bench, a situation that erodes confidence in the judiciary and the very core of our values, freedom, and justice. I will recommend that the Judicial Council be reconstituted to, in addition to the president’s and institutional nominees, include nominees also from the opposition. The independent institutions must, however, dominate the council and must not be subject to the direct or indirect influence of the Executive.
b. Depoliticize our governance and democratic institutions
These institutions comprising NCCE, the National Media Commission and especially the Electoral Commission, among others, are core to the sustenance of our democracy. The management of the appointment of the electoral commission has in recent times been fraught with so much mistrust and political polarization. The poor consultative process in the appointment of Charlotte Osei, the infamous manoeuvring to oust her and the equally non-consensual process in appointing Jean Mensah do not augur well for our democratic stability. I shudder to think of what the NDC will do should they assume office with a Jean Mensah in office. This tells us the system is sick- it is not working for ‘We The People’
I recommend a more consensual process that shall have the President still nominate commissioners for the approval of parliament by a two-thirds majority. I also believe our constitution should place a demand on the Presidency to adopt an open and public process requiring a recruitment process that includes interested persons to apply for the respective roles.
The demand for a two-thirds majority shall significantly ensure a process owned by the key political parties and shall eliminate potential partisan activism from aspiring commissioners.
c. Depoliticize our security services
Similar to the above process, the president’s nominees should be subject to a two thirds approval from parliament. This too shall significantly mitigate potential partisan activism by the respective officers and culture of protocol placements. Finite and secure tenures of say four years, may also be required to ward off executive interferences to their allegiance to the constitution. Their tenor should straddle two administrations. Some may argue that the security services are too sensitive and must be left to the President alone. I can relate to that concern, but allegiance is sworn to the constitution and commitment must be to the people of Ghana and none other. We need systems to urgently curb the growing political polarization of our security services.
d. Depoliticize our accountability institutions
1. The office of the Attorney General should be separate from the executive and made totally independent.
2. The authority to nominate the Attorney-General, the Commissioners of CHRAJ and the Office of the Special Prosecutor should be exclusive to the General Legal Council, which should be required to adopt an open and public evaluation process. The nominees should be subject to a two-thirds majority approval of parliament. 3. The GLC, just as proposed for the Judicial Council, should have both the President and the leadership of the minority nominate members onto the Council. There must be a clear fit and proper criteria to guide the nominations. The rest must be institutional representations not directly nor indirectly under the influence of the Presidency. These must dominate the Council. I am confident such a Council shall be truly independent. 4. The Audit Service Board should be reconstituted and dominated by representatives of the relevant professional bodies like the Institute of Chartered Accountants, Institute of Bankers, Ghana Bar Association, and others. Nominees of the Presidency and opposition leadership should also be granted equal seats on the Board compliant with set fit and proper criteria. The Audit Board should be made to nominate Auditor Generals through an open and public process of hiring. The nominations should also be subject to two-thirds majority approval by parliament.
[NB: I recognize the potential for gridlock in the implementation of the requirement for two third majority approval of parliament in some of the recommendations. I believe as we debate and evaluate the options, we should be able to structure fall back mechanisms on a sector-by-sector basis.]
e. Depoliticize all state agencies
Similar to the above, Boards of government agencies must be structured to have more institutional representation and with nominees both from the opposition and ruling governing party in varied proportions. The relevant independent institutions or professional bodies must be made to dominate these Boards. The Boards should further be required to appoint their respective CEOs through an open and public process.
f. Democratize our MMDAs
The jury is out on this. If democracy is a government by the people and for the people, there is no reason why there is no practice of it where governance is closest to the people. The MMDCE elections must happen and happen now. 76% of Ghanaians in a recent survey by CDD demand it and it must be given to them. Partisan politics? The answer is resounding, NO to partisan politics. Over 71% of Ghanaians in the survey say no politics and must remain so. We need a new breath of fresh air from the overbearing cloud and weight of partisan politics that erodes the independence of our leaders. Allow us to vote for persons in their person and hold them personally accountable in their service. We do not want Mayors voted by us and owned by parties whose directing minds sit outside our communities. If I may borrow the words of IC Quaye, then I shall say, on this matter, ‘Agbenaa’!
Any government confident in the support of its people would make this debate the least of its worry. The beauty of all this is that, delivering on this cry by the people is so simple and costs close to nothing. It requires a simple two-thirds majority vote in parliament. We say we are broke and yet desperate to spend on a referendum just so parties can retain political hold on our MMDAs. This is unconscionable and I can’t call this anything else but greed, pejorative to the reasoning of ‘We the People’.
To ensure the independence of our MMDCEs, we must depoliticize the control over the District Assembly Common Fund. The administrator must have a security of tenure and be answerable to its Board which must be reconstituted to minimize the influence of ruling parties and promote consensus with opposition parties and other stakeholders. The CRC report and its recommendations present a good guide.
g. Democracy Funding
We claim to love democracy but shy away from funding it. When we fail to fund our democracy, we fail to own it. As noted earlier, party financing is at the root of corruption and the plundering of the State. The role of a politician is so critical for the sustenance of sovereignty. It is a job someone must do. Just as a headless goat is a dead goat so is a politician-less state a dead state. Our parties are arrowheads of our democracy, they are drivers of the policies and decisions that bring to life, our democracy and the fuller lives we desire. They must be well resourced to competently shape the development of our country. They must cease being election machines and become drivers of policy development and management. If we truly love our democracy, then we must put our money where our mouth is. If we leave the financing of our parties to businesspersons, we will be left with no option but to expect more plundering with impunity.
Maybe we should be considering the establishment of a Democracy Fund to fund the activities of our political parties. This funding arrangement for the parties, must be accompanied with restrictions on campaign financing and must be effectively monitored by the Electoral Commission. We must also introduce stringent and public accountability systems to ensure compliance.
Corruption in Ghana, according to Imani, is estimated at $3bn a year. If we work to eliminate corruption and commit 20% to 30% of this saving to the fund, Ghana will be better off. Funding may be by a set allocation from all domestic revenue due the State, or the introduction of a Democracy tax. Either way, we must pay for the democracy we want.
Funding our democracy through a Democracy Fund, will make us better people, sustain good values and build an honest economy. If we decide not to fund it, we will still end up paying dearly for it, but this time through corruption, which destroys our value systems and threatens the democracy we have worked so hard to develop. As a matter of fact, it will cost us more. If I may sound biblical, choose this day how you will pay for your democracy? Millions by a democracy fund or billions by corruption?
The democracy fund may be merged with the Independent Constitutional Bodies Fund proposed by the CRC report. I however recommend the inclusion of the Judiciary as beneficiaries of the Fund. I also recommend that the Administrators of the Fund be subject to an open and public process of nomination and a two-thirds majority approval of Parliament. The Administrators must also be accountable to a Board made up of majority relevant independent technocratic institutions and Civil Society groupings with additional and equal representation from the majority and opposition.
B. DEVELOPMENT OF A BI-PARTISAN NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT AGENDA
The CRC report effectively captures the consensus for us to have an independent NDPC and a consensus-based National Development plan based on the directive principles of State policy. I also agree with its recommendation for a more technocratic NPDC.
However, I will add that we must, in addition, have an annual public evaluation of a ruling party’s conformity and performance with the ‘New National Development Plan’.
C. RE-CONSCIENTIZATION OF THE GHANAIAN
B.R. Ambedkar said I quote ‘However good a constitution may be, if those who are implementing it are not good, it will prove to be bad. However bad a constitution may be if those implementing are good, it will prove to be good”.Nelson Mandela also once said, “Permanent values in social life cannot be created by people who are indifferent or hostile to the aspirations of a nation.” Simply put, we cannot get the best of any constitution with a people without the right values. Our value systems need a total overhaul to promote patriotism, honest-work, excellence, integrity, empathy, service and absolutely the lead values stipulated in the preamble of the constitution: Freedom, Justice, Probity, Accountability and Unity. If we envision a future of phenomenal transformation of our country, then Active Citizenship through Civic Education cannot be ignored.
To this end, we ought to resource the National Commission for Civic Education to develop and execute a programme for national value transformation and constitution education, in partnership and consultation with traditional authorities, relevant political parties, the private sector, labour unions and other stakeholders. Like Singapore, these values must run through our education system as a subject from kindergarten through our tertiary education.
Distinguished guests, these three broad recommendations, inclusive of the 7D constitution, reform sub-recommendations, are not to replace the CRC’s recommendations but to augment them, where applicable. Needless to say, it is time to bring the CRC report to the front burner, revise it, where necessary and deepen our democracy and delivery of the blessings of the constitution.
Ladies and Gentlemen, people of Ghana, the future is the future of our youth, our children today and generations unborn. Movements every step of our way should drive a better world for them. I have not come to spew doom but to awaken our consciences to the fact that our stability ought not to be taken for granted. We must guard it so jealously and that requires us to be responsive and futuristic in our adaptations to the evolving culture and developmental needs of our time. It is time to abandon our adversarial democracy and embark on a consensual democracy. The hungry youth cannot wait any longer for us to deliver on the blessing of the constitution. We either evolve or be dissolved. The clock is ticking!
Ladies and Gentlemen, my mouth has fallen!
God Bless our homeland Ghana.