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Sam Jonah muses: Our constitution breeds dictatorship of the President

The 1992 constitution has been described as the basis of perhaps, all ills in our body-politic. It defines the super-structure of the Ghanaian governance system where absolute power resides with the Executive, headed by the President.

Indeed, the framers of such lopsided constitution did so to protect the immediate era, preceding the 4th Republic. 1992 was supposed to be an end to Ghana’s greatest political infamies of all time; and usher the country into a more civilized democratic order.

The Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) military junta, had superintended over a 11-year draconian rule, unprecedented in the country’s political history from 31st December, 1981 to January 7th, 1993.

It was a period where Ghana was ruled with fisted arms. The call of the head of the military junta became decreed laws; extra judicial killings were more of an order than exception. Indigenous Ghanaian businessmen/women were targeted and their businesses destroyed under some bizarre circumstances.

In that state of insecurity, many Ghanaians who managed to evade the monstrous regime of the PNDC sought refuge in foreign lands. It’s on the basis of such sordid history that the farmers of the 4th Republican constitution skewed almost every provision to protect the characters of that military regime.

In that state of aversion to its own record, the framers created a monstrous executive presidency that was perhaps akin to the military head of state type of governance that we had experienced in the immediate PNDC administration.

Prominent individuals, civil society groups and opposition parties all kicked against the executive domineering system of government created by the constitution. The calls will come to a naught because the architects of the constitution were the very people who enjoyed the very first usage of the ’92 Constitution.

The PNDC changed its military garb into a civilian clothing and converged under an umbrella political grouping—the National Democratic Congress (NDC); contested and won the 1992 elections.

The NDC thus continued with the PNDC politics of absoluteesm under the newly inaugurated constitution. But on this score, none could fault them. They managed to smuggle into the constitution the very functions that made then head of state the monarch of all surveys.

The only difference is that this time the head of the executive is known as the president who wields such powers as that of a military ruler if not more. This is because the president’s powers are situated in manner that suggest he is ruling with the popular will of the citizenry.

It’s amazing all successive governments worse membership hitherto, vehemently opposed the constitutional arrangements failed to act on the ’92 Constitution because they also enjoyed every bit of the over-protective nature of the Constitution.

And after some 28 years the monstrous president created by the constitution is still out there tormenting every Ghanaian, except its own.  

Sam Jonah on why our democracy is a failing

It’s the military-like democracy that Senior Citizen, Sir Sam Jonah mused over with Ghanaians when as guest speaker of a Rotary Club meeting in Accra. He recounted how after all these years, how our democratic system is proving to be our bane.

“We have elected governments since 1992 to steer our affairs. But the very nature of our democratic set-up is our undoing. The three arms of government are like a tripod. For stability, each leg must have enough strength to stand”, he recounted.

However, “In our system one leg i.e. the executive has more strength than the other two combined” he declared and reiterated “In fact the two seem 6 to derive their strength from that of the executive, thus weakening checks and balances”.

Interestingly, much as opposition elements raise serious issues about constitutional arrangements, the very people who are innately opposed to the constitution, become instant convert and advocate of same because they also use it to protect themselves.

“Any party that comes to power has absolute power to do whatever they want. The 1992 constitution is the basis for the current democratic dispensation. It created a monstrous executive which looms large over the other arms of the governance structure, and for 28 years, we have failed to make any meaningful changes to strengthen our democracy”, Sir Jonah boldly declared.

“Actually, what we have is an “Executocracy” not democracy. The President is supposed to appoint the majority of his ministers from parliament. By definition, that makes parliament a rubber stamp, because no MP in the ruling party will be able to stand up and demand accountability from the executive-they are all scrambling for positions”, Mr. Jonah disclosed.

He also did not spare the country’s judiciary system: “The judiciary is no different. The President has determining role in the appointment of all judges of the Supreme Court including the Chief Justice”.

This judiciary arrangement in the constitution, according to Sam Jonah, “festers the perception that the situation compromises the impartiality and independence of the Judiciary. Indeed, a large section of the citizenry believe that the judiciary is not impartial with 85 percent of Ghanaians in a recent Afrobarometer survey perceiving the judiciary is corrupt and ineffective”.

He illustrates that with his own experience: “My own personal experience with the judiciary is that of frustration, lengthy and costly proceedings. Some lawyers take pride in being masters of legal gymnastics. Every opportunity to delay cases are seized. The commercial court which were set up to speed up the dispensation of justice been a disappointment”.

“Disputes involving land overwhelm the courts. Land acquisition is a most important factor in investment decision making. Any prolonged litigation over land frustrates investor. It has been said that the enclave that houses commission, land evaluation and title deeds registry is arguably the most corrupt enclave in the world. It cannot be for investment”, he declared.

He nonetheless, would not restrict corruption to the Land’s Commission alone: “But corruption pervades all aspects of our governance system. Few years ago, a prominent member of Parliament, said publicly that parliamentarians take bribes to pass bills that favour their sponsors”.

Dr. Jonah uses anecdote to buttress his point “If a fish comes out from water to tell us that the crocodile has one eye, who are we to doubt it. Incidentally the said MP is now the Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Alban Bagbin”.

He bemoaned how “our governments pay lip service to anti-corruption, but do little substantially to cure the canker. Which of the major political issues has been conclusively dealt with since the fourth republic began?”

“As a friend of mine will say, the problem with corruption is not the absence of laws, but the certainty of punishment” he declared, and added, “Sadly, there is rather certainty that corrupt people especially in high places, will never face punishment”.

This in the estimation of Dr. Jonah “bred impunity in those who would rather take it all for themselves through dubious means that serve the common good”. 

Content created and supplied by: RKeelson (via Opera News )

4th Republic Ghana Ghanaian Provisional National Defence Council Sam Jonah

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