It is the people who hand over (1)
There are things we do and say that have the potential to and do, sometimes in reality give too much power to a president of state or the president. One of the “classical” ways in which we have done that is by some of the things written into the Constitution of the Fourth Republic of the Republic of Ghana. That first law of the Land gives too much power to the president, and that situation is one of the quiet banes of our politics. Another way of doing that is in a manner of speaking, and that is the issue on the table today.
That manner of speaking is the statement that presidents who are leaving office hand over to the incoming president. To begin with, that is not true, and then it has the danger of giving the impression that an out-going president has certain power, which he or she does not have, in fact; since it is false that he or she hands over. Thus the implication in that vacuous statement cannot be allowed to stand, since it represents another massive but quiet danger to our politics.
As happens for every term, the Seventh Term of the Fourth Republic was inaugurated with the swearing-in of the new Parliament at midnight (of January 6, 2017.) Then later in the day, January 7, the new president was sworn-in in the presence of Parliament. In philosophy of politics or political science “in the presence of Parliament” is explained as with the Members of Parliament sitting as in an official session, the Speaker in his or her chair and the parliamentary staff present and working. That is why it does not matter if the swearing-in of a president is done in Parliament House or in the open at the Black Star Square.
Listening to some members of the inky and broadcast sibliternity (my coinage) and show presenters on radio and television in the run up to that inauguration of the Seventh Parliament of the Fourth Republic and swearing-in of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo as the (per the Constitution) the seventh President, but (in reality) as the fifth President of the Fourth Republic, Ti-Kelenkelen could hear a lot of them say Mahama will hand over to Akufo-Addo. In fact, sampling of even US media news, unveiled some journalists saying President Barack Obama will hand over to Donald Trump. That is, indeed, an innocuous phrase, and its true import readily escapes people, because people do not or hardly pay much attention to it.
However, it has awesome implications for the running of the political system – which according to the dictionary – is a means of organising society towards what Ti-Kelenkelen terms the welfare and progress of the people. But the more fundamental challenge is the implication that phrase holds for us as a people in the relationship we have with the people we appoint by election from amongst ourselves to lead that organisation and then with the people the elected appoint by the power we give them via the Constitution.
Too Much Power To President
During the John Mills administration he set up a constitutional review committee, chaired by Professor Albert K. Fiadjoe, to look at the primal legal document of state and recommend changes. The position was that we have been using it for 16 years and contemporarily-historical exigencies have shown areas that deserve modification to make it more efficient in delivering on our purposes and goals for writing it and installing it as the first law of the Land. However, to call the creature by name, this Constitution was a bad document from the day we started using it – January 7, 1993. It was a bad document for the simple reason that it was designed to suit one person, Jerry John Rawlings. And good lawyers, such as Tsatsu Tsikata, who supervised that bad agenda, ought to be ashamed of themselves. Both theoretically and in reality, a constitution is made to please only all of the people, not a section of people or an individual.
Years ago, at some time during the John Agyekum Kufuor administration (2001-2009), when Ti-Kelenkelen was a reporter for The Independent, he was lucky to be part of a workshop that discussed amendments to the Local Government Act, 1993, Act 462. Several portions of the document were discussed and lawyers, analysts and Assembly men and women proposed specific amendments to particular portions of the document. On the whole it was a very fruitful discussion.
When Ti-Kelenkelen was given the floor to speak, he pointed out that we are talking about the need for amendment without reminding ourselves of the fundamental reason why that Act or law is wailing for amendments; like the Constitution, it was a bad law right from the start. That reason was and is simple: It was written to suit Rawlings. That simply means even when it was used to organise the first District Assembly Elections, it contained aspects that should not be in a legal document if it was made for the sake of the people on whose behalf it was made.
Whether Rawlings demanded that or not is irrelevant. The lawyers who led and were part of the process of drafting the Constitution should have known better. That is all there is to that matter. They should have known better, because in their effort to satisfy Rawlings, who they all expected to metamorphose himself from a dictator into the first President of the Fourth Republic, they gave the president, any president of the Fourth Republic, too much power; so, so much power than any proper president should have.
One example of giving the president too much power is giving him or her the duty to appoint the head and board of almost every public institution or agency. First, the Constitution says the president shall elect 14 members of the Council of State. Section 89(2) says: “(2) The Council of State shall consist of – (a) the following persons appointed by the President in consultation with Parliament – (i) one person who has previously held the office of Chief Justice; (ii) one person who has previously held the office of Chief of Defense Staff of the Armed Forces of Ghana; (iii) one person who has previously held the office of Inspector-General of Police… It also adds in Section 89(d) that the “eleven other members [must be] appointed by the President.
Other members of the Council of State are elected. And then the council helps the president make other appointments. So Section 70 says: “(1) The President shall, acting in consultation with the Council of State, appoint- (a) the Commissioner for Human Rights and Administrative Justice and his Deputies; (b) the Auditor-General; (c) the District Assemblies Common Fund Administrator; (d) the Chairmen and other members of – (i) the Public Services Commission; (ii) the Lands Commission; (iii) the governing bodies of public corporations; (iv) a National Council for Higher Education howsoever described; and (e) the holders of such other offices as may be prescribed by this Constitution or by any other law not inconsistent with this Constitution. (2) The President shall, acting on the advice of the Council of State, appoint the Chairman, Deputy Chairmen, and other members of the Electoral Commission.”
“That manner of speaking is the statement that presidents who are leaving office hand over to the incoming president. To begin with, that is not true, and then it has the danger of giving the impression that an out-going president has certain power, which he or she does not have, in fact…”
“That is why it does not matter if the swearing-in of a president is done in Parliament House or in the open at the Black Star Square.”
“…We are talking about the need for amendment without reminding ourselves of the fundamental reason why that Act or law is wailing for amendments; like the Constitution, it was a bad law right from the start.”
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