Reflections On Constitutional Day In Ghana

By Osei Piesie-Anto, Socio-Political Analyst

News Commentary Looks At Reflections On Constitutional Day In Ghana

Constitutional Day, which is a Statutory Public Holiday in Ghana, was observed for the first time on 7th January, 2019, under Section 2 of the Public Holidays Act 601 of 2001. The day marks the coming into force of the 1992 Constitution and the birth of the 4th Republic in 1993, following its overwhelming approval in a referendum on April 28 1992. Indeed, January 7 is the day a new Head of State and Parliamentarians are sworn into office after a general election every four years. The Constitution defines the fundamental political principles, establishing the structure, procedures, powers and duties of government; structure of the judiciary and legislature, and spells out the fundamental rights and duties of citizens. The day is intended to acknowledge Ghana’s collective efforts at ensuring that the tenets of democracy, rule of law and principles of constitutionalism are upheld. In essence, the day is to remind citizens of their collective commitment to a regime of uninterrupted constitutional order. It is for this and other reasons that Ghanaians must be commended for enduring the 1992 Constitution for the past thirty years, especially as it has stayed far longer than any of the three previous Republican Constitutions of 1960, 1969 and 1979, which were all cut short by military interventions. Being a hybrid of the American Presidential and British Parliamentary systems of governance, the thirty years of the 1992 Constitution have not passed without serious infractions on the fundamental human rights and duties, rule of law and constitutionalism; envisaged to ensure our collective commitment to freedom and justice, probity and accountability; which are truly based on the principle that, all powers of Government spring from the sovereign will of the people. Clarion calls for a full overhaul of the 1992 Constitution have been echoed from many concerned citizens, some of whom have even questioned why the Government White Paper on the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Commission instituted by the Late Prof. Atta Mills’ regime by Constitutional Instrument 64 of 2010 was abandoned. The Constitutional Review Commission was mandated to ascertain from the people of Ghana, their views on the operation of the 1992 Constitution and help identify its strengths and weaknesses; and as well articulate their concerns as regards the amendments that may be required for a comprehensive review and thus make recommendations to Government for consideration of initiating a draft Bill for possible amendments, it may not be far-fetched to highlight some of the gray areas that many citizens have cried for a review in recent times.

One area is Article 42 where, though the right of a citizen qualified to vote is guaranteed, his or her entitlement to be registered as a voter is often fraught with challenges. It is also a matter of public concern whereby Article 43 (2) enjoins a sitting President to appoint members of the Electoral Commission who, by Article 45 (c) are supposed to conduct public elections (which are often partisan in nature); and particularly, by the tenets of Article 46 emphasizes that, “in the performance of its functions, the Electoral commission shall not be subject to the direction or control of any person or authority”. In the quest for building strong institutions rather than personalities, Article 70 has come under serious questioning whereby it is the express conviction of some schools of thought that certain critical appointments of state mandated to a sitting President by the 1992 Constitution, be reviewed. Positions such as the Auditor-General, Service Commanders, Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives, the governing bodies of public corporations, the National Media Commission and others could well serve the best interest of the nation if their neutrality were solidly institutionalized; thus, extricating them from possible political control. It is also worthy of revisiting the essence of Article 71 that determines the salaries and allowances, and retiring benefits or awards payable, and the facilities and privileges available to certain categories of persons and institutions, which have been considered to be outrageous and thus discriminatory. It is also instructive to note that the public is interested in the need to completely decouple Parliament from the Executive by revisiting the appointment of some members of Parliament as Ministers of State by the provisions of Article 78 (1). It is an open secret that the allegiance of such appointees often leans towards the Executive especially when it comes to critical decisions that demand the full commitment of MPs for the common national good. One institution that has also come under scrutiny is the relevance and thus essence of the Council of State as provided by Article 89 of the 1992 Constitution. People are of the opinion that the role of that body to counsel the President on the performance of his functions could well be played by the National House of Chiefs, whose functions are regrettably confined to matters of chieftaincy as stipulated by Article 272 of the 1992 Constitution. These are but a few of the critical areas that call for papers, symposia, media discussions, and community engagement on such a Constitutional Day, to see how the 1992 Constitution could be fine-tuned to meet current demands. In fact, a generation of practicing a Constitution under a multi-party democratic system exposes the nation to certain practices which, if not attended to, may be the harbinger of misgivings. Constitutional Day has come to stay. Let’s put in place mechanisms to ensure its full implementation for posterity.

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