I have been patiently waiting to give the Parliamentary Minority Leader my convicted piece of mind since our elected representatives stunningly decided to defer their right to periodically review our Fourth-Republican Constitution to President John Evans Atta-Mills. What is “stunning” about this morbid state of affairs is that it is flagrantly unconstitutional.
Needless to say, our current Constitution, itself, clearly spells out the bounden duty of our parliamentarians to constitute, or set up, a constitutional review mechanism whenever such measure is deemed opportune.
What the foregoing simply means is that once President Mills decided that the Fourth-Republican Constitution required “fine-tuning,” he ought to have tabled a motion for that purpose through either the Parliamentary Majority Leader, who is also a bona fide member of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), or even the Speaker of the House.
Curiously, however, what we witnessed just a few weeks ago from the Atta-Mills government, amounted to what may be aptly termed as “payola for default.” In this instance, we saw the Majority Leader, Mr. Alban S. K. Bagbin promoted to Minister for Works and Housing. Implicit in the latter measure was the President’s rather lurid way of expressing his gratitude for Mr. Bagbin’s flat refusal to exercise his legislative prerogative by not duly stalling Dr. Mills’ unilaterally constituted Constitutional Review Commission (CRC).
Still what is even more curious is the fact that Mr. Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, the New Patriotic Party’s Parliamentary Minority Leader, had been conspicuously silent on the matter. Shortly thereafter, the Kumasi-Suame MP would release a rather amateurish statement to the Ghana News Agency (GNA), urging his countrymen and women to accord their utmost cooperation to the CRC. Mr. Mensah-Bonsu would also observe that his especial interest regarded the way in which the “transitional provisions” of the Constitution are crafted. In other words, for the Suame MP, the clearly stipulated obligation for the members of our august National Assembly to constitute themselves into a CRC should such need arise, is absolutely of no consequence or relevance whatsoever (See “Minority Leader Urges Ghanaians to Support Constitutional Review Process” Modernghana.com 2/13/10). Couple the preceding with the Fifty-Thousand-Dollar automobile largesse presented to the MPs by the Office of the President at the start of the current parliamentary session, and the patently corrupt culture of our elected representatives becomes unmistakable.
Mr. Mensah-Bonsu, ironically, also claims that the 9-person Constitutional Review Commission, inaugurated several weeks ago by President Mills, aims to “ensure stability, good governance and democracy in the country.” As to how such an undemocratically constituted commission could facilitate the very democratic culture of whose flagrant breaching the CRC stands bloodily guilty, the Suame politician did not elaborate. Needless to say, if this attitude does not unpardonably insult the intelligence of democratically minded Ghanaian citizens, I don’t know what else does. Whats is more, if, indeed, Mr. Mensah-Bonsu is fully convinced that the “transitional provisions of [our Fourth-Republican Constitution] were written in a hasty manner without thorough discussions,” what prevents Parliament from initiating such discussions presently? Which, in fact, is primarily why I couldn’t agree more with those among our citizenry who recently called for the immediate dissolution of Parliament as, in the opinion of these citizen-critics, Parliament has disgracefully rendered itself as both absolutely dysfunctional and decidedly otiose.
Recently, Ghanaians were told by the CRC that it would start a series of public hearings in order to learn of what the electorate desired the shape, form and operational aspects of the Constitution to look like. The problem, however, is that with its practically limited membership and short working duration (or temporal terms of reference), the CRC may simply end up convening in only a handful of our regional capitals and a few other big towns, in effect, with the bulk of the Ghanaian electorate being totally left out of such crucial national discourse.
On the other hand, were Parliament as a whole to initiate the constitutional review process (CRP), its democratically representative nature would ensure that citizens in each and every one of the two-hundred constituencies in the country would have the opportunity to have their views and concerns voiced through their own elected representatives.
Obviously, no small part of his glaring inability to perform creditably may well stem from the fact that Mr. Mensah-Bonsu is not a professionally trained lawyer and, therefore, may well be playing out of his league, as it were. What the latter simply means is that to be an effective opposition parliamentary force, the New Patriotic Party ought to look for a professionally trained and savvy lawyer not given to practicing business as usual or unproductively upholding the status quo.
The year 2010 is quite a remarkable temporal distance from 1946 and even gapingly so from 1974, for anybody to truck the rather lame excuse of Ghana not having an adequate number of professionally trained and qualified lawyers among our MPs to occupy the most significant positions in our national assembly.
In view of the preceding, therefore, I was quite reasonably amused to hear Vice-President John Mahama the other day gush drunkenly and proudly that, somehow, Ghana was poised to leading the rest of Africa onto the progressive path towards a democratic culture. And then what chutzpah, to also hear President Mills tell Nigerians during the 37th Ordinary Session of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), that Ghana was fully prepared to assist our giant neighbor in her dogged pursuit of a democratic culture!
*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is a Governing Board Member of the Accra-based Danquah Institute (DI), the pro-democracy think tank, and the author of 21 books, including “Ghanaian Politics Today” (Atumpan Publications/Lulu.com, 2008).
E-mail: [email protected] ###
Source: Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.,
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