Article 34 (1) of the 1992 Constitution prescribes that: The Directive Principles of State Policy contained in this chapter shall guide all citizens, Parliament, the President, the Judiciary, the Council of State, the Cabinet, political parties and other bodies and persons in applying or interpreting this Constitution or any other law and in taking and implementing any policy decisions for the establishment of a just and free society.
Within the spirit of this declaration, Article 41 of the constitution says it shall be the duty of every citizen:
(a) To promote the prestige and good name of Ghana and respect the symbols of the nation.
This article will deal with the indifference of the Presidents of Ghana to an obvious anomaly which, like so many wrong things done in Ghana, has taken on the appearance of normalcy and, therefore, nothing to fuss about: that is disrespect for the national flag of Ghana.
National symbols comprise the National Flag, the National Anthem, and Coat-of-Arms. The most visible national symbol is our flag. It is ubiquitous. It identifies us as Ghanaians. It is the nation. An attack on the flag is an indirect attack on the nation. At international functions, the sight of the flag fills us with pride, with uniqueness; it is our own, and none else. The veneration accorded the national flag is apparent at national parades, where the public rise up when the national flag is being marched past.
Regrettably, flowing from our predilection for foreign things, regardless of merit, Ghanaians have been conspicuously flying foreign flags without the government of Ghana batting its eye! Sometimes, the Ghanaian flag is seen alongside the national flag of other nations; at other times, non-Ghanaians openly fly their national flags. In some instances, a whole store has been painted in the flag of another nation. Other types are insignias of flags of other nations posted on the vehicles being driven in the country. The pictures illustrate what is happening.
Article 41(a) has two active verbs that must be appreciated: these are “to promote” and the other is “to respect”. According to the Chambers dictionary, “promote” means to help forward: to further: to raise to a higher grade: to encourage the sales of by advertising.
“Respect” means to look to, regard, consider, take into account, refrain from violating, to feel or show esteem, deference, honour to, to value a thing.
Do we “help forward” or “raise to a higher grade” the prestige and good name of Ghana by displaying the flags of other nations, or by flying ours to the exclusion of others? Put differently, the respect that we must accord our national flag is to give it due “deference”, “esteem”, “honour” and “value”. Do we do so by flying the flags of other nations, painting our shops in the flags of other nations, and so on? Because Ghanaians have not set good examples, foreigners have become audacious and are asserting their national interests in Ghana by flying their flags conspicuously. (As an addendum here, the Chinese have even begun to advertise their offices and shops here in Ghana in their language only understood by their citizens!). Why have Ghanaian Presidents been so nonchalant about such a glaring anomaly? Our Presidents too!
As with the registration of vehicles with foreign inscriptions on them, flying flags of other nations, with or without the Ghanaian flag, lead to attenuation of loyalty to the nation, erosion of respect for the state, and the lowering of the self-esteem and self-worth of the Ghanaian.
The sublimely influence of vehicles with foreign inscriptions, the prevalence of foreign flags flown by Ghanaians and non-Ghanaians, the fetish of even sporting the pennants of foreign football clubs in our cars and homes so that we are more devoted to Chelsea or Real Madrid, than to Hearts of Oak or Kotoko; all these have diluted the loyalty of the Ghanaian and distanced us, psychologically, from the challenges confronting our nation.
Perhaps, to clarify the matter by analogy, let’s ask these questions:
Which husband would tolerate the picture of the boyfriend or male admirer of the wife alongside his picture? Must the wife be heard saying: “Oh darling, don’t be jealous; it’s nothing! After all, I just admire him!?”
Or which wife would be pleased to see the picture of the husband’s girlfriend or female admirer next to her picture daily staring at her? Must the husband be heard saying: “My dear, sweetheart, why be so jealous? That woman’s picture is nothing; it just reminds me of old time’s sake!?”
Just as the husband and the wife would not be tolerant of the absurd, so must we not be seen flying the national flag in our vehicles alongside that of another country. What is good for us, individually, is also good for Ghana; what is injurious to us, individually, is also injurious to Ghana. Why so? Because Ghana, our nation, is a living thing! And it is hurting! Very! Never did I see a Ghanaian flying the Ghanaian flag in the United Kingdom (UK) or in Canada or even the United States (US).
What I wish to impress on Ghanaians is that the constitutional imperative that we promote the prestige and good name of Ghana and respect the symbols of the nation is as sacred as the holy sacrament. That command admits of no compromise; our sense of nation dwells on that; our self-respect springs from that; our future flows from that. It constitutes our very essence.
We must outlaw the current practice of flying other flags at car sales depots, schools, and all other places, except hotels. As for banning them on our vehicles, it is too obvious to merit saying it. The exercise must be comprehensive and promptly executed.
The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice should please advise the President accordingly, because they too are flouters of the constitution!
The writer is a lawyer.