Constitution Day celebrations and banking posture!

BY: Colin Essamuah

The words of the Governor of the Bank of Ghana (BoG), Dr Ernest Addison, on bank restructuring and the executive moves to get Menzgold boss are really descriptive of happenings since I last appeared here.

And many more Ghanaians, hopefully, are getting the much-needed financial literacy to navigate themselves out of the thick morass of jargon, cliché and axioms of that specialised field, which affects all of us willy-nilly.

The concept that greed exists does not impress me.

I will definitely come back to the vexed and running issues of bank restructuring and allied matters, the fascinating story of Menzgold and the shocking revelation that the controversial owner, Nana Appiah-Mensah, has jumped bail and fled the jurisdiction.

He is now wanted for fraud and money-laundering. It is very striking that many of us seem to think that responsibility can be parsed and delivered only to those who are better Ghanaians than others.

It is not a partisan issue, because specific prior actions have been taken in our name, which have not been deemed illegitimate, and need to be continued to their logical conclusion, not abandoned midstream.

Constitution Day

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My initial interest is what really opened this week, the newly minted Constitution Day holiday of January 7 and its celebration last Monday with a public lecture on 4th Republic constitutionalism by the Rector of the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration, Professor Ebow Bondzi-Simpson. His presentation intrigued me on several levels.

For a constitution to be a living, breathing set of laws, it does not require such highbrow treatment fit for an ivory tower seminar.

I watched and listened to much of the lecture and was nonetheless impressed with the extempore delivery of a multifaceted subject, taking into account that Prof. Bondzie-Simpson was not around in Ghana at the time our Fourth Republican constitution was being crafted.

He must be congratulated nonetheless on the bravery of some statements which were a direct attack on the government, for example, a requisite constitutional review halted unnecessarily by court cases promoted by leading intellectuals associated with the NPP.

On our specific republican history, the records show that Victor Owusu made scathing remarks on the presidential powers in the new constitution during a debate in Parliament.

The UP nevertheless put up Dr Danquah as their presidential candidate to be first President in case the republican status was voted for in the referendum.

It was not surprising, therefore, that the 1969 2nd Republic Constitution, drawn up by mainly Progress Party supporters, opted for the split executive of a ceremonial President and an executive Prime Minister, much like the early independence era of a Governor General appointed by the Queen of the United Kingdom, and an elected Prime Minister.

Again, in 1979, people such as Prof. Kweku Folson argued for a split executive which was voted down in the Constituent Assembly which made the Constitution for the 3rd Republic. Our 4th Republican experience is worse. The Bar Association boycotted the constitution writing for this country to herald practical steps to constitutional, civilian rule. Senior Minister Mr Yaw Osafo-Maafo was a Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) government nominee in the process.

The 1992 parliamentary election was boycotted by the NPP citing irregularities in the presidential election lost by their candidate, Prof. Adu Boahen. The formal inauguration of the 4th Republic was also boycotted by the NPP.

Stolen Verdict was published and the stand-off initiated by the NPP was only broken by the Doing Business ideas of NPP gurus Kwame Pianim and BJ da Rocha.

Did none of the opposition parties see it fit to be present at the lecture hence their absence? The holiday is not a fit and proper holiday looking at all the circumstances.


Now to the banking crisis and the vexing matter of Menzgold and its boss now wanted on an international warrant.

The ruling NPP is rightist inclined, capitalist in orientation and staunch believers in property-owning democracy, but its functionaries claimed earlier they did not support greed.

They now claim to be unequalled champions of social interventions.

This is the opportunity for the party to demonstrate they really care for the people. You cannot turn away from a child playing with a dangerous knife and claim the child chose to play with the knife. Taking away the knife and counselling the child to stay clear does not absolve a responsible parent from tracking and punishing the one who endangered the child.

I said last week that true capitalism is opposed to regulation and felt justified when the deputy BoG governor washed the bank’s hands off the matter entirely even as angry customers were demonstrating.

If the bank maintains its curious stance, why the warrants and projected prosecutions threatened by the executive?

This is the unholy crass doctrine of dog-eat-dog at work as if the United States, Italian and British governments which took on Bernard Madoff, Bobby Maxwell and the earlier Carlo Ponzi did not appreciate that individual free decisions were taken by citizens to invest monies in their schemes.

How can we wash off responsibility when we have our own Pyram and related scams which took place right here in the 1990s to guide us? And it is no defence to decline necessary action, punitive or not, because they were not taken yesterday. The enlightened who preach greed should not be rewarded fail to appreciate that perfectly normal men and women do not really appreciate what is otherwise self-evident to all.

The behaviour of the bank is neither fit nor proper, just as the people are waking up to the strange meaningless actions taken recently in furtherance of the idea of restructuring banks etcetera. The idea of strengthening banks with pension funds from the newly established Ghana Amalgamated Trust is so far out. I wonder who really dreamt up this idea designed to provoke popular negative reaction. We are yet to know if current actions taken are even too little, too late in coming. We are in fascinating times.

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