Let’s shed this constitutional misplacement in its entirety
On the eve of political independence for Ghana, some of the crucial issues that occupied the minds of the founding fathers as to how the new nation, Ghana, was to be governed were two crucial issues.
The first issue was whether the new nation, Ghana, was to adopt a federal type of constitution or a unitary one. Already, there were serious federalist agitations which were brewing up in the Ashanti Region especially. At that time, it was championed by the then chief spokesperson of the then Asantehene Osei Agyeman Prempeh I, Baffour Osei Akoto. In fact, Baffour Osei Akoto vigorously campaigned for a federal new Ghana so that, to his thinking, the Ashanti Monarch would still preside over a quasi state status within the new nation.
The founding fathers, particularly Dr Kwame Nkrumah, opined that looking at the size of Ghana and the population at that time, (we were only eight million at the time) it would be wasteful in terms of scarce resources to opt for a federalist state. So, the unitary system of governance was adopted and has successfully stood the test of time, despite several interruptions by military political adventures.
The other issue that preoccupied their minds was whether to adopt a bicameral legislature (two chamber parliament), where the chiefs would have played a prominent role in the upper chamber. Also knowing very well that we were just weaning ourselves from Britain, which practised and continue to practise a bicameral legislature - the House of Commons and the House of Lords - this made the bicameral system very much appealing to the new breed of politicians of the time.
Irrespective of these extenuating circumstances, the British system failed to sway the minds of our founding fathers towards bicameralism and so they opted for the unicameral type of legislature which is still in vogue today.
In fact, Dr Nkrumah had the occasion to warn all uncompromising chiefs to toe the line of the new Government, “else they would run away and leave their sandals behind”.
Several years down the line, the framers of the 1992 Constitution, probably inspired by the “Ahenfie” (Palace) type of governance in Ghana, where an “abrewa” (old lady) has to be consulted before any major policy decision has to be taken, has a chapter (chapter 9 of the Constitution) which talks in mandatory terms the establishment of the Council of State.
Article 89(1) of the 1992 Constitution states in mandatory terms as follows: “There shall be a Council of State to counsel the President in the performance of his functions”.
At this juncture let me ask discerning readers;
Since the coming into being of the Fourth Republican Constitution, can anybody tell me which executive decision to be taken by the President has the Council of State counselled against? Yet, as a creature of the Constitution, the Council of State has all the trappings of a Presidential advisory body and all what it takes for the comfortable performance of their “duties”.
With time, the institution of Council of State has proven to be an expensive anachronism which needs to be shed in its entirety if the 1992 Constitution is to go through any proper amendment worth its kind.
With the present state of our economy, which demands excesses of State expenditure to be curtailed, the Council of State should not be dressed in any form to resemble an even more expensive contraption of an upper house.
I even think the present size and number of our parliamentarians is too cumbersome and unwieldy. With the present composition of two hundred and seventy five members each drawing salary, allowances and each driving a V8 vehicle with free fuel, I believe it is too much a burden on the economy already. But democracy, they say, is expensive. so for the sake of democracy, and for the reason that we have no viable alternative we have to bear with it, how then can we contemplate multiplying the burden by two with the creation of a second chamber?
The present crop of parliamentarians, presided over by a speaker, a renowned lawyer with several years of legal practice, have succeeded in passing several Bills into qualitative laws. We don’t need any second chamber for any purpose. Its creation will further put a clog in the expeditious passage of Bills into laws and put too much strain on the already overstretched economy.
As B.J. Da Rocha always admonished his standouts, we should not assume too much burden than what the law imposes on us.
Our single chamber has served its purposes very well. Why do we need to over burden ourselves with a system which will be too expensive to run and will frustrate speedy passage of laws?
In any case, have we thought of who and who would occupy the second chamber and the selection process? Will such personalities represent the interest of political parties or what? Even with our present unicameral system, people are agitating for government sponsorship of political parties, which is wrong in my view. The second chamber suggestion will heighten the glamour for state sponsorship of individual campaigns.
But where is the money going to come from?
It is very instructive to note that this suggestion is not coming from the Finance Minister. But if the economy reeks under the burden of its implementation, the blame will be put at the doorstep of the Finance Minister.
Please let’s thread cautiously, “SIKA MPE DEDE” says the President!
The Writer is a Practising Lawyer &Political Scientist E-mail: