In 1960 Ghana became a Republic. However, in 1966 that was overthrown by a military coup led by Kotoka and the 1st Republic ended. The 2nd Republic came into being in 1969. That Republic also came to an end in another coup led by General Acheampong.
In 1979 we had the 3rd Republic led by President Limann. Rawlings staged the 31st December Revolution/Coup in 1981 and ended the Third Republic. On 7th January 1993, the 4th Republic was brought into being and Chairman Rawlings became a constitutional President. No single constitution was ever restored.
Each Republic had its own constitution. It was new, fresh and different. When we celebrate 1st July as Republic Day and any foreigner asks: “which Republic are you celebrating?”, what do we tell that person? Every reference in official circles speaks of the 4th Republic including Parliament etc and that is what we must be celebrating. That is the Constitution which gives birth to a new hope for all Ghanaians.
A little history
A little history will be useful. On March 6, 1957 Ghana emerged the first African nation south of the Sahara to become independent from colonial rule. Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, whose CPP had won a convincing victory in the 1956 General Elections, became the first Prime Minister and Dr K.A. Busia emerged Leader of the Opposition.
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The Governor was the representative of the Queen as Head of State with essentially ceremonial functions while Dr Kwame Nkrumah was Head of Government, vested with the Executive power of the State. Ghana was a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and was exerting itself in the global family of nations.
When Ghana became a Republic in 1960, it essentially was to remove the last remnant of colonisation. Our independence had been won already but like India, there was a clamour for a Ghanaian Head of State as well as Head of Government. This aspiration began in India which became independent earlier in 1947. But in the Ghana scenario, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah decided to combine the two positions of Head of State and Head of Government. This is how Dr Nkrumah became President after the 1960 Elections under the 1960 Constitution.
Notably, nobody spoke of the First Republic throughout the era of Dr Nkrumah. It was simply the Republic of Ghana. That is what applies in the USA. That Republic which came into existence in 1789, has never fallen nor changed. That, unfortunately, does not apply to Ghana.
In Ghana, we have had the First Republic, Second Republic, Third Republic and Fourth Republic. Each one had its own Constitution which was different. There is no single continuum in any of the Constitutions. Each was an era of its own. When constitutional rule was restored after each military intervention a new constitution was established.
In fact the First Republic was totally different from the other Republics in terms of historicity and ideology. The 1960 Constitution was never restored. Indeed, it was repudiated in 1969. The former did not provide fundamental human rights, while the latter was a charter of liberty.
The events of February 24, 1966 gave Ghana a second chance to demonstrate the true spirit of our National motto Freedom and Justice – freedom from ignorance, freedom from regimentation, freedom to do and dare what we know is true and fair, and above all, freedom to recommit ourselves to liberal democracy, the rule of law and human rights.
Let those who are saying that the Fourth Republic derives from the First Republic show any reference to the First Republic in any manner whatsoever.
Our Constitution of 1992 which commenced on January 7, 1993 does not show any nexus whatsoever with the 1960 constitution. Indeed the two are at total variance. They can never meet.
We examine certain things which were the order of the day under the First Republican Constitution of 1960.
I. A Ghanaian could be detained for five years, renewable for further five years at the fiat of the President. Today this is unimaginable. When a Ghanaian insists that a relative cannot be detained beyond 48 hours, where did it come from? It was provided in the 1992 Constitution which commenced January 7, 1993.
II. Under the 1960 Constitution, by Article 55, the President had constitutional power, whereby at his pleasure, he could dissolve Parliament and rule by Executive Order. Can it happen today? This new order does not allow this! When we recount that the legislative power of State is vested in only Parliament, we should also remember that the 1960 Constitution allowed Nkrumah to suspend Parliament and rule by Presidential fiat whenever he (Nkrumah) alone felt it was in the national interest (Article 55). This cannot happen under the 1992 Constitution.
III. Today, Parliament cannot legislate to bring one-party state, introduce PDA or withdraw our liberties. All the human rights provisions of the 1992 Constitution are in sharp contradiction with the First Republic.
IV. There was no Vice-President under 1960 Constitution. Today we have it. All power does not belong to one person.
V. Today, can a President sack judges, reverse a decision of the Supreme Court and compose his own panel to re-try the same case? Well that was the law that ruled and enslaved Ghanaians. By a 1964 Constitutional Amendment this could happen under the First Republic. It is no more.
VI. When Ghanaians read with sweet assurance that they have a legal right to demonstrate, we should not be oblivious that this is the result of our constitution of 1992 which commenced on January 7, 1993.
VII. The words of our anthem today, are different from the anthem during the 1st Republic. There was nothing in the old anthem requiring Ghanaian to “resist oppressors rule” and no charge to the people to be “bold to defend forever the cause of freedom and of right…”. The conceptualisation has totally changed and we cannot persist in the old order which is fundamentally different.
VIII. January 7 is our day of destiny. From January 7, 1993, Ghanaians can only be ruled by law - The Rule of Law; Separation of Powers; Freedom of Speech and other liberties; no detention without trial, freedom of the Judiciary; nobody (no President) can change a verdict of the Courts of Ghana.
IX. Chieftaincy is sacrosanct under the Fourth Republican Constitution and no President can depose a chief etc. The First Republican Constitution destool and banish chiefs. Can it happen today?
On every January 7, we should celebrate the cause of freedom and of right. In the years that a President is not being sworn-in, we should still dedicate the day to the most priceless of all God’s gifts to humanity – freedom and justice. We should say: “Never Again” to all acts of man’s inhumanity to man, military/civilian brutality and every act of oppression”. This is to ensure that our liberties once trampled upon will never be abused again. Never Again! January 7 is the day of Constitutionalism.
If we simply celebrate Republic Day without knowing what we are celebrating, we will be groping in darkness. If we take July 1 as “Ghana’s Republic Day”, what Republic Day are we talking about? Are we celebrating that which was destroyed, abandoned, repudiated on February 24 1966 or January 7, 1993, the day on which the 1992 Constitution was brought to being? How do you celebrate that which is otiose, dead and gone and replaced with another?
Ghana should not appear to be confused at all. I remember when President Kufuor was going to be sworn into office on January 7, 2001. Ghanaians who had been used to ‘handing over’ after military rule were preparing for handover from Rawlings to Kufuor.
Some of us stood vehemently against this and prevailed. The truth is that under the 4th Republican Constitution there is nothing like a handover. The Chief Justice administers an Oath, the in-coming President is sworn into office and the President becomes President. An Ex-President attends the ceremony simply as another special dignitary.
Ghana has been through three Republics and is experiencing the 4th Republic (which we all believe, hope and pray will be the last). July 1, 1960 is no more our Republic Day. Historically it is only one of the Republic Days of the past.
Today, so long as the 4th Republic continues a President will forever be sworn-in on January 7. The date, January 7 therefore is a memorable day. It reminds us that we have a President, freely elected by us, who will rule Ghana by the tenets of our Constitution which came into effect January 7, 1993.
It is noteworthy that Senior Citizens will continue to have their special place in a new arrangement.
The December 31 case corrected various contradictions. By virtue of the democratic and libertarian framework and provisions of the 1992 Constitution you could not celebrate December 31 which was out of line with the 1992 constitution.
From now onwards let it be clear to all and sundry that nobody, no matter who, can celebrate or perform any act whatsoever, outside the philosophy and underpinnings of the one and only constitutional and republican dispensation.
If the First Republic Order of 1960 were still of effect today, if any Ghanaian is detained for weeks or months by the Executive, let no man or woman go to Court!