A Moment In History: As The NPP Considers Proposals For Amendments To Its Constitution
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press,
Thank you for honouring our invitation to be here this morning. We have called this Press Conference ahead of the NPP extraordinary conference due to be held in Kumasi, on Sunday, 17 December, to consider proposals for the constitutional amendments.
The proposed amendments in consideration, are wide ranging. They include provisions that will fundamentally alter the extent of participation and future role of External Branches in the affairs of our Party generally, and in the structure and leadership of our Party in particular. We therefore want to focus the attention of the press, and Ghanaians,today, on issues that impact the role of External Branches of the NPP in the affairs of our Party,and the overall participation of Ghanaians in the diaspora, in the democratic process in Ghana.
The NPP has over 25 External Branches today. These Branches have made significant contribution to the development of the Party since inception, and have continued to do so, culminating in the effective support External Branches, collectively, made to deliver success to the Party at the 2016 general elections. Members of External Branches have contributed at every level of our Party structure. They have previously held, and continue to hold high office in Ghana.
Our members by virtue of their overseas domicile, are dual citizens – citizens of their host nations, and citizens of Ghana - as duly recognised under the constitution of the republic of Ghana.
Our Party, NPP, has been at the forefront of implementing progressive changes that will increase participation of Ghanaians in the democratic process in Ghana. President Kufour’s administration passed the ROPAL bill. President Akufo Addo has continued to engage positively with Ghanaians in the diaspora, urging them to become involved in every way in the affairs of our dear nation. We have made great gains as a Party, and as a nation, in that respect, and we commend the NPP for that foresight and leadership. The direction of travel is clear, to ensure that within our own Party structure, and indeed in the affairs of the nation, Ghanaians in the diaspora (dual citizens) have equal rights as any citizen of our dear country. We must consolidate the gains we have made along this journey, and move on from here, to go further, to address other provisions of the Ghana constitution that today stand in the way of that progress.
It is our strongly held view, that the proposals to be considered by NPP delegates in Kumasi, as part of this constitutional review, in particular, that relating to the “rights of members”, include amendments that will not reverse the gains made by our party, as it pertains to the role and participation of external branches in the affairs of our party.
The partyin the view of External Branches, has a unique opportunity, to use the mechanism of constitutional review, to advance the Party’s development on a number of fronts, including deepening the participation and inclusion of members of the Party in the external branches in particular, and Ghanaians in the diaspora in general, in the democratic process in the party, and in the nation at large, while ensuring the principles of democratic accountability are upheld at all levels of the Party structure.
Statement by NPP External Branches
In its recent report, the NPP Ad hoc Constitutional Review Committee, set up pursuant to Art. 9(B)(1) expressed the hope that,
The Extraordinary Delegates Conference will adopt amendments which will ensure cohesion within the Party, enhance efficiency of the functioning of relevant organs of the Party, reduce the risk of controversies and/or litigation as well as make the provisions generally tidy.
The Chairpersons and members of NPP branches in the Diaspora – NPP External Branches - are of the collective view that the Party is at a crucial inflection point in its Genesis, as it ponders far reaching proposals for amendment to the NPP Constitution.
On behalf of our members we are deeply concerned about those proposals, which bring into sharp focus, the future role of external branches, in the structure and leadership of the Party. We observe, that with the ongoing review, and the forthcoming extra ordinary delegates conference scheduled for Sunday 17 December, in Kumasi, the Party has a unique opportunity, to use this important mechanism, to advance the Party’s development on a number of fronts, including; deepening the participation and inclusion of members of the Party in the external branches in particular, and Ghanaians in the diaspora in general, in the democratic process within the Party, and the nation at large. While at the same time, ensuring the principles of democratic accountability are upheld at all levels of the Party structure”.
We have carefully considered the proposed amendments and are particularly concerned about those, under the heading ‘Rights of Members’.The relevant parts of which, are reproduced below in their entirety for ease of reference.
C - Rights of Members
A member shall have the right to:
(iii) Contest for any position or office within the Party in accordance with rules and regulations governing elections.
(iv) Subject to Article 55(8) of the 1992 Constitution the Party shall not have as a Founding Member, Patron, or Member of its executive a member / person who is not qualified to be elected as a Member of Parliament or to hold any other public office.
(v) For the avoidance of doubt
1. A member shall be disqualified from holding any office or contesting any election in the Party if he or she:
a) Owes allegiance to a country other than Ghana
The theme of the 2017 Delegates Conference held at Cape Coastwas, “the past, the present and the future”, it is therefore apt, that at such a crucial juncture in our Party’s genesis, we should be attempting to make changes to the NPPConstitution, that serve to, build upon the progress we have been making as a political tradition, and as the foremost democratic political party in our country, and dare we say it, the continent of Africa.
The NPP Constitution is a sacred document which has in the past, and will in the future, continue to guide how we conduct our affairs as a political party.We appreciate the need for it, and its importance, in regulating the activities, of not only the Party at home in Ghana but also the growing numbers of members in External Branches across the globe.As such, the review process matters, and all concerned, are determined that we get it right!
The exercise is one of such importance, not only for us here and now, but also for posterity, that we deem it appropriate for the process to be guided by a clearly defined set of principles, which as one would expect, include those that have guided the development of equity, and have underpinned, the core values of our Party, since its inception.
Our members have noted with incredulity and dismay that the ad hoc committee did not include a single representative from any of the External Branches. The exclusion of such a large cross section of Party Members is inexcusable and hurtful!
We are all very much alive to the fact that the provisions of the NPP Constitution must not run contrary to those of the Constitution of the 4th Republic, (the 1992 Constitution).
Having said that, in reaching for the future we must not forget the past.
We have not forgotten, the way, in which, the 1992 Constitution,at the end of an era of a brutal dictatorship,in transition to a democratic dispensation,was drafted and, the fact that Provisions like Art 55(8) and 94(2)(a) were inserted to keep political opponents, both real and perceived at bay.We understand that those provisions which have now been enshrined in our supreme law for over a quarter of a century, were not the brain child of our political tradition.
We appeal to all delegates to the conference, that any constitutional amendment proposals which,in essence are, or maybe retrogressive, or which pose a present danger to the gains we have made in our 25-year history as a party, should not be entertained. In fact, they should be rigorously rejected with every fibre of our collective being.
The NPP, was birthed out of the stable of a rich political party tradition that has stood for 70 years. It is built on sound principles of democracy and the belief in individual freedoms, equality and accountability at all levels. The Party has survived diverse adversities, largely due to its unwavering focus on stamping out any attempts, measures, or provisions in its Constitution, which may weaken the spirit of democracy which is hardwired in our DNA!
We have said it before, and we reiterate the need to ensure that we uphold our rich traditions and strengthen the party structures and organisation at all levels to accord with those principles that have stood the test of time.
We need to strengthen our party structures from the polling station level, constituency level, regional and External branch levels, through the leadership of elected officials who are answerable to our party workers and members in their respective areas of operation, and in accordance with the dictates of our structures that guarantee discipline, cohesion, and respect for all.
Today, we have over well 20 external branches officially recognised by the Party. We are the Party that passed the Representation of the People Amendment Act, which when implemented, would be another battle ground in our quest for votes from Ghanaians resident abroad, and which could in time to come, determine the outcome of future elections.
This is a strong position we can leverage for the good of the party and our nation. This is a solid platform on which to progress.
The External Branches must continue to have elected executives who shall be the custodians of the party in the Diaspora. We are members of the IDU, we have an excellent relationship with our sister parties in the Diaspora and some of our members do hold dual citizenship. That does not mean that there is a conflict of loyalty. Far from it.
There must be collaboration and respect for the role of the External Branches and their executives and their counterparts back at home, be they Party Executives, MPs or Committee Members.
With regard, to the role of external branches going forward, we have indeed reached an inflection point! We have made great strides in the recent past, extending membership of the Party to thousands of enthusiastic Ghanaians.
NPP External Branches made a huge contribution, in terms of time, effort, energy and resources (both human and financial) which led to the Party’s resounding victory in the 2016 General Election.
We are proud to have played such an important role. Our members travelled home at great personal expense, to help with the campaign on the ground. They didn’t only do it only in 2016. They did it in 2012 and 2008, and other elections since the dispensation of the 4th republic. The current proposals for constitutional amendments pertaining to rights of members in particular, serve only to dampen the spirits of these gallant men and women.
The implication of the proposed change under “rights of members”,if implemented, is that there will be no place for External Branch members who are also dual citizens, in any leadership role in the Party they have worked so hard to sustain.
Local politics, must not be seen, as being antagonistic towards our brothers and sisters who live in the Diaspora.Policies which will discourage further participation in the democratic process should not be countenanced.
These ill-advised proposals could kill off the NPP External Branches!
There is no evidence supporting the suggestion that dual citizens are less loyal than those who do not hold dual citizenship. In fact, the preponderance of the evidence demonstrates otherwise.Ghanaians in the diaspora, as we know continue to make a huge contribution, through remittances, to the economy of Ghana.Many, want to make a valued contribution to the development of our nation.
We have a unique opportunity now, to use the mechanism of constitutional review to advance our Party’s development, on a number, of fronts, including deepening the participation and inclusion of members of our Party in the external branches, and including them in the leadership structure of the party, with appropriate representation and a seat at the table.
As the Party delegates gather to consider the proposed amendments, the External Branches of the NPP, hereby urge all delegates, at this crucial moment in our history, to rise up to the challenge posed.
We need to collectively ensure that any proposed amendments we adopt, only serve to underline our core principle as a party, deepen our democracy, ensure accountability, and help us build a Party that all, will feel proud to belong to.
The guiding principles that have informed our current stance are as follows:
- The aim and indeed, the essence of reviewing or amending a national constitution should be the fixing of the ineffective or broken parts, and the exercise, should largely be based on objective, impartial, broad-minded, and carefully considered reasons.
- The need to continue to strengthen and deepen our democratic credentials through further integration of all groups represented in the Party, including in particular, the Party in the Diaspora.
- The need for strong institutions – namely, a well-resourced, well-structured Party – not “strong men”.
- That whilst we should be guided and informed by our illustrious history, constitutional changes should not be driven by worst case scenarios, knee jerk reactions or a misplaced fear factor.
- That the principle of democratic accountability should always be upheld and foremost in our thinking.
- We should, with progress in mind, be always factoring in the role and contribution of external branches at every level of the Party.
- And, last, but not least, we should always ask ourselves, if the proposed amendments, either individually or collectively, deepen democracy in our Party, and if they ensure accountability of our elected officials at all levels of our Party?
Holding dual citizenship should not be a bar to holding office in the NPP, at home or in the Diaspora.
A time has come for us to help build that Party of the future! A party that is progressive in extending the boundaries of participation. A party that is inclusive. A party where every member, irrespective of domicile, has equal rights, and can achieve their best for our Party and indeed our nation. That time, that moment in history, is now!
For and on behalf of Chairpersons, and Members of NPP External Branches
Drafted by: Michael Ansah, Chairman, NPP UK, David Yianoma, Vice Chairman, NPP UK
14 December, 2017