24.10.2020 Feature Article

Are the Smaller Parties’ and Independent Presidential Candidates Delusional?

Are the Smaller Parties’ and Independent Presidential Candidates Delusional?
LISTEN OCT 24, 2020

I hope readers do not consider the title of the article as insulting or that I am arrogant. Instead, it should be seen as rhetorical question and a thought-provoking subject that must be debated because it is important for the development and growth of Ghana’s fledgling democracy. This article therefore is part of the discourse that perhaps some Ghanaians shy away from by playing the ostrich. I believe that after twenty-eight years of democratic dispensation, though relatively short time in the annals of democracy, Ghana should not have twelve presidential candidates on the ballot, especially when ten of them have no chance whatsoever of even making a difference in who wins the presidency or being the king maker. That is democrazy not democracy.

I often wonder why individuals who know perfectly well that their chances of winning the presidency is lower than thunder striking them dead, yet waste time and huge resources to contest. What exactly motivates them to embark on such futile expedition? Is it just about having on their curriculum vitae or obituary that they were presidential candidate of Ghana? If so, what about those who are serial contestants despite their abysmal performances in previous attempts? Just to be referred to as having contested the Ghanaian presidency twice, thrice or multiple occasions? I struggle to understand them and don’t known if I am alone. Of course, I am aware that Ghanaians or Africans love titles and this could be one of their motivations.

The question is, should the presidency be allowed to be toyed with by self-seeking and self-centred individuals in the society? I do not think so because the presidency is too important an office to be the fantasy of any individual just because they meet Article 62 of the 1992 Constitution. There is nothing wrong with people having ambition and motivation but is it not also true that monkeys play by sizes?

Article 62 of the 1992 Constitution states, “a person shall not be qualified for election as the President of Ghana unless: (a) s/he is a citizen of Ghana by birth; (b) s/he has attained the age of forty years; and (c) s/he is a person who is otherwise qualified to be elected a Member of Parliament, except that the disqualifications set out in paragraphs (c), (d), and (e) of clause (2) of article 94 of this Constitution shall not be removed, in respect of any such person, by a presidential pardon or by the lapse of time as provided for in clause (5) of that article.

Does that mean anyone who meets the above conditions should contest to be president of the Republic of Ghana? My candid opinion is no. This is because when it comes to the interpretation and application of constitutions, a holistic approach is taken and therefore all relevant articles must be considered in totality. In addition, the spirit of the of the constitution is also critical. For these two reasons, the qualifications to contest for the presidency cannot rest solely on Article 62 but also Articles 42 and 78(1).

Article 42 states, “every citizen of Ghana of eighteen years of age or above and of sound mind has the right to vote and is entitled to be registered as a voter for the purposes of public elections and referenda. This means that prior to qualifying for Article 62, one must be a registered voter, so one more criterion must be met. That is, you must be “of sound mind”. I believe most people will agree that all the twelve candidates certified by the Electoral Commission to contest the December 7 presidential elections, including the seven who were disqualified are of sound mind. But are serial contestants who waste a lot of money year after year with no chance of making a difference on the outcome really of sound mind? This is a rhetorical question which I leave it to Ghanaians to answer.

Article 78(1) of the 1992 Constitution also states, “ministers of state shall be appointed by the President with the prior approval of Parliament from among members of Parliament or persons qualified to be elected as members of Parliament, except that the majority of Ministers of State shall be appointed from among members of Parliament”. I wonder if the smaller parties’ and independent presidential candidates are aware of this condition. In the unlikely event of any one of them wining the presidency, how would they meet this requirement when most would not have even a single MP in parliament?

Let’s assume that in addition to sixteen regional ministers, a maximum of twenty minister of states making a total of thirty-two will be appointed. By Article (78)1 at least, seventeen of the ministers must be MPs. Can any of the smaller parties’ and independent presidential candidates have 17 MPs in parliament? The answer is a resounding no. What then happens if they won the presidency but cannot appoint ministers of state? Do they have agreement with the two leading parties (NPP and NDC) to appoint ministers from amongst their MPs? If not, how can they govern if elected? It’s not feasible. For this reason, I believe that unless the smaller parties’ and independent presidential candidates can provide reliable evidence that they can form a government by appointing majority of their ministers of state from parliament, should any one of them win the presidency, then they should not qualify to contest the presidency since Article 78(1) is not met.

What about the spirit of the Constitution? In my view, the role of the presidency is such important to be held by any person. For this reason, I am of the opinion that any presidential candidate who could not assemble a team to complete the presidential nomination forms accurately without error should be disqualified outright. It is not the place of the Electoral Commission to correct their mistakes when they are seeking to be the president of the Republic. If they cannot even complete the nomination forms accurately, what right do they have to be president of the country?

According to the Electoral Commission, only five out of the seventeen who filed their presidential nomination forms, did so accurately without blemish or the Electoral Commission seeking further clarification and or requesting them to make corrections, amendments and additions. These were: His Excellency, President Nana Akufo-Addo of NPP, His Excellency, Ex-President John Mahama of NDC, Brigette Akosua Dzogbenuku of PPP, Hassan Ayariga of APC and Mr Henry Herbert Lartey of GCPP. These are the only candidates that the EC should have certified to contest the December 7 presidential election. The remaining twelve should have been disqualified outright for not completing their nomination forms accurately.

Out of the contestants who could not complete their nominations forms accurately, Nana Agyemang Konadu Rawlings stands out for me because she is not only the former first lady but also has had presidential ambitions since 2012 and has been contesting since then in both primaries and the national elections. Despite all these, she could not put together a team to complete her nomination forms accurately. How on earth would she govern Ghana as president, when she could not even complete her nomination forms? What really motivates her is a mystery. But one thing is clear, her main objective is simply to take votes from NDC and deny the party the presidency because of the way she was treated in the 2012 NDC flagbearer contest against the late President Mills.

I also understand Akua Donkor of GFP cannot read and write. If this is true, what the hell is she contesting for the presidency for and why did the Electoral Commission accept her nomination forms as well as approve her to contest? Whose interest is she serving, Ghana or herself? I have read that under her presidency Ghana will conduct official business in Akan. Is that realistic? Of course, she can play a role in nation building but certainly not as president.

In conclusion, the presidency is such a critical office that must not be for the faint-hearted or fantasists and that Articles 62 must be read and interpreted alongside with Articles 78(1) and 42 to weed out undesirable contestants. Otherwise, Ghana will end up subjecting the presidential contest to ridicule. For the stated above the Electoral Commission must in future disqualify any candidate who is unable to meet the above three articles collectively from contesting the presidency as well as disqualify candidates who are unable to complete their nominations forms correctly upon submission. Simply put and in my opinion, some if not most of the twelve candidates on the ballot paper for the December 7 presidential election are delusional and should have been disqualified.

Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK

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