My pride as a Ghanaian was elevated as I listened to the cream of Ghana's legislative leaders yesterday (July 16, 2002), at the Ghana Embassy auditorium in Washington D.C. The leadership of the Legislative Branch of the Ghana government is in Washington, D.C. at the invitation of the United States Congress to study how Separation of Powers works in practice; tour some states in the USA; and also attend the meeting of the National Council of State Legislatures to be held at Denver, Colorado in the western part of the USA. The theme of that conference is "Managing State Legislatures", and it brings together the legislatures of all the fifty states that form the USA. Legislators from around the world take part in the program at the expense of the US government.
Representing Ghana are the Right Honorable Mr. Peter Ala Adjetey; Mr. Papa Owusu Ankomah, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Majority Leader in Parliament; Alban Bagbin, the Minority Leader; Mr. Osei Kyei Mensah, the Majority Whip; and Mr. Doe Adjaho, the Minority Whip; and the Clerk of Parliament.
Though publicity of the meeting was rather late, a good number of Ghanaians assembled to listen to their leaders, and pose questions to them. Since the ambassador was on travel, his Deputy, the equally qualified and equally affable Mr. Francis Tsegah served as the moderator, and he did an excellent job, as always. It is a credit to Ghanaians in Washington, D.C., that they love their country, and care for their country to have stayed to listen to the leaders. The forum started at about 9pm, and ended close to 11pm. No one regretted staying that late.
First to speak was of course, the leader of the group, Mr. Peter A. Adjetey. Mr. Adjetey was simply fantastic. In America-speak, the man provided a lesson in Politics 101. Anyone who went to the Ghana Embassy without any knowledge of the principle of the Separation of Powers which undergirds democracy; and the role of the Legislature thereof, went home fully taught on these matters. Indeed, after the event, I had to pick up courage to go up to Mr. Adjetey to express my admiration, and to tell him that I thank God that the PNDC which hounded him for a decade could not destroy such a national treasure. I told him that for such a nobleman to have been harassed simply because he opposed dictatorship and military rule is cause enough for all Ghanaians to work hard to nurture a democratic culture in our dear country.
Mr. Adjetey explained his and parliament's role in our fledgling democracy, and bemoaned the fact that at public functions, even senior government officials do not seem to recognize the position and role of the Speaker in our national government. Most Ghanaians do not know that in the event both President and Vice-president were incapacitated, the Speaker becomes the President of Ghana. Mr. Adjetey attributed the low level of recognition of the office of the Speaker to decades of dictatorship since independence which tended to obfuscate the Legislative branch, and hence, the office of the Speaker. The Legislature, as the bulwark of the rule of law is despised by a dictatorial executive branch; and is the first to be dismantled by an unconstitutional military dictator.
The Speaker assured Ghanaians that once he assumed office, even as a member of the National Patriotic Party (NPP), who has served in several leadership positions in the NPP; his new office made him a "creature of the nation" articulating a national agenda, rather than the agenda of a political party. While recognizing that his role as an unbiased Speaker would arouse suspicions from both sides of Parliament, Mr. Adjetey emphasized that he was "nobody's hoodlum"; and that only his conscience directs him in trying to assert the independence of the Legislative branch of government, in accordance with the Constitution of Ghana.
Indeed, for Ghanaians eager to see that the rule of law prevails, and that the president is curbed of whatever dictatorial tendencies he may harbor, Mr. Peter Ala Adjetey, represents our first line of defense against dictatorship in a democratic Ghana.
The clear articulation of issues started by the Speaker was ably continued by both Papa Owusu Ankomah and Alan Bagbin. There is no doubt that Ghana is well on her way to becoming a truly democratic nation. The invitation by the United States Congress (as well as by other legislatures in the developed world) to our legislative leaders to study how their counterparts function elsewhere is positive proof that Ghana is recognized as a civilized nation where issues are debated, and consensus reached. Importantly, the recognition by both the Majority Leader and Minority Leader, that differences of opinion on national issues must be seen in the context of democratic governance and the nurturing of a democratic culture provides a strong ammunition against dictatorship.
It is also fair to recognize that the democratic values of the party in power helps to create a culture of respect; a culture of tolerance; and a culture of true patriotism. To wit, unlike past functions held at the Embassy in Washington during the National Democratic Congress (NDC), only the Ghana national flag was in view. Under NDC, such meetings became extensions of NDC meetings, with NDC flags running roughshod over the national flag. It is a credit to the NPP leaders in Washington led by Alhaji Mohammed Idris and Mr. Akwasi Owusu that such partisan displays are not encouraged at such national gatherings.
Ghana is truly on its way to becoming a showcase for the rule of law and tolerance, and it behooves Ghanaians from all walks of life to become, in the words of Mr. Peter Ala Adjetey, advocates for democracy in our dear country.
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