Ghana needs to exercise caution in the review of the 1992 Constitution in order not to slow down the country’s development, Dr Vladmir Antwi-Danso, a Senior Fellow at the Legon Centre for International Affairs of the University of Ghana, has advised.
while conceding that several grey areas had been identified in the 1992 Constitution because it had been tested enough and changes could now be made, Dr Antwi- Danso cautioned however, that “we must hasten slowly” as, in his opinion, the more wordy a constitution is, the more it made the development process slow and cumbersome.
Dr Antwi-Danso was making a presentation entitled “Constitutional dilemma: the Ghanaian situation” at a roundtable discussion on the topic “The Omission of Provision on a defecting President or a vacant or inoperative Vice President”, which was organised in Accra by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA).
The discussion attracted ministers of state, Members of Parliament (MPs), leaders of political parties and the academia.
The discussion formed part of the IEA’s Constitutional Review Programme, which involves research and advocacy on provisions of the Constitution that, in his view, required review.
A number of roundtables have been organised to discuss some pertinent areas and provisions of the Constitution and the consensus reached is expected to be documented and fed into the Constitutional Review Process.
President John Evans Atta Mills, in January this year, inaugurated a nine-member commission under the chairmanship of Prof. Albert Fiadjoe with the mandate of collating views from Ghanaians on the operation of the 18-year-old Fourth Republican Constitution.
Dr Antwi-Danso said “in the country of ours, where politics tends to intrude into decision-making of any kind, we need to be extra cautious. Between the text and the practice of every constitution, there is always a gap to be filled not by many amendments, but by true knowledge and understanding of that fundamental document”.
He said in the Ghanaian situation, there were no clear provisions, explicitly made in the 1992 Constitution on a ‘defecting President’ or a vacant or inoperative Vice-president’.
Dr Antwi-Danso stated that whereas the Constitution might be said to deal adequately with the absence or incapacitation (including removal of office (Article 69) of the President, there seemed to be inadequate provisions on the Vice-President in similar situations.
He noted that most of the provisions relating to the President were explicitly stated to also relate to the Vice-President, adding that even though Article 60 (3) notified that the provisions of Article 62 applied to a candidate for election as vice-president and Article 60, clauses 6-10 were explicit on what the vice-president should do in the absence of the president, there were no indications of what the President or Parliament could do in the absence of a vice-president either through vacation, removal from office or death.
Comparing Ghana’s 1992 Constitution to Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, he said whereas Nigera’s Constitution made explicit provision for what should be done in the event that a president-elect died before he was sworn in, Ghana had no such provision, thereby exposing the country to a constitutional crisis should such a situation arise.
He said within a few years of experimenting with the 1992 Constitution, some contradictions had been observed, adding that the Constitution was put to test before it became operational.
He cited several situations where the 1992 Constitution had been silent on matters arising, which included the selection of a Vice-Presidential candidate from a different party to join the ticket of another party as was the case of former President Rawlings and his Vice President, Ekow Nkensen Arkaah.
Dr Antwi-Danso said the framers of the 1992 Constitution were aware that changes would be necessary if the Constitution was to endure as the nation grew, adding that they were, however, conscious that such changes should not be easy, lest it would permit ill-conceived and hastily passed amendments.
Earlier, a Senior Fellow of the IEA, Prof. Adzei- Bekoe, in a welcoming address, said it might practically be an exercise in futility to attempt to make provisions in the country’s statute books to regulate all aspects of our lives.
He observed that in many advanced democracies, conventions had evolved in a manner that effectively dealt with other areas of human life that were not catered for in their respective constitutions.
Prof. Adzei-Bekoe said the lecture and the discussion that would ensue would be able to help reach a consensus on the need to either legislate to deal with the grey areas of the Constitution or suggest conventions to tackle some or all the challenges.
Prof. William Ahadzie, Executive Secretary of the National Identification Authority, who chaired the function, said the lecture was part of efforts, at drawing attention to the grey areas to ensure that Ghana’s brand of democracy was strengthened, adding that it was important to look at issues that could destabilise the country’s governance process, and find the appropriate solutions to them.