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22.12.2010 Politics

Change Term Of Presidency To Five Years

By Ahumah Ocansey - Daily Graphic
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Article 66 (1) of the 1992 Constitution says: A person elected as President shall, subject to clause (3) of this article, hold office for a term of four years beginning from the date on which he is sworn in as President. 

(2) A person shall not be elected to hold office as President of Ghana for more than two terms. In this article, the author shall argue for the change of tenure of the Presidency of Ghana from four to five years. 

We can surmise that the framers of Ghana’s 1992 Constitution, as with the 1969 and 1979 Constitutions, adopted what generally prevails in the western democracies with respect to the tenure of office of the President. 

In the US, Canada and other European states, the term of Presidency is four years, with a maximum of two terms. In the UK, the term is four years, but it appears a prime minister could go for a third term.

France is anomalous; its President has a term of seven years, with a two- term mandate.  

Some African countries, however, have a five year term. They are Mali, Zimbabwe and Gabon.

Apart from Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya and others that have a four-year Presidency, with two terms of office.

There have been moves by some African governments to change the two-term presidency to three or make it indefinite. Ex -President Obasanjo of Nigeria attempted to effect constitutional amendments to extend the term from two to three. He failed.

Cameroon, Namibia, and Uganda changed theirs from two to three terms.

In Burkina Faso, Guinea and Chad, there is no limit to the presidency. I guess they will be there till doomsday!

President Mubarak of Egypt has been around for some 29 years. As for Robert Mugabe, it appears God created Zimbabwe for him only. He would be there till the Day of Judgment! 

Till this moment, there have not been any studies that I know of, assessing the efficacy of the tenure of Presidency in Ghana.

It appears we generally think that two terms of four years is adequate for a leader to make his mark and leave the scene for the next person.

I don’t share in such thinking. 

In Ghana, as it is now, the structures that we have in place for the governance of the country are suffering from a myriad of deficiencies, so that what works in other countries with similar structures cannot be said to be the same here.

Let’s talk of the judiciary, as an example.

Whereas we know that the judiciary is supposed to be an independent organ of state for the administration of justice and that it should prosecute its work with a high sense of fairness, courage and political neutrality, the perception that Ghanaians have of the judiciary is far from what I have stated.  

Most Ghanaians see the judiciary as a corrupt organ whose quality of justice is less than desirable. And some of the indices of corruption, in the Ghanaian perspective, are that of the unaccountable loss of dockets, delayed judgments, interminable adjournments, and obvious defiance of court orders, leading to contempt cases.  

The implication of this for the governance of our country is that where justice is delayed in any matter, it affects families, persons and even the government.

Thus, a decision that could easily have been taken in a month or two rather takes a year or two or more.

In effect, at the end of the first-four years of governance, the President has not done as much as he would wish to have accomplished because legal issues that affect the generality of people are not easily and quickly resolved.

How much can a President achieve where his citizenry spend the best part of their time over unending litigation and protracted court cases? 

Second, record keeping is extremely poor in Ghana.

Even the Presidency is guilty of this. The National Archives is under the office of the Presidency.

But go to the Archives and you would realise that machinery required to preserve aged and rare documents have broken down for years and no one cares in the Presidency to replace it.

That is not to say the Presidency has not been informed. And that is not to say further that there is no money. It has been so for many years. Sheer disinterest! 

Whoever is conversant with the ministries would admit that record keeping at the ministries is shoddy.

Confidential papers and contents of files have been seen in the hands of groundnut sellers, who use the paper to sell their nuts.

Thus, when important documents are dealt with so dismissively, how could there be continuity in the nation’s development? 

In the developed countries, the legacies of preceding governments are well-documented, so there is continuity and development.

In Ghana it is not so. Each government must painstakingly probe the jungle of unco-ordinated projects, and sort out the massive bolus of documents and information all cluttered up and pick out what it wants to use.

One government begins a project; the other government does not continue; it begins another project altogether, and on and on we have managed this nation in such ad hoc fashion all these 50 years.

Dr Busia began the Accra Sewerage Project of having all liquid waste passed underground into the sea.

He was overthrown in 1972. Gen Acheampong did not continue with the project.

No one else has, till date! Gen. Acheampong conceived of Redemption townships for Madina.

He was booted out by Gen Akuffo and the generals. They did not touch his project.

President Limann came up with the Oppong Manso Iron Ore project in the Western Region. J.J Rawlings kicked him out of power and that killed the project. J.J Rawlings initiated the Tetteh Quarshie road project, planned to be a series of over heads.

President J.A. Kufuor came and messed up the project and created an embarrassing traffic horror. 

The essence of these examples is to show that government is not smooth at all in Ghana.

It travels through ravines, swamps, forests, deserts, seas, and jungles! How much can a President achieve in such an environment?  

The first year of the President’s term goes into understanding what took place in the past.

He cannot initiate a programme with a snap of his finger. He actually begins the take off in the second year.

He consolidates in the third year. The fourth year is election year and a slow down takes place; compromises are carefully manoeuvred for the election to be won; monies are siphoned for campaigning through projects hurriedly but poorly executed to give a semblance of justification, then the elections.

Thus, of the four years, only two are critically used for the good of the nation. That is not enough to transform the nation the way we want it done. 

Third, a constitutional provision also hampers good governance in Ghana. The stipulation that the president must appoint cabinet ministers from parliament has been criticised as an unworkable and distractive administrative mechanism (See article 78 (1)).

By being absent from Parliament to deliberate on matters of state, Ministers of State hold back timely discussions and delay the processes that must be gone through before decisions are taken.

Cumulatively, it takes the President a longer while to initiate and carry out programmes through Parliament because of, sometimes, lack of quorum. 

Fourth, another consideration which deserves attention is that of national revenue. Government expenditure far outstrips national income, hence, the injection of donor money to shore up the national budget.

I have no ready figures to use by way of example. 

Where national revenue is not adequate, the execution of projects is bound to suffer inevitable delays and little would be done within those four years.

It is up to government to increase its revenue and cut down on expenditure. But, in the absence, if a vigorous industrialisation of the country, how much can the nation earn?

The problem will be with us for an appreciable time.

What could be done is to extend the term of Presidency to allow time to enable more projects to be undertaken. 

Last, the rural underdevelopment of the country requires far more attention to it than is possible within the short time of four years.

Rural development has suffered growth and quality life because the urban towns suck in almost all the monies needed for rural development.

The majority of Ghanaians are in the rural areas, so, in effect, the socio-economic base of most Ghanaians remain unchanged, poor and deprived.

Again, time is a great healer. If, out of five years, one year is fully committed to rural development, we might see substantial changes over time. 

It is in consideration of these and other factors that I am of the opinion that the term of Presidency should be changed from four to five years.

Given the constants of the first and last years being weak ones, the critical time for good work would then be three, instead of two years.

If the President is fortunate to be re-elected for another term, then a decade of leadership would have sufficed for the nation to have benefited from the work of a President. An uninterrupted good leadership will benefit Ghana immensely. 

In furtherance of this proposal, constitutional amendments are necessary to change the tenure of Presidency, and this should be considered when it comes to amending the Constitution. 

I have no doubts that Ghana would attain greater governmental cohesion and integrity when the psychological pressure to do much in a short time of four years is taken off our Presidents.

Things are not as easy in government as they appear from the comforts of our homes. Time is of the essence for maximum success.

But since the variables of time are beyond anybody's predictions, the least we can do is to provide a little more hedging space for the President to take time to execute his plans for the nation. 

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