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22.04.2014 Feature Article

Ghana: A Case Of An Autocratic Democracy (Part One)

Ghana: A Case Of An Autocratic Democracy (Part One)
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This may sound contrasting. But no article on corruption has actually been anything less than contrasting. Even our fight against this age old Adamic disease as a country is indeed contrasting, and sometimes confusing. As i sat behind my desk, watching attentively and uninterruptedly, the SOLE COMMISIONER ON JUDGEMENT DEBT'S frustrations, and the energy consuming outbursts of members of the public accounts committee of parliament, I wept within me and asked myself: oh my country Ghana, so when shall we say BYE BYE to corruption?

I am a proud member of the next generation after these current leaders, and am asking: do these leaders think about the impact some of their CORRUPT decisions and actions have on the next generation? Some people have written about how corruption can be weeded out of our society, but after a careful diagnostics, i take inspiration from this quote:

The historian and moralist, who was otherwise known simply as Lord Acton, expressed this opinion in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887:

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

William Pitt the Elder, Earl of Chatham and British Prime Minister from 1766 to 1778, who said something similar in a speech to the UK House of Lords in 1770:

"Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it" .

So if absolute power corrupts, how can we make those who wield too much power less powerful? Until we tackle this disease of corruption from the roots, and stop this branch pruning approach, we will get nowhere. We say we are a country governed by the RULE OF LAW, so let's tackle the problems with the law else, IT IS NO POINT RULING WITH A LAW IN THE RULE OF LAW WHEN THE LAW BEING USED TO RULE CANNOT BRING US THE RESULTS DESIRED.

What is Autocracy?
An autocracy (from Ancient Greek αὐτοκράτεια "ruling by oneself" from αὐτοκράτης "autocratic")is a system of government in which a supreme power is concentrated in the hands of one person, whose decisions are subject to neither external legal restraints nor regularized mechanisms of popular control.

What is Democracy?
Democracy is a form of government in which all eligible citizens participate equally—either directly or indirectly through elected representatives—in the proposal, development, and creation of laws.

These various forms of government are now ambiguous because contemporary governments have mixed democratic, oligarchic, and monarchic elements, but where there is a gross imbalance, then there is a cause for concern.

So the ultimate question is, if we are practising a democratic system of governance, why does the executive wield so much power?

I recall former Speaker of Parliament, Mr. Peter Ala Adjetey, punching several holes in the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, including the concentration of too much power in the hands of one man (The President), describing the situation as dangerous for democracy. He has, therefore, called for its review to keep abreast of the times. The 1992 Constitution was adopted in circumstances in which real freedom did not exist in Ghana and there was no guarantee of fundamental human rights and freedoms.

For instance, that the provisions dealing with the Legislature as contained in Chapter 10 of the 1992 Constitution needed to be closely examined to see whether they provided for or ensured the division of political power among "diverse persons so that there is effective check on power by power". Although Article 93(2) vested the legislative power of Ghana in Parliament, it also limited the exercise of that power to the extent contained in the Constitution.

In accordance with this qualification, certain “no go" areas for Parliament were prescribed by the Constitution itself. These "no go" areas were contained in Articles 107 and 108.According to the late Peter Ala Adjetey, The nation was chafing under a military dictatorship that had maintained its stranglehold on power for some 10 years and that violently suppressed all attempts to overthrow it.

Those times were not a political atmosphere calculated to generate a freely agreed liberal democratic constitution and one should not be-surprised at not finding all that one would desire and expect in a constitution. He further stated that, "The Consultative Assembly established by the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC), like the Constituent Assembly established by the Supreme Military Council, was not clothed with jurisdiction to enact, promulgate and bring into force the Constitution for Ghana that it would prepare and agree upon,".

It was left once again to an unelected body that had taken power illegitimately by force of arms to enact, promulgate and bring into force a new Constitution for Ghana. It was true that the draft Constitution that came out of the Consultative Assembly was submitted to a referendum on April 28, 1992 and was duly approved at the referendum.

The late speaker of Parliament said "it is submitted, however, that the people of Ghana did not really have entirely free hands in voting at the referendum, since at the referendum they were presented with the Scylla of accepting the draft with all its serious imperfections and failure to meet the standards required of a modern liberal democratic Republic, and the Charybdis of rejecting the draft Constitution and being saddled with a military dictatorship represented by the PNDC for a number of years uncertain".

The power of the purse was taken away from the hands of Parliament and vested in the hands of the Executive which, he said, should not have been so. This situation has given rise to the consistent cases of conflict of interest leading to corruption by the executive, since Ghana began what is referred to as RULE OF LAW.

For instance, the appointment of Justices to the superior courts should have been entrusted into the hands of an independent body and not in the hands of the Executive, a proposal the late Peter Ala Adjetey shares in. But the current situation of the executive appointing Justices of the superior courts according to some pundits, has given the executive some power and influence over the judiciary.

So how independent are our three arms of government, When Members of parliament are appointed as ministers of state by the executive to push the agenda of the executive in the house of legislature? So both scenarios stated above depicts how the executive's powers have infiltrated other arms of government. So what is the definition of independence in this case? I shall return.....

Dr Alfred Akrofi Ocansey (Honoris Causa)
News Manager, First digital television
Executive director, Paradigm Shifters Ghana.
21ST April, 2014
[email protected]
[email protected]

Alfred Akrofi Ocansey
Alfred Akrofi Ocansey, © 2014

The author has 3 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: AlfredAkrofiOcansey

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