United States of America-based law Professor, Stephen Kwaku Asare, has bemoaned the partisan actions of the speaker of parliament and said the head of the legislature has become an 'appendage' of the executive, headed by President John Mahama.
The speaker, Edward Doe Adjaho, was reportedly delegated by President Mahama to represent him at a public function in Ho, Volta Region, over the weekend where he (speaker) used the occasion to push for his (president's) re-election, but the law professor says it is an affront to the 1992 Constitution.
Furthermore, the speaker recently disallowed a Motion the minority New Patriotic Party (NPP) wanted to present to the House, asking it to investigate reports that President John Mahama had received a Ford Expedition SUV as a “gift” from a Burkinabe contractor.
The speaker assured the chiefs and people of the region that it (region) would not be taken for granted by the NDC government or any of its functionaries.
He said in Ho, the regional capital, during the climax of this year's Asogli Yam festival celebration that the region was being accorded the needed attention by the government in terms of development.
“I want to pledge in the presence of all the dignitaries and chiefs gathered here that we, the sons and daughters of this region who are in government, won't do anything to deprive this region of its share of development. Whatever we have to do however, to ensure the region's progress we shall do it to the best of our ability,” he said.
Mr Doe Adjaho led a high-powered government delegation, including the Chief of Staff, Julius Debrah and the regional minister Helen Adwoa Antoso, to represent President Mahama as a special guest at the festival which coincided with the official launch of the NDC's manifesto in Sunyani, Brong-Ahafo Region.
Professor Asare, commenting on the issue said, “It seems the speaker considers himself as an appendage of the president and works for the government of the day. Why will a constitutional officer who is required to be non-partisan engage in open partisan politics? The answer is that the Constitution is not self-enforcing. It counts on people to give effect to its words.”
He said that in designing the leadership of parliament, a country can opt for either a partisan or nonpartisan speaker and cited the situation in the US where the speaker of the House of Representatives is both the leader of the institution and the highest ranking member of the majority party; and also the United Kingdom where the speaker, while still a Member of the House, is the highest authority of the institution but proactively renounces her political affiliation upon taking office.
Prof Asare said that on paper, it seems Ghana adopted a 'supercharged' version of the UK model saying, “That is, not only do we expect the speaker to be nonpartisan, but also under Article 97(1) (b) she cannot even be an MP.
“Thus, a sitting MP who is elected as a speaker must vacate her position. In practice, however, it seems the speaker can be openly partisan and campaign on any political issue for her political party of choice.”
“More generally, our fundamental problem is that we have difficulties following laws. This is especially so with those who hold high offices. Thus, our laws have become mere suggestions. Its sinews of life ruptured by the very human agencies to whom the powers of enforcement have been entrusted,” he said.
He added, “The other sad reality is, unless we start taking laws seriously by injecting it with its sinews of life, we must as well forget about advancing as a country. The key to our governance conundrum then is enforcement.
According to him, the enforcement agencies “must have zero tolerance of violations by powerful people. The commoners will not follow the law unless they see the powerful being held accountable for breaching the law.”
“There is nothing inherently wrong with the constitutional design for electing speakers of parliament. It has opted for the nonpartisan model used in UK and actually improved upon it. However, the Constitution assumes that a person who has taken the oath of the speaker will abandon partisan activities and count on the people to hold speakers accountable to this pledge of nonpartisanship.”
Prof. Asare noted, “Until we adopt an enforcement mindset, we can only say that we have adopted a hybrid approach where the Constitution suggests that the speaker must be nonpartisan, but you and I know that she is allowed to be freely partisan in all her activities.”
By William Yaw Owusu