Ahead of Constitution Day: Engage schools and communities – Experts advocate

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As Ghana prepares to celebrate its second Constitution Day tomorrow, January 7, 2020, two governance experts and a Political Science lecturer have advocated engagement in communities and schools for Ghanaians to appreciate the importance of the day.

They said such engagements should involve political leaders spending time with community members to interact and answer questions, while the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) should be supported to organise debates and fora in schools to let students appreciate the day.

The two governance experts — Dr Kojo Asante, the Director of Advocacy and Policy Engagement at the Centre for Democratic Development – Ghana (CDD-Ghana), and Dr Emmanuel Akwetey, the Executive Director of the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG) — shared their perspectives in separate interviews with the Daily Graphic.

They agreed that a lot of work needed to be executed on the 1992 Constitution to fulfil the developmental aspirations of the people and also streamline the governance system to bring clarity to all ambiguous articles of the Constitution.

Although the government is yet to announce the programme for tomorrow’s commemoration, the Daily Graphic gathered that there is likely to be another Constitution Day Lecture.

The inaugural lecture was delivered by the Rector of the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), Professor Philip Ebow Bondzi-Simpson.

It was on the theme: “Constitutionalism in Ghana’s Fourth Republic: Towards functional performance”.

Dr Asante explained that the day should be made a ‘Community Day’ for grass-roots participatory discussions on how the Constitution was impacting the lives of Ghanaians, while schools organised debates and other discussions.

With the current system, he said, it would be extremely difficult for the citizens to hold their leaders accountable if such leaders did not engage them in discussions.

He said the Constitution must serve the everyday needs — rights, governance, development and accountability — of the people.

Challenges

Dr Asante said the day should remind Ghanaians that “we need to do something drastic about the current Constitution”.

He said the dominance by the Executive, with its attendant negative outcomes, the need to properly outline the checks and balances system in the Constitution, and the need to bring clarity to all ambiguous aspects, including assets declaration, were some of the issues to address.

“It should remind us to do something about the current document to meet the aspirations and objectives for which it was promulgated,” he said.

Funding

For his part, Dr Akwetey said the state must provide resources for the NCCE, civil society organisations and political parties to join in the civic education on the importance of the Constitution on the lives of the citizenry.

He said the day ought to be marked because it reminded the people of the long relative peace the country had enjoyed and also how we had parted ways with the authoritarian past.

Celebrating the day would also bring to the fore some of the ill-feelings and concerns Ghanaians had about the Constitution, so that such challenges could be addressed, he added.

He said it also opened the door for the country to reflect on the weaknesses of the Constitution which prevented the attainment of the developmental needs of the people, as enshrined in Chapter 6 of the document.

“Going forward, how can we amend or reform the Constitution to ensure effective political, social, economic and governance atmosphere that will inure to the benefit of our people?” he asked.

Dr Akwetey said Ghana was mature and recognised the need to amend portions of the Constitution, and cited the botched referendum on articles 243 (1) and 55 (3) which would have improved the local governance system.

He said the two major political parties, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC), agreed on it but the referendum had to be cancelled due to the lack of consensus on how it was supposed to be implemented.

He said reflections on such matters on Constitution Day would help build solid grounds, an understanding of the issues and the way forward.

Deepening democracy

A former lecturer at the Methodist University College, Dr Osei-Owusu, said it was important to celebrate Constitution Day because the nation had practised democracy continuously for 26 years.

That, he said, had helped in deepening democracy in the nation.

He said apart from the First Republican Constitution, which lasted for nine years, from 1957 to 1966, the two constitutions which were drawn after the overthrow of Dr Kwame Nkrumah did not go beyond six years because of the interference of coup d’etats.

He said it was unfortunate that Ghanaians had not been given the opportunity to know more about the history of the important days on the national calendar which the nation observed as holidays.

‘‘I think the time has come for our historians and knowledgeable people in Political Science and the media to come up with programmes to celebrate these important days to educate and explain to Ghanaians why it’s worth celebrating them.

“Just go to the street on Tuesday and ask Ghanaians why the day has been declared a holiday and you will be surprised at the kind of responses you will get. A lot of Ghanaians do not know why the day is a holiday,” Dr Osei-Owusu emphasised.

He explained that the NCCE was supposed to take up the mantle of educating Ghanaians on the importance of those holidays, but “t seems it is handicapped, both financially and in terms of human resource, so I think it is equally important for people with the know-how to come on board to sensitise Ghanaians,’’ he said.

He admonished Ghanaians to cherish the democracy the nation was enjoying because the four coups the nation had experienced — 1966, 1972, 1979 and 1981 — did the nation more harm than good.

Background

Ghanaians, on January 7, last year, observed the maiden Constitution Day as a public holiday.

The day was set aside by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to recognise the coming into force of the 1992 Constitution and the beginning of the Fourth Republic.

To commemorate the day, the President tweeted: “On this first Constitution Day, we celebrate the longest, undisturbed period of stable, constitutional rule in the history of Ghana and acknowledge our collective efforts, as a country, in upholding the tenets of democracy, the rule of law and the principles of constitutionalism.”

Source: Graphic.com.gh

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