By Isaac Asare, a Journalist
In the spirit and letter of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, which is the supreme law of the land, expresses the will and sovereignty of the people. Similarly, any other law or statute that are inconsistent with provisions of the Constitution are rendered void , so to speak.
The framers of the Constitution were right in their judgement to guarantee the fundamental rights and freedoms of the citizens. In spite of the contradictions and limitations on the exercise of political authority, one cannot rule out the fact that the promulgation of the 1992 constitution, which ushers in the Fourth Republic, has served a purpose quite significant to the country’s democratic dispensation.
The commemoration of Constitution Day reminds Ghanaians of their collective commitment to a regime of uninterrupted constitutional order. For a country to sustain its constitution for 30 years is no mean achievement in our part of the world. It is a feat worth celebrating because, apart from being the longest-lasting constitution, it has witnessed the smooth transition of political power from one democratic rule to the other.
The successful transfer of power between the two political giants, the NPP and the NDC, from 2001 to 2021 has gained international recognition, with our democracy being touted as one of the relatively stable and peaceful on the continent. The inalienable rights and peaceful coexistence enjoyed by varying religious and ethnic divides are ample testimony to how far the constitution has brought us. Our enviable constitution has over time served as a test case for other countries. The media as the fourth estate of the realm, has had its fair share of the privileges guaranteed by the fourth Republican Constitution.
The freedom and independence of the media are clearly stipulated in Chapter 12, Article 162, giving the media the platform to disseminate information without fear or favour. As Ghanaians, we must pat ourselves on the back for the level of compliance with the Constitution. Notwithstanding the success story, many are calling for a possible review of the constitution to reflect the changing times. They believe it is time to make changes to portions of the Constitution to build on the gains and fine-tune the fundamental political principles establishing the structures, procedures, powers and duties of the government, including the judiciary and legislature.
While a section of the populace feel a total overhaul of the constitution is long overdue, some Governance Experts hold the ardent view that portions, including the directive principles of state policy contained in Chapter 6, ought to be pursued with practical amendments made to Article 71, among other provisions that provoke excessive concentration of power in the hands of the Executive. Many have spoken ill of the extensive and, as some would rather describe it, excessive powers given to the President under the constitution to appoint people to hold public positions. Their argument is based on the premise that persons appointed to hold such positions are compromised as their independence and neutrality in checking the executive are curtailed.
The interpretation of the Constitution is in itself a challenge.
Moreover, the concept of decentralization has not been fully tested by the grassroots, the very people whose well-being is entrusted into the hands of the government in power. The issue of limitations and contradictions leaves much to be desired, considering the continuous call for constitutional reforms. Is Ghana in the position to pass this litmus test? Your answer is as good as mine. The exigencies of the time require a second look at the aforementioned issues.
Developments leading to the hung Eighth Parliament are evidence of the fact that the time has come for leaders to work in accordance with the constitutional provisions. Much needs to be done to strengthen the governance system and work in unionism to consolidate the gains made.
Significantly, there is the need to entrench and safeguard the freedom of the media and not subject it to undue intimidation and suppression by State actors, including security operatives, some members of the public, and media owners, who in one way or another are aligned to one political party or the other.
That said, institutions such as the NCCE and the Information Services Department must be adequately resourced to help educate the masses on the essence of the Constitution Day celebration, which is a public holiday.
Although the day is worth celebrating, it can only make a meaningful impact if the public is made to understand its importance by reflecting on the achievements and what the country hopes to do differently to sustain the gains made. Though the Constitution cannot serve the interests of all, it must be jealously guarded and amended if need be in order to benefit the collective interests of all in Ghana.