Today is International Day of Democracy. Ghana, certainly, should boast of its democratic achievements hailed by many and its peers. But this should not be restricted to the peaceful and lawful transfer of power, through the ballot box, which has become a regular part of the records of our democratic project.
One other major achievement we should be celebrating on this day should be the fact that citizens between 2010 and 2012 freely expressed their views for sweeping changes to the 1992 Constitution to better serve them and deliver the dividends of democracy. In 2014, I wrote about Cabinet’s subversion of the collective will of citizens when it cherry-picked what it deemed fit to accept and implement from the Constitution Review Commission’s work.
Calls for a review of the Constitution certainly did not start with President John Kufuor and the African Peer Review Mechanism. But President John Mills eventually in January 2010 set up what by all standards was the best machinery in a group of fine Ghanaian brains to do the work.
The Prof. Albert Fiadjoe commission would give us the biggest socio-political database ever in the country’s history. They visited homes, villages, towns, cities and countries, and held over 57 sessions, received over 83,000 submissions, SMS and employed varied new media platforms towards transforming a political constitution to a developmental constitution. It cost the taxpayer $6.3 million to compile the 1000-page document.
Citizens, ex-presidents, judges, political leaders, civil society expressed their desires pointing to what ought to change in the Constitution. Almost everything that ought to be done was done with an implementation committee to ensure what was spent didn’t go to waste and that the will of citizens was carried out.
The media by article 162 (5) and citizens by article 41 (f) have a duty to hold government to account.
On this day, International Day of Democracy, My Take is to simply demand of government to tell citizens where we are with the constitution review for which over $6 million was spent.
My Take today is that by the directive principles of state policy enshrined in the Constitution, this government or any other has an obligation to continue the noble project and ought not to be allowed to let our money go waste.
A new path of implementation is acceptable. But a decision not to implement at all, as happens to projects started by predecessor governments of different political persuasion, ought to be rejected.
Recently government sought to mislead citizens that it wasn’t going to cost the taxpayer a dime to build a cathedral. But it is now evident that that was a lie because government had committed the public purse to relocate judges to temporary residences, build 21 new homes in replacement for those it had decided should be demolished for the cathedral.
It had committed the public purse to build new offices and institutions for a several of those to be affected as well as pay “millions of dollars” to relocate a sensitive international private IT provider in the Ridge location for the cathedral.
By the dictates of the Constitution, right from its preamble, articles 1, 21 to the last clause, governments have an obligation, not an option to account to citizens. On this special occasion, Democracy Day, I appeal to all media and citizens to demand implementation of the CRC Report we paid for because it has everything we asked for to improve our democracy.
If government feels there is a need for further review, let it be done but we must reject a situation where the $6.3 million gets sunk into the bottomless pit into which politicians dump our money without a sense of accountability.
Columnist: Samson Lardy ANYENINI