In part four of my series focusing on the ideal envisaged by the framers of our Constitution, I celebrate a couple of things that post a glimmer of hope of realising the ideal in article 37 clause 1, as I decry what needs banishing. The provision stipulates that “[t]he State shall endeavour to secure and protect a social order founded on the ideals and principles of freedom, equality, justice, probity and accountability as enshrined in Chapter 5 of this Constitution; and in particular, the State shall direct its policy towards ensuring that every citizen has equality of rights, obligations and opportunities before the law.”
We must applaud and encourage fidelity to the law; the principle and chapter-5 constitutional dictate that “all are equal before the law.” This is how to build a country on this ideal envisaged by our forebears and framers of the constitution. This is how to raise bold spirits in citizens to insist on social order, justice, probity and accountability.
This is how to raise more citizen-vigilante Amidus, Domelevos, Anas Aremeyaws, Manasseh Azures who will do their article 41-citizen-duty to preserve public property, expose and combat corruption and waste even at the peril of their lives. This is how to raise more judges who will stay true to their oath and stand ready to overturn the outcome of presidential elections if the facts showed the results were tainted by fraud; judges who do not hesitate to refuse to sympathise with the State and its actors for breaches of law; and judges who look high rank officers like the IGP in the eye and hold them guilty of contempt of court.
The last thing we should allow to be destroyed is judicial authority. Let such officers and “big men” caught breaking the law smell prison cell even if for just a day. The poor and vulnerable who get jail terms for petty offences must have faith that the article 17 fundamental right of equality before the law isn’t mere paper decoration, but a path we are committed to building a nation founded on article 37 of principled and disciplined citizens.
This is what I can hope for when commissioners of the Electoral Commission (EC) treat as optional and a matter of discretion a court order, a mandamus compelling them to present a C.I. to parliament for modalities to operationalise the law on diaspora voting (ROPAA). Like many in public office, the EC also wants to waste public funds duplicating work it got a committee of respected experts to do in 2011; work it later paid a consultant to duplicate for it.
This is work on the modalities and solutions to potential challenges in implementing the 2006 law, and which report it submitted to the court in 2016. This is work the presiding judge in December 2017 described as “comprehensive and [a] reasonably thorough” roadmap. The EC, in 2018, hasn’t read its own laws or this report but confidently tells the public that 2011 report only addressed the subject of registration of a category of citizens studying abroad or working in Ghana’s Missions/Embassies or with the UN.
The truth is that there isn’t a single mention of this class of diaspora voters in that (Sarfo Kantanka, Kwesi Jonah, Huudu Yahaya, Dan Botwe, Bernard Mornah, Ward Brew etc) Committee’s Report or subsequent Recommendations. People in that category get registered abroad and vote from there (via proxies) as a matter of law and not the benevolence of a committee. Why the waste and where is the probity and accountability?
In 2010-2012 we spent $6.3m to review and transform our Constitution from a political to a developmental constitution. The CRC gave us the biggest socio-political database ever in a 1000-page document which is still gathering dust. I can expect an announcement soon of a criminal waste of scarce resources to duplicate that work. We are quick to proudly associate and claim our brothers and sisters in the diaspora for Ghana when they excel and make name abroad.
But we have spent over a decade repeating to ourselves why we can’t implement a law extending a right as basic as the right to vote to them. We like to call some of them dual citizens when we want to deny them certain opportunities for public office. Ghana’s EC supervises diaspora voting for citizens of a small country like Gambian living in Ghana, and that country is among some thirty African countries with diaspora voting.
May we teach our children and repeat the articles 17 and 37 ideals so often to ourselves and live them.
Samson Lardy ANYENINI
October 27, 2018
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