1. The NDC has also launched its manifesto at a very colorful and highly impressive ceremony. It was pleasant to note that the guests at the event, weren’t only party faithfuls. Other identifiable groups within Ghana’s body politic, were well represented in a manner that showed the party’s renewed focus to also attract the elites of society to its fold, while remaining a Mass Party.
2. They went in for an accomplished Professor, who chaired their manifesto committee. He was erudite and took his time to give highlights of the document, in a manner devoid of jargons. His presentation was in plain language and we cannot fail to acknowledge his deliberate effort to clearly explain the methodological processes in evolving the People’s Manifesto. The style adopted was unprecedented and novel. It gives a clear indication that the final product, launched is a result of a highly consultative process.
3. We cannot also gloss over the ingenuity of evolving a People’s Manifesto, particularly in an era where such important documents have been elite-prescribed, over the years. Evolving a manifesto following contributions from ordinary people and identifiable groups, breeds ownership, enhances knowledge and deepens accountability.
4. But I have a few critique. My position as articulated about the timeliness of the release of manifestos, during the launch of the NPP manifesto, remain unchanged. We must not encourage political parties to release manifestos three months to elections. It is unacceptable, as it require many months for people to be socialized about manifesto contents, in order to shape issues-based discourse and enhance the exercise of rational choice in an election.
5. On content, I again have a challenge, just as I had with the NPP’s. As usual and typical of political parties, they promise all that can be promised. But the history of Ghana’s Fourth Republic show that no political party is able to do all the things it promises in its manifesto. So, why don’t they promise few and deliver on them substantially in terms of quality?
6. Rather than resorting to the over-flogged strategy of promising everything, knowing that not all can be done or done well, I am
of the view that, we will properly be served with quality projects, that properly improves the quality of human life, if political parties focus on few projects, and deliver effectively on them, rather than focusing on everything and pussyfooting their implementation in a manner that sacrifices quality.
7. Another major issue with the NDC manifesto is the party’s virtual silence about the Constitution Review process they spent huge tax payer’s money in undertaking. I critiqued the NPP for being silent on this but I think the NDC deserves more criticism for seemingly supporting the NPP in abandoning Ghana’s constitution review process, even though the NDC initiated the process.
8. The manifesto contents of both the NDC and NPP address mere symptoms of our problems as a nation. Many challenges confronting us, are traceable to the flaws in the fundamental law of our land. This explains why the leadership of political parties with representation in parliament, in 2008, under the aegis of the IEA-Ghana Political Parties Programme (IEA-GPPP) (that I coordinated for ten years), called for a review of the 1992 Constitution.
9. President Mills bought into the idea, observing in his first State of the Nation’s Address that, he was going to kick start the review process, because the political party leaders had all agreed for a review of the constitution. Prof Mills then set up a Constitution Review Commission (CRC) with structure and representation along the lines prescribed by the political elites across the divide, who formed the nucleus of the IEA-GPPP.
10. The CRC undertook nation-wide public consultation and research, culminating in a report that shifted the focus of our constitution from a POLITICAL to a DEVELOPMENT constitution. The processes of implementing the CRC proposals were however, delayed by its novelty, as it was the first time, and the appropriate bodies under the constitution weren’t too sure of their roles. The processes were further stalled by three main factors. These were first, the preparations towards the 2012 elections and its consequent election petition; second, a challenge of the role of the President in the constitutional review process at the Supreme Court; and third, preparations towards the 2016 elections, which the NDC lost.
11. Upon assumption of office, the NPP has remained silent about the CRC process. Indeed, in their recently launched manifesto for the 2020 elections, they said nothing about the hanging constitutional review process. Perhaps, the urge to push the process may be lacking because, the party in government did not initiate it. This is unfortunate, but the NPP can only mildly be criticized for their deafening silence.
12. But the NDC that initiated the process, cannot seek political come back without talking plainly about the resurrection of the Constitution Review process initiated by them. Under the section on “Parliamentary Independence and Accountability” of their just launched manifesto, there was a promise to “follow up the implementation of the Constitutional Review Committee and the NDC Government White Paper that seeks an amendment of article 78 of the 1992 constitution on the appointment of ministers from parliament”.
13. This is quite problematic and vague. First of all, there was no Constitutional Review Committee. There was rather Constitution Review Commission. Secondly, the CRC report was never to be implemented on piecemeal basis. Therefore, singling out just one recommendation for consideration, is not only a much reductionist approach to the process initiated by the party itself, but also a great disservice and a sense of hopelessness for the quest for constitution review.
14. In a brief interaction with some governance experts this morning, we wondered whether this is a sign that the NDC never believed in the constitution review process it initiated. If so, why did they waste public resources on it? Could this also be a case of genuine omission? If so, how can such an important issue escape the people and all the reputable and identifiable groups the NDC manifesto team consulted in preparing the manifesto?
15. To govern, simply means to steer the affairs of the state. There can be no governance without laws, else we may have to return to the Hobbesian conception of the State of Nature. The constitution is the fundamental law for the governance of every democratic country. If it contain provisions that hinders development and suffocate the maturation of our democratization processes as found out by the CRC in its report, a review after over 28 years, will only make it contextually relevant in addressing current issues.
16. No amount of manifesto promises will work to improve human development and physical quality of life, if the fundamental law of the land, contain provisions that undermine constitutionalism, development, and the drive towards democratic maturity. It is therefore my view that, a single act of constitution review, will prevent or adequately address a preponderant majority of the challenges of Ghana, and hence shorten manifesto contents. Without a review of our constitution, we will continue to deal with symptoms of our challenges, rather than causes.
I end this short piece with a respectful call on the NPP to rethink their silence and find a way to revisit the constitution review process, now or in their next administration. I respectfully also call on the NDC to also rethink the near abandonment of the process they initiated, find a space for it in their manifesto, and ensure that it becomes an agenda in their next administration.
PAV Ansah Street
Suro Nipa House
By: Prof. Ransford Gyampo