General News of Monday, 19 September 2016
A Ghanaian Professor based in the United States is questioning why the supposed non-partisan Speaker of Parliament in Ghana is allowing himself to be used for partisan activities.
Prof Stephen Kwaku Asare does not understand the circumstances under which the Speaker of Parliament, Edward Doe Adjaho decided to represent the president at the grand durbar of the 2016 Asogli Yam festival celebrations in Ho, at the time the president was launching his manifesto in Sunyani.
He is even more disappointed over the partisan comments attributed to Speaker during the Yam Festival celebrations on Saturday.
Edward Doe Adjaho led a government delegation, including the Chief of Staff to the festival to represent the president who had been invited as special guest of honour. The president was unable to attend because the festival coincided with the launch of the NDC manifesto.
“I want to pledge in the presence of all the dignitaries and chiefs gathered here that, we, the sons and daughters of this region who are in government won’t do anything to deprive this region of its share of development. Whatever we have to do however, to ensure the region’s progress we shall do it to the best of our ability,” the Speaker stated at the durbar grounds.
According to the Speaker, he was scheduled to be on an official assignment abroad but had to cancel the trip, to be in Ho with other appointees including the chief of staff, because duty has called.
This shows the high level of respect we have for the people of Asogli and for that the entire [Volta] region, Mr. Doe-Adjaho remarked in Ewe, before delivering the president’s address at the durbar.
Despite being nominated by the president, the Speaker of Parliament is widely expected to be non-partisan, fair and objective in all his dealings with Members of the House.
By sacrificing his official duty as a Speaker and accepting to make partisan promises on behalf of the president, some critics believe the Speaker has compromised the values of objectivity, fairness and non-partisanship.
Prof Kwaku Asare on his part, thinks the country, particularly, those entrusted to enforce Ghana’s laws have not only failed to implement the laws but have violated it themselves.
.” It is, therefore, the widespread belief and knowledge that violating the Constitution carries no consequences that propels a Constitutional Officer, who is elected to be a nonpartisan arbiter of the legislative body, to engage in open partisan activities. More generally, our fundamental problem is that we have difficulties following laws. This is especially so with those who hold high offices,” he said in a facebook post, copied to Myjoyonline.com.
He explained that even though Ghana had the liberty to adopt a partisan leadership in its legislature, it preferred a “supercharged version” of a non partisan Speaker which require that whoever is elected as Speaker may have to relinquish her seat in Parliament, if at all he or she is an elected MP.
In Doe Adjaho’s case he had to relinquish his Avenor-Ave seat in the Volta Region before proceeding to become Speaker.
Prof Asare said by that singular act, the Speaker was expected to “abandon partisan activities.” He found it “very bad” for Doe Adjaho to subdue the powers of the House on the altar of political expediency.
The University of Florida lecturer popularly called Kweku Azar, said until the country begins to take its laws seriously and enforces them, they may well become mere suggestions which will have no impact at all on the citizenry.
The following is the full statement;
In designing the leadership of Parliament, a country can opt for either a partisan or nonpartisan Speaker. The former model is exemplified by the United States where the Speaker of the House of Representatives is both the leader of the institution and the highest ranking member of the majority party. The latter model is adopted by UK where the Speaker, while still a Member of the House, is the highest authority of the institution but proactively renounces her political affiliation upon taking office.
Thus, a Speaker must resign from her political party. While a Speaker must stand for general elections, she is unopposed by the major parties, do not campaign on any political issues and simply contest as “the Speaker seeking re-election.” Which of these 2 models did Ghana adopt in 1992? On paper, it seems we adopted a “supercharged” version of the latter model. That is, not only do we expect the Speaker to be nonpartisan but also under Article 97(1)(b) she cannot even be an MP. Thus, a sitting MP who is elected as a Speaker must vacate her position. In practice, however, it seems the Speaker can be openly partisan and campaign on any political issue for her political party of choice.
In fact, it seems the Speaker considers himself as an appendage of the President and works for the government of the day. Why will a Constitutional Officer who is required to be nonpartisan engage in open partisan politics? The answer is that the Constitution is not self-enforcing. It counts on people to give effect to its words. In the words of Justice Sowah, “a Constitution may have its own legal personality but the sinews of life with which it is endowed are injected into it by human agency.
A Constitution is implemented by the various human agencies to whom various powers are entrusted.” It is, therefore, the widespread belief and knowledge that violating the Constitution carries no consequences that propels a Constitutional Officer, who is elected to be a nonpartisan arbiter of the legislative body, to engage in open partisan activities. More generally, our fundamental problem is that we have difficulties following laws. This is especially so with those who hold high offices. Thus, our laws have become mere suggestions. Its sinews of life ruptured by the very human agencies to whom the powers of enforcement have been entrusted. The other sad reality is unless we start taking laws seriously, by injecting it with its sinews of life, we must as well forget about advancing as a country. The key to our governance conundrum then is enforcement.
Moreover, the enforcement agencies must have zero tolerance of violations by powerful people. The commoners will not follow the law unless they see the powerful being held accountable for breaching the law. There is nothing inherently wrong with the constitutional design for electing Speakers of Parliament. It has opted for the nonpartisan model used in UK and actually improved upon it. However, the Constitution assumes that a person who has taken the oath of the Speaker will abandon partisan activities and count on the people to hold Speakers accountable to this pledge of nonpartisanship. Until we adopt an enforcement mindset, we can only say that we have adopted a hybrid approach where the Constitution suggests that the Speaker must be nonpartisan but you and I know that she is as allowed to be freely partisan in all her activities. Da Yie!