Elder statesman and renowned entrepreneur, Alhaji Dr Asuma Abu Banda, has backed calls by the Minority Leader in Parliament for Ghana to revert to the Westminster model of governance it practiced under the second Republic.
To the business magnate, the presidential system of governance as practiced in Ghana presently concentrate too much power to the presidency and thus, makes the president less accountable to parliament and the people of Ghana.
According to Alhaji Banda, he has been advocating for democratic parliamentary system for ages and that it was good that a person like the Minority Leader Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu has now joined the crusade.
In an exclusive interview with The aL-hAJJ, Alhaji Asuma Banda, who is Chairman of Antrak Air, argued that the presidential system, which gives Presidents powers so much over the other two arms of government, is not healthy for a country like Ghana, stressing that the degree of power the president wields is so enormous that it becomes counter-productive to the nation’s development as it also promotes vices such as political patronage, corruption, nepotism and cronyism.
Westminster System of Governance
The Westminster system is a democratic parliamentary system of government modeled after the politics of the United Kingdom. The pattern of executive functions within a Westminster System is quite complex.
In essence, the head of state, usually a monarch or president, is a ceremonial figurehead who is the nominal or de jure source of executive power within the system. In practice, such a figure does not actively exercise executive powers, even though executive authority may be exercised in his/her name.
The head of government, usually called the prime minister or premier, will ideally have the support of a majority in the legislative House, and must in any case be able to ensure the existence of no absolute majority against the government.
Executive authority within a Westminster System is essentially exercised by the Cabinet, along with more junior ministers, although the head of government usually has the dominant role within the ministry.
In this case, the Prime Minister or Premiere is a Member of Parliament whose party has majority in the legislative House and he/she is always in parliament to answer questions from everyone in the law making House on any subject.
A Means to Fighting Corruption
Giving reasons why Ghana must switch to the Westminster System which did not work out when it was first adopted by the country after independence in 1957, Alhaji Asuma Banda stated that the British model will scrap the system where the president becomes a ‘king’ and not a servant of the nation as expected.
He said the fight against corruption can only be achieved when Ghana opts for the democratic parliamentary model, as this he said will give more powers and autonomy to parliament to act independently to checkmate and scrutinize the executive.
Describing the present Presidential Executive system as dangerous and stalling the development of the country, the respected Antrak Air Chairman stated that the current system makes the executive arm of government exist separately from the others, and as a result makes it unaccountable.
The former Council of State member in the erstwhile Mills’ government noted that because the current system gives the presidency superior powers, it is often abused, stating “when a president is elected all his MPs are looking up to him or her for appointment and other favors so they tend to pander to the president’s dictate no matter how incorrect it is.”
Cowed into Submission
The renowned entrepreneur and philanthropist further explained that the presidential system puts a seal not only on the mouths of MPs, but also businessmen and women in the country in the sense that everyone is cowed into submission.
“Under the system we are practicing now, if you’re a private business man or woman and you dare come out to speak ill of the presidency your business will collapse. So this has forced people to hero-worship the presidency even when things are not going well. They only say the good things about the presidency because if you say the bad ones you will be out of business,” he stated
To put a stop to this phenomenon, Alhaji Banda argued that if elder statesmen and well-meaning Ghanaians join the crusade to revert to the Parliamentary model, “one person will not be wielding so much power that if you are a businessman and you criticize him your company is collapsed”
The presidential system he added, is also the source of some President’s spouses’ insatiable quest for power to influence who is hired or fired, stressing “under this system, the President’s partner can walk to him or her and order the sack of someone or appoint someone and the president will do it if he or she wishes without any explanation to parliament and the people of Ghana”.
Inherent in the Westminster model, according to Alhaji Banda is the egalitarianism; where the executive, legislature and judiciary exist as independent but equal partners in government with corresponding limitations.
He said the legislature under the British model without much difficulty can ‘oust’ a non-performing premier, and that he said makes the Prime Minister more responsible to the mandate on which he or she was elected.
Drawing cost benefit analysis between the presidential and Westminster systems, Alhaji Banda stated that the latter is cost effective as those who so desire to serve as Prime Minister would only campaign in their respective constituencies as candidate for the House of Representatives, unlike the presidential system where a presidential candidate is expected to traverse the nooks and crannies of the 275 constituencies in the country to solicit for votes.
He said, his proposed model will also save the country a lot of money to spur economic growth and development since the wanton bleeding of the state through corrupt activities will be curtailed.
“The presidency will no longer use its executive powers to push through dubious agreements in parliament. There will be no need to go and grease someone’s palms to get things done for you as parliament will be the only body to sign agreements,” the Antrak Air Chairman added.
The model, he added will engender national unity and cohesion as there will be more consultation and collaboration between the party with majority in parliament and other opposition parties.
Backstabbing in Political Parties
According to Alhaji Asuma Banda, the often acrimonious struggle among members of the various political parties to be elected flag bearers and subsequently as president is because the presidential system has concentrated all state powers to one person.
He said if Ghana adopts the Westminster model, the premier compared to the executive presidency will become less attractive and that will moderate the unending infighting among party bigwigs in the intra-party contest and also do away with the “winner takes all” situation.
“Due to the presidential systems, when a president is elected some members of his party interested in the post work against him. The same thing applies to opposition parties, those who lost flag bearer contests undermine the winner and this leads to the creation of the various divisions we have in all the political parties in Ghana,” he stated.
A Call Too Late
As whether his call is not coming too late especially when recommendations on the process of amendments to the 1992 constitution are almost over, Alhaji Banda disagree.
“My call is not too late, everybody who knows me know that I have been advocating for this long ago. When I was a member of the Council of State when the Constitutional Review Committee started its work, I made this point to my colleagues but they didn’t take it. Now that the minority has endorsed what I have been saying all these years, I think this is the right time elders in the country take serious view of it,” he averred.
He said if all the elder statesmen will go along with his line of thinking “we can decide that look although the constitution review process is at its final state put it on hold and let us give it another look in the supreme interest of future Ghanaian generation.”
Alhaji Banda, who has witnessed the reign of every government right from the time of Dr Kwame Nkrumah, called on his colleague elder statesmen to come out and speak on the subject, saying “if we don’t do it now the future generation will blame us for not leaving anything good behind for them.”
Westminster Model in Ghana
Explaining further how the system should work in Ghana, Alhaji Banda said as practiced in countries under the Westminster model, the leader of the political party with majority in parliament automatically becomes the Prime Minister and he or she forms the government.
But unlike Britain that has a monarch as the ceremonial Head of State; Alhaji Banda suggested that the ceremonial president slot should be made to rotate among the Presidents of the Regional House of Chiefs.
“So today if you have the Asantehene as the president, he can nominate his vice from let’s say, Northern or other region and when his mandate comes to an end his vice takes over as president who also nominates another region’s chief as vice,” he explained.
This, he said will wipe out tribalism from the nation’s body politics “as this will be a rotational thing, and all the regions will get their turn. The system will be modeled such that all the ten regions will get their turn at the presidency.”