President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has rallied the citizenry to renew their trust in the country’s democratic process and vigilantly protect the 1992 Constitution against the threats of saboteurs.
The caution, he explained, was premised on the fact that “there are some, who, for their own parochial and selfish interests, would want to see a return to the dark days of authoritarian rule, simply because, with no respect for the Ghanaian people, they are either unwilling to subject themselves or their vision to the open scrutiny of the Ghanaian people”.
President Akufo-Addo made the call in a national broadcast yesterday to mark three decades of the referendum that approved the 1992 Constitution, leading to the birth of the Fourth Republic.
“Thirty years ago today, on 28th April, 1992, we, Ghanaians, took one of the most important decisions of our history. We went to the polls to decide, in a referendum, the nature of the future governance of our nation – whether to continue to live under military rule or live under democratic rule,” the President stated.
He noted that the period leading to that day had seen the nation sample all forms of governance known to man before settling on the current democratic system of governance.
No short cut
With the extensive work that led to the birth of the 1992 Constitution, which had led to the Fourth Republic travelling the longest period in the country’s history of governance, it was incumbent on Ghanaians to do everything to protect the Constitution, he said.
President Akufo-Addo said some nation wreckers sought a shortcut to power because they knew they would be rejected by Ghanaians in democratic elections.
“Let us strengthen our resolve to resist such persons for our own common good,” he stated.
The Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) set up the National Consultative Assembly in May 1991 to prepare a draft constitution for the country.
On April 28, 1992, Ghanaians went to the polls in a referendum, in which 3,408,119 Ghanaians voted “Yes”, representing 92.59 per cent of the ballots cast, to return the nation to democratic rule.
Those who voted “No” were 272,855, representing 7.41 per cent.
The 1992 Constitution was promulgated with immense popular backing, and on January 7, 1993, Jerry John Rawlings was sworn into office as the First President of the Fourth Republic.
President Akufo-Addo noted that since the promulgation of the Constitution, the country had experienced the longest, uninterrupted period of stable, constitutional governance, “banishing the spectre of instability that had disfigured much of our nation’s early existence, and the benefits are showing”.
He indicated that in the last three decades, the country had witnessed sustained growth in every facet of national life, with considerable improvement in the Human Development Index (HDI), adding: “Simply put, democracy has been good for us.”
He said under the current democratic rule, the country had also enjoyed equality of opportunity and respect for human rights and the rule of law.
“We have had five Presidents in the history of the Fourth Republic, with peaceful transfers of power from a governing to an opposition party on three separate occasions. Even when there was disagreement with the outcome of an election, it was the Supreme Court, on two occasions, rather than the streets, that validated its result. We are, arguably, the most stable democracy in West Africa,” the President stated.
Recounting how, since independence, the country had experimented with all forms of governance — from multi-party to a one-party state to about five coups and an attempted “so-called Union Government” — the President said those experiments weakened the sense of self-confidence and progress of the Ghanaian.
That, he said, was evidenced by the fact that components of the HDI — life expectancy rates, access to education and per capita income indicators — at the time were not commensurate with the country’s vast potential.
Notwithstanding all the achievements chalked up under the Fourth Republic, he said, the country still faced the biggest challenge of eradicating poverty.
He indicated that other challenges were in the performance of the public services, traditional and contemporary threats to national security and social stability in the form of chieftaincy conflicts, land disputes, ethnic conflicts and cyber security issues.
Others, he said, were youth unemployment, economic hardships and corruption in public life, adding that in recent times, the country had witnessed significant difficulties in the management of the national economy.
The challenges, the President explained, were largely due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global economy, exacerbated by the effects of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“But the basic commitment to resolve these challenges, within the framework of due process and democratic institutions, must remain unshaken. And I am confident that, God-willing, we will overcome these challenges,” he said.
President Akufo-Addo noted that the fundamental barrier to bringing governance to the doorstep of the people had to do with the ramifications of Article 55(3) of the Constitution, which currently barred political parties from involvement in district assembly elections and local government.
He referred to the attempt his government made in 2019 to repeal that provision to allow for the participation of political parties in local government, which had to be aborted because of the lack of a broad national consensus when the opposition NDC signalled its inability to back the repeal.
He indicated his readiness to take a second shot at it to either repeal or modify the entrenched clause of the Constitution and also attract widespread support to make it acceptable and healthy for the body politic.
“I have said it before, and I will repeat it: I will continue to work for an extensive, national consensus on this issue, and should such a consensus be attained for the repeal of Article 55(3) of the Constitution and an agreement reached for political parties to participate in and sponsor candidates for election to district assemblies at any point during my remaining tenure of office as President of the Republic, the matter will be brought back again to the front burner of our public discourse for the necessary action.
“I am hoping that after completing the necessary consultations, I will, shortly, be in a position to announce a way forward on this important matter,” he said.