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Feature Article of Friday, 14 September 2012

Columnist: Asare-Donkoh, Frankie

Funeral Invitation

By Dr Frankie Asare-Donkoh

Abusuapanyin Kojo Ghanamanbapa, with a very heavy heart, invites all and sundry especially all the excellencies, royal highnesses, and the honourables to the funeral of his beloved nephew, K. Arifa Yang who may die some time to come. Knowing that his beloved nephew will one day die, the Abusuapanyin has decided to conduct a fitting funeral in advance for his yet to die nephew. Dear reader, I could imagine how you have begun either laughing at Abusuapanyin Ghanamanbapa or wondering how the old man wants to organise a funeral for his nephew who is still alive, on the premise that he would die one day.

My dear reader, don’t you remember that President Atta Mills wrote his own funeral tribute before he died. Just ask Kofi Totobi Quakyi, the Mills funeral committee chairman, for a copy of the funeral brochure and you will see Uncle Atta’s own written tribute. Strange? This is Ghana, everything is possible. But I will urge you and also beg you not to mock the Abusuapanyin for doing something that makes him look insane, because your mockery will make those in the Electoral Comedies group, sorry, Electoral Commission (EC) refuse my invitation to them to come and supervise the election of officers of my yet to be established party, People’s Patriotic and Progressive National Congress (PPPNC).

As a visionary party, and eager to win the December 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections we are requesting the EC to come and supervise the election of our officers in advance of forming our party. We are sure Dr Kwadwo Afari Gyan and his commission will have no problem coming to supervise our elections when our party is yet to be formed.

But if the EC Chairman and his team refuses to come and supervise our elections, we will seek advice from Yaw Boateng Gyan on how to strategise to get Special Forces to storm the Electoral Commission to ensure that, since Afari Gyan and his team has no problem supervising elections to select parliamentary candidates for non-existent constituencies, he comes to supervise the election of officers for our yet to established PPPNC party.

This is what one of my illiterate friends who did not understand what goal-less draw meant usually says: “It is one-one goal-less draw”. So if Afari Gyan and his team would run around the country supervising election of parliamentary candidates for non-existent constituencies because he has power to supervise elections, why would anyone mock Abusuapanyin Ghanamanbapa for organising a funeral for his nephew Arifa Yang in advance of his death? Aren’t both of them doing ‘forward planning’?

So this is the type of country we are now living in, where some people who have been handed some little power by the 1992 Constitution continue to close their eyes and ears to reason and the feelings and concerns of those in whose interest the constitutional power was given to them. I haven’t studied law so I may not understand what the ‘spirit’ of the constitution says, but thank God my parents sacrificed to enable to go to some school, and for that reason, I can at least, read the ‘letter’ of the constitution and understand.

Article 47 (5) of the 1992 Constitution says: “The Electoral Commission shall review the division of Ghana into constituencies at intervals of not less than seven years, or within twelve months after the publication of the enumeration figures after the holding of a census of the population of Ghana whichever is earlier, and may, as a result, alter the constituencies.”

The striking words in this article are ‘review’ and ‘alter’. By review, one can appraise, evaluate, assess, examine, or analyse, while ‘alter’ could mean change, modify, adjust, vary, amend, or revise; and this could also mean adding to or subtracting from the existing number. So is the EC not right if it takes ‘alter’ to mean add? Can any of my friends who are learned (please, I didn’t say ‘my learned friends’) go through both the letter and spirit of the constitution and educate me if there is any provision which says we cannot reduce the number of constituencies, especially when our economy cannot support the speed at which we are adding to the number of our parliamentarians. In fact, raising the number of MPs from 200 to 230 was a big mistake when at that time MPs did not even have offices, let along staff including research assistants. Our MPs still don’t have offices and staff so does it make sense to keep on increasing their number when they are seriously handicapped in their work? Until when shall we, as a nation, put our priorities right? Even the United Kingdom, a wealthy nation intends to reduce its number of MPs. It has a population of 62.6 million but with 650 MPs (currently 649 because Louise Mensch of Corby leaving as MP on August 29, 2012 to be Steward and Bailiff of Manor of Northstead).

We also never reckon how much we spend on each MP in terms of salaries, and all the honourable allowances. Is it not strange that the one and only meaning of ‘review’ or ‘alter’ in Afari Gyan’s dictionary is ‘increase’? But what is worrying is that this time the ‘reviewing’ or ‘altering’ of the constituencies first became a parliamentary football between the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), where some comedies took place to the point that simple counting became a problem in Parliament, in addition to the litany of mistakes in the Constitutional Instrument seeking to ‘alter’ the constituencies. The issue has now left the corridors of parliament and while a number of individuals and organisations keep on urging the EC to reason with them and shelf the idea of creating more constituencies because we have very limited time to go into the elections, Afari Gyan is shouting from roof tops that ‘he no fear whoo’ and therefore will go ahead and create the constituencies because he has the constitutional power to do that.

What is strange again is that while he is behaving like Rambo showing his macho skills, the Council of State is gone to sleep so it has not even heard about the debate raging on all this while, though we pay them something, if not salaries, something is still paid them from the Consolidated Fund to advice the President, but nobody knows what advice it has given the President on an issue almost everybody thinks could trigger chaos and conflict if not handled properly. And did I hear we have a Peace Council also using state funds for its activities? And what does the council do? Sit down unconcerned for conflicts to rage on before going to seek peace? Equally, the religious groups, including Christian, the Pentecostal and Charismatic and Moslem Councils, are also pretending that they have not heard anything. And where is the National House of Chiefs? Have they locked themselves in their palaces so they can’t see and also can’t hear what is going on? Somebody told me last week that there were more born-again Christians in Liberia than Ghana yet, despite that the people engaged themselves in those destructive wars. Ghana can therefore be different if we just keep on echoing the sound that we are religious. The EC has not even finished compiling the voters register; it never gave copies of the register to the political parties before the exhibition – activities which are all backed by laws, yet Afari Gyan keeps on breaking our ears with “I have constitutional power”. Why hasn’t Afari Gyan and his commission implemented the ROPAA (Representation of the People’s Amendment Act) given presidential assent in 2005, when Ghanaians living outside the country are still disenfranchise?

It also seems to me that our Judiciary has lost sight of national emergencies. While MPs were recalled from their break for parliamentary business, I read about the Chief Justice being quoted as saying that her judges who should have quickly sat on cases intended to stop Afari Gyan and his commission from only applying their constitutional power without reasoning with the masses, are on vacation. Ebei! If all Ghanaian workers can be recalled from their holidays, why not judges?

From parliament through to the judiciary and even the executive, and all the above-named institutions and bodies, it appears we are all engaged in some sort of comedy without anyone having a little thought of an impending explosion if we failed to address the controversy surrounding the creation of additional 45 constituencies when we have barely three months for the elections.

And did I hear Dr Kwadwo Afari Gyan crying that he is being singled out for attack while the rest of the commission members are not mentioned? But I thought he knew the answer. I may be wrong, but I think I have read before that he had been given an award or awards, but at no time did we hear that he requested the award to be given to the commission instead of himself. So if he takes awards in his personal capacity for the work done by the entire commission, why doesn’t he want to take blame too? With all due respect, this is hypocrisy!

Well, let me go and help Abusuapanyin to organise the funeral, and from there I will go for the election of for my PPPNC party, after all when the frog dies, we will surely know how tall it was. ‘Abi’?

- fasado@hotmail.com

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