Feature Article of Saturday, 22 December 2012
Columnist: Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK
Ghana’s Constitution prescribes general elections (presidential and parliamentary) every four years under the presidential system adopted for the Fourth Republic. The elections are held on the seventh day of December of the election year and the President Elect and new parliamentarians are sworn in on the seventh day of January following the elections, unless there is a petition at the Supreme Court (SC) and the Court has directed otherwise. Since the coming into force of the Fourth Republic two decades ago, this is the first time that the losing candidate and his party, Nana Akufo Addo and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) have not only disputed the result of the presidential election as declared by the Electoral Commission (EC) but also served notice that the party will contest the decision of the EC declaring President John Mahama as President Elect at the SC. In the mean time, preparations are ongoing for the President Elect to be sworn into office on January 7 2013. All indications are that this constitutional duty and ceremony will take place on January 7 despite the intended challenge at the SC by NPP. In the fifth of post election series, I want to discuss the dilemma facing the presidential candidate and leading members of the NPP regarding the attendance of the January 7 investiture of the President Elect and the 275 new Members of Parliament (MPs).
There is no doubt that NPP is bent on challenging the declaration of President John Mahama as President Elect in the December 7 presidential election at the Supreme Court. The party has 21 days from the date of the declaration and once the deadline is met, the defendant/s, in this case the EC also has ten days to respond and the SC begins will hear the petition within ten days of defendant’s response. This means the earliest the SC can begin hearing the case is after January 7, 2013, so the President Elect will be sworn into office on January 7 unless the SC orders otherwise, which is highly unlikely.
Form what one of the party’s leading Counsels is reported to have said, it is obvious that NPP now accepts that its presidential candidate, Nana Akufo Addo did not win the presidential election outright as opposed to their General Secretary’s announcement on the night of December 8, 2012 and some leading members have made their supporters to believe that the party has incontrovertible evidence of massive rigging that would make the SC to declare their candidate the winner (see “Ayikoi Otoo hints of Election 2012 run-off”, Ghanaweb December 21, 2012).
Since NPP claims that the UP tradition is the cradle of democracy in Ghana, rightly pursuing their dispute with the EC through democratic means through the legal route and accepts the rules of the game, it is appropriate therefore to expect that the party recognises that the President Elect will be sworn into office on January 7, 2013. If this assumption is right, will their presidential candidate, Nana Akufo Addo and the leadership of the party attend the President Elect’s investiture at the Independence Square on January 7, 2013? I am particularly interested in knowing if the national Executives, especially, the National Chairman and the General Secretary would attend since they are most likely to be invited. What about Ex-President John Kuffuor, who has openly spoken against EC’s decision but by virtue of his position as former President and an Elderly Statesman will be invited to the ceremony? Should he attend and will he attend?
If not, what would be their reason/s? Would their none attendance or boycott of this all important political event in Ghana’s democratic calendar be considered as loss of faith in Ghana’s Constitution, since the same constitution allows for the investiture to go ahead despite the potential petition at the SC? My understanding is that Nana Akufo Addo has virtually avoided or boycotted almost all national events after January 2009. I have no evidence whether this true or not or in fact, if he was even invited to such events. I do not blame him since on at least, one occasion he was belittled at a function where the late President was the Guest of Honour in Cape Coast.
If Nana Akufo Addo and his party leadership do not attend the investiture of the President Elect, what message would they be sending? Would it be that, they have no confidence in the Constitution or just their rejection of the declaration of the results? As they claim not only to be true believers of democracy but the genesis of democracy in Ghana, would it not be right and proper for them to attend the investiture performed under the very Constitution that they will be relying on to mount their challenge at SC and still be able to pursue their petition? Would that not be within the spirit of the constitution, though the Constitution does not prescribe that party leadership or the losing candidate should attend the investiture?
Should Nana Akufo Addo and the NPP leadership boycott the ceremony, would the UP tradition go into the Guinness Book of Records as a national party that has boycotted most constitutional events in Ghana since independence? I am not a historian, so I will not attempt to recount the number boycotts the UP tradition has enviable chalked since 1957.
What do you think and should Nana Akufo Addo and leading members of the NPP attend President Elect, John Mahama’s investiture on January 7, 2013, if they are invited? Should they attend despite their intention to go to the SC to contest the result of the Presidential Elections? Would their attendance not undermine their claim of fraud and massive rigging as well as jeopardise their planned petition at the SC?
I appreciate the dilemma facing Nana Akufo Addo and the party leadership. If they attend, it would be seen as a tacit acceptance of the Presidential Election result as declared by the EC, though they intend to challenge that. On the other hand, if they do not attend what is constitutionally legal, their belief in constitutional democracy could be tarnished, especially if their petition at the SC fails and could even be seen as unpatriotic. Nana Akufo Addo and the NPP leadership find themselves between a rock and a hard surface. Whichever side they hit, they will feel some pain. If you do you are dammed and if you don’t, you are dammed. I do not envy the position Nana Akufo Addo and his NPP find themselves in on this matter.
What about Ex-President Kufuor? As former President and one of the only two surviving Heads of State, it is expected that he would be above party politics when it comes to matters of national importance and grace the occasion with his presence. But could he rise above party politics and attend the investiture of a President Elect that his party is disputing, and especially after he himself has publicly rebuked the EC for its decision? Will his presence not be seen by his party as a betrayal of the party’s cause? When it comes to country and party, which one should Ex-President Kufuor choose first? If he attends, would it not be considered a stab in the back of Nana Akufo Addo and the nail in the coffin of Nana Akufo Addo’s presidential ambition?
I just do not know how NPP got themselves into this situation but I believe they will rise above party politics and put Ghana first in whatever decision and action they take. I wish them good luck in all endeavours.