Feature Article of Thursday, 30 December 2004
Columnist: Graham, Ekow Appiah
As part of the 1992 transition from an authoritarian rule to a democratic nation in Ghana, a broad and consultative process to draft a new Constitution was undertaken. The Constitution, born out the consultative process, went into specific commitments into strengthening and entrenching democratic principles and, sensibly, made provisions for a variety of independent national institutions. The purposes of these independent state institutions are to help entrench constitutional democracy and, in effect, rule of law in Ghana. From a utilitarian point of view, the stated purposes of these state institutions strike one as apparent. Yet it is a banality that is not always appreciated.
The Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), a single national institution that addresses all aspects of human rights and administrative justice, is one of the autonomous institutions that the 1992 Constitution made provisions for. Whilst a few cases put before CHRAJ have grabbed national headline, mainly because of their political undertones, they have, in general, been a success story over the years. Ghanaians have come to appreciate the work they do and respect their decisions and recommendations. This perceptible confidence and respect Ghanaians have for CHRAJ and the role it plays in forestalling upheavals seems to be lost on Majority leader in our Parliament, Mr. Owusu Agyapong. The comments made on the air by Mr. Owusu Agyapong regarding the recommendation made by CHRAJ on the $20,000 car loan made to members of Parliament and the personal attack on Professor Kwaku Asare are childish and reprehensible. What Mr. Owusu Agyapong is advocating for is a lawless society where one gets to choose which rules one abides by. That is a very dangerous precedent that should not be allowed to be set here. Ghanaians did not know that if we are enjoying ourselves through our hard work, wherever in the world, we lose our right to hold public officials accountable. Ghanaians did not know that if we had government scholarships we automatically "sign a document to seal our thoughts on government processes". A strong statement is needed to forestall Mr. Owusu Agyapong's retarded views of dipping hands in national coffers becoming a cycle. The cries of outrage against Mr. Owusu Agyapong are in order and call for his replacement in Parliament in the right direction. Replacing Mr. Owusu Agyapong may not be enough. A strong statement and/or action are also needed to stifle any such thoughts in other parliamentarians or public officials who may be thinking along similar lines. This is because there is a school of thought that Mr. Owusu Agyapong words reflect the mindset of the many recipients of the $20,000 car loan.
I personally thank God that Professor Kwaku Asare, having perceived an apparent injustice, did not hold meetings with the "CIA or revolutionaries and bought guns" with a view of changing the "corrupt order" by lethal force. In the past, governments have been removed in our part of the world because some high-ranking officials had "two toilets" in their homes. The good Professor went through the right channels to address the issue. We should not take for granted what these autonomous institutions created in the 1992 constitution, including CHRAJ, do for us as a nation in preventing us stumbling into our sordid past. Neither should we forget how other nations have stumbled back into dictatorship, and sometimes anarchy, because these autonomous institutions have failed, not from their own making but by machinations of certain vested interests. For this reason, it is vitally important that the recommendation by CHRAJ on the matter be implemented. Parliament, parliamentary leaders, or high-ranking government officials should not be allowed to undermine the smooth functioning of other autonomous bodies. If we tolerate this, the end result will be undeniable chaos. All the hard work Ghanaians, far and wide, and other parties have put in to get us this far may be lost.
Mr. Owusu Agyapong, you "spat in the wind" and it has ended up in your face. You deserve every bit of what is coming to you.