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Opinions of Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Columnist: Alex Blege

Constitutional provisions and political promises

Every Ghanaian has a right. It’s critical to be aware of these rights. It’s most critical to understand that the enjoyment of these rights do not emanate from the benevolence and ingenuity of a political party in government, but it’s a matter of just a political party living up to the mandate that it’s been given.

Over the years, politicians in this country have found a way to make promises which are originally constitutional provisions – on matters of health, education, agriculture, the fight against corruption and abuse of power, and social protection, just to mention a few.

Chapter Six, The Directive Principles of State Policy, 1992 Republican Constitution of Ghana and various Acts of Parliament make it legally binding to ensure the realisation of the above and this is done by the government in power – a matter of pursuing constitutional provisions.

The Directive Principles of State Policy, Article 34 (1): “The Directive Principles of State Policy contained in this chapter shall guide all citizens, Parliament, the President, the Judiciary, the Council of State, the Cabinet, political parties and other bodies and persons in applying and interpreting this Constitution or any other law and in taking and implementing any policy decisions, for the establishment of a just and free society”

Clause (2) of the above article specifies the policy objectives that the President shall ensure: basic human rights, a healthy economy, the right to work, the right to good health care and the right to education.

From the above, it is no news that a particular political party or government comes out with political promises that are hinged on the policy objectives enshrined in the constitution and made legally binding on the state through acts of parliament.

Contrarily, it becomes news if a particular government does not in any way ensure the realisation of the policy objectives as enshrined in the constitution.

How then should political promises be viewed? An act of ingenuity, benevolence or just an act of ensuring that the mandate that has been given to a political party to pursue the policy directives through every means possible without making excuses in the face of failure or dereliction of duties?

It’s worthy to note that a political party is only a group of people who have put themselves out to administer the affairs of a country so as to ensure the realisation of policy objectives of that country.

Since the proliferation of the media from the early 1990s, political parties through ministers, members of parliaments, or communicators have taken advantage to consistently sing into the ears of the populace how well a particular policy of theirs is better than that of their opponents.

Sadly, due to some unconscious wind of mediocrity, provision of water, construction of a school, hospital, an information centre, a place of convenience, streetlights, roads, provision of fertilizer, provision of money to the vulnerable and so on and so forth make headline news.

The sadder aspect of it, the realisation of most of these policy objectives are donor funded. The saddest of it all is when a particular government starts a project with a donor fund and is unable to complete it; the next government hardly continues it.

The latest political promise among many that’s seeing the light of day is the Free Senior High School. This is good! Why is it good? Some clever person said some time ago that: “if you think education is expensive, try illiteracy”. Some other equally brilliant fellow added: “education makes people easy to lead, but difficult to drive; but impossible to enslave”.

The Free Senior High School and all the other policies over the years are only constitutional and basic human rights – thus creating the impression that it’s the benevolence and ingenuity of the politicians is nothing but settling for mediocrity. In some jurisdictions, when governments bring policies that are constitutional and basic human rights based it’s business as usual.

But, one needs to ask: how then did we create a society where we praise political parties who have been given a political mandate to ensure the realisation of policy objectives as enshrined in the constitution?

There’re two root causes to this: first, the ignorance of the majority of citizens about their rights – right to education, right to health care, and basic human rights; and second, the desire to win the next election – gaining political points so as to win the next election.

Political parties must begin to realise that their policies don’t emanate from their benevolence or ingenuity but an act of pursuing the constitutional rights of the citizenry who have given them the mandate to do so.