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Opinions of Friday, 16 January 2009

Columnist: Owusu-Ansah, Kofi

Hypothetical Question For Constitutional Experts

Hypothetical Question For Constitutional Experts, The Swearing In.

K.O. Owusu-Ansah

I followed the swearing in ceremony of Prof John Atta Mills as the President of the Republic of Ghana at the independence square on television on the 7th January 2009 with a lot of excitement, despite the fact that I am an NPP supporter,I saw it as a national affair that I needed to be involved.Ghana,as a young nation trying to find her feet after all that we as a nation have gone through the past 51 years, it was heart-warming that we were chalking another milestone, installing the third President of the Fourth Republic.

However,one thing still disturbs my mind and I would like experts on Constitutional matters to come to my aid. For most parts, the President could not repeat the exact words of the Chief Justice,Her Lordship Justice Woods during the swearing in. Could we say for certain that the President has actually been sworn in? My concerns are that, the President even though has got the mandate from the Ghanaian electorate to become President, there is a constitutional proviso that,in order to assume that title and office,he needed to swear an oath. Ghanaians as well as foreign dignitaries congregated at the Independence square not with the view of listening to his presidential speech but to be WITNESSES to the swearing in.

Where the exact words have not been repeated the way they are set out to be repeated and where in some cases they have been omitted altogether and represented with words the CONSTITUTION does not recognise,what should be the right remedies? Could we say swearing in has taken place? What happened on the 7th January,2009 even though was stressful and embarrassing,we should not sweep it under the carpet but should do the right thing for posterity. We live in a country where simply events have created major problems for our country in the past. We all know the reasons Acheampong gave for his coup in 1972,even though we have moved away from coup de tats,we should be sensitive to the Provisions of our Constitution .Although I am not a constitutional expert I believe no one person can amend the constitution by deed or action and therefore any words that the President inserted in place of what the constitution has prescribed to be the standard words for the swearing in should be null and void and should be treated as such.

Would, I therefore be right to say the President has not been sworn in?

In conclusion,I would suggest that the Parliament should invite the President to Parliament to allow the Chief Justice administer that oath of Presidency and Office . The Public would not mind not being witnesses any more since we have 228 of our representative to be our witness.

This is not a political gimmick but rather a constitutional matter that affects the well being of the present presidency and posterity.