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Opinions of Sunday, 26 July 2009

Columnist: Issakah, Sagito Musah

Review This Discriminatory Constitution

Yes, it true that it took sweaty efforts and painstaking research into different constitutions, conventions, case laws among other materials to come out with the 1992 constitution but the fact still remains that some of the provisions of the constitution require amendment. It is about time and no more time wasting in that regard. Thanks though to all those who sacrificed their time, strength and knowledge for the birth of the fourth republican constitution which has been a somewhat good governing material of the country for the last 17 years of the nation’s life.

Calls have come, from different angles, different people and on different topics of national concern, for the amendment of some aspects of the constitution that exhibit ambiguity, non relevance to today’s world situation, and aspects that reveals some discriminatory tendencies to some humans, groups, and institutions either of state or private. This however is not the platform for me to outline those calls and the theme of those calls. This short piece will focus attention on one of the clauses of the constitution that I personally feel it’s discriminatory and has to be amended with immediate effect (even though I concede I have no power to ensure that). My attention was drawn to this clause when a High Court twice questioned the eligibility of the Bawku central Member of Parliament (MP), Mr. Adamu Daramani as an MP worthy of representing his people in the law making house of the country. Article 94, clause 2 (b) of the 1992 republican constitution says “....A person shall not be qualified to be a Member of Parliament if he “...owe allegiance to a country other than Ghana.” It does not in anyway say something about dual citizenship. In fact the framers of the constitution did not want to contradict themselves with the provision in article 8 clause 1 which says “Subject to this article, a citizen of Ghana shall cease forthwith to be a citizen of Ghana if, on attaining the age of twenty-one years, he, by a voluntary act, other than marriage, acquires or retains the citizenship of a country other than Ghana”. With no mention of dual citizenship in the constitution, why then is it mentioned by lawyers and journalists alike in the Bawku central MPs case. As far as I know, Dual citizenship means owing allegiance to two countries through the different ways the constitution outlines. Meaning then that a person with dual citizenship say for Ghana and USA owes allegiance to both countries and so should have the right and also be eligible to participate in the governance for both countries in any form it comes. As far as the constitution is concerned, the main focus should be on the allegiance and since it is silent on the way the allegiance should come, a person with dual citizenship should be allowed to partake in the governance of the country he or she chooses to serve at any particular time. Anything contrary will amount to discrimination and the deprivation of the person’s right to engage in the politics of his or her country. Mr. Daramani by virtue of holding two citizenship rights is being punish for that and that is wrong in every sense. I am yet to find where in the constitution it states categorically that, ‘someone with dual citizenship is not eligible to occupy the position of a Member of Parliament’. In any case, if say by virtue of my not being a lawyer and so lacked the third eye to see that clause in the constitution, the fact will still remain that, well meaning Ghanaians who because of genuine reasons decides to go for dual citizenship will be denied the chance to serve the one country, they would want to contribute to its development in a different way; in this case politically. It is a clear fact that Ghanaians abroad contribute significantly to the economy through remittances and establishment of businesses. In an academic research article published in 2004 by one Dr. E. K.Y Addison, Director of Research Department of Bank of Ghana, is a revelation to the effect that private unrequited remittances to Ghana increased significantly from 201.9 US Dollars in 1990 to 1,017.2 US Dollars in 2003. The paper also revealed that the figure was bigger and stable than the total amount gotten from Official Development Assistance (ODA) and Foreign Direct Investment (IDA) for the same period. It means therefore that remittances increase as the years pass by and significantly affect, in a positive way, the economy of Ghana.     It is also a fact that for a Ghanaian to get a respectable job with a respectable pay, he or she will have to have citizenship right of the foreign country he finds him or her self in. Meaning then that remitting large sums to Ghana has a direct relation to your having the right, just as natives, to search for lucrative and respectably paid jobs and this can only be possible when you gain a citizenship right in that country. Why then should the nation deprive these citizens the right to participate in her governance after all they are doing for the nation? Another problem is why it should be applicable only to MPs or politics in general. We are going round virtually begging football players with Ghanaian names outside our shores to come and play for our national soccer teams. This is done without being mindful of whether they are Ghanaians as per the provisions in the constitution or not. We even beg them to have dual citizenship so that they will be eligible to play for Ghana if they decide to. Why is it different for someone who will want to share his or her expertise for the development of the country, through politics? Why are they refused that right because they are seen as holding double allegiance? Is it the development of the nation we want or citizenship?

If as a country we are going to put much focus on this and deprive other citizens the right to channel their expertise for the development of the nation, then I am afraid.

What have those who are in politics achieved so far for this country? What they have been able to do is enrich themselves and their immediate families and votaries, with the masses wallowing in poverty of different proportions. The constitution should be reviewed and made clear in the area of citizenship and give dual citizens the right to share their expertise in our body politics. They have the right to that because I believe most of them will do better than the single citizens who for over fifty years have achieved nothing significant for the nation.

The writer is not a lawyer. He is only expressing his opinion on the topic. Nothing more. Â Â