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Opinions of Monday, 7 July 2008

Columnist: Acheampong, Emmanuel Opoku

Why Ghanaians Ought To Reject NPP Govt

The purpose of representative government is trite as providing practical solutions to the problem of government, and also as the most legitimate avenue for the realisation of society’s interests on the basis of political mandate delivered unto a chosen few. It must however be emphasized that the “ultimate supremacy of the electorate as the true political sovereign of the state” is fundamental to any civilized democracy, and thus power having been delivered to the elected few, the repository of these powers can hardly be said to be the originator of such powers as they merely exercise the powers in trust for and on behalf of the people.

I am positing that Ghanaians ought to reject the NPP government partly because its activities and practices scarcely support the basis for which power was entrusted to it, and also because its claim as a purveyor of rule of law and democratic principles is merely a façade intended to obfuscate glaring realities inconsistent with the principles they so disingenuously espouse. Although the factors are enormous I shall, for reasons of space confine myself to three conditions that should militate against the party’s call for a renewed mandate. I would however deal with other equally important issues in my subsequent write-ups. The size of government One of the most endearing political messages that catapulted the NPP to victory was its pledge to run a government size of less than 40 ministers as opposed to the then NDC’s government of 78 ministers. So compulsive and attractive was the pledge that it was viewed as the panacea to executive opulence and ostentation which in the eyes of the electorate had become a dominant characteristic of the NDC government. The NPP contended it was a sheer profligate waste of resources to run a government with so large a number when the affairs of government could effectively and efficiently be managed with a comparatively smaller number.

The electorate, apparently relying on the faith of this attractive pledge (together with other pledges though) voted into power, the NPP. Sometime after in office, President Kuffour in a concessionary tone apologized to Ghanaians, claiming his attacks on the NDC government were made in error and therefore unwarranted, and that the size of government of the NDC which he had criticized was even too smaller a number to enable him effectively pursue his mandate. We may perhaps applaud the President for having rendered this supposedly heartfelt apology. However, the absence of honest belief in the President’s pledge to the electorate renders the substance of the apology nothing more than a political gimmick intended to bury underground the critical issues therein involved. It may be asked; did the President honestly believe he could run his government with the number he so pledged? The answer is a reverberating no. Why; because the benefit of history remarkably and illuminatingly disproves the President’s pretensions. The purpose of criticisms and its consequent presentation of alternative policy is a firm pillar of any democracy of which any such criticism is deemed to be motivated or influenced by extensive research which not only conveys the purpose or intent of the criticism, but also provides alternative reasoning which should justify confidence in the policy which is advanced as an alternative to the policy which is the object of the criticism. It may be presumed therefore that the NPP considered, or ought to have considered this underlying principle of alternative policy before presenting its pledge of running a government of such a minimal size. If we accepted this basis, would it be out of place then to assert that the most direct and influential area of research that should have informed the party’s decision was by reference to its antecedent party - the Progress Party? Voted to power in 1969, the Progress Party ran a government of 46 ministers plus 9 Regional Chief Executives (a position analogous to the present day creation of regional ministers) over a population of 8million and nine regions. Therefore cumulatively, the Progress Party, the immediate primogenitor of the NPP ran a government size of 55ministers in a social era where the population of Ghana was less than half the present day population of 20million! Moreover, the 1992 Constitution under which President Kuffour sought his mandate proposes a cabinet size of not more than 19 ministers as well as the position of a regional minister to head each of the ten regions. If we multiplied this by 2 as a natural consequence of a possible creation of deputy ministers for each portfolio we would arrive at a conservative number of 58minsters, excluding other portfolios not conscripted into cabinet. Could it be said therefore that President Kuffour honestly believed he could operate such a smaller-sized government in the face of such overwhelming evidence to the contrary? Apparently these glaring conditions could hardly support such a conclusion so as to validate the impropriety of rendering an apology for failure to fulfill a pledge which the President did not honestly believe in its truth. But then an even more serious determination of the President’s pledge falls into clearer view if considered from a more encompassing perspective. If we could hold brief for the President on his inability to fulfill his pledge of less than 40 ministers, we could hardly do same for him on his inability to establish a convention of the constitution. In other words, if prevailing circumstances conflated to render the fulfillment of the President’s pledge patently unworkable, what prevented him from maintaining and conforming to the status quo of 78 ministers of the previous political administration and thereby establishing a unique convention of the constitution which though would not have been subject to any legally enforceable rules, would still have been binding as a conventional rule on subsequent governments? However, the President ceded this opportunity and yielded to the frailties of personal desires and capacities of political affinity by building a large array of over 110 ministers and their concomitant legion of special assistants. What then would restrain subsequent political authorities if irresistible political affiliation overrides opportunities for instituting a firm and effective device for delimiting the tendencies for future governments abusing the use of good judgment entrusted to them by the constitution which creates no ceiling on the size of government? Who is duty-bound morally to institute a convention of the constitution than the one who espouses rule of law, democracy and constitutional principles? Should a succeeding government decide to run a government of 200 ministers, would it not do so in reference to the bad path charted by this political administration which failed to utilise an opportunity to establish a convention which would have created and sustained inherent limitations as necessary restraints on future political authorities? Yet, should the political apologists still be fervent in their determination to justify the President’s apology with the contention that a large government size is a coefficient of effective political administration, would it not be legitimate and fair then to assert with reasonable conviction that had the NDC the benefit of a large government size as the NPP, it could reasonably and most logically have performed better? However this can hardly be justifiable an assertion as the large government size has only compounded and intensified the rate of opulence and profligacy that the NPP pledged to eradicate. Why then should I return to power a political entity which professes sanctimoniously to be the forerunner of constitutional principles and rule of law, but reneges when an opportunity is so provided for it to accord affirmative meaning to the principles and ideals inhered in the concepts? A firm adherent of democratic principles and rule of law – A mirage Now, it may be asked again; to what ideals or tenets does the NPP lay claim to be a purveyor of rule of law and democratic principles? Can any political entity in an era of constitutional rule lay solitary claim to being the forerunner to the advancement of constitutional and democratic principles? What are the democratic and constitutional institutions required to function effectively to sustain the progressive advancement of rule of law? The NPP government prides itself as being committed to the rule of law, yet the institutions for the realisation of the concept under its administration are struggling to grip a foothold on the system. The judiciary is wobbling under the creak of corruption and financial starvation, the NCCE is embroiled in similar conditions, the CHRAJ is struggling to assert its authority and influence, the Ghana Police Service is riddled with obtuse corruption and lack of responsibility, Parliament is starved of basic facilities to enable it effectively realise its mandate, etc. Yet, in the face of all these the executive authority sustains itself with ostentatious purchases and affluent lifestyles, inventing notions that entry into the executive ambit provides the most competitive avenue for making immediate financial gains.

Where then lies the rule of law when institutions for maintaining the balance of power are rendered almost ineffective and retrogressive in their efforts to sustain the progressive application of the concept? Is the social foundation not suffering progressive wreckage, and are social values not being submerged and supplanted by a restless desire for power and dominance? Where are the pressure groups to delimit executive tendencies? Is the TUC not limping away on a lame foot? What about NUGS, GNAT and all others? Is the NPP government not conscripting pressure groups into its fold in a bid to emasculate criticism and dissent? Has it not waded into the arena of the media by ensnaring many journalists with its enthralling devices? Perhaps the NPP’s claim to rule of law lies rooted in the institution of its populist concept – the People’s Assembly - which besides being bereft of any substantive quality, has merely served as a platform for sounding political appellations and rendering adulations to the President, and which short of any, has only been an unnecessary waste and a wilful charge on public funds. Policy examination When executive authority is delivered to any person or group of persons it is so delivered in the belief that the said authority holds such power to deliver effectively to the people the realisation of their fundamental interests; being housing, food, water, health, provision of basic social services and an avenue of equal opportunities for all citizens to pursue their goals. Now when a call is made to the NPP government to account for its stewardship, it passionately recounts as follows: a “strong and resilient economy,” School Feeding Programme, Free Bus Ride for pupils, National Health Insurance Scheme, Capitation Grant, LEAP, NYEP etc. But in all reality, could anyone really believe in his heart of hearts that the realisation of society’s goals be predicated on such populist policies? Should we even consider for the sake of analysis that these were wholly good programmes, any such consideration whittles away when cognisance is taken of the glaring failure of these supposed achievements to ease or combat the widening chasm of social inequalities so evident in society? Of what value is a “strong and resilient economy” that confers deprivation and misery on many and enriches a few? Where are the social and economic liberties of the individual who is overburdened with a wide plethora of taxes but enjoys no benefit from the progressive taxation thrust daily on him? What can be said of the steady erosion of the social and economic liberties of the individual who pays higher tariffs on utilities but who enjoys a minimal fraction of these utilities or none at all? Now should we accept again for the sake of analysis that the policies were good, thereby warranting a call to the electorate to return the NPP to power, the operation of rising cost of rent, high cost of food and basic necessities, rising cost of living, steadily decline in educational standards, etc. shall operate to nullify any benefits derivable from these policies.

Do these conditions not support the now apparent conclusion that the NPP is clearly incompetent to rule, and that a relegation to their former status of an opposition party may provide them with a luminous opportunity to assess themselves, particularly their weaknesses and failures that militated against their efforts towards realising the hopes and aspirations of the people? The picture could not have been much clearer. To the electorate however, the time is now. A vote against the NPP is a vote not only for yourself, nor is it only an assertion of certain conditions considered alienable to you which the government failed to convey, but it is most importantly an affirmation of the principle that a wise vote is in itself a progressive determination of the tenets of rule of law and democratic principles which the NPP so disingenuously advocate.

The writer is a student of Law @ KNUST

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.