Feature Article of Saturday, 18 August 2012

Columnist: Manya, Estorme

Ghana, a nation’s democracy matures in tragedy?

Most of us spend a good part of our waking moments attached to the media in one form or another. However, for whatever reason on that monumentus Tuesday July 24th, 2012, I was very busy and neglected to check any news at all prior to going for my quick lunch and walk. At approximately 1:30pm, I logged on to CNN, only to see this shocking headline under the "This Just In" news blog section: "President of Ghana dies"(See http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2012/07/24/president-of-ghana-dies/?iref=allsearch). I was dumbfounded, thinking to myself that this was another “Mills was dead hoax”. Then I thought to myself, NO, THIS IS CNN and thus, THIS CANNOT BE A HOAX? I immediately fired off some texts hoping to get confirmation that it was another hoax only to have it confirmed that President Mills was pronounced dead at Ghana’s Military 37 Hospital at 2:15pm GMT time, after a short illness.

Now, having given the above backdrop of what mood Ghanaians all over the world were thrust into on that fateful Tuesday, this piece intends to comment on notable governance related events which unfolded in Ghana, as that fateful day solemnly marched on. After receiving confirmation from various sources, I became very despondent as I fought back tears, WHY? Having never met President Mills, I was endeared to him as the man of peace that he was; how he had comported himself through two presidential elections he had lost, and patiently demarcated through a “the mother of all” general elections, and two run-off elections in 2008. President Mills had emerged finally victorious in 2009, and in one media account on the 2008’s election written by Nigerian journalist related that, the simple man that President Mills was, he drove himself to the NDC campaign headquarters to accept his official win. I believe that it was President Mills' peaceful disposition which held the fragile peace that Ghana still enjoys together, in the tumultuous aftermath of election 2008, until his sudden death that fateful Tuesday.

Now, Ghana after July 24th would never be the same; she had lost for the first time, a President on active duty at the High Office of the Presidency, and was faced with the eventual mourning which ensued, planning of funeral, averting events that could easily descend into pandemonium for a grief stricken populace, and interring her fallen hero. Ghana's nascent democracy was more so faced with constitutionally mandated duties of uncharted proportions. I must confess that I was very worried for Ghana at that point, given its coup ridden historical past. Having been following 2012 election related developments in both USA and Ghana, particularly, the vituperative and tribally provocative Ghana’s media landscape, I believed my concerns were very valid. Now, if you are not a political or legal "animal" by nature, you may not have fully appreciated the possible constitutional “crisis” of historic proportion, created in the wake of President Mills’ death, which invoked Article 60 of Ghana’s Constitution. Article 60(6) requires “Vice-President [to] assume office as President for the unexpired term of office of the President with effect from the date of the death” and Article 60(10) requires the new President to “upon assuming office, nominate a person to the office of Vice-President subject to approval by Parliament”. As world events have proven, it is one thing for some words to be written into a document called a Constitution, the “Law of the Land” for a given country, and it is totally different for that document to be honored and executed at all cost, in trial or triumph, adversity or stability!

Curious as I am by nature, I went on quest for more information for the latest developments, in terms of what the next steps would be for the grieving land of my birth. I finally gleaned information from a Ghanaian radio station that the Speaker of the House had directed all Parliamentary officials to assemble in Parliament on the eve of that solemn Tuesday evening at 8pm GMT for the swearing in of the then Vice President John Dramani Mahama, to become the 4th President of the 4th Republic. WOW! Subsequent events marched forward quicker than I could even imagine they would. My mind turned with various scenarios that could have ensued. Particularly, if all interested parties, including opposition parties would obey the Speaker’s order to assembly or would there be a deliberate “dragging of feet’, leading to a constitutional crisis? After all, the largest opposition NPP’s view had always been that NDC, the governing party, was unfit to rule, and so why would they want the Vice President to step into his new role without any challenge? To my surprise, and in events which played like a perfectly scripted movie, the world watched as two most notable figures on Ghana's legal and political scene emerged to take their rightful place in history along side the would be new President. Entered the scene were two of the most powerful female figures alive in Ghana and Africa today, Her Honorable Mrs. Joyce Bamford Addo, Speaker of Ghana’s Parliament, and Her Ladyship Mrs Justice Georgina Theodora Wood, Chief Justice of Ghana’s Judiciary. I believe the faithfulness of these two individuals evoked a spirit of unity which thus engulfed the entire Ghanaian populace thereafter, no doubt started with the unprecedented cooperation with which Ghana’s leaders handled those difficult hours and days following the sudden death of President Mills.

True to the nurturing nature of females, these two individuals proved themselves to be keepers of rule of law and orchestrators of continuity in the dispensation of Ghana's democracy on that fateful Tuesday, as each acted out her role dutifully in accordance with the 4th Republic’s Constitution. A male dominated society that we all know Ghana to be, yet it was two females who courageously facilitated the “changing of the guards” as it were, when Ghana was thrust into one of her most vulnerable days in recent history. I hope that the sheer steadfastness of these two women would be greatly appreciated as Ghana forges forward in building a civil society, where rule of law is its “chief cornerstone”. Thus, we should hail the faithfulness of these women and heap ample praises on them because they may have been instrumental in averting a crisis more consistent with Africa, but did not allowed it to be so in Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana!

The international media, in what seemed like a seemly "uneventful" tone reported that same eve: Ghana had lost her sitting president around 2:15pm GMT time, and by the eve of the same day at 8:16pm, Vice President John Dramani Mahama had been sworn in as the new President, in front of an overflowing parliament house filled with members of parliament, officials from the international and diplomatic communities, and other notable members of the Ghanaian society ( see reportage(s) on CNN, Ghanaweb, and Myjoyonline). Simply amazing, to say the least! Yes, the world did take notice, as the events in Ghana were vigorously discussed on online media blogs, Facebook, Tweeter, and others. Yes, like it or not Ghanaians, the rest of the world paid attention, even to the point that one of my colleagues drew my attention to details evolving in my own mother and father land. That fateful Tuesday July 24th, 2012 was a resounding triumph of rule of law in Ghana in my opinion, as she continues to shine as an enviable example of building a civil and democratic society, particularly in Africa. Therefore, Ghanaians should be proud of their mother/father land and in unrelenting fervor, continue to boldly defend its democratic values henceforth. In the days which ensued after the sudden death of the Late President John Evans Mills, the new President, His Excellency Mahama in accordance with Article 60(10) nominated Mr. Paa Kwesi Bekoe Amissah, the then Governor of the Bank of Ghana, on July 31st, 2012 as Vice President. His Excellency Amissah Arthur was vetted, confirmed and sworn in as Vice President of the Republic by Parliament on the eve of August 6th, 2012; 2 days before the 3-days of mourning, funeral service and internment of the late President Mills began. All the above constitutional requirements were executed orderly and without any noticeable glitches to report.

Thus, Ghana’s 4th Republic seamlessly marches on, thou one Commander had fallen; another has been promoted to steer her course. This perhaps is a most resounding symbolic statement made by Ghana that she intends to move “forward ever”, while deepening its democratic credentials in a free and just society, governed by the rule of law. What lies ahead in the next few months leading to the upcoming national elections in December should go a long way to further cement the world's view of Ghana’s democracy. In the meantime, Ghana, you have done well! You have charted a good course and you should be proud of yourself! Always remember that you are being watched the entire world over; and the course that you have so well charted, you will be held responsible to continue.