Ghana’s Pseudo-Parliamentary System Is An Nkrumah Legacy

Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr. Ph.D.
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I read the debate over whether the President of Ghana ought to be constitutionally required to answer questions in Parliament with keen interest. In the opinion of Mr. Haruna Iddrisu, the current Minister of Communications, the Fourth-Republican Constitution accords inordinate powers to the presidency, including the right to communicate with the electorate as and when the president capriciously deems the same to be necessary. This state of affairs, according to Mr. Iddrisu, grievously detracts from the salutary culture of transparency and accountability that ought to characterize democratic governance (See “Haruna Iddrisu, Alex Segbefia Disagree on Prez Becoming Ex-Officio MP” 9/29/10).

First of all, without the appropriate historical contextualization, such argument does not get us very far. The fact of the matter is that it was Mr. Kwame Nkrumah, the first Prime Minister of Ghana, who, in an imperious effort to effectively scuttle the democratic rule of leadership accountability, almost single-mindedly and unilaterally abolished Ghana’s hitherto parliamentary system of British-inherited governance. Nkrumah, hermetically determined not to entertain any political rivals, introduced the so-called executive presidential system, whereby the Chief-Minister-of-State morphed into a peremptory corporate business executive whose operational powers, peculiarly, dwarfed even that of the board of trustees.

In essence, and in the words of Dr. J. B. Danquah, the celebrated and undisputed Dean of Modern Ghanaian Politics, like an eighteenth-century French monarch, President Nkrumah’s personality and identity came to be recognized as being synonymous with the post-colonial Ghanaian state. Consequently, as Danquah sarcastically cast matters, “Nkrumah is Ghana and Ghana is Nkrumah” (L’etat C’est Moi). This is precisely what the landmark, albeit egregiously infamous 1960 election was about. In sum, scarcely three years after their official reclamation of their sovereignty from British imperial domination, Ghanaians were coerced into replacing the latter with the one-person, one-party dictatorship that was Mr. Nkrumah and his so-called Convention People’s Party (CPP).

We must, herein, quickly point out that President John Evans Atta-Mills has stated time and again, and unabashedly categorically, that he is a diehard Nkrumaist who recognizes no other seminal contributors to the foundation and material development of Ghana besides the proverbial African Show Boy. And true to his public confession, Dr. Mills last year instituted Mr. Nkrumah’s hypothetical birthday as a national holiday, as well as Ghana’s purported Founder’s Day. He would also launch a year-long celebration of Nkrumaism. And recently, the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) and its ideological allies have attempted to criminally indoctrinate Ghanaian school children with a sanitized biography of the most divisive citizen ever to be elected president.

In effect, what paradoxically makes the debate over presidential accountability, that finds the Communications minister pitted against the deputy presidential chief of staff, fascinating is its outright pedestrian superfluity. For Ghanaians know more than enough about the cognitive disposition and temperament of their president to make any deliberately choreographed periodic appearance before a pathologically partisan and weak-willed parliament make any difference in their lives.

In other words, the most pressing problem facing our country presently has far more to do with visionary, constructive and agenda-driven leadership than mere periodic showcasing of the President’s ability to dexterously ape his British template-counterpart. It is also quite interesting to observe that none of these now-stentorian advocates of a pruned or vitiated presidency had envisaged it to be opportune to raise such questions during the eight years that Mr. Rawlings “constitutionally” rode roughshod over the civil and human rights of the Ghanaian electorate.

In the words of celebrated Nigerian novelist Prof. Chinua Achebe, “It is morning yet on Creation’s Day.” What the latter quote implies is the fact that it is not too late, should it be deemed necessary, for Ghanaians to trade our current constitutional nondescript steed/horse for a vintage British thoroughbred, instead of whimsically bandying about the rhetorical drivel of a constitutional amendment to the aforesaid effect when, to-date, Ghana’s Fourth-Republican Constitution continues to be seriously hobbled by the same P/NDC operatives whose bloody misdeeds of yesteryear have conveniently been bracketed by an Indemnity Clause.

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is a Governing Board Member of the Accra-based Danquah Institute (DI) and author of a forthcoming volume of titled “The Obama Serenades.”