Ghanaian Temperament Abhors 5-Year Presidency

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Garden City, New York

During a courtesy call on him at his Accra residence by members of the Institute of Economic Affairs’ Winner-Takes-All Advisory Committee (IEA-WTA), former President John Agyekum-Kufuor was reported to have called for a French-style of presidential system of governance, whereby a prime minister dealt with the day-to-day workings of government, while the executive president concentrated on other unspecified aspects of national affairs.

In Germany, for instance (as also it is the case with Israel), there is a ceremonial president of the kind practiced in Ghana during the Busia-led Progress Party (PP) government of the Second Republic, while the chancellor wields the actual mandate or power of governance (See “Kufuor Advocates Scrapping of Vice-President Post” Ghana News Agency 7/11/14). Is this some sort of Freudian slip on Mr. Kufuor’s gapingly weird refusal to endorse then-Vice President Aliu Mahama, his two-term arch-lieutenant, for the presidency? We shall touch on this subject in due course. For now, let us squarely focus on the matter of democratic governance at hand.

Personally, I don’t believe that the problem facing Ghana presently has anything to do with the structure of command at the apex of constitutional governance. Rather, it has eveything to do with the heavily autocratic manner in which local authority is presently concentrated in the presidency. The latter arrangement, for instance, is what to this day has made it a virtual impossibility for President Mahama to complete his critical task of appointing district and municipal chief executives throughout the country.

Indeed, some of us have been calling for the direct and popular election of these local administrators by the very people whom they serve themselves. And here, it is significant to highlight the fact that Mr. Kufuor, during the eight years that he administered the affairs of the country, made absolutely no effort to expand the way in which democracy is practiced at the grassroots in Ghana. This is the one area in which the hue-and-cry for the scrapping of the present winner-takes-all governance system in Ghana seems to make a lot of sense.

I also strongly disagree with the former president on the question of the extension of a presidential term of governance to five years, instead of the current regime of four years. The presidency, as I have had occasion to underscore, time and again, is not meant for slow learners. Neither is it in anyway, whatsoever, about the individual(s) who actually get(s) to occupy the position. Rather, it is fundamentally about the stewardship of the people’s business; and Ghanaians have traditionally been known not to be very patient with the unnecessarily slow turning of the wheels of democratic governance.

Our very history of massive support for military putsches, periodically, ought to have by now deeply enlightened Mr. Kufuor and his associates about the preceding reality of Ghanaian political culture and temperament. I also personally don’t believe that the traumatic spate of corruption under both major political parties in the Fourth Republic is one that has adequately prepared Ghanaians to deliberately and masochistically collaborate and/or comply with their own undue exploitation by those who have been mandated to facilitate a remarkable improvement in the quality of their lives.

The current four-year tenure is best suited to leaders with a poignant sense of what it means to run the fragile economy of a Third-World country with the requisite human and material resources. And that breed of leader, who often tends to have a well-conceived and concretely-prepared national development agenda, is capable of showing remarkable results even within the relatively brief temporal span of two years, not five years, as the former president would have his audiences believe. Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia was one such leader, for a ready example.

Then also, the idea of a second senatorial, or supervisory, chamber of parliament to balance off a lower chamber, or the present parliament, an idea that was first proposed in Ghana by Dr. J. B. Danquah, is quite laudable and, to be certain, even long overdue. Still, knowing what I have come to know this past half-century about the way in which actual governance is done on the ground in Ghana, as it were, extreme care ought to be taken vis-a-vis how the members of this proposed upper-chamber of parliament get selected and/or appointed to the same.

For now, grassroots democratization of Ghana’s political culture is what is direly required.

Leave a Reply