Of The Executive Presidency & The Future Of Ghana’s Oil Industry

OF THE EXECUTIVE PRESIDENCY

Comparative advantage is a powerful tool in international relations and political economy. No serious body politic hoping to gain a competitive edge in international trade and economic diplomacy on behalf of its internal industrial development and economic survival can afford not to capitalize on it to achieve those aims. Beyond this, others have even capitalized on absolute advantage to advance their national interests in the areas of economic diplomacy, technological competitiveness, industrial development, and international relations. Both comparative advantage and absolute advantage have worked to the advantage of advanced industrial economies as well as of emerging markets.

Progressive leaders have made good use of concepts on behalf of the countries they represent and admire. But not so in the body politic of Ghana. One instance of this unfortunate official dereliction of the pursuit of national interest in the particular sphere of comparative advantage are the elitist political conceit, intellectual antiquation, and ideological unseriousness characterizing public discourse on the Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) and its policy antithesis, the Ghana Hybrid System (GHS). The political class does not appear to address its moral intellect to pressing issues of national interest. Perhaps, this is so because moral intellect and economic statistics are not necessarily, or directly, complementary in the expressive praxis of comparative advantage in economic diplomacy and effective management and organization of national priorities.

The oncology of public corruption, greed, visionless bureaucracy, and transparency lapses therefore suffers serious setbacks, with constant recrudescent interpositions of these social-political cancerous cells in the body-niche of economic diplomacy, thereby defying the caustic logic of institutional oversight under the corrective weight and harrowing direction of the moral intellect. Political equalization, Orwellian doublespeak, moral ambiguity, bystander apathy, and political relativism evolve into a sanctimonious artefact of frozen intellectual intransigence and moral conceit in Ghana’s body politic. These lapses in turn give birth to a popular template of moral complacency, a characteristic feature of the political portrait of the Fourth Republic.

What these sometimes lead to is “the paradox of plenty” or “the resource curse.” Ghana is probably already in the throes, or the early stages, of “the paradox of plenty,” though the political epidemiology, in terms of usefully practical diagnostic policy solutions, of this dicey situation appears to belong in a special revolving moral topology of ideological haziness typical of Ghana’s duopoly. This haziness is borne out of extreme political partisanship, of possible misunderstanding of representative democracy, of the creeping negation of civil courage and civic nationalism in democratic thought, practice and discourse, of the privileges and prerogatives of the executive presidency, of institutional corruption, and of the habitual abuse of the social contract by all three branches of government. Indeed these are plain for all to see.

This has probably come about because we may have grossly overlooked the potential benefits of grassroots democracy, with its character traits of patriotic consciousness, collective responsibility, political correctness, respect for diversity, and solidarity. The seeming negation of this roll call of character traits in the elitist political genotype of Ghana’s representative democracy is not far from embracing the full armor of the anachronistic political phenotype of democratic dictatorship. The tactical enshrinement of the Indemnity Clause, so-called, in Ghana’s Constitution confers a noble title of impunity and exceptionalism on the executive presidency, which is nothing more than a glorified mutant or clone of imperial sovereignty clad in a camouflage of democratic discourse and practice.

In this context, the aggregate voice of the people which is construed or perceived as a bonfire of moral conscience loses traction in an enlightening momentum of political actuation. One major reason for this is probably that the Clause places the executive presidency within the self-limiting parameters of political and moral infallibility. Therefore the executive presidency, in this limited sense, assumes the papal vestments of a popular potentate. The constitutional vulgarization of the executive presidency in this way provides grounds for prostitutionalizing popular sentiment, where the comparative advantage of the executive presidency feels it is under a serious threat of being subsumed into the sacred overlapping waves of public opinion. As a matter of fact, the executive presidency closely collaborates with its partisan political majority in parliament to perpetrate this extraconstitutional crime.

The executive presidency then becomes desensitized to the moral voice of popular sentiment in this collaborative matrix. This is one way through which the executive presidency subverts the popular will, and rightly so, under a pretense of democratic momentum, though the subversion itself is intended for sequestrating the elitist convenience of the executive presidency from the assertive moral underpinnings of public opinion. The aftermath is a complex paradox of unequal Orwellian dichotomy in which case public opinion is denied or stripped of its moral respectability, influence, and gyrational relevance for social focus, eventually becoming, as it were, an exenterated appendage of executive discretion.

The foregoing statement is possible under the collection of constitutive powers which executive discretion enjoys as a functional leverage of the executive presidency. This constitutional strategy came about as a convenient construct of the political class, a sort of a marriage of convenience between the contorted countenance of khakistocracy and an oligarchy of closet civilian kleptocrats and useful idiots, at the advent of the Fourth Republic. Perhaps, one of the important intended or unintended corollaries of this calculated arrangement is, generally speaking, the deployment of the full armor of constitutive powers of the executive presidency against popular sovereignty or collective agency in the application of the moral intellect towards the pursuit of national interests, particularly in situations where the executive presidency sees or foresees popular usurpation of its mandate, privileges, prerogatives, and tactical advantage over popular consent in matters of national interest.

Extreme partisan politics, schadenfreude politics, universal cynicism, and the cyclic or periodic nature of the country’s kleptocratic duopoly have reinforced the tactical convolution of democratic discourse and practice in the Fourth Republic. Regrettably the judiciary and the legislature, unlike the executive, are denied moments of full investiture with the claims and privileges of constitutional dictatorship. In so doing, the judiciary and the legislature become mere sycophantic appendages of the executive presidency and executive exceptionalism and, further, subject to the discretionary chaperonage of the executive presidency in matters bordering on national interests. This may explain why the yes-men of the judiciary are usually in cahoots with the executive presidency, in sometimes stifling the moral hyoid of popular sovereignty and disengaging public discourse from challenging the legitimacy of certain executive decisions, with incoherent, cynical, and nonsensical verdicts.

As a matter of fact, some high-profile decisions and verdicts of the courts in the land are mediated by underhanded political and ideological interventions. The investigative journalism of Ana Aremeyaw Anas has given us an inkling of judicial corruption in its raw state. The wilderness-inspired moral jeremiad of Martin Amidu offers great insights into public corruption and the abuse of executive privileges and prerogatives. But there exists a moral disconnect between the political narratives of the two men, Amidu and Anas, a contentious disconnect that should have been the focus of active investigation overseen by the National Bureau of Investigations (BNI), Criminal Investigations Department (CID), and the Privileges Committee of Parliament.

The corruptibility of the legislature is public knowledge. There is a widely held view among the general public that elected officials in the legislature have sometimes, unduly, capitalized on parliamentary immunity and parliamentary privilege to intimidate their harsh critics. We are not advocating legislative supremacy and its other triplet-sibling, judicial dictatorship, of any sort. It should, however, be clearly understood that the national Constitution vests near-absolute power in the hands of the executive presidency, possibly, as a means to negate creeping standardization of legislative dictatorship and judicial supremacy in the body politic of Ghana. The upshot of this arrangement is radical mitigation of unnecessary tensions among the upper tripartite configuration of the body politic of Ghana.

Consequently, the tensional differential accrues to the comparative advantage of the executive presidency in the form of the powers of constitutive exceptionalism and hegemonic projection of executive functionalism. Yet it is also through elective dictatorship that the executive presidency enjoys or secures its unlimited powers of discretion in the matter of political actuation and discharge of official responsibilities, exercises which mostly redound to the comparative advantage of the executive presidency. Also, elective dictatorship and ideological political overlap between the executive presidency and Lady Justice can, and do, impact judicial verdicts in important ways, usually to the comparative advantage of the executive presidency.

The executive presidency does not want to grow anorexic on a tight diet of devolution and so feeds and goes obese on a fattening recipe of elective dictatorship. Plus, the absence of filibuster in the deliberation character of parliamentary constitutional affectations, parliamentary refusal to pass the Freedom of Information Bill (FOIB), aliterate and uninformed citizenry, lack of transparency and shady procurement arrangements, and uninformed membership of the legislature add to the complex characterology of the privileges and prerogatives of the executive presidency. Popular sovereignty—whose mandate the executive presidency theoretically represents—assumes a self-imposed status of second-class citizenship in this convoluted arrangement ushered into the Fourth Republic courtesy of the calculating ordination of constitutional conceit.

What is more, the creeping incrustation of political theology, an exercise in political engineering, as part of the material expression of Ghana’s duopoly undermines the utility of valence politics. Duopoly does not represent the aspirations and material bearings of the people, even of the nation.

This is what Ghana’s tabloid politics, call it “the politics of the belly” if you will, is all about, a deadly strain of political practice and discourse that has given birth to a moral mutagen or, if you will a carcinogen, of sorts in the disbursement of fraudulent judgment debts to political financiers and acolytes of the executive presidency with the connivance of the judiciary, represented by the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General’s Department and by a wolfish pack of legal kleptocrats hovering around the executive presidency. Calls for an independent prosecutor, although “independent” is a rare commodity in the political inventory of democratic practice, in place of the splitting apart or dissolution of the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General’s Department have failed to even incur the moral outlay of righteous indignation and popular angst judicial corruption.

In other words, the idea that criminal offences are prosecuted at the suit of the Attorney-General who also doubles as a Minister of State on behalf of the state, potentially dissolves the virtual wall of independence between the office of the executive presidency and the office of the Attorney-General. Further, the fact that the Attorney-General as a Minister of State is also the chief legal advisor to the government of the Republic of Ghana raises the important question as to whether independence is, and can indeed be, a feasible relational quantity insofar as democratic practice. This constitutional arrangement works to the comparative advantage of the executive presidency. This is also why some believe legislative presidency is superior to the executive presidency. What of judicial presidency?

OTHER RELATED MATTERS

Likewise, calls for constitutional reforms have failed to get the necessary attention. We see this political and moral nonchalance popping up in the public discourse on the Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) and the Ghana Hybrid System (GHS). The executive presidency and the legislature appear not to have seen or acknowledged the intrinsic value of the former in terms of the political economy of comparative advantage. This is where the masses must bring their moral courage to bear on the endless parliamentary tergiversations of constitutional and moral expectations in behalf of the national interest, with policy emphasis on which choice of the two contract models is best for Ghana. Among other things, this means the total excision of the political mutagen of polarized pluralism from the diseased body politic of the Fourth Republic introduced there by Ghana’s partisan duopoly.

The citizenry cannot afford to see Ghana undergo gross internecine disorganization as a result of the politics of duopolistic insults, kleptocratic corporate statism, schadenfreude politicking, and needless overutilization of political football as reference point for reinforcing the discursive biases of the scourge of agitational duopolism, all of which could potentially lead to the country being reduced to an anemic metric of national development. But any popular effort—from the point of view of popular civil courage—directed at political redress and social injustice should court the agitational potential of the media. To achieve this, however, the media must change their genuflective coloration and join the moral crusade against duopolistic impositions of agitational propaganda upon the institutional cyclone of political backwardness where the autocratic mandate of the executive presidency clashes with its political antitheses.

Any group of persons likely to fall prey to the color of law or to abuse the color of authority is not deserving of a seat at the table of democratic practice and discourse. The blatant abuse of the powers of constitutive exceptionalism of the executive presidency need not be allowed to compromise the civil and moral courage of the masses. Indeed, such powers should rather be used almost exclusively in the national interest, a primary example being the long-overdue political and moral agitation for the contractual passage of the Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) to deal with the uncertain future of Ghana’s gas and oil industry and other national development priorities.

“PRODUCTION SHARING AGREEMNT” VERSUS “GHANA HYBRID SYSTEM”

We may sometimes forget that oil and gas are non-renewable largesse of nature and therefore their benefits should accrue to the people. Those from the West, particularly, who are clamoring for our natural resources in full knowledge of the non-renewability of these resources are already exploring their [resources] existential possibilities in outer space. Have we developed space technology yet? In the event that we do develop technological capacity for space exploration and colonization and human ingenuity fails to develop an effective or efficient alternative to these resources, what are we going to do if we exhaust these tellurian resources and the West comes back selling its extraterrestrial-resource finds to us? This is why we need to reap the full benefits from our oil and gas reserves before they finally go into the mode of exhaustion.

Still, we shall not take up the subject matter of the Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) and the Ghana Hybrid System (GHS) here, thanks to the corpus writings by Prof Lungu and Mr. Solomon Kwawukume.

In the final analysis, we may have to recommend Mr. Kwawukume’s and Prof Lungu’s corpus of mostly Ghanaweb-based writings on the subject matter to our wide readership. Readers may also want to read the former’s book “Ghana’s Oil and Gas: Towards Maximum Benefits.” Mr. Kwawukume, the brother of Mr. C.Y. Andy Kwawulume (C.Y.Andy-K) who also passes off as one of our major readers and serious critics, is a Senior Research Officer at the Ghana Institute of Government and Security (GIGS). His political activism and work with GIGS are outstanding. Again, those who want to read an alternative detailed analysis of the benefits of the Production Sharing Agreement (GSA) beyond Mr. Kwawukume’s and Prof Lungu’s publications should see Mr. Kirsten Bindemann’s 94-page paper, “Production-Sharing Agreements: An Economic Analysis.”

C.Y. Andy-K brought Mr. Bindemann’s work to our attention sometime last year (2015) or the year before. We take this opportunity to thank him.

FINAL REMARKS

The executive presidency should be revised to accommodate the social-political repercussions of moral outrage, civil courage, and public pressure and public opinion’s censure, chaperonage, and critique of the constitutionally mandated exceptionalism of the executive presidency, the highest authority in the land, a means to encourage decisional balance sheet in policy objectives and national discourse. We admit no society is perfect and for this reason we advocate bureaucratic and constitutional softening of the mechanics of Ghana’s political infrastructure to accommodate all the diverse streams of public opinion, to counter any executive urge for political intransigence in matters of public policy, etc.

It is against this background that we urge parliament and the executive to take another look at PSA. Beyond that, it is our submission that if the executive presidency has any immediate need for the national interest at this moment in time, then, it is contractual passage of the PSA because this contractual model goes beyond constitutional models such as the executive presidency, the legislative presidency, and the judicial presidency. We cannot, after all, be chained to any revolving illogic of rhetorical trivialities and more particularly, to the emotional rhetoric of constitutional nebulosity. It is rather the economics of judicial interpretation we are more than interested in. This calls for tactical and strategic investments in appropriate channels of factor endowments and their [investments] implications for technological development of the oil and gas sector.

For instance hydraulic fracturing, with its concomitant environmental concerns undergoing scientific and technological redress, can and is already shaping the economic politics of the oil and gas industries elsewhere. Our central argument is that, we should make these bold policy decisions against how they stand to improve Ghana’s overall economies of scale and of scope in a hypothetical future industrial economy. Our technocrats, political and economic classes should expect no less in policy matters where the pros in the decisional balance sheet tilt in the direction of the economies of scale and of scope.

We may have to consider making filibuster, quorum-busting, and disappearing quorum part of the general infrastructural vocabulary of parliamentary deliberations, in which the possibility of majority wrong-doing in enactment procedures is high because of insufficient knowledge in respect of or lack of adequate time allowed for parliamentary debates on certain pending bills. The concept of high politics should dictate the direction and pace of public policy and parliamentary proactiveness. Even so, we see no reason to belabor the serious constitutional lapses in the political formulation of executive excesses as seen in the national controversy from the Gitmo-detainee transfer!

We shall return…

Francis Kwarteng

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