Dear Lawyer Kwaku Asare,
I am not a lawyer neither am I a law student. I am however very happy at the success you chopped at the Supreme Court after standing up against an illegality perpetuated by the General Legal Council for a long time. It sure shows that all structures of our state institutions can be reminded of their shortfalls so far as the law is concerned. I am therefore bringing this matter to your attention to consider the legality or otherwise and the repercussions of our actions as a country.
Before I come to the main point let’s go roaming.
Ghana is often touted as setting the pace for other West African nations to emulate when it comes to democracy. If this is indeed the case, what happens when we set bad precedents and openly and notoriously glorify them? Should they still follow in our footsteps or remind us how wrong we are?
Kwaku, in case you have not been following Nigerian politics let me give you an insight. I may have trouble locating Nigeria on the Africa map but I do know that they have big problems with political and religious extremists more that we have in Ghana.
Currently on the floor of the House of Representatives in Nigeria is a bill to grant amnesty to looters who are willing return looted funds not to the state ooo but to invest in the Nigerian economy without even asking them basic questions like “ my friend which sector did you steal from?”. The bill is sponsored by Linus Okorie (PDP, Ebonyi) and was first read on the floor of the House on 14th June and it is currently awaiting second reading. There is more to the bill than I can mention for want of time.
Interestingly, a few years ago in Ghana, under the presidency of John Mahama, Mrs. Marietta Brew Hammond made a deal with alleged looters to return state funds to avoid prosecution. There was an agreed schedule on the repayment and some funds were recovered (I stand to be corrected). So basically, we are told to steal and if we are caught we can return it and say it was just for safekeeping.
Ghana is indeed in a comfortable lead. It didn’t come as a surprise to me when I first heard Nigerian law makers want to transform that our idea into law in their country. I wouldn’t be surprise either if they are soon sponsoring a bill to clear criminals of wrongdoing because similar crimes were committed in the past (BOST in mind).
Kwaku, Nigerian senate has been at loggerheads with the federal government recently for one reason or the other. There was the missing budget, then the matter concerning the uniform of the commissioner of CEPS, senate asking federal appointees to resign, refusal to confirm Magu, and many others. On Tuesday, 4th July, 2017, a point of order was raised at the senate house to make Saraki the acting President of Nigeria. The point of order was raised by Senator Eyinanya Abaribe of Abia south and was on the premise that the acting president Prof. Yemi Osinbajo was out of town attending AU summit in Ethiopia. The point of order was immediately shot down for whateverreasons. But even at the time of raising the point of order, investigations revealed that Prof. Osinbajo was back in the country.
Kwaku I’m sure this rings a bell of where I’m heading to. The point of order could not have been raised in a vacuum. If Ghanaians are doing it blatantly why can’t Nigerians do same after all they are copying from us?
For want of time, I fail to provide dates and frequency of occurrences of what I’m to talk about but am sure you can find that out if you wanted.
In the previous (Mahama) administration, Hon. Doe Adjaho then speaker, was made to take oath and take over as president each time Mahama and Amissah-Arthur were out of town. In fact he took the oath so many times that at one time he declined to take the oath because he thought it was duplication. Interestingly the oath was always administered by the Chief Justice.
Kwaku, I want you to help me find out what the law says regarding that matter and whether as a nation we are not setting a bad precedent that will turn to bite us one day.
When the issue of “taking over” first came up, I expected some authorities to speak up, seek clarification at the courts or at least write about it. For instance: I expected citizen vigilante Martin Amidu to have commented but he was busy chasing Woyome around that he didn’t. I expected Lawyer Maurice Ampau to have sought clarification at the court but he was all over the place discussing Asamoah Gyan. I expected Manasseh to have written but he was rather writing about “idiots” and borrowing to build and planning his wedding to which I didn’t even get an invite. I expected Kweku Baako to have come out with documents opposing the whole show but I learnt his printer was faulty Lastly, I expected Lawyer Adwoa Safo to hold a press conference but she was too busy lobbying the World Bank for a school. But when The Attorney General didn’t see anything wrong with it either, I gave up because I thought I was reading too much about other countries’ politics that I was imposing their practices on Ghana or at least expected Ghana to do same
In practice, Kwaku, the law should be talking about instances where the president and vice president are unable to perform their duties as enshrined in the constitution. Travelling outside the country is not part of those instances. In fact travelling outside is part of the job of the president and vice president. Such instances should include: Sickness Insanity Holding behind enemy lines in combat and war scenarios Conflict of interest: when the president or vice thereof is unable to choose between personal/family interest and national interest (kidnap and blackmail) In some jurisdictions, cabinet will decide through voting whether any of these instances has arisen and then transfer power to the next in line through the Department of Justice or the Attorney General.
In today’s global village, a president can perform presidential duties whilst outside his home country. The US President for instance has offices in Air force One and the “Beast”. He also carries enough gadgets that he can perform practically any duty without physically being in the oval office.
I don’t believe our capability is limited when it comes to technology. Our gadgets may not be as powerful and sophisticated as those carried by the US but they sure can make and receive a call and probably send and receive WhatsApp messages.
When the speaker takes the oath, is she granted all the powers of the president or just some? Can she declare war? Or at least fire an appointee? If Haruna Iddrisu were the Speaker of Parliament now and Nana and Bawumia made a mistake and travelled out, the BOST MD would not be there upon their return just because “he did something others have been doing”. Or even Ken Offori Attah for dealing in what has now become a “national security” bond. This is just to say that there is a potential for conflict.
Moreover, if the speaker is to “act” as president, is it conceivable that the oath she has taken as a speaker is enough? Does she need another oath? Wouldn’t the presidential oath make someone a president and not “acting”? Does the Vice President need another oath to act as president? Does the First deputy speaker need another oath to sit in for the speaker? I mean, as a lay man, if I have already taken an oath of office and the law says by virtue of my current office I am to act, shouldn’t that oath suffice?
Kwaku, please if you think this letter is based on my fears alone, just write to me educating me on the subject. However, if you think the concerns and questions I have raised are genuine, please take the matter up. Let’s challenge the system to go back and do the right thing by following the law properly or initiating processes to amend the law to forestall future problems. Let us not keep leading other African countries into dungeon.
Hamidu Ahmed is a self-acclaimed advocate for the Sustainable Development Goals. He has interest in global politics, youth empowerment, gender equality and good governance. He is currently the First Deputy Speaker of the Upper West Youth Parliament and a member of Young Africa Leaders Initiative (YALI Network)