Ghana marks Republic Day today
Ghana is celebrating its 53rd Republic Day anniversary today, when it holds a lot of promise as a forerunner in the swift wind of democracy blowing across the African continent.
The day has been declared a statutory public holiday and Senior Citizens Day, on which the elderly, some of whom played significant roles in the struggle for freedom and in the nation-building process, are accorded state recognition.
On this occasion, 25 million Ghanaians are expected to reflect on the chequered political strides the nation has made from a one-party state at the beginning of its republican status in 1960 through military interventions to its current burgeoning democracy applauded by the international community.
After becoming the first sub-Saharan African country to gain independence on March 6, 1957, Ghana’s political freedom inspired the liberation of many other African countries from colonial governance.
On July 1, 1960, three years after gaining political independence, Ghana totally weaned itself from British colonial rule, as the Queen of England's Governor General left the shores of the country to signify that the Black Star of Africa had taken charge of its own affairs.
Prime Minister Osagyefo Dr Kwame was then sworn into office as the first President of the country, after leading the Convention People’s Party (CPP) to win the general election.
Since independence in 1957, Ghana has experienced six years of one-party system, 21 years of military dictatorship and 29 years of multiparty system.
The First Republic, which was established in 1960, was overthrown in a 1966 military coup, as the National Liberation Council junta held power until 1969 when it restored civilian rule with Dr Kofi Abrefa Busia winning the national election on the ticket of the Progress Party (PP) to become the Prime Minister of Ghana.
But the Second Republic survived for only three years as the military overthrew Busia’s government in 1972 and held sway until 1979 when it restored civilian rule.
After leading the People’s National Party (PNP) to win the 1979 general election, Dr Hilla Limann became the President of the Republic of Ghana under the Third Republic, but his administration was truncated on December 31, 1981 by junior officers of the military in what became the shortest civilian regime in the country’s history.
Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings, whose Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) had earlier handed over power to the Limann administration, was the leading architect of the overthrow of the PNP government, as he led the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) to rule the country for 11 years.
In 1992, the PNDC returned the country to civilian rule, and Flt Lt Rawlings led the National Democratic Congress (NDC) to win the general election, becoming the first President under the Fourth Republic, which has so far stood the test of time.
After securing two terms in office, President Rawlings handed over power to John Agyekum Kufuor of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), as Ghana cut another slice of history in which one political party handed over the governance of the country to another political party after the NPP had upstaged the NDC in the 2000 general election.
President Kufuor also managed to secure two terms in office before superintending over yet another history of a reverse handing over of political power, as the NPP relinquished power to the NDC after Professor J.E.A. Mills had led the latter to win the 2008 general election.
Given the trend of Presidents under the Fourth Republic securing two terms in office, many people expected Prof. Mills to uphold that tradition, but it was shortened by death just before he could complete his first term in office, throwing the nation into a state of shock and grief.
It was the first time a President of the Republic of Ghana had died in office, and that unfortunate event itself ushered in another piece of history as then Vice President John Mahama was sworn into office as President within eight hours of his boss’ death, in accordance with the 1992 Constitution.
President Mahama went ahead to win the 2012 general election, but as a man destined to make history, his victory is required to be endorsed by the Supreme Court in a historic election petition filed against the declaration of him as the winner of the polls by his contender, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and two others.
As Ghanaians celebrate Republic Day today, many people are looking forward to the outcome of the election petition and expectations for a better Ghana in the years ahead.