Parliament on Tuesday began discussions for a reduction of the ages allowed by Ghana’s 1992 Constitution, to qualify for election as President and Member of Parliament, to enable more young men to serve Ghana at the nation’s highest political offices.
“Mr Speaker, if an individual is old enough to vote and decide on what is the political culture, then the person is old enough to hold that portfolio, “Mr Ernest Henry Norgbey, MP for Ashaiman Constituency said in a statement on the floor of the House, in Accra.
He continued: “More so, if an individual of 21 is old enough to make laws, then he should be able enough to implement these laws. Why should an immature person make laws for the mature one to obey and implement?
“Individuals especially the youth are motivated by considerations of self-interest when they get involved in politics. Meaning, if a rational human being has attained the voting age to know who is fit to be in power as stipulated in the Constitution, then the youth must as well be rational enough to contest a position or involve in high-level politics.”
Mr Norgbey said some constitutional specifications like 21 years for Parliament and 40 years to be President, limits the participation of the youth in politics, and when people are limited by constitutional demarcation, it soon begins to sound as normal and acceptable, and further gains legitimacy in the political rhetoric.
Ghana, the legislator said, has a youthful population, the majority of all citizens are below the age of 35.
According to the 2010 population census of Ghana, 46.5 per cent of the Ghanaian population are below the age of 24.
“This is to say that there is a great mandate for our society to wake up to the awareness of the numerous young people available and the threat young people can be to any society if they are idle,” Mr Norgbey noted, and attributed the rising use of the youth in political violence for their not being fully involved in political participation.
“Mr Speaker, the increasing violence is as a result of the idle involvement in the political process,” the MP said, adding that, the manipulation of the youth during electioneering creates security challenges for the nation.
“Indeed the event of political manipulation is the grounds for vigilantism,” the MP said as he identified some political vigilante groups like the Delta Forces, Invisible Forces, Bull Dogs and the Hawks.
Mr Norgbey identified the reservation of leadership role to the elderly as a challenge in Ghana and made a strong case for the youth to be given space in the political leadership as he cited examples of former President Jerry Rawlings leading Ghana in his late 20’s.
Also, Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin and Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu relatively young when they became MP; Mr Dominic Nitiwul, now Defence Minister, who entered Parliament at 24.
“These demonstrate clearly how young people can excel at political leadership and when given the room to operate, “Mr Norgbey said and added that “political participation is a dual thing that features voting and being voted for.
“Any attempt to separate this opportunity from the youth means there’s a proof of the distinction between the rationality that qualifies one to become the elector and hence the rationality to become and elect or stand for elections.”
He urged fellow legislators to act to review the laws, saying, Mr Speaker, I challenge you and all members of this House to allow the youth to participate fully.”
Mr Joseph Osei-Owusu, First Deputy Speaker, who was chairing proceedings, stressed the need for the youth to have some political exposure and recognition, including offering themselves as party volunteers, before beings signed on for higher political positions.
He was of the view that despite the legal voting age being constitutionally pegged at 18, about 12 years were spent in Basic and secondary education, and one still needs to be mentored, trained before assigned to serve in higher political positions.
Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, Minister of Communications and MP for Ablekuma West Constituency, in a contribution called for the demonetization of politics and giving a certain percentage or quota to aspiring MPs who are 35 and below.
The MP argued that it was not enough for Ghana to pride itself as the country with the youngest MP in Africa, but go beyond that to have more of the youth in parliament and other higher levels of political office.
Dr Bernice Adiku Heloo, MP for Hohoe Constituency suggested the adoption of young females and mentoring them to take up political leadership roles and later fill in that gap when the present female adults exit their political positions.