By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK
The Presidential Debates are over and with just days left for the December 7 Presidential Elections, the two leading candidates and their parties are putting finishing touches to their campaigns to secure victory. The Fourth Republic has produced both known and unknown heroes and heroines for a various reasons, amongst them is the fact that, Ghana has gone through free, fair and peaceful elections, smooth handover of power by one elected President to another and from one party to the other. Under the Fourth Republic, Ghana achieved an historic true democratic transfer of power in 2001 that has continued since. In twenty years of democratic rule, the country either by accident or design has produced heroes and heroines who have contributed greatly to strengthening and deepening democracy in Ghana. It is the roles played by these remarkable men, women and organizations and what is expected of the two leading Presidential candidates of the NDC and NPP that I review in this article.
Until recently, many Ghanaians would have agreed with me that the Electoral Commission as an institution has been a bastion of good or even excellent electoral management and organisation that is the envy of many developing countries. However, that laudable achievement is at the moment under severe stress from those who were strongly opposed to the creation of new constituencies by the Commission chaired by Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan. If the Electoral Commission and its Chairman, Dr Afari-Gyan can stand the test of time and organise the sixth free, fair and transparent elections in December 2012, Afari-Gyan will not only be a hero of the Fourth Republic but he would also go down in history as the best Electoral Commissioner in Africa and one of the best in the world.
What about past Presidents? There will be controversy on giving a heroic status to a President who at best, merely handed over power after leading a military dictatorship and serving the two-terms allowed under the Constitution. Nonetheless, all the former three elected Presidents deserve acknowledgement for their roles in deepening democracy and safeguarding the Fourth Republic. Though there were fears that Ex-military strong man turned elected President, Rawlings would not have handed over if his party lost the Presidential Elections in 2000, the fact was, he did the honourable and handed over power to the elected President of the opposition party, Ex-Presdient Kufuor in 2001. Though Rawlings is not one of my Fourth Republican heroes and heroines, he deserves credit for his contribution to democracy in Ghana. I cannot award him a Fourth Republican hero status because he did not genuinely accept the second victory of President Kufuor and often claimed that the NPP stole the elections. Again, there were rumours that he tried to encourage his anointed heir, the late President Atta Mills to reject the election outcome, which could have plunged Ghana into chaos and instability.
Ex-President Kuffour is certainly one of heroes for very good reasons. He did not attempt to use his incumbency to rig the elections in favour of his party’s Presidential candidate in the 2008, which is rare in Africa. Even if he did, he genuinely accepted the outcome of the elections. What really makes Ex-President Kufuor a true democrat and gained my respect, was his role in persuading the candidate from his party to concede defeat in December 2008 (see “President Kufuor calls for restraint” (Ghanaweb Janaury 1, 2009 and “NPP withdraws legal suits”, Ghanaweb January 2, 2009). Again, in the last four years, unlike Rawlings, he has remained a true elderly statesman by refraining from regular attacks on the government and his successor/s unless provoked.
My next hero is the Third President of the Fourth Republic, the late President Atta Mills. He stands tall above all other democrats in Ghana. Though he was more or less coronated by Rawlings as his successor with what is commonly known as the “Swedru Declaration”, the man was humble and democratic enough to accept two defeats against pressure by hawks within his party who urged him to reject the results of the 2004 elections. By his actions he contributed immensely to peace and security and deepened democracy in Ghana. May the Almighty God Bless his departed soul.
My outstanding hero of heroes of the Fourth Republic is not a politician but a Judge. For me, the most important event immediately following the delayed results of the second round of the 2008 Presidential Elections was the decision by a Fast Track High Court Judge who rejected an ex-parte motion by the New Patriotic Party and its Chairman at the time, Mr Peter Mac Manu, seeking an injunction on the Chairman of the Electoral Commission from announcing a winner of the presidential election. Justice Amoako Asante “ordered the plaintiffs to come to court by motion on notice, and by so doing serve the Electoral Commission and the National Democratic Congress as interested parties to enable them participate in the case”. The Judge explained that the substance of the application was of national importance and so grave to the national health it was not proper for the plaintiffs to come by an ex-parte motion (see “Judge says no to NPP”, Ghanaweb January 1, 2009).
This singular act of a truly independent minded and impartial Judge saved Ghana from post election conflict and potential catastrophe. In my view, the Judge saved Ghana with this extraordinary judgement by preventing the then ruling party from (mis)using the Judiciary to overturn the peoples’ verdict. The Judge has not been given the due credit for this landmark judgement. Without doubt, Justice Amoako Asante is my Number One Hero of the Fourth Republic. He deserves a National Heroes Award for services to the Judiciary and Democarcy.
Women have played key and leading roles in strengthening and deepening democracy in Ghana and their contributions cannot be ignored when it comes to the Honours List. I am particularly referring to the remarkable participation by two public figures after the sudden death of President Atta Mills. Ghana’s Constitution requires that the Vice-President becomes President on the death of the President. The responsibility for ensuring this transfer of power fell squarely on two Women of Substance, the Honourable Speaker of Parliament, The RT Hon Joyce Adeline Bamford-Addo and the Chief Justice, Her Lordship Mrs Georgina Theodora Wood. They did not only carry out their constitutional obligations as required of them but acted expeditiously to ensure a speedy transition and to avoid any no vacuum on the Presidency. The two women deserve commendation for putting the national interest above all. Their exemplary actions put Ghana on a global pedestal in democracy.
I am afraid to say that, were these two important constitutional positions occupied by men, the story would have been different. They would have delayed the transition for their selfish ends. First, a male Speaker would have bargained for the Vice-President position before agreeing to the then Vice-President being sworn into office. Again, a male Chief Justice would also have made a quid pro quo demand before swearing in the then Vice-President as President, leading to a stalemate and plunging the country into unnecessary confusion and uncertainty. Both the Speaker and Chief Justice did not hesitate in carrying out their national and constitutional duties at the time of Ghana’s grief. They are my heroines.
What about the leading two Presidential Candidates for the December 7 Elections?
Will Akufo Addo, John Maham or both be go on my Fourth Republican heroes and heroines Honours List? In fact, but for Nana Akufo Addo’s hesitation in conceding defeat in January 2008 and his party’s failed ex-parte motion, he would have been one of my heroes already. However, I do not fault him for needing encouragement in conceding defeat because the results were too close. As Mit Romney will testify, it is not easy for a hopeful candidate to concede defeat.
Both Nana Akufo Addo and President John Mahama will be on my Honours List if they both meet the following criteria.
President Mahama must ensure that all the state institutions at his disposal are applied effectively and efficiently to ensure free, fair, transparent and peaceful elections as well as making sure his party members, supporters and sympathisers comport themselves during and after the elections. Lastly, if the elections are free, fair, transparent and peaceful, he must accept the outcome as declared by the Electoral Commission, in victory or defeat.
On the other hand, Nana Akufo Addo only needs to ensure that his party members, supporters and sympathisers also comport themselves to ensure free, fair, transparent and peaceful elections. Like President Mahama, if the elections are free, fair, transparent and peaceful, then, he must also accept the outcome declared by the Electoral Commission. My prayers are that both Nana Akufo Addo and President John Mahama will go on my Fourth Republican Honours List come January 2013, the latest. Whatever happens on election day/s, I plead with both candidates to prepare two speeches in advance (victory and defeat speeches) to avoid a Romney episode when his concession speech was delayed because he only prepared a victory speech.
I know that there are more heroes and heroines under the Fourth Republic because thousands if not millions of men and women have in diverse ways contributed to making Ghana what she is today since the Fourth Republic. Time and space will not allow me to name all of them in this article, so I entreat you to make your list. Who are your Fourth Republican Heroes and Heroines when it comes to strengthening and deepening democracy in Ghana?
Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK