Constitutional Limitations to the Development of Ghana- The Prof



Below is a quotation from a speech made by former South African president P.W Botha to his cabinet roughly 28 years ago. The aim was to defend the apartheid regime which was under pressure from the ‘free Mandela’ campaign.

He said…

‘The fact that blacks look like humans and act like humans do not necessarily make them sensible human beings. Intellectually, we are superior to blacks; that has been proven beyond any reasonable doubt over the years. By now everyone has seen that blacks cannot rule themselves. Give them guns and they will kill each other. They are good in nothing else but making noise, dancing, marrying many wives and indulging in sex. Let us all accept that the black man is a symbol of poverty, mental inferiority, laziness and emotional incompetence. Isn’t is plausible therefore that the white man was created to rule the black man? Here is a creature that lacks foresight… the average Blackman does not plan his life beyond a year’.

Some people are racist – this cannot be denied. The responsibility is on black people everywhere to prove the racists wrong; they haven’t! You would assume that black governments globally would use their power and authority to show that the black man is capable of managing his own affair. Unfortunately, the evidence appears to suggest that the black man is indeed what the racists say he is… ‘a creature that lacks foresight… a symbol of poverty and hopelessness’.

Nowhere had the racist been proven more right that the first black African country to attain self rule. Ghanaians have had the longest time (over 57 years) to prove that the black man is not just a performer of animal functions – eating, sleeping and having sex. Instead we have demonstrated beyond doubt that we are extremely competent at animal functions but not at solving community and national problems. We failed miserably at managing the schemes left behind by the first republic (Nkrumah’s government) – the state farms, the state hotels, schools, state housing, the national transport system including the national railways. We even failed to manage the national airlines, goldmines, textile industries or the Tema motorway – we patched the concrete road with gravel and tar! The government of Ghana appear to have the ‘finger of dust’ when conducting official business. Everything they touch literally turns into dusty despair; but when they conduct their own private businesses, they seem to have the Midas touch.

I have heard the racist argue that if Ghanaians could not run an airline properly how could they run a country? I used the ‘historical argument’ to defend our position but how long can we continue to blame slavery and colonialism (and for that matter neo colonialism) for this state of affairs? It can be said that some of our initial problems may have been caused by such historic factors but have we not had 57 years to sort them out? How long do we need – two thousand years? It took China less than fifty to transform a feudal economy to a dominant modern economy.


In short, the politicians have not managed the country well but they keep telling everyone that Ghana is doing great and is respected among nations. They are lying! The country has become nothing more than an icon of mismanagement, misery and hopelessness and it is used as an example of poverty in textbooks for European children. Ghana is misruled and misled! This cannot be denied and it raises a key fundamental question; are we incapable of ruling ourselves like the racists claim or are we capable but misruling ourselves intentionally – greed maybe?

The answer to this question is neither here nor there but the evidence from global companies operating in Ghana and Ghanaians managing positions abroad and their own businesses at home suggest that we are actually more than capable of managing the country. If so why are we mismanaging it? To suggest that politicians are unwilling to manage the country properly is simply not true. I know some really capable and committed people in politics. So the question remains why is the country misruled?

This paper will try to answer this single question and explain why people who enter politics with good intention are not able to translate intent into action. This paper will also make one single recommendation which the writer believes will solve all the problems facing the country and make the country great once again.

Stage 1 – What political system do we have in Ghana? –  Democracy or dictatorship?

To understand this question we must try and compare ‘Ghana democracy’ with other systems of democracy around the world.

Structure of universal democratic political systems – Source A

Structure of Ghana political system – Source B

Democracy is a system of government. For it to work effectively certain key features must be present. Therefore it is not an accident that all major democracies around the world look similar. Source A is a simplified version of this model- USA, France and the United Kingdom have political systems with these essential features. In this model, there are two houses which censor each other. Citizens elect the President who appoints a Prime Minister and Ministers to form the government and run the country. Both the Prime Minister and the ministers have to be MPs before they can be appointed so are accountable to the Citizens who initially voted for them. The design ensures that no sections of the system have absolute power because in the words of Lord Acton ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely’.

The Ghanaian political system is quite different from the universal democratic model. It has none of the features that share power equitably and responsibly within the system. The president who appoints members of the government is also the head of government as well as head of state. He also appoints the Chief  Justice and all thirty members of the electoral commission. He appoints the Inspector General of Police and the Head of the Ghana Armed Forces. He decides the pension pot of MPs and that o his predecessors. He is the root, the stem and branches of the proverbial ‘Tree of State’. In the political football  power game, the president is the team manager, the coach and referee of a team playing against the team of the opposition parties  and we know what Lord Acton said about  the relationship between absolute power and absolute corruption. So corruption itself is not the cause of the problem; it is the consequence of the problem.

Stage 2 – So what is the Problem?

The political system in Ghana is derived by the constitution. The constitution is a very important document because it determines what can and cannot be done in government . It defines the very structure and the features of the political system. Although in theory Ghana is a democracy the constitution allows the president to behave like a dictator. The essential features to stop this from happening is not included in our democracy. The president is also the head of government; he is not expected to challenge his own policies. Ministers don’t want to challenge the president because he gave them their jobs and determines their pension.  Ministers can behave like little dictators too and they often do, most of them are not elected and therefore unaccountable.  The majority of MPs have to support the government to get the ‘contracts’ they so desperately require. They too depend on the president for their pensions. The Supreme Court is in the pocket of the president because he appoints the Chief Justice. Notwithstanding, the constitution says the president cannot be brought to court while in office so impeachment for incompetence is out of the question. There is no opposition leader in the ‘House’ to evaluate the policies of  the president and hold him accountable either. Unsurprisingly the president has learnt to ignore opposition from outside the parliament; such voices have no constitutional implications and he knows it  and if all else fail, he appointed the electoral commission and commissioner.

Stage 3 – The Consequence

If the problem is caused by the constitution the consequence is the result of human nature. All humans are greedy; it is not just a black thing but a part of human biological make up; what Richard Dawkins called ‘the selfish gene’. The universal democratic model have inherent check and balances to control greed. Commonsense presumes that if you are going to surrender control of huge resources to elected officials, you must have an effective way of monitoring them. Unfortunately the democratic structure in Ghana allows greed to flourish. The result is corruption in high, middle and all places. So corruption is not the cause of mismanagement, it is a consequence of constitutional anomaly. If you tackle this anomaly, the consequences will disappear.

How did a democratic country ended up with a dictatorship constitution?

The constitution in Ghana was designed by the NDC government for President Rawlings who had been a dictator for so long he needed a political structure that would allow him to continue his dictatorship. It was approved in 1992 through a national referendum after 92% support from Ghanaian voters. Rawlings is on record as saying he didn’t believe in democracy anyway. So in effect, Ghana’s constitution was designed by a dictator who didn’t believe in democracy and approved by 92% of us through a referendum.

No President will amend a constitution that bestows indefinite power and wealth on him without force. The Supreme Court is at the president’s mercy. The government will do what the president wants and parliament will rubber stamp whatever is put before it.  The people approved the constitution in a referendum; the people must disapprove it in another referendum. We can’t change the past but we can affect the future. This time we need to use more than words.

POST SCRIP – a simple metaphor 

A country is a train, it moves in whatever direction the track is laid. Ghanaians are the passengers of this hypothetical train, the good people of Ghana are the train drivers. No matter their determination, the drivers can never change the direction or destination of the train. The people laying the track represent the government and the constitution is the blue print that guides the track layers. The president and his government are building a track to exploit the land and its people.

Various governments had continued to use the same old track and in some cases built new ones but in the direction of the colonisers. They also use it to exploit and plunder the land and its people. They do this not because they are blacks, but because they are humans entrusted with huge resources and inadequate checks and balances. They steal from the train project to build their own toy trains inside the doomed Ghana train. The irony is when the train of state collapses, they and everything they’ve acquired will be inflamed, yet they appear not to understand the dynamics of this simple idea.

The final stage – Changing the Philosophy of Government

There must be a root and branch change of philosophy of government. This change must begin with the question what are governments for? In the case of Ghana, the answer should be to manage the national resources (both human and natural) and use the income to create conditions that individuals and enterprises could use to create further wealth. Constitutional reform is the only way to create such conditions. The constitution says only parliament can amend the constitution. Parliament says the general public should amend the constitution – they are buying time because they have no intention of amending something that confers unlimited power and wealth on themselves.  You and I have to compel them!

‘The Prof’

June 2016