The Managing Partner of the law firm, Bentsil-Enchil, Letsa and Ankomah, Mr Ace Anan Ankomah, has told participants at the 70th Annual New Year School (ANYS) that sovereignty resides in them.
That, therefore, made the President of the country their chief servant and ministers, mere servants.
“So if a person is a president that person is just your chief servant. It is not for any reason that those who work in power are called ministers; ministers are servants, they are not servants of the president, but servants of you and I, the people of Ghana in whom sovereignty resides,” he said.
Mr Ankomah said this in his discussion of the topic: “Civic education — Building a stronger civil society for effective accountability,” during a panel meeting at the 70 ANYS last Wednesday.
He said the solemn commitment to the principles of democracy, openness and rule by the people and not royals, as captured in the preamble of the 1992 Constitution, ensured that all powers of the government sprung from the sovereign will of the people.
“England might have a sovereign Parliament, we do not have a sovereign Parliament. You and I, are the repository of sovereignty in Ghana,” he stated passionately, with clenched fist.
Rights and responsibilities
Mr Ankomah said ample rights and opportunities had been given by the Constitution for citizens to be responsible for their governance and welfare.
That extended to social movements being formed by citizens to cause change or resist change.
He said that right of sovereignty reposed in the people, went hand in hand with duties or responsibilities.
“Your right is always together with your duty and key duty that the constitution imposes on you in addition to the right is to protest and preserve public property, expose and combat misuse and waste of public funds and property,“ he told participants.
“Our right are inseparable from the performance of duties,” he stated.
He said the duty of exposing and combatting misuse of public property was the basis of the formation of social movements.
“So social movements should be an essential part of our drive to consolidate democracy,” Mr Ankomah said.
“It will be a shame if all we did to further democracy, was to vote every four years to punish whoever is in power who has attracted our ire and anger,” he added.
Rather, he said: “we should be interested in what a government is doing while he, she or it is in power!...” he stressed.
He said if citizens did not hold the feet of politicians to the fire, they would do as they pleased knowing that they had a cycle of four or eight years to enjoy a lifestyle that they could only have dreamt of.
He said the duopoly of the country’s politics, with no third force, meant that social movements were going to be that third force to ensure change.
“Until a viable third force party arises, social movements would be the viable third force party in the country,” he stated.
When the Chairperson of the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), Ms Josephine Nkrumah took her turn, she criticised Ghanaians who had made it a habit of blaming the NCCE for every societal evil.
She said although it was unfair for all faults to be blamed on the NCCE because people thought that it was not sensitising people enough, that state of affairs was however positive.
It was positive, she pointed out, because it showed that people were desirous of the need to know and engage the system.
She said in as much as the NCCE had the responsibility to sensitise, it was constrained financially, and like other institutions, they were jostling for the same source of money from the government.
“Can you imagine that last year our budget was GH¢2 million; and of the GH¢2 million we have 254 district offices, 10 regional offices and one head office. This GH¢2 million must cut across all our dstrict, regional and the head office in driving civic education. We must use it for programmes, we must use it for goods and services, we must use it for all operations, including fuel, utilities, rent, name it!” she stated.
She said it got worse as out of the amount they barely got a GH¢1million as the third and fourth quarter releases of 2018 never came through.
“So there is a lot for all of us to do, and as I said, civic education is a shared responsibility so beyond what NCCE does, each and every one must, by default, become a civic educator and it starts from your home, school, religious platforms, from your work, what you do to promote civic awareness,” Ms Nkrumah said.
She said if the provisons in the Constitutions were adhered to, they would guide appropriately, and emphasised the collective roles of all in being responsible citizens who participate actively in deeply democratising the country saying “It starts with you.”
Ms Nkrumah said although all could continue charging the government and public institutions in ensuring democratisation, all should remember that active citizens superintended the whole process for success.
She said until all came to the realisation that power flowed from them for governance to ensure the progress needed, the country would countinue to wallow in helplessness and expect the government to act.
“Ghana will stay underveloped and unchanged unless we all purposefully engage for change,” she maintained.
She challenged all to get involved, identify unit committee members at the local level to get to know what development efforts were on-going at their various localities, and charged OccupyGhana, a pressure group, to join in the advocacy to get the NCCE more resourced to engage in civic sensitisation across the country.
The Chairman for the discussion, was the Acting Provost of the College of Education and Dean of the School of Distance and Continuing Studies of the University of Ghana, Prof. Michael Tagoe.