Brothers and sisters, we have come to part 2 of our discipleship classes on Afremocracy. This part is going to deal with the structure of the state. As you all know, structure defines outcome.
Good structure, good outcome. Bad structure, bad outcome. It is my belief that our country is in a mess now because we started with a bad structure and we have maintained that bad structure.
Its about time to change the bad structure to a good structure so that we can have good outcome. The structure which we advocate is Economic Federalism or Ecofed.
Before I go further, I would like to define some key terms so that we get our bearings right. The first term is the unitary state.
A unitary state is a constitutionally mandated system that concentrates power in the hand of one man, one party and one place.
At independence, it was Kwame Nkrumah, CPP and Accra, today it is Nana Akuffo Addo, NPP and Accra.
Unitary state has nothing to do with a united people or national cohesion.
Its just a system of power distribution; in this case, all the power stays at one place and if the president whom I call a Santa President, is a good guy, then he can give some of the power out for the people to exercise the power on his behalf at regional and/or local levels.
You see, there isn’t much difference between a unitary state and one-party state. The only difference is that in the unitary state, like we have in Ghana, we hold multi-party elections.
But after the multi-party elections, we form what? one-party government. It doesn’t matter the margin – you can even win with 50.1 and you will have all power in the country.
That’s why a former president can say “yen tie obiaa”, when all he got was 50.7 of the votes. I don’t want to waste time on this.
The next one, the alternative state structure is the federal state. A Federal state is also constitutionally mandated state system that divides power and responsibilities between a national government and sub-national governments.
The sub-national entities may be called states, provinces or regions – choose one. And the Constitution actually decides what each government does.
The relationship is fairly horizontal; and the governments are supposed to complement each other. That’s the kind of government or system we advocate.
There are different federal systems – the one we actually want for Ghana is economic federalism. And that’s what this lecture will focus on.
But I must say that its quite a loaded stuff, so I may actually divide the lecture into 2 or 3.
Federalism is not the same as decentralization. Decentralization is devolution of power from a central government to local governments.
Its not division of power – its devolution of power. Ghana has probably the worst form of decentralization. Because the regional minister is the chief representative of the President in the regions.
The district, municipal and metropolitan chief executives are the chief representatives of the President in the district, municipal and metropolitan areas.
They are all accountable to him and not to the people – they do his bidding. It’s even worse in Ghana because the President again, appoints 30% of the membership of these local assemblies.
The president owns the country. That’s what I mean – there is very little difference between what we have now and the one-party state. How did we get here?
You see to have a proper structure to give us the possible outcomes, we have to investigate how we got here. We cannot just do a cosmetic something to the system and think that we are going to be successful.
We need a whole politicoplasty – plastic surgery on our political structure. Talking about how we got here, I don’t even know where to begin, but I will try and simplify it.
We had three elections before Independence – 1951, 1954 and 1956. In 1951, 38 seats were contested. CPP, led then by Gbedemah (because Nkrumah was then in prison) won 34 of these seats; UGCC led by Danquah won only 2 and the other 2 seats went to independents.
After this, the UGCC dissolved. Nkrumah was released from prison and he became the head of government business in Parliament.
Then 1954 elections – before the elections, Nkrumah and Gbedemah promised cocoa farmers that they will float the producer price of cocoa – i.e. it would be linked to the world cocoa price and the farmers voted massively for CPP.
Now, when the UGCC was dissolved, Busia formed Ghana Congress Party – so in the ’54 elections it was actually fought by CPP, GCP and NPP (Northern Peoples’ Party led by Simone Dombo).
(8:46) And Busia won only one seat, nationwide, and that one seat was in Ashanti – his own seat in Wenchi and he won only by a small margin. So, you could see how CPP swept everything even in Ashanti.
But just after the elections, I think a month or so after, Gbedemah went to Parliament and announced that cocoa prices were going to be fixed and also, an export duty of 10% was going to be slapped on cocoa.
This created massive problems among cocoa farmers in Ashanti and that led to the formation of the National Liberation Movement – NLM by Bafuor Akoto, the Chief Linguist of the Ashantehene.
NLM came with a different political structure in mind – they wanted a federal state. Nkrumah wanted a unitary state. And this was a tussle between 1954 September when NLM was formed and July 1956 when the ’56 elections/independence elections were held.
In the middle, sometime in Sept 1955, upon request from Nkrumah, the Queen sent to Ghana, Sir Frederick Burns, a renowned constitutional authority who played a great role in the divorce between India and Pakistan in 1947, to come and help Ghana design a new Constitution for its independence.
When Frederick Burns came, I think he toured Ghana for about 5 weeks, held meetings with all stakeholders. Those who refused to meet him were the NLM members.
When Sir Burns finished, he recommended regionalism, that there should be regional assemblies that should form the bridge between national government and local governments.
And the national government should devolve some power and responsibilities to these regional assemblies. Nkrumah accepted the concept; NLM rejected it.
The Governor Gen. accepted it and it was entrenched in the independence constitution. It was entrenched – that meant that it could only be repealed by 2/3 majority by members in Parliament – and that’s what happened.
Anyway, under these regional assemblies, Ghana was divided into 5 regions – Eastern, Western, Ashanti, Trans-Volta Togoland and Northern Territories.
And each regional assembly was supposed to be headed by someone selected by the Regional House of Chiefs – except Ashanti, which was supposed to be headed by the Asantehene.
And then there were some basic functions devolved to the regional assemblies which were going to be complemented by parliament – in fact the basic ones (functions) were local government, education, agriculture, health, country and town planning and those others that would be determined by Parliament.
Now, not long after Independence – at the 1956 elections Nkrumah won 71 out of the 104 seats so he got 68% or so members of Parliament that gave him more than 2/3’s majority and he used this majority to repeal sections 32, 33, 35 (of the Constitution) which dealt with entrenched provisions and from that, he was able to repeal the Regional Assemblies’ Act.
That’s how we ended up with the unitary state, but it wasn’t meant to be so. Now, the interesting thing is this – obviously, with the collapse of the regional states, all power went to the President/Prime Minister, his party and all power was concentrated in Accra.
Interestingly, the regional assembly system that Sir Burns recommended for us is what UK itself started in 1997 – with the establishment of regional parliaments for Scotland, Whales and Northern Ireland.
So if we had kept the faith, if we had not abandoned this recommendation, we would have been 40 years ahead of the UK in constitutional development and there is no doubt in my mind, Ghana would not be where it is today.
In fact, if the NLM had been strategic, I am sure by now we would have been a full federal state, – just as UK is moving towards maximum devolution to Scotland, which is a code for federalism.
But we missed it, we missed it badly. And I am sure that if we had kept the faith and had not moved away from the recommendation, we probably wouldn’t have the problem of the Volta we have today, because they would have started with a plan or system that gave them some autonomy and the space to chart their own developmental agenda.
And the same would have happened to the other regions anyway. But we missed the boat. We are here because of errors made 60 or so years ago. But we cannot sit down and cry.
We have got to go back to the drawing board – and that’s what I have done. And that’s what I would communicate with you.
In the next part, we would look into economic federalism – how the states would be structured, how the states would be funded and the numerous benefits for Ghanaians.
Thank you very much – God bless you all.
Recorded – June 5th 2019