As Ghana celebrates Constitution Day, much is expected from both duty bearers and citizens on how to consolidate the growing constitutional democracy the country is enjoying which has become the envy of many countries across the globe.
Interestingly, the role of Parliament is considered paramount in achieving this goal.
In 2006, during the Parliamentary Week Celebrations, Prof. Kenneth Agyemang Attafuah, then an Associate Professor of Leadership and Governance at the Graduate School of Leadership and Public Management of the Ghana Institute of Management & Public Administration (GIMPA), at a symposium organised by the Parliament of Ghana gave a touching speech which is relevant today as the country celebrates its Constitution Day.
Speaking on the theme; “Parliament, The Bastion of Constitutional Democracy: Effecting a Meaningful Relationship With the Citizenry,” he said it is the responsibility of citizens to address the problems that frustrate, frighten or distance them from one another and that when citizens get involved and organized, they achieve progress.
Meanwhile, he said Parliament on the other hand, has a responsibility to foster a sense of public-spiritedness in every Ghanaian since “good and effective citizenship do not come about naturally or by chance either; they require preparation. To better engage with the citizenry and enhance their relevance in contemporary Ghana, MPs must consider making it their business to ensure that “Preparation for Citizenship” is incorporated in every level of our formal education.”
He said Parliamentarians must give due recognition to the vital role of civil society in preserving and strengthening democracy in Ghana.
According to Prof. Attafuah, Parliament needs a strong partnership from both sides and that should reflect an enduring image of our Parliament.
The recent incident in Parliament where the Minority and the Majority virtually fight over the E-levy is nothing but an indication of a breakdown in such partnership and collaboration towards a common good of the country.
According to Prof. Attafuah the incidents highlighting partisanship are probably few and far between, by their ferocity and widespread media coverage, they serve to provide a caricature of parliamentary discourses, and what crystallizes in the public consciousness is not the occasional failure of the House to achieve compromise, but rather the image of perennial partisanship.
He urged strong collaboration between civil society and Parliament so as to build a strong but humane society.
“In short, let them work together to ensure security, comfort and freedom.
In this 2006 seminal lecture, he highlighted the respective obligations of Parliament and the citizenry in quickening “the sense of public duty” and transmitting to the next generation of Ghanaian a nation “not less, but greater, better and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us”.
Prof. Attafuah condemned the “pit-bull partisanship” that had become an enduring image of our Parliament and that insults the intelligence and sense of decency and fairness of the discerning observer of Parliamentary proceedings and their subsequent media coverage.
He invited MPs to “individually and collectively …win and retain the respect of the citizenry by “moderating the incidence, frequency and fire of partisanship in the House … improving the quality of civility in Parliamentary debates and discourses … promoting civility and lawfulness in the wider society, including the promotion of civic journalism”, and promoting civic engagement”.
In addition, Prof. Attafuah outlined several strategies for strengthening the role of Parliament in Ghana’s democracy, and emphasized the crucial need for MPs to maintain relevance and to push the frontiers of participatory democracy.
He reminded MPs of their duty to the electorate to be the best public officers in their respective constituencies, charging them to evince a solid commitment to public service and good governance through the ordinary principles of public service, including integrity, devotion to duty, efficiency, punctuality, courtesy, neutrality in public service delivery, impartiality, and attentiveness and sensitivity to the needs of the diverse publics they serve.
Prof. Attafuah also shared several thoughts on how to grapple with the challenge of building an effective Parliament and to strengthen constitutionalism in Ghana.
Prof. Kenneth Agyemang Attafuah is currently the Executive Secretary of the National Identification Authority(NIA).