Winner-takes-all approach to governance too costly – UPSA dean

Dr. Ernest Kofi Abotsi
  • calls for constitutional review overstated
  • enforcement of existing provisions a greater priority

The economic cost of the winner-takes-all approach that characterises our local governance cannot be overemphasised and remains a significant threat to national development, Dean of the University for Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA) faculty of law, Dr. Ernest Kofi Abotsi has said.

With rising levels of public debt and government expenditure and multiple fiscal leakages, he is of the opinion that the constant disruptions, particularly to employment in the public sector and contracts with every successive change of government, serves to derail economic continuity.

Offering these thoughts at the inaugural One Ghana Constitution Day public lecture under the theme ‘Realising the ’92 Constitution beyond elections: Citizenship, Public Goods and Inclusive Governance’, he referenced an earlier study of his wherein he highlighted the threat from the phenomenon.

“The practice of winner takes all is perhaps the most dangerous threat to our constitutional stability, given the heightened costs it introduces into our politics. In other words, where citizens feel threatened in employment, resource allocation or contracting by changes in government, resorting to violence becomes inevitable. The increasing incidence and intensity of electoral conflict may just be a reflection of growing frustration with the practice and the yawning divide in our politics,” he observed.

He therefore called for all stakeholders to favour merit as the basis for governance and eschew the practice of exclusivity – noting that while it might benefit a few in the short-term, it will be detrimental to the nation in the long-run. “Reducing the stakes through inclusive governance is a strategic way of reducing the costs, and thereby the threatened instability to Ghana’s governance,” he added.

Constitutional review

With calls for a constitutional review to address such matters gaining momentum, particularly in the light of recent post-election events locally and internationally, Dr. Abotsi believes that these sentiments are not new and are sadly overstated and oversimplified.

He is of the opinion that the text of the Constitution, in its current form, requires little if any adjustment – but points to the actors involved in application of the text as doing it devoid of the spirit in which the framers of the document intended.

“The distorted application of various aspects of the constitution has resulted in the application of what may aptly be called a ‘shadow constitution’- rules of the constitution that may have been reinterpreted in ways which enhance executive and administrative power, or undermine the very value for which these rules were incorporated into the constitution in the first place,” he said.

Additionally, Dr. Abosti argues that due to the time lapse required for a proper review and referendum to be conducted, more often than not the intended reforms become outdated by the time they come into effect – thereby defeating their intended purpose.

Continuous public engagement, he believes, will enlighten citizens on their rights and responsibilities; and will result in them holding their governors to higher standards of accountability, in accordance with the constitution

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