The abdication of shareholders duty in any organisation leads to the management of the company most likely doing things in their favour as against the collective interest of the shareholders. Ghana, as an entity, has evolved from sole proprietorship under Military Rule to a public limited liability under the 1992 Constitution. Since then, shareholders (voters) have had voting rights every 4 years to determine the following;
- Management Shareholders who are temporary management shareholders of the country (Party in Power)
- Proxy Shareholders (MPs). Thomas Paine, in his discourse on politics in his book, COMMON SENSE, defined elected representatives as proxies/people, who due to the inability of all citizens to gather in a single place to debate and deliberate on laws, policies, programmes, etc. under the framework of the Constitution, are elected to represents the citizens in Congress/Parliament.
Thomas Paine defined constitution “as not an act of government but of a PEOPLE, constituting a government; and a government without a constitution is a power without a right. All power exercised over a nation must have some beginning’’.
The citizens are the beginning of power; and, in fact, the beginning and end of power is the people. They constitute a government and thus the constitution. The essence of a constitution then, in my view, is to benefit the people and to enable the people exercise control over a government and not vice versa.
Ordinary shareholders (people citizens) elect the management and proxy shareholders as posited. Per our voters register/constitution the citizens of Ghana, as Thomas Paine posits in COMMON SENSE, are the sovereign power and authority of the state. Unfortunately, in Ghana almost all-key agreements concerning this country are hidden from them. Pertinent information, such as natural resource contracts and financial performance of sovereign wealth funds that are made public in Norway, Australia, etc. are never made so in Ghana. The Auditor-General’s Reports/Parliament PAC Reports we read year after year make us puke; yet we – the shareholders – sit back docile. Scarce financial resources are lost or embezzled, and that hurts citizens’ shareholder value in the form of lost opportunities for hospitals, schools, roads, etc. We have loan deals that even the proxies (MP) only see the master agreements without sighting the various underlying loan agreements. MPs of the opposition, most times, do not even sight paramount variables such as financial/social covenants, warranties, pricing, security, default conditions, remedies/waivers, special conditions, etc.
The Ghanaian society and its shareholding citizens have also been let down by another class of equity holders whom I term the preference shareholders. These are businesspersons whose sole interest is their business and their financial gains as against the national interest or the common citizens’ shareholder value. These oligarchs play all sides of the political coins, and are more of ‘tender-prenuership’ and ‘reli-preneurship’. The least said about this class of citizens, the better – and they are known all over. My concern with this equity class is they take undue advantage of the weak and dark windows surrounding the financing of political parties to the ruthless pursuit of their interest.
The behaviour of the major political parties since the inception of the 1992 Constitution has given the citizen shareholders a toll of burdens to think and worry about in recent times.
Any common person on the streets of Ghana knows that the present system and Constitution favours any present and prospective politician; and it is an obvious fact that they will never change the Constitution on their own volition until compelled by acts of commissions and omissions by the populace (Ordinary Citizen Shareholders).
The present constitution has a lot of challenges and limitations to that effect. In addition, there are issues emerging over the last 30 years on this 1992 Constitution, and other issues not included but made relevant by time. Examples are as follows;
- Essence of a debt ceiling
- Should MPs who are our proxies to protect our interest and to serve as checks on the Executive (Temporary Shareholders) serve as ministers?
- Ex gratia to MPs, ministers, Judiciary, Council of State, etc.
- Political party financing.
- Powers of the presidency to set up committees to determine Executive and Legislature emoluments.
- Exceeding appointing powers of the president similar to a monarchy.
- Medical access of Executive and MPs to foreign hospitals. How will the medical lot of the ordinary shareholders improve if people we elect grant themselves such benefits?
- Maximum limit to tenure of MPs as happens to the Executive?
- Who checks the claims and expenses of the Judiciary and Legislature? Jeffrey Archer, my best novelist, was jailed for 10 years because of £100 excess claims in UK; can we have that opportunity here?
- Election of MMDCEs.
- Can we have a strengthened and less cumbersome RTI bill as in UK? We, the sovereign people, need tighter controls on all 3 arms of government.
- The essence of an enshrined National Charity Commission to regulate all places of worship/churches, mosques, etc. Recent happenings in society makes this urgent.
- Taxation of churches/mosques, etc.? Is this justifiable in the 22nd century?
An unexamined life is not worth living. Ama Ghana has travelled 30 years with the 1992 Constitution, and over time, politicians (parties in power, MPs) and civil societies have all identified serious lapses in the 1992 Constitution, and a need for an improvement /review.
Improved constitution as urgently as possible
The content of the South African Constitution is a good step for a constitutional change and an improved governance system. We can study recent reviews/amendments made in Bolivia, Kenya, Chile, etc. to deliver something concrete to improve our lot as a people. We need not wait to speculate that a new political party in government will change the constitution. No! Neither do we need the late President Mills joke of a Constitutional Review Committee.
We are the shareholders, we own and have the sovereign power. We must decide now what we want, not what the politicians tell us or decide for us.
What we need are the following steps;
- Formation of a coalition of stakeholders, such as TUC, GNAT, ICU, health workers, GRNMA, GMA, GNCCI, GUTA, Christian Council of Ghana, Ghana Muslims Association, Traditional Healers Association, VAG, Retired Police Officers, National Pensioners Association, National House Of Chiefs, etc. on the business case for a new constitution.
- Key stakeholders coming together to issue a notice of request to the government on the request mentioned earliar. Notice time must be maximum 1 month from notice submission date.
- Members of the Drafting Committee could be selected from existing MPs, civil societies, unions, religious bodies, National House of Chiefs, etc.
- The committee needs to finish its work in 10 months. The milestones could be as follows: December 2023 as final submission to Executive and Legislature.
- Citizens’ information dissemination and feedback by June 2023.
- If possible, a vote on the new constitution before the next General Elections or pragmatically after 2024 elections.
- A new constitution is paramount to the progress of this country; or else, changing governments and having elections after elections will have no fundamental positivity on the country’s development – we will still be same old song of corruption and vested interest cycle.
All Ghanaians have a role to play in this democratic dispensation as Lincoln put it: “A government of the people, by the people and for the people’’.
Role of elderly statesmen/ retirees/ pensioners
Many highly experienced professionals are past their 60s but still possess their sharp analytical mind, and can easily express their views and opinion on issues of national importance. These men and women of substance can easily speak truth to power and will be better as media resource persons than the usual all-knowing political party apogees who spew political propaganda and toxic misinformation on radio and TV.
Elders in Russia, in 1998, saw the economic misery of the country after the 1998 currency collapse, the series of serious governance goofs by Yeltsin, the strangling of the country resources by greedy oligarchs, and series of military setbacks with the sinking of the KURSK submarine/Chechnya war, and took the bull by the horn to rescue their country. The elders identified and guided a group of young patriots and technocrats, like Putin, Chubais, etc., and these started their country revival. 20 years down the line, they could stand on their own financially and economically under the worst of western government sanctions. This is what patriots do – they act for their states’ interest and not complain behind power and lament bitterly at funerals and social gatherings.
Stakeholders such as the youth, media, unions and think tanks are all relatively important for this task’s accomplishment.
Think tanks, by the virtue of their definition, can assist in undertaking research work on various constitutional improvements across the world in recent times to guide the public, unions, etc. on valuable inputs into the review of our current 1992 Constitution.
The frequent noise and opinion-sharing on social media and mainstream media on a need for a constitutional change or review must be accompanied by action.
Action without vision is just passing time, and vision without actions is daydreaming. The time to act is now.
Act! Act now on what is right for the state, and enhances value of the state stock to our benefits (I mean all shareholding citizens, and not to the benefits of temporary managers, proxies and preference shareholders.)
Wake up citizens of Ghana! The value of our stock is depreciating in value day in day out while the lot of the temporary managers, proxies and preference shareholders keeps rising and getting better.