It has been said that “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others”. We, in Ghana, should know, for we have tried virtually all the others. We have held elections that were not free and fair; we have had constitutional regimes without limitations placed on executive power; we have had rule by law without rule of law; and we have lived under a number of military dictatorships.
Just as we demonstrated in the drive towards independence in the 1940s and 1950s, we showed again in the 1990s, after the initial decades of turbulence in our national life, our determination to live in conditions of freedom and democracy. So it was that on 28th April 1992, some 31 years ago, we approved, by an overwhelming margin in a Referendum of that day, with 3,408,119 persons, representing 92.59%, in favour, with 272,855 persons against, i.e. a mere 7.41%, the adoption of the provisions of the Constitution of the 4th Republic, which set up the institutions of a liberal democratic state, operating on the basis of the separation of powers, with express guarantees of fundamental human rights. It was, thus, promulgated with immense, popular backing.
Tomorrow, Saturday, 7th January 2023, will be exactly 30 years since the Constitution of the 4th Republic came into force, with the inauguration into office of the first President of the 4th Republic, His Excellency the late Jerry John Rawlings. It has inspired the longest period of stable constitutional governance in our history, with a consensus emerging strongly that the democratic form of governance is preferable, and the benefits are showing. Hence the decision to celebrate 7th January as Constitution Day.
Our country is considered a beacon of democracy and stability in Africa, where respect for the principles of democratic accountability, human rights and the rule of law have enabled us to oversee eight presidential elections in the 4th Republic, with five presidential transitions, and three peaceful transfers of power, through the ballot box, from one party to another. We have every right to be proud of this, and the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the 4th Republic should inspire us, even further, to hold on to this status.
Fellow Ghanaians, I acknowledge that the strength of any democracy is very much determined by the credibility of its electoral process, and respect for the will of the people. We cannot overlook the fact that instability has followed disputed elections in many parts of the African continent.
That is why we, in Ghana, must continue to urge the Electoral Commission to work to ensure that all stakeholders in the electoral process, that is the citizenry, civil society and political parties, do not have lingering questions about the legitimacy of an election. On the two occasions in which disputes have arisen over the results of presidential elections, happily, it was in the court, and not on the streets, that the issues were satisfactorily resolved.
By all accounts, we have come a long way, and we should not take it for granted that everybody in Ghana has accepted democracy as the preferred mode of governance. There are those who would rather have an authoritarian rule because they claim our country is underdeveloped and democracy is cumbersome, and we need to get things done in a hurry. We still have some work to do to convince such people that we are all safer under democracies.
Nevertheless, if we seek to prolong our democratic journey, it is imperative that we enhance transparency and accountability in our governance structures, and build strong institutions that can fight corruption and the dissipation of public funds. I say, without any form of equivocation, that my government has undertaken, arguably, the boldest initiatives since independence to reform and strengthen the capacity of our institutions to tackle corruption in the public sector, including the financial empowerment of the anti-corruption bodies, the passage of the Right to Information Act, which previous administrations had been unable to effect, and the establishment of the Office of Special Prosecutor, an independent, non-partisan body, with the relevant professional capability and exclusive mandate to investigate and prosecute acts of corruption.
As President of the Republic, I assure you that, out of duty to our children and grandchildren, and to generations yet unborn, my government will not give up when it comes to deepening our democracy and guaranteeing the integrity of the electoral process, and neither should you, the Ghanaian people. We do not have to look far back into history to see that a stable period of constitutional government and intelligent management of the economy lead to prosperity. We must do everything within our means to safeguard our democracy.
Tomorrow’s milestone is to the great credit of you, the Ghanaian people, the ordinary men and women who make up the fabric of our nation. Thirty years ago, all of us resolved to build, under God, a united nation, grounded in democratic values and the rule of law. We have advanced a great deal in realising this vision, and I am confident that, with a spirit of fairness, hard work, integrity and reconciliation, the best days of Mother Ghana lie ahead of us.
Even though we are presently confronted with difficulties in our economic performance, I do not doubt our collective resolve to work our way out of these challenges and put our nation back onto the path of progress and prosperity. Let us, therefore, continue to work to create the platform for the evolution of a new Ghanaian civilisation, which will give true meaning to the foundational values of freedom and justice on which our nation was birthed.
Long Live Constitution Day, Long Live Ghanaian democracy,
Long Live the 4th Republic.
Thank you for your attention and have a good evening.