I grew up at the feet of a father who loved to tell stories. As such, despite being the youngest on this lineup, I have with much regret picked up a habit of old men. That of convoluted storytelling. And so today, I want to tell you a story.

It is a story I have decided to call “A constitution of our making”. Like every story told by an old man, there are parts of what I am going to say where you might not even know where I am going with this. But stay with me, I promise it will make sense in the end.  

See, the truth is, I have decided that a story rather than an academic presentation, will speak better to your hearts and minds. In stating my case for a new constitution, I have chosen to speak directly to you; not at you! I have not presumed that you do not appreciate what the issues are or what the arguments on all sides are.

It’s been 30 years of this kind of conversation. So you know the main proposals and all the old arguments, presented and represented every day.

So, I tell you this story only to attempt one last plea; on behalf of my generation. A generation that lives today on the edges of despair!  May you hear us.

In 1787, the roots of a new Nation were planted far away across the other side of the Atlantic. With the birth of that Nation, the United States of America, humans came upon a new idea. It was something they called a constitution.

In giving to themselves that Constitution, these new Americans broke off the shackles of colonial Britain, and made for themselves a rendezvous with destiny. A rendezvous of their own choosing and a Constitution of their own making.

As Abraham Lincoln would later say of that Constitution eloquently, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

It has been 245 years since the American constitution was adopted. 245 years!

But what has America got to do with Ghana?

Well three score, and 6 years ago, our founding generation, gambled for themselves to a tryst with destiny. As the Union Jack of colonial Britain was being lowered and the flag of our new Nation was being hoisted up, our founding fathers also made a bet with the world.

They bet that soon a time will come when our people, then and tomorrow, will show the world, that the Black man was capable of managing his own affairs. They captured their ambition as a desire to build a Republic conceived of Freedom and Justice. And so we made the project of ensuring for all our people “Freedom and Justice”, our national creed.

Yet the project that they set in motion was soon disrupted in 1966, and on a couple of other times, until 1992.

Thirty-one years ago, this month, on 28th April 1991, a little over 3 million of our people joined queues to adopt for themselves and the coming generation a new Constitution. In so doing, they hoped that they too had planted firm the roots of liberty. That they had established a framework of government which was capable of securing for themselves and posterity the blessing of liberty, equality of opportunity and prosperity.

The document they gave birth to, PNDC LAW 282, or as we prefer to call it, the 1992 Constitution, is 30 years old. Apart from the Liberian Constitution of 1986, ours is the oldest in the West African Sub-region. This is no doubt something many deem worth celebrating. And it is.

Yet over the past few years, you have heard many young people call for a New Constitution for A New Generation. Their calls for us to contend with the injustices that the 1992 Constitution has created have only grown louder and gained more constituency since the idea was first championed by #FixTheCountry; a movement I am proud to be associated with.

Why? Because if anything, the 30 years we have given to the 1992 Constitution tells you that this is not a rushed decision. It shows you that we have been patient with the 1992 Constitution, and we have given it enough opportunities to show us the path forward. Time and time, it has failed to deliver to us the blessings of prosperity and equal opportunity. Directly because of it, a select few prosper at the expense of all.

Despite this truth, many continue to genuinely ask, if the American Constitution has survived 245 years, and has been amended 27 times; why must we throw away 30 years of our tradition for a new Constitution? Why can’t we just amend ours too?

After all, America is perhaps the greatest country in the World; and we must follow its example of constitutional longevity.

Those arguments seem compelling, and they are compelling to many. But when the story of the American Constitution is told, very often we tell it by glossing over its history.

Many forget that to preserve the Constitution and its union, America had to fight a civil war. A war that left between 620,000 and 750,000 soldiers dead, along with an estimated 50,000 civilian casualties. The Civil War, a result of a constitutional crisis is still today the deadliest military conflict in American history.

The Liberian Constitution is the oldest in West Africa. Liberians have fought 2 civil wars to make their constitution the oldest in the Region. Over 200,000 lost their lives; over one million were displaced and a generation was damaged for life over the traumas of those wars.

This Republic Our Republic does not have a civil war to give. It cannot survive another coup, another revolution or even an Arab Spring as our President, then a Candidate used to warn us is very imminent. We may not have the incredible luck or fortunes of America to allow our Republic to be pushed into a civil war or such an uprising. I assure you, we won’t survive it.

We cannot be fixated on constitutional longevity to the detriment of how we build a just Society together. Old Constitutions do not produce justice just because they are old. There is nothing more detrimental to nation-building than a blind fascination with things considered old and untouchable.

If not, we become the abused wife who is still devoted to his abusive and alcoholic husband because she does not know how to live differently. In fact, in 1980, when Samuel Doe and a small number of soldiers overthrew President William Tolbert in Liberia, they were also overthrowing a Constitution that had been in force since 1847.

Let the Liberian example be our guiding post. Old Constitutions do not stop Coups, only a true democracy that guarantees for its citizens the fruits of justice and the equality of opportunity and prosperity.

Here is the truth we are facing; Our Constitution, PNDC Law 282, has lost the capacity to generate a framework for justice or to secure for us the blessings of equal opportunity and prosperity. Its soul and spirit have been compromised by a generation of greed and decay.

For 30 years, we have, with the complicity of the 1992 Constitution, built a society that thrives on exclusion and violence. A Republic where soldiers can walk into and brutalize an entire community because one of them lost his yam phone.

Where our military can with the blessings of our president and his appointees descend on a community with the heavy machinery our taxes paid for, to lash, slash and maim over 2000 people in Ashaiman because one of their own had been killed by thieves. And when they are done, they gloat on national TV in front of an impotent President and a demoralized people.

Where those with access and privilege, members of the ruling class, call the Military secretly to congratulate them for unleashing their terror and inhumanity on us!

And yet our Constitution keeps silent? Speak if you are alive! Protect us if you are not dead! When those charged with giving life to a constitution can look the other way as so many of our people hunger and die, without any sense of obligation or shame; when Ghanaians are killed at will and randomly with impunity from Ejura to Techiman; when our existence as citizens is only tolerated by a political class that has not yet to found the way to get rid of us; where our cry for the Freedom and Justice our father’s promised us is mocked; How dare you tell me that this is a Constitutional Democracy.

We are living in an era where the pensions of our fathers; and the toil of our mothers is at risk because our Government will rather borrow to enrich themselves and their cousins and pursue grandiose cathedrals of doom.

Where our schools are being deprived of investment; and our hospitals are running out of vaccines. Where young people have no jobs. All public sector jobs are either reserved for political party foot soldiers; depend on protocol; who you know;  and payment of bribe. Yet we pretend not to notice all this.

Economic despair is prominent on the cheeks and rib cages of all except government appointees, and their family and friends. We are lost as a people and yet we are presented with no way out of this economic abyss. They told us that the E-Levy was going to be the game changer.

They told us if we passed the E-Levy, they will be more accountable and they will reduce waste and profligacy. We warned you. Young people whose future is at stake warned you. Because of our impassioned opposition to that E-levy, I was arrested; tortured and unlawfully detained for 35 days.

They passed it. Then they added more ministers to their Government, complicit as always, our Parliament passed that too. Today, while you and I slept; like a thief at night, our Parliament again passed three new oppressive taxes. Just like the E-Levy, they carried into the Chambers a Parliamentarian who was on his sick bed; running straight from the scene of an accident to commit another accident of history.

They will continue to strip us all naked till we have nothing more to give. And yet they refuse to reduce the size of their government; or cut down on their profligacy. At our expense.

Many Banks and businesses have been crushed to death. The only ones thriving are theirs and those they collude with to rob the public treasury. Today, as we knock on the door of the IMF for the 17th time; as the Vice President of America promises to send us colonial economic advisors; as the German Ambassador lectures us to cut down the size of our government and the Dutch Ambassador tells us “Why not Ghana beyond corruption”?, it is clear that we have lost the bet our fathers made to show the world that we, as the pride of black Africa, are capable of our managing our own affairs.

Oh, what a sad existence! We have lost our national pride.

I assure you! This era of greed; impunity and dispossession cannot continue forever! We must reverse course now or we will lose this project. This experiment will fail if we do not address its inherent injustices. We cannot continue to ignore; mock; and ridicule the real pain and suffering of our people.

We cannot continue to look the other way, while our citizens are forced to live in a Republic that dispenses to us, its inhumanity every now and then just because it can. Because they can, they oppress us!

For how long will we continue to perform democracy for foreign audiences, while we live under the rule of the gun; and immoral profiteering? No country forged in brute force, under-development and economic violence has ever survived the test of destiny.

This refusal to reckon with the true face of injustice in this Republic will not survive forever.

Now, why do I believe a New Constitution is our only path forward?

First, there are many people, lawyers especially, who fail to appreciate the essence of a constitution and the role it occupies in the national psyche. They see the Constitution only as a legal document; and as such they approach it with the lens of a contract or commercial lawyer.

As contract lawyers, they have only one way of seeing the proposals on the table. Amend! Oh, why not just amend something small here and there so we move on. The mistake they make is that they assume there is a constituency of people who actually believe in this Constitution. And that all we need is a few textual amendments for it to work. The problem we are facing isn’t one of bad or inelegant drafting. It is about restoring back faith in project Ghana. I am sorry! Cutting and pasting here and there will not solve the problem.  

Secondly, There are also many who say that our Constitution is perfect, and that it is us Ghanaians who are bad people. And that Until we fix ourselves, nothing will change. In all my life and that of those before, I have never seen any nation built out of angels and a people without blemish.

When we hear these arguments, we must pay critical attention to those who say these things. Because among that crowd are also people whose palm kernels have been cracked by the benevolence of the gluttony that this era has enabled. They have made themselves rich from the profligacy of this era of greed. And now they shape-shift as intellectual apostles whose only aim and ambition is to preserve a status quo that has dealt very well with them.

They speak as apostles of an age of disbelief. It is part of a long game designed to blame you, demoralise you in order for you to accept your circumstances. They never present you with a true and concrete plan for fixing bad Ghanaians.

Instead by making you doubt the urgency of your aspirations; by invalidating your dreams and your equal claim to re-imagining a better society; they succeed in preserving the status quo. Be wary of them.    

But hear me. There is also among that crowd of people, people of genuine intent. People who understand that the demands of a constitution go beyond its text. That every constitution must be propelled not only by what it says but also what it does not. That no society that is without strong ethical and constitutional values can succeed. Those concerns are genuine.

But this is exactly what we are advocating for.  Because the Constitution of a nation is so much more than a simple road traffic law. It carries with it the hopes and aspirations of a people. And when they have lost belief and hope; when they are no longer compelled by the moral authority of that document.

That Constitution has lost its raison d’etre. It will forever mean very little to the Executive that swears an oath to uphold it; and to the Judiciary that is called upon to interpret it yet undermines it at every opportunity.

When we call for a new Constitution, we are calling for something much more than gathering a few lawyers, a few article 71 office holders and a few friends of the regime who will huddle in a Kempinski Conference room; to produce for us another document without a soul, just like our current one.

No! A new Constitution is a process! Not an event. It is an opportunity to rebuild our society’s belief and desire for change from the ground up. We must knock on every door; we must engage every citizen and we must implant in all of us a new belief for change. Unless we can ground the passion for a just society in the hearts and minds of people across this country. Unless people accept with joy and desire this mandate to build from among all of us, a constitution of our own making.

Unless people understand that a new constitution of our own making, is in fact an invitation to rebuild the moral compass of this nation, we will fail. No amendments to the 1992 Constitution, be it written in Hebrew, Aramaic or Arabic can wake up a consciousness and a sense of belief that is dead and gone.

Finally, There are also those linear thinkers; lawyers especially; who have convinced themselves that a New Constitution is technically impossible, because the only path to reform is through sporadic amendments, here and there along the narrow confines of Chapter 25 of the Constitution. No constitution can legislate away the sovereignty of its people.

Our Constitution is not a suicide pact. It can be changed by the very people who created it. That is what a recognition of the Sovereignty of our people means. Even narrowly, we are not the first country to contemplate constitutional change in the face of a constitution that makes no provision for its renewal. From Kenya, to Barbados, to Chile, these conflicts have been resolved to recognize the enduring and permanent sovereignty of a people over their own Constitution.

See, the truth is when I speak of “A constitution of our making”, I do so knowing that what I am proposing has never been tried before. Our people have never made a truly free constitution before. In 1957, Our Constitution was given to us by the British Parliament. In 1960, instead of we the people, only the Parliamentarians, created that constitution. In 1969, 1979 and 1992, some selected representatives of people were made to negotiate for a new Constitution under the hostage of the NLC, the AFRC and the PNDC.

We have never, as the people of Ghana made for us a constitution! Never in a time of democracy have we as a people being called upon to join hands in reimagining and rebuilding our country.

You see why? We cannot view this call for a new Constitution as some pet project, we assemble a few lawyers and friends of the Article 71 class to go and write somewhere.

No! The stakes are too high. True Constitution-making goes beyond that! This is our opportunity to recapture the beauty, vibrancy and disruption of all of Ghana. From Bawku to Mampong. From those who sit aloof, to those who will much rather Occupy Ghana. From the heartbroken yet earnest souls who sing fix the country to the belle-fulls who scream fix yourselves back at us. We must speak to everybody. We must engage ourselves as one people with a shared journey, despite our varied devotions to the vision of freedom.

We must give our people a reason to dream again. We must renew for them the vision of a Ghana that is possible. A Ghana that is daring.

Give us back the Ghana that our fathers and our mothers yearned. Give us back the pride of belief in the possibility that Ghana is greatest country in the whole world!

Let us rediscover together our shared humanity; our shared values and our willingness to yearn for freedom! Together! Through a constitution of our making! 

Tsooo boie!


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