President Mahama must name his Vice President
Written by danquahinstitute.org Friday, 27 July 2012 14:59
The sudden death of the President of the Republic of Ghana, John Evans Atta Mills, has thrown the entire nation into an understandable state of mourning. Our thoughts and prayers go to his wife and family. Indeed, our hearts are with all Ghanaians as we mourn the passing of our leader.
We wish to commend the nation, especially the responsible state institutions and personnel, for our conduct so far, particularly, in the seamless transition within hours of former President Mills’ death that saw power smoothly transferred to his vice president. This is in conformance with the Constitution as is amply provided for under Article 60, Clause 6, which states:
“Whenever the President dies, resigns or is removed from office, the Vice-President shall assume office as President for the unexpired term of office of the President with effect from the date of the death, resignation or removal of the President.”
It is in similar regard that we wish to express our concern and draw further attention to the void that is ominously being created or allowed to persist by the delay of President Mahama in nominating a new vice president for approval by Parliament in accordance with clause 10 of the same article 60, which states:
“The Vice-President shall, upon assuming office as President under clause (6) of this article, nominate a person to the office of Vice-President subject to approval by Parliament.”
The phrase “Upon assuming office” means just that, upon assuming office. It should not be stretched to mean days or weeks upon assuming office. Under the current circumstances, to stretch it beyond a week would create an unnecessary sense of indecision on the part of the new Head of State and behind-the-scenes power struggle.
It was our expectation that, rather than the ruling party using this week of mourning to endorse President Mahama, the Leader of the NDC, as their presidential candidate (pending approval by a Special National Delegates Congress), the President should have, instead, focused his immediate and urgent attention on filling the more important national constitutional vacuum of his deputy.
Article 60 (1) says, “There shall be a Vice President of Ghana...” This means that the Constitution does not allow any unreasonable room for a vacancy to remain in the position of the Vice President once a President is in place. The Constitution provides for an unambiguous succession plan. There must always be Vice President to perform certain constitutional and/or statutory duties and, more specifically, to act in case the President is unable to perform his functions.
The Speaker of Parliament shall only perform the duties of the President when the President and Vice President “are both unable to perform the functions of the President.” Failure to nominate a vice president cannot be interpreted to mean that the Vice President is “unable” to perform his duties. A vice president must first be in office before that person may be deemed either able or unable to perform his duties.
The Danquah Institute believes that as we nurture and strengthen our democracy, it is important that we stick and operate within the framework of the Constitution to ensure the smooth governance of our society at all times. The only reason a new vice president has not been nominated by President Mahama can only be because the decision has not yet been taken. But just as the Constitution is explicit on how and when the vice president is sworn in as president on the death, removal or resignation from office of a president, in the absence of it leaving any room, it should not be assumed that it leaves for a vacuum to exist as regards the nomination and approval by Parliament of a new vice president.
The undue existence of such a void only prepares the grounds for a constitutional crisis assuming the new President is unable to perform his duties, as described in the Constitution.
We, therefore, urge President Mahama to act decisively and prioritise the process of making his nomination for Vice President now. The ruling party has no excuse to delay this process when it has seen the wisdom to decide on its presidential candidate even at this solemn period of national mourning. It cannot allow the perception that the NDC appears more concerned about running an election than the affairs of the nation to linger on.
Sophia Kokor (0207773109)
Nana Attobrah Quaicoo (0244928999)