The former Speaker of the 7th Parliament of Ghana, Rt. Hon. Prof. Aaron Mike Oquaye has attributed Ghana’s continued underdevelopment and economic hardship to what he termed as the lack of technocracy in the country’s governance.
Rt. Hon Prof Mike Oquaye made the observation as he delivered the 2nd R. S. Blay Memorial lectures at the Takoradi Technical University on the theme; Consolidating Democracy and the Rule of Law in Contemporary Ghana: If Justice R.S. Blay were with us using the Law as An Instrument of social, political and economic engineering.
Prof. Mike Oquaye said leadership in Ghana is paying lip service to expertise and questioned why academic institutions do not have a voice in the appointment of their own leadership?
“when it comes to appointments, let’s look at institutional representation. Why should academics not have the powerful voice in the choosing of the Vice Chancellor? Why should medical doctors not have the overriding voice in the appointment of the Director of the Medical Services or any of those things?”, he questioned.
While calling for the country to take a relook at appointments of heads of institutions, Rt. Hon. Prof. Mike Oquaye said politicization has so much interfered unduly even in the appointment of heads of Institutions like Lands Commission which is leading to giving away of public lands without due process.
He therefore advocated for the tenure of heads of institutions like Lands Commission not to be tagged against that of a government’s term of office.
“Why is it that the position of Lands Commission head for example is not a collegial election or people who are experts in that field? Why do we just relegate all those functions to politicians without the expertise of the technocrats? I believe that this lack of technocracy is one of the difficulties in our country as a whole”, he added.
The former Speaker on his call for fair representation as demanded by the constitution and something that he believes R. S. Blay would have advocated for, also kicked against the lip service political leadership continue to pay to women representation.
“Today we continue to pay lip service to Affirmative Action, women participation in politics. Having looked at the various suggestions, I have one simple formula. I believe that, District Assemblies should give one-third representation to women, rather than a President appointing one-third membership to the assemblies. Let’s leave that as exclusive seats for women to compete for at the local level. Secondly, if we come to the national level, after we’ve known the results of the elections, there must be some 50 reserved special seats for women. Then, out of that 50 seats, the party that had 60%, would now elect 60% of the 50 reserved seats and it will give us a second representative of women automatically, according to however method would be used to select them to Parliament.”, he suggested.
Though former Speaker Mike Oquaye did not spell out how to select the 50 constituency seats to be reserved for women, he emphasized how such a formula would deepen women representation and would have been welcomed by Justice R. S Blay if he were alive.
“I’m certain quality women would come up and people would appreciate the excellent contributions that those women would make in parliament and thereby even attracting more of their peers to compete for not only the reserved seats but also the usual seats. This is necessary because, Ghana is today at the rock bottom of the World Table for women representation in legislatures with countries like Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Uganda all beaten us to this by using some of these techniques. I believe if the man Justice R. S. Blay were around with his army of very brilliant and very qualified women, they would not just sit back but help formulate some useful formulas to help us in this direction. All these suggest to us that there are some constitutional issues which those who care and would want us to use the law as an instrument of social engineering were to put on their analytical guard, we would really be able to improve our society as a whole”, he noted.
He however warned against the politics of ‘moneycracy’ which he said is a threat to Ghana’s democracy and deepens corruption.
“what happened to us that today, politics has become a Moneycracy. Now it is no more a matter of me helping with my resources, but rather, what will i go in and grab, for which matter everything they do today becomes like an investment. It is very dangerous and we have to think it through so that politics doesn’t become the preserve of people who buy themselves into it and only to buy themselves out by making money at the expense of the country. We all know that, associated with that moneycratic tendency comes the hole of corruption in our society which has become more and more endemic”, he warned.
Rt. Hon. Prof. Mike Oquaye further urged the need for sustained national development with a neutral National Development Planning Commission membership.
“It cannot be overemphasized that a National Development Planning Institution is necessary in this country. The present state of a pendulum in development whereby governments introduce new policies during their tenure only for such policies and attendant projects abandoned immediately after those governments leave office is very tragic. Article 35(7), actually provides that, as far as practicable, a government shall continue and execute projects and programmes commenced by the previous governments. Nevertheless, the politicization of the NDPC and the abandonment of various projects started by previous regimes are greatly hurting this nation and we need to revisit this challenge and suggest remedies”, he called.
The accomplished lawyer also called for an independent NDPC in accordance to the constitution.
“The membership of the NDPC must be neutral and expressly beyond political consideration. Again, institutional representation of those with expertise in national planning will largely lead to independence and technocracy. This will encompass economists, researchers, planners, environmentalists, academics, etc who will then be part of a 9-member commission. The commissioners shall then elect their own chairperson and vice chair to hold office for a period of two-years…relevant Ministers and other officials who are in breach of the National Policy will be summoned to explain themselves and sanctioned…and other arrangements which makes them depart from government and their tenure should not be four years with the President. These would make them as independent as possible”, he indicated.
Prof. Mike Oquaye further called for a frank discussion on Ghana’s utilization of its natural resources after the Ukraine-Russia war crises and the country’s import dependency, else the country would forever be at the mercy of the IMF.
“We must be reexamining our natural resources. We should be looking at ourselves as less import dependent. If we need Ukraine’s wheat for our bread, then we will suffer but that’s unfortunately the lot of our nation today. Every day, we are all trooping to the Tema or Takoradi Ports in order to get what to wear and eat, therefore import dependency must be tackled from today. Otherwise, we will go to the IMF every six years. Now we are at the 17th time to the IMF, what would men like R. S. Blay think about Ghana beyond the 17th time to the IMF? I believe that we would need a new approach to a national orientation. What is happening to our Gold, Diamond, and Bauxite? If we have got Oil, are we maximizing the use of the oil? How are our oil contracts like? Who makes the contracts? Do they really know what they are doing? Who approves of the contracts? ”, he cautioned.
He further called for technocratic enquiries into the allotment of public lands for resource exploitation.
“There must be what they call in England, Public Enquiry at the local level. Do we have public enquiries enshrined in our constitution? So that before you will touch the Ghana oil, it doesn’t matter which party is in office, the oil commission which is fully technocratic with experts who know the business, what have they said in advance about it? Unless we provide these checks and balances in our legal and constitutional framework, which I believe men like Justice R.S. Blay would have been good at acting upon and suggesting. This is necessary because what we have, we are not able to manage it and if we are not able to maximize our oil and other resources, then what do we intend to depend on for our national development? These are very serious issues that academics, technocrats, lawyers, and others must re-examine if we should be worthy of our call especially as students of contemporary national development”, he reemphasized
Rt. Hon. Prof. Mike Oquaye further advised the youth to learn from the best examples of the past in addressing their problems of today.
“I would like the young people to be proud to be Ghanaians and to copy the best practices of this great nation of ours and not some of the rude techniques of recent times. Sometime ago, the British decided to nationalise all lands, thus simply saying that every land which they described as waste land belonged to the British crown. However in the then Gold Coast, some smart chiefs just saw this as untenable but they didn’t take cutlasses nor resorted to arms. They got Mensah Sabah, a Ghanaian Lawyer, took the matter to court, that in Ghana there is nothing like waste land and that our lands either belong to the society, chief, a family or an individual even if it is not being used at any particular time. They fought and won their case and the British kept off our lands. This shows that even the illiterate chiefs were very intelligent and knowledgeable. That’s the kind of people we should be as young people“, he advised.
The Vice Chancellor of Takoradi Technical University, Rev. Prof. John Frank Eshun, hosted the 2nd Justice R. S. Blay lecture and chaired the event.
While appreciating the opportunity to collaborate the with the R.S Blay lectures, Rev. Prof. John Frank Eshun said TTU is focused on societal based relevant technological research through engagement with society and therefore finds the University’s partnership with the R.S. Blay lectures as relevant and within its vision, therefore the University plans to deepen the collaboration.
One of the daughters of Justice R.S. Blay, Dr. Mrs. Mokuwa Blay Adu-Gyamfi, on behalf of the Blay family thanked the University and Prof. Mike Oquaye for honouring the father with the second series of the R. S Blay lecture.
R. S. Blay who was once a Board Member of the then Takoradi Polytechnic, was the first Nzema legal practitioner and rose to become a Justice of the Supreme Court of Ghana.
As a founding Member and First Vice President of UGCC, R. S. Blay became the Speaker of the 1969 Constituent Assembly.
There was an enactment by the TTU drama group on how effective law enforcement can be used to clampdown on the illegal gold mining activities which is devastating the water and forest resources of Ghana.