Under the caption “What is Republic Day in Ghana?” , Prof. Mike Ocquaye, the Right Honorable Speaker of the 7th Parliament of Ghana (hereinafter referred to as Prof. Ocquaye) published an article in the Daily Graphic on 8th January, 2019 and argued that 1st July, 1960 is no longer relevant observing as Ghana’s Republic Day essentially because the First Republican Constitution of 1960 was overthrown.
Little did we know at the time that Prof. Ocquaye’s article under reference was an attempt to foreshadow the ammendment of the Public Holidays Act to eliminate 1st July as a public holiday and replace it with 7th January because the Fourth Republican Constitution came into force on 7th January 1993 with the inauguration of J. J. Rawlings as the first President of the Fourth Republic.
I said Prof. Ocquaye’s article foreshadowed an ammendment because in April 2019, the Public Holidays Act was actually amended by Parliament and the President assented to it. Remember that Prof. Ocquaye is the Speaker of Ghana’s Parliament. Truly and in consonance with his article I am now reacting to, 1st July is no longer a public holiday but rather a commemorative day.
In fact, a first read of Prof. Ocquaye’s article made me enjoy it, especially the historical ingredients and his chronology of presentation. Having read the article time and again however, I disagree largely with Prof. Ocquaye’s assertion that 1st July is no longer worth observing as Ghana’s Republic Day merely because the 1960 Constitution was overthrown. Essentially, Prof. Ocquaye endorses the continuous relevance of 6th March 1957 (Ghana’s Independence Day) and 7th January, 1993 (the 4th constitution day) but he doesn’t think that 1st July 1960 should be observed as a public holiday any longer.
What then is the difference between Ghana becoming independent in 1957 and becoming a Republic in 1960?
With independence (6th March 1957), our Head of State was a Prime Minister, reporting to the Queen of Britain through a Governor-General but with republic (1st July, 1960), our Head of State was a President, one of our own, answerable to the people of Ghana and not to a colonial Queen. So if anything at all, 1st July is rather worth observing as a public holiday than the 6th March if we are compelled or so desire to drop one and make it a commemorative day.
In fact, it is obvious from the language of Prof. Ocquaye’s article under reference that he was being selective between the two dates, not objectively but with political interests expected of a political elite of his standing especially in our part of the planetary system.
To my mind, if 1st July is not relevant to be observed as a public holiday but rather as a commemorative day, then 6th March is equally not. Besides, 1st July (first republic) carries more weight in our political history than 7th January (fourth republic day).
In any case, the two Constitutions that gave birth to the two dates (6th March and 1st July) are no longer in force. Within its preambulatory fabric, the Ghana Independence Constitution, 1957 (Order in Council) named 6th March 1957 as Ghana’s independence day which we have not only celebrated with huge sums of money over the past six decades and over, transcending to the Fourth Republic but we have also observed it as a public holiday to date.
On the other hand, 1st July was named in the preamble of the 1960 Constitution as the day that Constitution came into force and the only President under that Constitution was Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first President whose name is even mentioned in Article 10 of that Constitution.
It is my holding that Prof. Ocquaye got it wrong because the Independence Constitution which gave birth to 6th March was also outlawed with the promulgation and coming into force of the 1960 Constitution which brought about 1st July. The 1960 Constitution was equally overthrown with the military guns on 24th February, 1966. As such, both enactments are no longer laws of Ghana. Suffice to say that if indeed 1st July is no longer relevant as a public holiday in Ghana per Prof. Ocquaye’s submissions, then 6th March should not also be relevant.
In fact, constitutional overthrows in Ghana did not occur because of the hatred for the documents called Ghana’s Constitutions, the overthrows happened because of certain perceived misconducts of political actors at the helm of national governance.
Ironically, we still recognize and celebrate some of these personalities as founders of the nation yet we say that certain dates on which they made certain significant achievements for the nation are no longer worth observing as public holidays.
Our political leaders are even fighting over an apostrophe hence we observe Founder’s day or Founders’ day depending on who is in power. Till date, our seat of government or presidential palace doe not have a permanent name. The name switches between Flagstaff House and Jubilee House depending on the political party in power. The only certainty is that we agree that it is a house and not something else. Laughable huh? Since 1792, Americans have referred to theirs as The White House whether or not the Republicans or Democrats are in power. If this is not a nationalistic thinking then what else can it be called? Our version of democracy in Ghana is parochial partisan politics leading to extreme polarization to the extent that almost every thing done by a political opponent is criticised. The only time it is hailed is when the move innures mutual benefits to the two major political divides.
Even though the three previous constitutions (1960, 1969 and 1979) were overthrown, the territories of Ghana remain the same and from 1960 (1st Republic), each Constitution has defined Ghana’s territories with same clause under various articles (Article 5 of 1960 Constitution, Article 4 of 1969 Constitution, Article 5 of 1979 Constitution and Article 4 of 1992 Constitution). Each of these Articles in each Constitution states, “The Sovereign State of Ghana is a unitary Republic consisting of those territories comprised in the Regions which, immediately before the coming into force of this Constitution, existed in Ghana including the territorial waters and the air space.” The only exception in this rendition in the 1992 Constitution is that the phrase” territorial waters” is written as “territorial sea. ”
Also, certain subsidiary statutes enacted under the overthrown Constitutions are still enforceable so how can we pick and choose between the relevance or otherwise of 6th March and 1st July as public holidays with 7th January replacing 1st July?
Prof. Ocquaye is a Christian theologian or a Rev Minister hence it is obvious that he believes in the born again concept of Christianity. Will he suggest therefore that a born again believer should no longer celebrate his biological birthday and stick to his religious birthday?
Had we not secured the First Republic from the British Colonial Regime, how could we have been called a Republic in the first place to have reached the 4th on 7th January, 1993 which we now place a higher premium on than 1st July, 1960?
We should therefore not treat 1st July as dead as a dodo by observing it as a commemorative day rather than a public holiday.
As stated earlier , the Independence Constitution (Order in Council) was equally overthrown with the promulgation of the 1960 or First Republican Constitution so why do we still celebrate Independence day with huge sums of money and still observe 6th March every year as a public holiday, making school children and various adult groups march-past for nothing?
It was revealed per a Ghanaweb publication on 8th March, 2019 that the Government of Ghana spent a whopping $3 million (equivalent to GH¢ 16,500,000.00) on the 62nd Independence Day Celebrations in Tamale this year. If this is is true, then it is worrisome because we could have used that money to fix a bad road or two, solve a sanitation problem or buy ambulances for hospitals or for the National Ambulance Service.
Which is wiser? To observe and celebrate an independence day and virtually waste money on it or to observe 1st July as a public holiday and spend no money.
The submission has been made time and again that Ghana is only politically independent but extremely dependent economically and in many forms on other nations and on the Bretton Woods institutions.
America obtained independence from Britain in the 18th century but they had decided not to join the Commonwealth of Nations. If we are truly independent and a self sustaining Republic then we shouldn’t have even joined the Commonwealth on the pretentious altar of diplomatic relations. We go hunting for loans and grants which are swallowed by corruption and the masses die preventable deaths yet we are fighting over which day to observe as a republic day. Celebrating 6th March is more expensive than celebrating 7th July and the latter means total freedom so let’s rather drop the former.
It should also be noted that a documented or written national constitution is not merely a legal document but also an embodiment of the culture dynamics of the people over time. This is why certain institutional creatures and statutes under the three overthrown supreme laws of Ghana are still relevant. Under the First Republican Constitution for instance, there were two superior courts of judicature (the High Court and the Supreme Court). The Court of Appeal which was non-existent in the First Republic was created by the 1969 (Second Republican) Constitution and maintained by the 1979 and 1992 Constitutions hence we currently have three superior courts of judicature (High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court whose judgments or case laws or decided cases are captured in the Ghana Law Reports (GLR).
It is inferable that the recent ammendment of the Public Holidays Act (Act 989) was meant to discredit Kwame Nkrumah’s role under the 1960 Constitution which was amended in 1964.
Be that as it may, it is no longer disputable that the relevance of the name Kwame Nkrumah goes beyond the shores of Ghana and personally, I enjoyed some pleasantries in other countries because of the sterling qualities and turnacity embedded in that name which we should be proud of as Ghanaians. It is not surprising therefore that neighboring Burkina Faso has a street named after Nkrumah and that street is kept very neat.
In 2012, the African Union (AU) also unveiled an Nkrumah statue at its Head office in Addis Ababa in recognition of Nkrumah’s instrumentality in the African liberation struggle.
If Ghanaians themselves don’t value Nkrumah wholeheartedly, the world will grimace at us questioningly because to an outsider from a historic perspective, Nkrumah is Ghana and Ghana 🇬🇭 is Nkrumah.
To conclude, I want to reiterate that the justification or otherwise of one date as a public holiday by our political leaders with its consequent ammendment of relevant laws will not put money in the pockets of the ordinary Ghanaian or solve our numerous problems including poor sanitation problems I wrote about the other day, asking Mr. Ghana Government to focus on and surmount it appropriately.
It is a trite saying that whatever is accurately measured is appropriately managed and improved hence we must work in unison in tackling the identified problems that confront us as a nation and not dwell on the apparent trivialities. Did I hear the other day that the NDC will also restore 1st July as a public holiday should they win the 2020 presidential elections? If so, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jubilee House is named again as Flagstaff House. After all, when we minus the adjectives (flagstaff or jubilee), the edifice is still a house so clap for Ghana for playing with the name of such an important national asset which we could not even build on our own and we mightn’t have owned but for the magnanimity of the Indian Government.
On this note, I re-affirm my disagreement with Prof. Ocquaye that we should brush aside 1st July as one of the public holidays in Ghana. Without 1st July, there won’t be 7th January. Of course, we had never celebrated the days the 1969 and 1979 Constitutions came into force because 1st July is very foundational and it was the day the British Queen ceased to weild the executive power of Ghana. 1st July means total freedom more than 6th March and 7th January hence I will support unhesitatingly, any legal efforts made to restore 1st July as a public holiday in Ghana.
Author :Philip Afeti Korto