During the confirmation hearing for the US Supreme Court Nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, Republican senator Ben Sasse gave an impassioned lecture about how Congress too often punts its power to the executive branch to avoid taking responsibility just to promote reelection.
It seems this a game many lawmakers play not just in the US but also in Ghana.
For a very long time, at least since 2000, Ghana’s parliament has been punting its own power to the Executive and no one seemed to have understood the game as well as the US senator explains in his almost 12-minute insightful speech.
Framers of the US constitution had a goal to make the legislative arm the center of political warfare deliberately to free the other two arms to focus on the actual job of running the administrative state. This makes sense because that’s the only way the people will be able to determine fully what laws and policies they are ruled by—true democracy.
When parliament or in the case of the US, Congress, focus on actually making laws, power will move from the Executive right back to the people because they will determine the laws even the Executive lives by.
Now, you will think the executive is also voted for and so the people get to put them in check but you are wrong. The Executive doesn’t make laws so once the people who make laws and are supposed to shape policy shirk their responsibilities, no matter how many times governments are changed, the State will be going in circles like a musical chairs game.
This is part of why all kinds of interest groups are the ones influencing policy and laws instead of voters.
So just like political warfare has moved from Congress to the US Supreme Court, it’s gradually happening in Ghana and that means we are going to find ourselves in a situation similar to what the US has today if our MPs don’t move away from patronizing the Executive.
Many people now run to the Supreme Court over legal issues and examples that readily come to mind is the issue of Mahama’s attempt to run for president again in 2020. If we had a functioning parliament this should not happen. Why should the Supreme Court be allowed to decide highly political cases that risk politicizing them?
Prior to election 2016, a lot of the political cases were settled by the Supreme Court and the danger is that we are gradually slipping into the US situation of politicizing the apex court. It will get to a time when very contentious issues like LGBTQ rights and same sex marriage may be settled by the Court and end up sharply dividing our nation like such political and contentious issues are doing to democracy in the US.
We must avoid that and create a society where the we resolve issues no matter how contentious through Parliament, guaranteeing the people’s need to determine their own destiny.
If we can make the system work as it is designed to, Parliament must reassess its role and shift back to policy and lawmaking. That way, we can have more of our citizens shaping how the country is run whether it has to do with party financing, corruption, illegal mining, free education, Chinese loans or the creation of new regions.
PS: Here’s the peculiar thing about Ghana though—the Executive has punted it’s own job of delivering infrastructural development to the Legislature. So in Ghana now, most constituents believe it’s the job of their MPs to build roads, hospitals, markets and even pay for their children’s education.