I am pleased to be here this morning at the launch of the Inter-University Quiz Competition. I commend the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) for this laudable initiative, aimed at testing the familiarity of the students of our Universities with our nation’s Constitution, the “living document” that guarantees and protects our individual freedoms and human rights, and ensures that our nation is governed according to the principles of democratic accountability and the rule of law. The NCCE could not have chosen a better institution for the launch of this programme than my own Alma Mater, the University of Ghana, Legon, which, I am confident, will live up to its status of being the country’s premier University, and, hopefully, emerge victorious in the maiden edition of this competition.
In so saying, Chairperson, ladies and gentlemen, this competition should be more than about who emerges first or second this year, or which university ends up with the most number of victories in the future history of the competition. It should be more than that. It should be about knowing why the Constitution came into force, why it provides guidelines for the functioning of the State, and, why, together, we must help ensure that the three arms of government, the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary, live up to their respective charters and act as checks and balances on each other to prevent abuse of power and, thereby, help secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity. Nearly six months ago, we celebrated 60 years of national independence. Ours has been a long, tortuous journey, and has seen us overcome several trials and tribulations:
slavery, imperialism, colonialism, tyranny, and dictatorship. Decades of authoritarian rule in the immediate post-independence era not only subverted the promise of the independence movement that freedom would result in good governance, progress, and prosperity but also led to the systematic worsening of the living standards of our people.
It is against this background that Ghana experienced, at the beginning of the 1990s, a strong revival of the democratic aspirations that lay at the heart of the independence movement. The Ghanaian people, just as they had demonstrated in the drive towards independence in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, showed again their determination to live in conditions of freedom and democracy. On 28th April 1992, they approved, by an overwhelming margin in the Referendum of that day, the adoption of the Constitution of the Fourth Republic, which set up the institutions of a liberal democratic state, operating on the basis of the separation of powers, with express guarantees of fundamental human rights protected by an independent Judiciary.
Today, we are now recognised as the beacon of democracy and stability on the continent, as a country governed in accordance with the tenets of our Constitution. The great majority of us believe that entrenching the principles of democratic accountability, respect for human rights and individual liberties, and the rule of law at the very core of our body politic, is critical to our nation’s chances of meaningful development in this 21st century. It is, accordingly, not an accident that the Fourth Republic has proved to be the most stable of all our Republics, with strong prospects of permanence. Long may it endure.
Thus, “Restoring our Values as active citizens”, which is the theme for the competition, should mean that we do not lose sight of our history. It is incumbent on all of us to know and understand the laws governing our country, and jealously guard the freedoms and liberties guaranteed us by the Constitution. The study of the Constitution, therefore, should not be left only to students of our various law faculties in Universities across the country, nor just to lawyers. As active citizens, we must all be interested in the fundamental law of the land and be able to speak to issues regarding our human rights and civic responsibilities.
Chairperson, ladies and gentlemen, since its establishment some 25 years ago, the NCCE has done its part in helping Ghanaians recognize the importance of their freedoms and duties, even though it can still do much better, in this regard. Despite concerns raised in some quarters about the effectiveness of the NCCE in the discharge of its duties, with some going so far as advocating for its abolition, I am of a different opinion. I believe the NCCE continues to be relevant, and still has an important role to play in helping establish a culture of awareness in which citizens are alive to their civic responsibilities.
It is for this reason that the budgetary allocation of the NCCE has been increased to an appreciable level in this year’s Asempa Budget. This is an indication that this government is committed to resourcing the Commission to help it in achieving its mandate, and will continue to address the logistical and financial needs of the Commission. It is important for its credibility, in fulfilling its mandate, that the Commission sheds any lingering perception that it works as an appendage of any particular political party. Its loyalties have to be to the Constitution of the Republic and the good people of Ghana, not any party.
In conclusion, let me wish all the participating Universities in this competition the very best of luck, and may the best team, i.e. Legon, win. I can assure you that I will be paying close attention to the contest from the very first round right down to its climax, and I urge the Ghanaian public to maintain a keen interest.
Thank you, and may God bless us all and our homeland Ghana, and make her great and strong.