Article 94 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana stipulates the eligibility criteria for a person to contest for a parliamentary seat in Ghana. The Courts have also had the opportunity, with the famous cases of the late Adamu Dramani and James Gyakye Quayson, to interpret clause (2) of the above provision. The duo lost their parliamentary seats following the interpretation of Article 94(2) by the court, with James Gyakye Quayson of the Assin North Constituency appealing the outcome.
Clause (2) says that “subject to the provisions of this article, a person shall not be qualified to be a member of parliament if he (a) owes allegiance to a country other than Ghana.”
Since the inception of the 4th Republic, the two main political parties have had their dose of the pill through the two MPs mentioned above. The conversation about natives with dual citizenship holding public office has been active since the Assin North MP was dragged to court after the 2020 general elections.
On Monday, former president John Dramani Mahama, on his tour ahead of the NDC presidential and parliamentary primaries this Saturday, mentioned that the next government of the NDC would “clarify” Article 94(2) to allow Ghanaians with dual citizenships to contest for parliamentary seats.
Mr. Mahama explained that the skills acquired by the over three million Ghanaians abroad could not be wasted owing to the provisions of the constitution.
It is trite knowledge that the 1992 Constitution needs some overhauling, as portions of it, if not all, were formulated to serve purposes that are no longer relevant.
The Chronicle has sighted documents indicating that the government, in June 2022, commenced processes to retire the clause of the article in contention. The government wrote to the Council of State for advice. We have observed the divergent opinions on the subject matter.
We have also observed that the major political parties in the country, whose opinions do not meet, are coincidentally singing the same chorus, perhaps due to the fact that they have suffered the casualties of clause (2) of Article 94.
For instance, in the United Kingdom, there is no law that bars a person holding dual citizenship from being a member of parliament, but in Australia, it is the opposite.
Section 44 (i) of the Australian Constitution states in parts that, any person who is under any acknowledgement of allegiance to a foreign power or a citizen of a foreign power shall be incapable of being chosen as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.
We are indifferent on the matter of the constitutional provision; suffice it to say, the interest of the nation must be the guiding principle.
It is important that, as a nation, we weigh the pros and cons of the law in its current state, vis-à-vis amending it.
We think that the law in its current state encourages commitment to the cause of the constituents and by extension the nation. The need for a clear allegiance to Ghana is ensured with this provision.
It also reduces the tendency of foreign nationals to interfere in the politics of our nation through the alliance built by being citizens of another country. They can easily raise funds from their foreign nation as citizens to influence voters’ choices.
We also think that the law in its current state, like former President Mahama said, denies the nation the skills and talents of some of its citizens abroad because they owe allegiance to another country.
A country that seeks to attract foreign investment would not want to be caught up in the web of a law like Article 94(2). One could argue that an MP who is also a citizen of another country could leverage that to draw investment to Ghana.
We are also of the view that Article 94(2) could be viewed as discriminatory, especially for people who may owe allegiance to another country but are committed to the Republic of Ghana.
The above notwithstanding, it is our appeal that, as the process of altering Article 94(2) of the 1992 Constitution has commenced, the interest of the nation must be paramount and not that of the few politicians who dread losing a seat in parliament.