The Office of the President is, without dispute, the highest office of the land. It is in view of this that it attracts much attention and commands a lot of respect.
According to Article 67 of the 1992 Constitution, the occupant of that office, “the President, shall, at the beginning of each session of Parliament and before a dissolution of Parliament, deliver to Parliament a message on the state of the nation”.
Today, President John Dramani Mahama will, in line with the Constitution, present to Parliament his message on the state of the nation. This is an occasion for him to report to the nation where we are today and where the government intends to take us in the next 12 months.
State of the Nation addresses are common in most democracies. Not too long ago, the United States President, Barack Obama, delivered his State of the Union Address to the US Congress.
What stands out in State of the Union addresses in the US and other democracies is the dignified manner in which lawmakers react to the addresses. In many cases, members of both the majority and the minority show the highest respect to the Office of the President.
However, on occasions such as today’s when the President delivers through Parliament the State of the Nation Address to all Ghanaians, the opposition uses it as a forum to heckle, boo and virtually bring proceedings to temporary breaks that do not dignify the high office of the land.
This unfortunate display of dishonour happened to President Kufuor and was repeated several times during the Presidency of Professor John Evans Atta Mills and now in President Mahama’s era.
Unless this practice is stopped, our Parliament will be establishing a tradition that will throw the respect that should be accorded the high office of President to the wind. It will also set a precedent for our children to believe that such behaviour is parliamentary and very right.
Unfortunately, the bad practice of heckling and booing seems to have already gained notoriety among children in the country. During the 2012 electioneering, children at Jamestown virtually hooted at and insulted the candidate of an opposition political party. Just this month too, school pupils hurled insults and invective at the sitting President.
There is no doubt that many Ghanaians, including our parliamentarians, may not find favour with all aspects of the President's State of the Nation Address. However, we must not replace our show of disagreement with a display of disrespect to the President through boos, invective and name-calling.
We urge that all dissenting views on the President’s address today be expressed in the best cultured and respectful manner through objective, non-partisan and healthy debates and other forms of public discourse.
The real debate must begin after the delivery of the address and in the media. Let those who have issues with today’s address hold their peace and show reverence to the highest office of the land, which symbolises the soul of the nation.
Let us all subject the President’s address to scrutiny after it has been delivered to Parliament and work together conscientiously as a people on those areas that need our input by way of discussions and recommendations.
It should not be a time when people would try to outdo one another by engaging in the blame game characteristic of Ghana’s partisan politics.
Source: Flagstaff House - Seat of Ghana Government
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