This taxi driver is leading a silent movement to change Ghanas political landscape


This taxi driver is leading a silent movement to change Ghanas political landscape

Every time Alhaji Muniru Saani drives past the Flagstaff House, the seat of Ghanas president, he takes his eyes off the busy Cantonments street briefly, takes a look at the magnificent white building and whispers a little prayer.

He has a different plan for that edifice.

He wants a revolution.

Alhaji Muniru Saani is only a taxi driver. But he is leading a revolution to change how this country is governed, not with a gun, demonstrations or violence.

The success of this movement will be a test of the Ghanaians quest to transform the politics and economy of Ghana, he told me during a chance encounter a week ago. It involves rallying as many Ghanaians around his vision by appealing to their sensibilities, starting with his passengers.

The taxi-driver and leader of a soon-to-be-certified political party wants to change the governance system of this country, particularly the current system of electing a president with 50 plus one votes.

Saani also wants an overhaul of Parliament.

His reason is that these errors his words by framers of the 1992 constitution have caused the countrys deep political polarisation and sometimes the national opprobrium.

Pushing for this kind of change in any country by all standards is an uphill task. However, Alhaji Muniru is not perturbed.

He has a plan.

His National Redemption Party (NRP) would be the redemption.

NRP according to the strong-willed, determined 50-year-old driver is mirrored on the ideals of the erstwhile National Redemption Council of the late Gen. Kutu Acheampong the second successful coup maker in Ghana.

Alhaji Saanis push for a new system of governance is not informed by any experience in the military. He has not been a soldier before. The closest he came to any military activity is the over ten years he spent working on a ship.

Alhaji Saani is a quite man, or at least it looks that way until you engage him in a chat about the economic problems that has cost this country avoidable huged debts, or why Ghanas future looks flaccid. A quite middle-aged man becomes animated, passionate sometimes it gets scary.

To develop a nation strategically is not about a confrontation between two or more political parties. It is rather an issue of compromise where the majority and the minority will arrive at a consensus, he says. The confrontation and fierce opposition between the two main political parties in the country the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and New Patriotic Party (NPP) is not what democracy is about, he adds.

According to him, the deliberate and sometimes unwarranted criticism and counter-criticism between the NDC and NPP is the cause of deep political divisions in the country, a stance that has been echoed by many others.

When a nation becomes polarised, the next thing is war, he warns.

So with a fine knowledge of the history of Ghana, a relentless drive to proselytise his ideas, a firm hope that Ghanaians will see that the current political dispensation is a ticking time bomb and an unending determination, Alhaji Muniru Saani is on a mission to change Ghana.

In every society, when the institutions are properly placed, [governance] is not going to be about personalities as we have in this Republic today. By virtue of what we have as a Constitution, in making the Executive President the head of state and the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, you are driving peoples ambition to avarice, he notes.

So first he wants a parliamentary system of government, just like the UK and many other European countries have it.

The parliamentary system is very cheap, very lucid and very attractive than the executive system of government where we elect the president with fifty-percent plus one [and] where the parliament is only a single chamber parliament, he suggests.

When the Electoral Commission of Ghana approves and certifies his National Redemption Party in July this year at least that is what he is looking forward to he will contest the November 7 polls and kick start his mission across the country.

The NRP message when the campaign train heats up later this year would be the often repeated admonishment: Change.

Photo: The NRP logo features a swan reaching backward for a bunch of cassava: signifying a call for Ghana to go back to its roots (Sankofa).

Himself and the yet-to-be-named members the NRP will convince Ghanaians to vote the party into power, then if the party wins, it will influence a change in the current constitution, perhaps through a referendum.

We want a creation of second chamber parliament, made up of organisational representatives, he says, his eyes brimming with hope.

This second chamber parliament would work with the Upper Chamber parliament whose members would be selected based on proportional representative of constituencies in the country.

This will be the end of the era of dominance of majority in the current parliament and the powerlessness of the minority on decisions that are critical to national development.

In theory, Alhaji Muniru is proposing the UK type of government, where government business takes place in the House of Commons and the House of Lords making laws, checking the work of the government and debating current issues.

Members of the House of Commons are publicly elected. The party with the largest number of members in the Commons forms the government. Members of the Commons debate the big national issues and make proposals for new laws. It is one of the key places where government ministers, like the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, and the principal figures of the main political parties, work. The Lords the second chamber can consider these some bills put forward by the Commons, but they cannot block or amend them.

Alhaji Saani wants a similar thing, albeit a slight localisation. What the father of six is proposing involves the inclusion of chiefs or traditional rulers and religious leaders.

We are bringing traditional authorities which have been marginalised to play a key role in governance. Under Article 94 [of the 1992 Constitution] they are not to contest an election, and under Act 574 they are not supposed to canvass for votes for any political party. So in the thinking of the framers of the 1992 Constitution they had meant that traditional authorities should be ceremonial heads of their district assemblies. This has been rejected, he says.

He observes that the reason some chiefs are overtly or covertly canvassing for votes for either presidential or parliamentary candidates recently is because the political system has failed to appreciate that they cannot remain politically neutral.

Nature hates a vacuum. You cannot beat somebody and tell him not to cry. Definitely [chiefs] have opinions, so you must tell them where they can say what they want to say. We must create a platform for them, that is what we [NRP] wants to do, he revealed.

The place of chiefs and other traditional authority wielders under Alhaji Munirus futuristic government will be in the second chamber parliament.

By virtue of the creation of the second chamber parliament, we will have every regional house of chief electing one male and one female representative into the second chamber parliament. Chiefs are the custodians of our culture and tradition, he stressed.

His motivation for leading this movement is not to be president. He says if members of the party a number he cannot give readily decides that he should lead the NRP to win the November polls, he will acquiesce.

His motivation for spending his scarce financial and logistical resources to form a party is informed by his travails through many Middle Eastern countries. What he saw in Egypt, Kuwait, Israel the United Arab Emirates, among others is not what he would wish on this country.

You see peace is very sweet. I know what war is about and when you happen to live in the Middle East, you would not even want two individuals to fight among themselves.

When you live in a nation that is much polarised, by virtue of people making sentimental issues like ethnicity, tribalism the order of the day, you must think twice. People [in Ghana] are not voting purposely because of issues. They are voting a lot on ethnicity and tribalism, he observes a worrying trend.

With ethnicity as a major influence of peoples affiliation to political parties or voting pattern, the country can easily plunge into chaos akin to the type in Chechnya or the destruction that swept through Rwanda a decade ago.

The political parties, instead of educating the people on their core objectives and motives, they dont do that. What they do is pitch ethnicities against each other. By so doing ethnicity is getting deep and deep into this republic, he laments.

Dr. Richard Amoako Baah [Head of Political Science Department at the University of Science and Technology] has said that in this John Mahama administration, a lot more Northerners have key positions against 67% Akans. You see this particular issue is about ethnicity and tribalism he states further.

Some big shots in politics who have also lamented the problems in the current political system have particularly singled out what they say is an excessive Executive power and a week Parliament.

Leader of the Minority in Parliament, Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu is reported to have said the 1992 Constitution makes Parliament powerless against Executive excesses.

Papa Kwesi Nduom

Founder of the Progressive Peoples Party (PPP) Papa Kwesi Nduom recently lamented the excessive power of the Executive president. According to him, it was a backward provision for framers of the 1992 Constitution to make the Executive the most powerful state institution.

Alhaji Asuma Banda, Rawlings, and other big people believe in this dream of mine, Alhaji Muniru says in whispers.

Every great accomplishment starts with an idea, Alhaji Muniru says, and he is hopeful in his idea.

He will drive through the streets of Accra in his taxi, tune to Joy FM, make a few bucks off passengers and try to sell his ideas one passenger at a time.

In the evening, he will go home to his two wives, eat dinner, reprimand any of his six children who may have disobeyed orders during his absence and pray that, just like some great idealists before him, his dream of a better Ghana under an NRP leadership will not sink into oblivion.

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