It was the day after the New Year holiday and both of us were getting ready to leave for work. As is her practice, she decided to check on her schedule for the week. She looked at me and said it’s going to be a long weekend. Monday is a holiday, she rhetorically said and asked why the day was declared a holiday.
I explained it was to celebrate the 1992 Constitution that birthed the democracy we more or less enjoy today. Then she asked, are we supposed to be reading the constitution on a day like this? I smiled and sarcastically said maybe yes, but when I left for the washroom, I couldn’t but help think about her question throughout the time I spent there and it still lingers on in my mind; perhaps the reason for this article.
First of all, I will like to state on record I very much agree with the idea and the law of having the day. And the reasons I have for doing so are enormous.
Having lived to see the transfer of power from one party to the other; from Jerry Rawlings to John A. Kufuor, and from the latter to Late Evans Mills and the peaceful transition on his demise six months to a general election to his vice. The decision to use the courts to settle an election dispute and the peaceful transfer of power after a one-term tenure of the John Mahama government to Edward Nana Addo Dankwa is a good reason.
But if that is not good reason enough, that a fisherman from a small community in the Central region could take the Electoral Commissioner to court and win, that a nation peacefully (it seems as if nothing happened) split up from ten to 16 regions were all made possible because of the 1992 constitution.
In the 25 years of this constitution, so much has happened around us. We have played host to refugees from Togo, Cote d’Ivoire has had more than a civil war, Monrovia in Liberia in 1992 was under siege, Boko Haram is abstruse on the neck of government in Nigeria, Sudan is now two separate states, Arab spring swept through and brought to an end regimes and some countries are yet to recover, Kenya had a full-blown election violence, several almost national in nature xenophobic attacks in South Africa and many more of such stories across the continent.
Of course, the constitution did not by itself keep us peaceful; the people trusted and worked with it.
But the question is do we really need to have a holiday to mark the constitutional day?
Often the argument is made of the negative effect these many holidays on productivity and eventually the economy. Since I do not have and yet to see a scientific data that speaks to how much the country loses (monetarily) due to these holidays, it is safe to say in my opinion that, it is not a valid point enough. A certain sector of the economy booms during the holidays, so it may not be that bad on the economy side.
I, however, side with anyone who is genuinely against the many holidays we seem to enjoy as Ghanaians. We have secular holidays, religious holidays, and then the many we have introduced either out of political expediency or for populace and opportunistic reasons.
Why do we need to have the day off to mark the day of coming to effect of the Constitution?
Like she asked, what are we supposed to be doing on that holiday?
I am aware a million things could be done; from lectures to all the things we tend to do on such days.
And very much aware that I question the economic argument on the effect of holidays, it must be pointed out that we cannot just declare days as holidays just because we can.
On the average, a working person enjoys a 24 days paid leave, 14 days in holidays and 104 days in weekends. That’s 142 days off work. Should this person take five days during the year for sick leave etc., then it means we have spent more than half (71%) of the working days (206) ‘doing nothing’
So what should we be doing with such a day?
25 years on since the acceptance and use of the 1992 Constitution, how many languages/dialects has it been translated into?
How many people are really aware of their rights and responsibilities as ascribed by the 1992 Constitution?
Churches are able to distribute their pastors’ motivational write-ups across the face of the globe, translated into languages of the relevant target audience. The state is bigger, more powerful, resourced and has a more compelling reason, so our constitution cannot be in the hands of only those who can afford it and read in English.
I don’t think I have an answer as to how the day should be marked but I am more than convinced another day to go off work is not the option.
Source: Cyril Dogbe
The writer is a broadcast journalist