Presidential hopeful Ekwow Spio-Garbrah has said the 1992 Constitution’s 40-year age limit on who qualifies to be president of Ghana, is “not unreasonable”.
The former Minister of Trade and Industry who is seeking to become flag bearer of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) ahead of the 2020 elections, told Moro Awudu on Class91.3FM’s Executive Breakfast Show on Tuesday, 15 May that despite the age limit, Ghana has had a lot of young political leaders in the past.
As far as he is concerned, leadership is not limited to politics.
“I think the youth have always had a very good shot at leadership positions in Ghana, and leadership in Ghana is not just President of Ghana of the Republic of Ghana, but even if you want to talk about president, remember that when Kwame Nkrumah came back to Ghana, if my numbers check out right, probably he was somewhere just below his 40s, late 30s and then by the time he became Leader of Government Business in 1951, if he was born in 1909, I believe the facts suggest that he may have been 41, so, a relatively young Prime Minister at the time. By the time he became president, he was still below 50. Even by the time he was booted out of office, he was below 60”, Mr Spio-Garbrah said.
Citing other examples of young political leaders that Ghana has had, Mr Spio-Garbrah said: “President Rawlings, when he undertook his first coup d’état, again if my numbers are right, in ‘79, may have been less than 30 and I think when he came back in 1981, he was just 31 or so, and his government was a very young government; many of the Secretaries of the PNDC were in their late 20s and some were in their 30s, so, we have had youngish people leading us in various ways at different times, we’ve had youngish people setting up very large institutions such as Dag Heward Mills’ church, Archbishop Duncan-Williams’s church, Agyinasare, all these people began their service to God and Christ 20, 30, 40 years ago when they were rather young people, so, they still have these enterprises, so, the Kwame Despites who began in the radio and broadcasting industry, I think also began at fairly young ages and people, even today, who have established the Beige Banks and so many of the other banks that we know, started and still are in their 30s and 40s, so, I don’t think Ghana has prevented young people from expressing themselves and from becoming whomever they could become”.
He, however, noted that “if people are talking specifically about the constitutional provision that you must be 40 years old to be eligible to be considered for the leadership of the whole country, that’s a debate, which, I guess, we can’t lose or win on this radio station. There can be genuine arguments for or against; some people can say: ‘Well, Macron is younger than that’; ‘there’s a 32-year-old Austrian Prime Minister or President etc.,’ but there’s no doubt that while young people can have the energy, they can have the drive, they can have the enthusiasm, by God’s own formulation, it takes a certain amount of time to acquire wisdom, it takes some amount of time to acquire experience, but it’s possible to be 35 and have more experience than someone who is 60, it’s possible to be 38 and have more wisdom than somebody who is 70.
“But on the average, you see we’re dealing with averages because you don’t know who is going to come up one day and who is just 37 and who by some propaganda and all kinds of fake news and social media strategies, can emerge as the most popular person in Ghana, does that then qualify him or her to become president when he or she may never have had opportunities to be a Deputy Minister or to be a District Chief Executive or to be a member of the Cabinet?
“There are certain experiences that based on the way our Constitution has been written, [are] good to have before you can do certain kinds of work, so I think for me, the 40-year minimum age for a president is not an unreasonable one. It doesn’t prevent 42-year-olds from becoming president”, Mr Spio-Garbrah added.