The tale of two Republics – Ghana and USA
Ghana and the United States of America in recent times have some common interesting characteristics on their governance calendar. Both countries have Republican system of government and go to the polls every four years, close to the end of the same year, to elect a President.
They both inaugurate their Presidents in January. The US gained independence from Britain in 1776 and thus celebrates its 237th anniversary on July 4 this year. Ghana got independence from Britain on March 6, 1957. It however became a Republic on July 1, 1960 and will mark its 53th Republican milestone this year, and both have had very interesting and checkered histories. We wish them Happy Anniversaries!
The US has Barack Obama as its 44th President while Ghana has John Mahama as its 7th President.
The US went through a civil war during the first term of the 16th President, Abraham Lincoln over the issue of slavery. It has never experienced a revolutionary change of government, unlike Ghana which has had four major coups, a fourth Republic and four Republican Constitutions!
Lincoln reminded Americans in his first inauguration address that they have the opportunity to choose a new President every four years.
Kwame Nkrumah was both the first Prime Minister and first President of Ghana while the US had George Washington as its first President. Nkrumah was removed from office on February 24, 1966. The second and third coups were on January 13, 1972 and December 31, 1981 respectively.
The oath of office for US Presidents is as follows: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that l will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States”. All the forty-four Presidents of the US have over the years repeated these exact thirty-five words during their inaugurations. Some Presidents add, “So help me God”.
It has been observed that “A great deal about presidential inaugurations has changed over the course of two centuries”, however, the oath of office, as written into the US Constitution, has not changed at all.
The chief historian of the US Capitol Historical Society, Dr. Donald R. Kennon has stated that, the American Revolution was, “An experiment to see if the people could govern themselves. And the regular and routine nature of a presidential inauguration reassures the people that the experiment is continuing and succeeding”.
Writer, Joseph Cummins points out, “Think of the often-violent changes of power that go on routinely in other countries. In many cases, power-hungry factions ignore the will of the people and seize the reins of government by force. Now think of the forty-four US presidents over the course of 220 years, standing in front of the American people, raising their hands and taking this oath”.
The theme for Obama’s inauguration in 2009 was, “A new birth of freedom”. It was a phrase chosen from President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and February 2009 marked the two hundredth anniversary of his birth.
Lincoln made this memorable and momentous address during the country’s Civil War. He pointed out that because of the sacrifices of the soldiers who had died in the war helping to free slaves and preserve the Union, America would experience “a new birth of freedom”.
It was in this same address that Lincoln reminded Americans that their country was founded on the principle of, “government of the people, by the people, for the people”, and that they should ensure that it “shall not perish from the earth”.
The inaugural theme was chosen before it was known that Obama would win the 2008 election and move to the White House, where his children will live and play freely in a place built partly by slave labour.
It is remarkable that Obama, the first African American president of the US had the theme “A new birth of freedom” for his inauguration. Obama considers Abraham Lincoln as one of his mentors and heroes. He performed his swearing-in with the same Bible Lincoln used for his own. The two of them have 146 years between their presidencies.
The US and Ghana’s relation has generally been cordial. Diplomatic and business ties are strong. US Presidents who have visited Ghana include Clinton, Bush Jnr. and Obama.
President Nixon led the US delegation to Ghana’s independence, when he was Vice-President. Ghana was the first country to receive US Peace Corps personnel when it was formed during the John F. Kennedy presidency.
President Jimmy Carter after his presidency has spearheaded a successful guinea-worm eradication programme in Ghana for many years. Many African Americans have often visited Ghana to reconnect with their homeland or ancestral home.
Ghanaian heads of state including Jerry Rawlings, John Agyekum Kufuor and John Atta Mills have been special guests at the White House. Many Ghanaians have studied in the US and many live there.
Ghana and US Presidents and leaders may have their strategic interests to guard on behalf of their people. It is hoped that succeeding years would find the two countries strengthen bilateral relations as well as affect global issues.
Ayekoo Ghana. Well done USA.
By Akwasi Agyeman-Dua
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