GHANA’S DESIGNATED SURVIVOR by Kafui Quashigah

Forgive my ignorance, but I assumed “Designated Survivor” was just the title of a television series, until I dug a little deeper. It turns out that in the United States of America, there is a Presidential line of succession which is triggered in the event that the sitting President becomes incapacitated, dies, resigns or is removed from office. Currently, this line of succession includes the Vice President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, President pro tempore of Senate, Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of Defense, Attorney General, Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of Commerce, Secretary of Labour, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Secretary of Transportation, Secretary of Energy, Secretary of Education, Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the Secretary of Homeland Security.
Unfortunately, Ghana has too many problems on her mind, the least of which is the absence of an extensive presidential line of succession. The 1992 Constitution of Ghana consequently requires the Vice President to assume office as President whenever the President dies, resigns or is removed from office.
Aside from this, the Speaker of Parliament is mandated to perform the functions of the President where both the President and his Vice are unable to do so, until the President or Vice President is able to perform those functions, or until a new President assumes office. Thus, where the Speaker assumes office as President due to the death, resignation or removal from office of the President and Vice President, an election must be held within three months after his assumption of office.
So we’re quite clear on what happens if (God forbid) the President and his Vice both die in a plane crash and a car crash simultaneously. Unfortunately, no doctrine of commo rientes or presumption of survivorship would be useful in such a situation. The Speaker assumes office and an election must be held three months after his assumption of office.
Now, here comes the tricky part: imagine the President, Vice President and Speaker of Parliament (God forbid, again) perish in a terrorist attack on the Accra International Conference Centre at a state event (If water could be transformed into wine, this is not too farfetched an occurrence). What is the position of the law in such a situation?
As I indicated earlier, our dear Mother Ghana has more pressing legislative headaches including the Special Prosecutor Bill, Mandatory Towing Levy, Zongo Development Bill and a host of others. The law therefore does not expressly provide for the scenario described above.
What are our options then, in the event that we’re confronted with such a situation? Well, we may argue that the 1st Deputy Speaker should perform the functions of the President in such an instance, since he is required to undertake the duties of the Speaker in the Speaker’s absence. What then happens if the 1st and 2nd Deputy Speakers were in attendance at the state event in the Accra International Conference Centre and also perish?
Conversely, what do we do with the provision in the 1992 Constitution which states that the President takes precedence over all other persons in Ghana, and in descending order, the Vice President, the Speaker of Parliament and the Chief Justice, take precedence over all other persons in Ghana? This provision presupposes that the Chief Justice assumes the position of Commander-in-Chief, if the President, Vice President and Speaker of Parliament die at the same time. Now what happens if the Chief Justice was also in attendance at the same disastrous state event? Does the most-senior justice of the Supreme Court assume the office of the President in such an instance?
These questions may have been justifiably dismissed as highly unlikely and improbable in the early 2000s. Considering the spate of terrorist attacks especially in Sub-Saharan Africa in recent times, these questions have now however graduated from the status of old wives’ tales, to scenarios evoking legitimate concerns for the continuity of government leadership. At least the Americans have recognised the possibility of such an occurrence, and have made the necessary provisions, with a whole list of potential successors. Our dear Mother Ghana however has more pressing legislative concerns.