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The functions, powers and limitations of the Governor-General under the 1957 independent constitution of Ghana

Gun, Historically, Weapon, Fortress
On the 6th of March 1957, Ghana became the first country south of the Sahara to attain political independence from their colonial masters, the British. This independence came along with a constitution which was to guide the conduct of the affairs of the new nation. The constitution made provision for the position of a Governor-General. The Governor-General was appointed by the Monarch in London but this was mostly under the recommendations of the British Cabinet. The Governor-General represented the British Monarch in Ghana and carried out functions that would otherwise have been performed by the Queen.

As a ceremonial head
The Governor-General was the Head of State so he performed the functions that would otherwise ....have been performed by the queen of England if she was resident in Ghana. The Governor-General carried out ceremonial functions such as the receipt of foreign dignitaries, attendance of national parades etc.

Assent to Bills
It was the duty of the Governor-General to give his assent to bills emanating from the National Assembly before they could become effective. Without the Governor-General’s assent, the law could not be implemented.

Appointment of the Prime Minister
Another function of the Governor-General under the independent constitution of Ghana was to appoint the Prime Minister. After each general election, the leader of the party that emerged victorious at the polls and obtained majority seats in the National Assembly was appointed by the Governor-General as the Prime Minister.

Appointment of Ministers of State
Another responsibility of the Governor-General was to appoint Ministers of State. These appointments were mainly under the recommendations of the Prime Minister.

Prerogative of Mercy
The Governor-General exercised the power of prerogative of mercy. In other words, he had the power to set a convicted prisoner free or commute his/her death sentence to life imprisonment on grounds such as compassion. Every year, a list of names was generated by the then Prisons Service of people who qualified to be pardoned by the Governor-General under his prerogative powers.

The Governor-General was the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of Ghana. He was the only person who could deploy troops to any part of the country and even outside the territorial jurisdictions of the country.

Control by the Constitution
Though the Governor-General was the Head of State and was granted powers under the new constitution, he was guided by the dictates of the constitution. He could not take any action that was in violation of the constitution. The constitution was therefore a major limitation to the powers and functions of the Governor-General.

Recommendations of the Prime Minister
The constitution made provisions for the Governor-General to act on the recommendations of the Prime Minister, for example, in the appointment of Ministers of State and Justices of the Appeal Court. He was therefore limited because he acted on the advice of another power.

The Local Press
The Local press was also a limiting factor for the Governor-General. By the time of independence, the Ghanaian News Stands were replete with very vocal Newspapers that did not spare any opportunity to express their views on matters of national importance. The Governor-General was therefore kept at bay by the fear of being criticized in the newspapers.

Public Opinion
The Governor-General was guided by Public Opinion both in the Local Press, in Ghana and in the British Press in the Metropolitan capital. In other words, the opinions that were shaped, in the Ghanaian and British Press could influenced the Governor-General as to which actions to take.

1.Highlight six functions of the Governor-General under the independence constitution of Ghana.

2. a. Discuss three of the functions performed by the Governor-General as prescribed under the 1957 independence constitution of Ghana.
    b. In which three ways were the powers of the Governor-General limited under the constitution?

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