• Saturday , 18 January 2020

The People Shall Govern

The-people-shall-governAs the elections get closer, it’s not hard to feel the rising tension. The stakes are high. The winner will take all and the loser will lose all. (Apologies to Reverend Emmanuel Asante of the Ghana Peace Council). There is no middle way. In Ghana, we don’t share power. Our governance system is not inclusive. cialis sale

Statesman K B Asante says we should stop using “winner takes all”, because there is nothing to take. There is just lots of work to do. Actually, the winner does take all through the powers constitutionally assigned to the executive arm of government. Through a system of political patronage, the elected President, in accordance with our Constitution, proceeds to appoint hundreds of local government operatives, extending as far as to the legislative branches of local government, the assemblies. It’s about rewarding cronies and petty officials that identify with the governing party. This system is closed to all but members of the governing party. ( We should stop using the expression ruling party. It’s too feudal). That’s the reality of Ghana’s political system. It results in a do or die state of affairs for the political parties, especially at election time.

We should be willing to share power as a means of bringing the best talent on board and to reduce election-associated political violence. Local think tank, IDEG, has been making this case for sometime now. The way to do this is to open up the districts to competitive multiparty politics in much the same way as happens on the national level. As has been said: “if the people can choose their national president, surely they can choose their local president who is either the Mayor, Municipal Chief Executive or District Chief Executive (MMDCEs)”.

Many more countries these days elect their local government officials. Ghana is the exception rather than the rule. Ghana needs to catch up. It doesn’t match with our “democracy credentials”.
Elect or appoint?
So when I read a report in the Daily Graphic earlier last  week on the subject of whether we should elect our local government chief executives or maintain the current system where the President appoints them, I felt a slight irritation, especially as the writer tried rather poorly to make a case for why we should maintain the current system of appointments. Please let’s not start a long fruitless discussion about the pros and cons of electing MMDCEs. We’ve been through a thorough national consultative process and the Constitutional Review Committee makes the case for electing MMDCEs, loud and clear. The people have spoken. As for government, it has issued a white paper watering down the recommendations by suggesting that the President nominates the candidates for the people to vote on.  This amounts effectively to the existing constitutional arrangements for the appointment.

People, there are some critical subjects of national development that we need to move on with once there is a general consensus on the way forward. We cannot continue to revisit subjects that have been long discussed and broadly speaking, agreed upon. This is one of those issues. buy viagra gel uk


Amending our constitution


It is time to take an interest in what has happened to the cases for amending our Constitution. Our Constitution ought to be a living and dynamic document. The argument for making changes to it so we can elect our Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) is so compelling, it’s hard to see how anyone can argue to the contrary. It has been discussed at length by all and sundry since Papa Kwesi Nduom of the PPP, took it on as a major plank of his political agenda. A news report has just come out saying the New Patriotic Party says if it wins power, it will support and implement this change to our Constitution.

Despite the fact that we have created 216 districts in an effort to deepen our local governance system, few blame the MMDCEs for a lack of development at the local level. They blame the President. And rightly so. District Chief Executives have to take their instructions from above and tend not to represent their geographical space. They have no real power, because the people didn’t put them there.
New Local Government system in 1987
The local government system that operates in Ghana dates back to 1987. It was born during the days of the revolution when Peoples Defence Committees PDC’s  and Workers Defense Committees WDC’s were set up. Through the defence committees,   the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) sought to involve the people in running the affairs of their localities. They became Committees for the Defence of the Revolution (CDRs). It was meant to let the people govern. Hugely aspirational. The mechanics though were another matter altogether.

It was during the time of the revolutionary government, that a new local government system was introduced and district assemblies came into being. This system is now 30 years old. Throughout, power has to all intents and purposes remained at the centre despite the many declared efforts of giving power back to the people through decentralisation. If development is to occur, we must find a way of making this happen and happen soon.

Our local government system is undemocratic. The people of Ghana should be electing their local government chief executive in much the same way as they elect their President and parliamentarians through the same competitive multiparty politics that takes place every four years. The National Chief Executive (HE The President) should not be choosing the 216 other District Chief Executives. He is the President of the nation and they are the presidents of the districts. The assembly arrangements are even more confusing because this legislative body appears to be performing executive functions. What are district parliaments doing performing executive functions? (I keep reminding my young colleagues that the assemblies are local parliaments. Perhaps all this would have been a lot easier to understand if the national parliament was called National Assembly). Presiding Members of the assemblies in the districts are the speakers of parliament at the local level. Somehow, we have managed to mix things up and turned them into development agents who make promises that really ought to come from the District Chief Executive and his administration. What is the District Chief Executive doing in the legislative arm of local government? Does the President in Accra head Parliament? Ghana needs to fix this. A good local government system is a mirror of what happens at the national level.

There is a general consensus that we would be better of electing our local government leaders as a start. Let them be hired and fired by the people in the same way that the President is. Let’s see our democracy mature with a president and a district chief executive or mayor, coming from different parties. It’s good. It’s competitive. It’s inclusive. Smaller parties can even enter government at the local level. There is space for only one President but there are 216 other places for presidents of the districts that make up Ghana.

Power sharing during governance is key to a well-functioning democracy. Rather than have the opposition party spend four years in nothing but electioneering, opposition parties should be in government gaining experience through their involvement in local government.

Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG) needs all the support it can muster to make this happen. I’m in their corner. The 2020 elections must include multiparty elections at the local government level. That way, we would have taken a big step forward towards having a government of the people, by the people. All our energies can then be released towards achieving a government for the people. generic viagra accept paypal

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