Elect Your Next DCE; How?

I had intended to, this week too, skip the continuation of my treatise on the election of MMDCEs, to ‘blow my top’ on the issue threatening to collapse our still nascent democracy! I’m, of course, referring to the tsunami of sorts that has erupted in arguably Africa’s best polls organisation – the Electoral Commission of Ghana.  Fortunately, my counterpart column, The Last Uprising, which is authored by ace journalist-politician William Dowokpor, did some justice to the matter in yesterday’s edition of this newspaper.  Freed to return to our honourable Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives, I humbly crave your indulgence to delve a bit deeper into the pros and cons of electing MMDCEs.

For the purpose of this piece, I placed a call to a Minister of Local Government during the Atta Mills regime, Samuel Ofosu Ampofo. The GIMPA PhD student was willing to treat the topic from a more academic point of view than partisan standpoint. First, Mr. Ofosu Ampofo thinks that one needs to consult the Constitution of Ghana and its 20th chapter that prescribes methods for Decentralisation of Government. One further needs to note certain changes that were made, last October, via the New Local Government Act.  In sum, Mr. Ampofo reminds both proponents and opponents that the Chief Executive is the direct representative of the President in the metropolis, the municipality or district.   The Chief Executive presides over the District Security Council, is head of administration and is expected to lead the execution of the President’s vision where he or is works. “If you are advocating for the election of MMDCEs, are you going to change the fundamentals of your Constitution?” he quips, wondering if a constitutional quagmire couldn’t be created.

Mr. Ofosu-Ampofo also cites the often-invoked danger of polarisation. “If you subject the position of DCE to election and you get winners from opposition parties, how are you going to design their responsibilities?” His concern there is the high probability of many MMDCEs not sharing in the vision and manifesto of the President and regime party. “A serious disconnect” can happen.

The researcher next moves to what has barely been discussed so far: equitable distribution of resources. “Will the sitting government be prepared to give resources to chief executives that win on the tickets of opposition political parties as much as he will those of his own party?” Who will give arsenal to his opponent? You wonder.

But, the politician-turned-academic also looked at the advantages: 1) “If you elect your MMDCEs, you give them a kind of security of tenure” Rarely can a chief executive be removed from office unless he or she has served the full term of, say, four years. That is completely different from the current situation in which you remain chief executive purely at the pleasure of the President. Flowing from that is the second advantage he mentions: 2) the elected chief executive can take bold initiatives – including even some that may be politically incorrect – which could eventually be beneficial to the district. And then, his 3) is: “You give opportunity to the people to decide who to lead their community development; the democracy dividend.”

Having considered the pros and cons, the ex-minister recalled the last NDC government proposing in principle that MMDCEs be elected. He had to show the NDC’s point of departure from the NPP’s. The NDC proposed to get five people shortlisted from each of the political/administrative districts for presentation to the Public Services Commission to subject them to rigorous interviews. After that, the PSC would evolve three names for each of the districts to face universal adult suffrage.  Mr. Ampofo sees a “win-win situation” in this variation of election of MMDCEs.  It will allow for the election of people “with allegiance to the President and the regime party; also allow the people to have a choice.”

Ghana not there yet?

Having in mind the fact that Uganda, Kenya, Sierra Leone and some other African countries elect their local authority bosses who perform without being hindered by his fears, I asked Mr. Ampofo: why those nations and not Ghana? His response was that those countries are not practising the kind of democracy flourishing in Ghana. Those are de facto one-party states. In those virtual one-party states where the regime party is so dominant, overwhelming majority of those who emerge winners at the mayor elections are invariably sympathizers or actual members of the ruling party.

That didn’t sound convincing enough, given the fact that, in many European nations where there are two strong parties alternating in government like the NPP and NDC do in Ghana, metro bosses are elected.  As if reading my mind and my next question, Mr. Ampofo delivered his verdict: We have not come to the level of political maturity of those European and American states that elect local authority bosses from various political parties.  “For me as an individual and a practitioner, I will caution against a hasty decision to elect MMDCEs” to satisfy the whims and caprices of politicians.

Dear Reader, you will remember clearly from reading my article on July 14 that I am convinced we should elect our MMDCEs. You will also remember from that article that such luminaries as Prof. Kwamena Ahwoi are against the election of MMDCEs. Nonetheless, from the reminder given by an ex-NDC Minister, the NDC as a party is pro-election.  What may be the bone of contention now among most debaters on the topic is – not whether or not we should elect – but, what form the voting should take. As a facet of the how, the question of whether we can properly prepare for election of all MMDCEs next year, as announced by the President, also arises. So, the best answer to the question why we should elect our local authority bosses is simply that it is what the people want: the PPP, NDC and NPP want that. How many people still remain opposed to that democratic process?

So, how and when? Those are the questions that beg for urgent answers. In the third and final edition of my take on the proposition, I’ll set out to do justice to those. In particular, I’ll choose between the NDC option, the PPP method, the Akufo-Addo NPP model and any other that may be available.

You remember the NPP’s candidate Agyekum Kufuor was upbeat about election of MMDCEs in 2000, held to the idea in the early days of his presidency but got pussyfooting about it as the years wore on? Why his shift and many more coming up!

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