National Chairman of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Samuel Ofosu Ampofo has said that his party feels vindicated after rejecting a move by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to have Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) elected on partisan basis.
Mr Ofosu Ampofo said if this plan had succeeded, it would have jeopardised the entire local governance system in the country.
He said these when the presidential candidate of the NDC in last year’s elections, Former President John Dramani Mahama met the Eastern Regional House of Chiefs as part of his thank you tour on Tuesday October 12.
“As a former Local Government Minister, I know how Local governance and rural development is dear to the heart of the Chiefs because the development of this country can only take place from the micro level to the macro level.
“In other words, we can only feel development at our various districts, municipal and metropolitan and of course the towns and communities.
“That is why the 1992 constitution came with the District Assembly Common Fund that was to address the development imbalances that the country was experiencing. So the common fund was put in place to ensure that there will be even and equitable distribution of the national resources across the length and breadth of this country and so the release of this common fund is critical to the rapid and accelerated development of our various communities which are all imbedded in the various paramountcy that you preside on.
“Sadly to say that, as I speak to you now, the DACF has been in arrears for four quarters which means that for almost one year now common fund has not been released to the MMDCEs and this is a very sad commentary because its net effect is that a it impedes the rapid development of the various paramountcy that you preside on .
“I appeal that the chiefs, in your engagements must also put pressure to bear on government to ensure that this District Assembly Common Fund are released timeously because if you have MMDCEs in office and there are no resources for them to develop the districts then of course they are being paid for nothing.”
“You recall that His Excellency President Akufo-Addo sometimes in the last term proposed amendments to the local government act and proposed that the local government system should be partisan and those of us here opposed vehemently that we will want to persevere the nonpartisan nature of our district assemblies and so there was a very intense debate when a referendum was proposed and because of the position that we canvassed and convinced Ghanaians finally, the president had to withdraw and then referendum never took place.
“Recent development in the appointment and approval of MMDCEs vindicate our position that if we make local government system partisan we will further polarise this country and we will to be able to even put our citizens together to undertake development projects .
“Why am I saying so? Only last Sunday, in one district assembly when 38 people were supposed to go and endorse municipal, chief executive on Sunday some government appointees were put together and one or two people were added and military and security agencies provided them escort to go and approve somebody who has been appointed as a DCE.
“The elected assembly members were prevented from exercising their constitutional right and this is a sad commentary for local governance which for me is the heart beat of the chiefs when it comes to the governance architecture of this country.
“It did not happen in that place alone, in several other places elected assembly members are prevented and because the clause says that two thirds present and voting so they will he elected members and cordoned off a few people and say they are the only people who came and they have voted and so somebody has been declared the DCE.
“I think we are bastardising our local government system and I will plead with the chiefs that in your deliberations take these matters into consideration because our democratic dispensation, the pillars upon which our democracy revolves is the decentralisation and the local government system of which the chiefs are part.”
It is recalled that Mr Gabby Otchere Darko, a leading member of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) said in relation to the agitations that characterised the nomintaion of the MMDCEs that President Akufo-Addo intended to have the laws amended in order to make MMDCEs elected as a way of curing the winner takes all problem but some Ghanaians rejected that move,
The former Executive Director of the Danquah Institute said the winner takes all concept in Ghana, from local to national, is not does not help the democracy of Ghana
“It was not for nothing that Akufo-Addo set about to amend the Constitution and have MMDCEs (mayors) elected by the very people they serve. But the opposition had different ideas. The winner takes all, from local to national, is bad for a healthy democracy anywhere in the world.
“Akufo-Addo is not a leader who particularly enjoys wielding the power to appoint or disappoint. He’s slow to reshuffle & even finds the constitutional powers to appoint 1,000s of people tedious a time that could be better spent on getting the work done. But it is what it is,” he said in a tweet reacting to the list of the MMDCEs announced by the Local Government Dan Botwe on Sunday September 19 and some of the agitations that characterized the announcement.
Mr Akufo-Addo in 2019 ordered for the withdrawal of a Bill that was seeking to amend Article 243(1) of the Constitution which allows the President to appoint MMDCEs.
In a national address where he announced the cancellation of the December 17, 2019 referendum that was to decide on an amendment of Article 55 (3) of the Constitution to enable political parties to participate in local level elections, the President also put on hold plans that would also allow for the election of MMDCEs as he promised ahead of the 2016 elections.
“It is with deep regret that I have given instructions to the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development …to abort the process and see to the withdrawal of the Bills for the amendment of the Constitutions both in respect of Article 243 (1) and Article 55 (3).”
Whilst the President attributed the decision to cancel the referendum to the absence of “a durable national consensus” on the matter, he did not explain why the Bill to amend Article 243 (1) was also withdrawn despite the fact that it had seeming bipartisan backing.