Reader, I have three seemingly insoluble problems; first – The President's ministers vis-à-vis Parliament; second – the way NPP selects her parliamentary candidates; and third – the need to elect all MMDCEs by direct universal suffrage.
We were once a British colony, so, naturally, on independence we practiced parliamentary democracy with a Prime Minister until July 1960 when we became a republic with an executive President—head of state and government, but all ministers from parliament.
Our Second Republic was purely parliamentary democracy with Progress Party's K. A. Busia as Prime Minister and all his ministers from Parliament. Sir Edward Akuf- Addo, one time Chief Justice of Ghana, was elected as ceremonial President, living at Peduasi Lodge.
Then came the Third Republic of Executive President Dr. Hilla Limann of PNP, who chose all his ministers from outside Parliament. The former Headmaster of Achimota School, Mr. Chinbuah, Member of Parliament, was named Minister for Foreign Affairs, and he had to resign his MP position for a bye election.
Parliament was strictly a law making body only.
I remember so well that after the coup of December 31, 1981 I was the Member Secretary of the PNDC – National Investigations Committees set up to interrogate all former Third Republic ministers, MPs, DCEs and so on.
I so well remember a day Mr. Akoto, MP under interrogation at NIC, screamed at us: “why am I under arrest? I was only an mp!!!”
The Fourth Republican Constitution is neither British parliamentary democracy nor American executive Presidency democracy. The President is expected by law to appoint more than HALF of his Ministers from Parliament.
When I was campaigning for Parliament in 2000, a certain senior friend of mine told me, “Captain, if you want to be a minister in the upcoming NPP administration then make sure you win the seat in Berekum.”
And so, if you go to Parliament today, you will find over 50 NPP MPs who are all ministers or deputy ministers. For our democracy, I think this is not good.
I do not think we should force the President to appoint anybody from Parliament. In fact, if the President feels strongly that a particular MP must definitely be a minister, that person should resign his seat for a bye election.
Let us give the President a free had to appoint anybody to be a minister. That will make Parliament truly very independent from the executive arm of the state.
Right now, majority of the ministers, coming from Parliament, go to Cabinet to debate on laws for Ghana, then they come to Parliament to whip non-minister MPs to vote for the sake of the party for government laws – this is not good for separation of powers.
This leads to the second problem.
The opportunities are legion if you are an MP in a ruling party; so all who crave to serve our Motherland try to become MP.
In America, virtually every public office is by election, even including Prosecuting Attorney!!! Here in Ghana, it is only MP, so people go to all lengths to become MP.
In 2016 NPP parliamentary primaries was so hit by monetary influence that NDC convened an emergency national executive meeting and decided that, look here, if you want to contest for Parliament on the ticket of NDC then convince majority of all card bearing members of NDC in your constituency to vote for you.
Till date, my party, NPP, still practices the Electoral College System, where NPP polling stations executives only, wrongfully called 'delegates', decide—and naturally money power keeps talking.
In our recent primaries, in an extreme case, an incumbent managed to retain his candidacy after buying cars for each member of the Constituency Executive. In another constituency the executive who all voted en bloc for the incumbent charged him a fee of a billion old cedis!!! An incumbent gunning for a fourth team in Parliament blocked all competitors and managed to get himself declared unopposed, whereupon an angry aspirant decided to go “independent” giving him so many sleepless nights.
I read in the media that NPP is suffering from as many as 46 pro-NPP independent candidates!!!
I strongly recommend that NPP should open the floodgates and do what NDC does – all aspiring MPs for NPP must convince majority of all card bearing NPP members in the constituency to vote for you. That will wipe out the spectre of independent candidates outright.
After 25 years of democracy, can you imagine the huge number of NPP former ministers, NPP former parliamentarians, NPP former national, regional and constituency executives; each of whom has no vote in deciding who should represent the party in the primaries.
I think NPP should rethink on this issue.
And, you see, naturally, this brings me to my third problem.
The system is not fair to MPs.
The people vote for you to become their MP hoping and expecting that you will fix their roads, water and health problems, electricity and jobs.
You come to Accra, attending sittings of the House, attending Committee Meetings, going back to find that the person the President has appointed as DCE is jealous for your seat, he deliberately ignores your specific projects that you promised, and you are not even a voting member of the district assembly!!! Who gets what in district contracts, you have no idea.
The man on the ground, the local power house is the DCE, but you, as MP, you have no control over him. In fact you are not even on talking terms with him!!!
The President is in Accra, so busy managing the whole country that he cannot be reasonably expected to come and fix the water problem in your area—ask the DCE!!!
But who appointed the DCE?
Of course, nominally, it was the President, but in practice, it was by some presidential staffers, who may not necessarily have shared the President's personal vision. There are several instances of persons who were not shortlisted by the Regional Ministers' recommendations getting appointed as DCEs.
So then what happens? The man knows how he got appointed, so he does not care a hoot about 'the people'. Recently the University of Ghana published a research report that DCEs in the country are simply not working!!!
Elect all DCEs by direct universal suffrage.
When I was Deputy Minister at Local Government, I visited a city in Canada where the mayor, a woman, had been in office continuously for 40 years—almost always being re-elected unopposed!!!
Open the floodgates. Allow everybody who wants to become DCE to contest, whether sponsored by the party or independent. If he does not perform the electorate will change him for another person.
Why should you have a DCE who wants to contest for Parliament?
Let us push our democratic practice to the next level. Let the President appoint anybody he likes to be minister, let everybody who is a card bearing member of my party vote for the primaries, and let us all decide who should be our local governors.
Don't you agree with me?
Written by Nkrabeah Effah Dartey