Dr. Kwame Nkrumah used to appoint his own District Commissioners (DCs) who paid allegiance to him alone. The Young Pioneers, who in one way or the other acted as spies would report anyone who disagreed with the Osagyefo to the DC who in turn will report to the Special Branch of the Ghana Police Service. Before you could blink an eye, you are behind the bars at the Nsawam Medium Prisons condemn cells. Because it was a one party state, we had no opposition to propose anything otherwise.
As we trudged on, Mr. Rawlings also stormed the political arena with his revolutionaries and created the District Secretaries who took charge of all the districts in the country and paid allegiance to only Rawlings and his fellow revolutionaries. In the case of Rawlings, he even created his personal battalion in the Ghana Armed Forces who responded to only him. The Culture of Silence was introduced and Ghanaians became acquiesced and acted like women in the kitchen. Then the Mighty God of Israel raised His hand and the ban of partisan politics was lifted.
In 1991, when the Interim Election Committee was formed, only members of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) were made to join. When it was time to register voters for the 1992 general election, these CDR folks led by their District Secretaries went from house to house with exercise books to register voters. We went to the polls with this bogus voters' register and Mr. Rawlings won convincingly. After all, the Opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) was not allowed to campaign in the Volta Region, where Rawlings hails from. Peaceful as we were and still are; there was no violence even though everybody knew the election was blazingly rigged. All what the NPP did was to write a book titled “The Stolen Verdict' which catalogued all the anomalies before and during the elections.
When we entered the democratic dispensation, the District Secretary metamorphosed to District Chief Executive (DCE). They also followed only the instruction of President Rawlings. After all, he was the one who appointed them. The DCEs then sat on tenterhooks throughout their tenure of office because they could be dismissed through radio announcement without given the opportunity to defend whatever charges preferred against them. During the 1996 electioneering campaign, these DCEs were seen working with employees of NADMO erecting canopies anytime the NDC was going to have a rally. Sometimes, these DCEs would cancel a rally planned by the opposition NPP for some flimsy excuses like security reasons.
Out of frustration, then candidate Agyekum Kufuor told Ghanaians that when he had the nod, he would make sure the positions of MMDCEs became elective positions. He repeated the call in 2000. Because the issue of an appointment of MMDCEs was an entrenched clause in the Constitution, the NDC did everything possible to thwart the efforts of the gentle giant even though he made several attempts to implement that promise. For the eight years that the NDC held the reins of power, they never mentioned anything concerning the election of MMDCEs because they knew what they gained from it when Rawlings was in power.
When Nana Akufo Addo became the flagbearer of the NPP, he repeated the call of ex-president Kufuor for the election of MMDCEs. Nana Addo repeated the call during the 2012 electioneering campaign but the NDC rubbished it and told Ghanaians that even Kufuor could not do it so Nana was throwing dust into the eyes of Ghanaians. They appealed to Ghanaians to ignore him. Barely three years into the regime of the NPP, has a date been set for a referendum, for Ghanaians to decide whether MMDCEs should be elected or not. The campaign has already started and yours sincerely will vote YES.
First, because the MMDCEs were appointed by the president, these MMDCEs were always in a disadvantageous situation. Throughout the country, party executive members are always on the necks of the MMDCEs. Sometimes these executive members team up with MPs to harass the MMDCEs if he or she refuses to play ball which will contravene the tenets of government policies. The worst scenario is the activities of the Council of Elders of the party who compete with the constituency executive members for contracts. Because not everybody can win a contract, political in-fighting erupt and the constituency becomes ungovernable. That is when the seat of government begins to be inundated with petitions upon petitions for the removal of the MMDCEs. Demonstrations are organized on almost daily basis against the MMDCEs, leading to the party in power being unpopular in the constituency.
Another embarrassing situation is the role of our chiefs who think for the sake of political expediency, if the MMDCEs fail to do their biddings, they would petition the president for his or her removal. MMDCEs are compelled to donate huge sums of money to these chiefs anytime they are having their festivals. If you are busy or out of town and you fail to attend a funeral that a chef invited you to, you have a case to answer when you return from your busy assignment.
The most annoying situation is the action of party foot soldiers. To them, because they campaigned for the party to come to power, the MMDCE must give them whatever they ask for. Some of them even go out of their way to lock the offices of MMDCEs for refusing to do their biddings. Just visit any assembly and you will see them in their numbers trying to see the MMDCE to get one favor or the other. What is most annoying is that, the illiterates among them who are too old and unqualified, and yet want to be enlisted in the police service, armed forces, immigration service etc blame the MMDCEs for their failure to get enlistment.
Now if the MMDCEs are elected by all eligible voters in the districts, all these things will stop and they will have the peace of mind to do their jobs to move the nation forward. The feathers of party executive members, Council of Elders, foot soldiers and even the Minister of Local Government, will be clipped and they would not have the power to remove any MMDCE. Developing the district too will become competitive because if you are an elected MMDCE and fail to perform, you will not dare stand for election again, because you will know that the people will not vote for you. If you are an elected MMDCE and you are not doing things right for the electorates, the people can rise up against you and collectively demonstrate against you. The electorates will compare your performance to other MMDCEs, because you all receive all the mandatory payments which come from the central government. Trust me I will be back on this all important issue. After all, who am I Angel Gabriel for?
By Eric Bawah