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17.11.2019 Feature Article

MMDCEs Referendum Brouhaha: Gov't Can't Always Be Wrong

MMDCEs Referendum Brouhaha: Gov't Can't Always Be Wrong

Fellow Ghanaians, sometimes not only out of an abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Most often, out of the same abundance of the heart, the mouth shuts up! I have been verbally numbed beyond words of late just looking at the damage the current administration is causing to our motherland Ghana. My recent silence was not therefore borne out of oral candidiasis I was afflicted with but sheer pain.

Where do I even begin? Let me begin from the beginning.

The "Korsheirkor" and huge for nothing 2020 budget statement the governing party presented by Hon. Ken Ofori Atta, the Finance Minister, seems to be diverting the attention of the public from the upcoming referendum exercise. As an avowed and unsparing critique of the Akufu Addo-Bawumia led administration, I believe sometimes the squirrel can find a nut. In order words, sometimes the fool can be right. That's why our elders say if there's a case between your sheep and the wolf, and your sheep is blameworthy at the hearing of the case, you must pronounce the verdict in favor of the wolf even if it will still go back to its wild forest with its verdict.

I may have to quote a Syrian Arab reformatory, Muhammad Rashid Rida to make my point in this article; when he once lamented that "to fight on behalf of ignorant people is like to set yourself ablaze in order to light the way for a blind person."

I don't know which of these are our greatest undoing as a people: Arrogance, Ignorance, and Hypocrisy. Maybe I should choose the latter. Hypocrisy in this country is more dangerous than corruption.

The latest razzmatazz about whether the Metropolitan, Municipal, District Chiefs Executives (MMDCES) be elected or not, has undoubtedly sparked the beehive of controversy that has kept our peaceful polity very heated than that part of hell prepared for many politicians in Africa as we count down to the December 17th for the referendum.

The nation's two giant political parties, the National Democratic Congress, NDC, and the governing New Patriotic Party, NPP, have endorsed No and Yes votes in that impending referendum respectively.

Arguments that have been alluded by both sides have been whether every level of government (the upper echelon of government led by the President himself, and the bottom leveled by Metropolitan, Municipal, and District Chiefs Executives) should both be politicised.

Ordinarily, the president appoints these political actors who should have been apolitical. However, the winner takes all in our political ambiance has made it impossible for a president to look for neutral citizens to be appointed let alone persons from the main opposition. Our politics has been "no pay no play". You can't surface with your cutlery to eat if you didn't contribute or support has been the politics of our dear country. But this is often not helpful. So, the president has decided, among other reasons, to make it electable at the local government level. Perhaps, to tone down the winner takes all mentality.

Ideally, what our dear president and his family and friends government seek to do, according to me, is the right thing to do whether in a bipartisan way or not.

For a long while, many miseducated Ghanaians believe it is the duty of the parliamentarians to undertake developmental projects as in building infrastructures such as hospitals, schools, and other facilities. Only a few Ghanaians are aware that the Metropolitan, Municipal, District Chiefs and Executives and Assemblymen and women, are responsible for these jobs as they are representatives of the president in whose hands the nation's purse is entrusted to do these projects on their behalf.

The majority of Ghanaians don't know that Parliamentarians mainly make laws, and supervise or oversight the President and his local government actors, how they dissipate the public funds and decides who qualifies to do what. Interestingly, because of the Members of Parliament campaign in elections and make promises on behalf of their presidential candidates and their political parties by extension, the constituents think the parliamentary candidates are going to be responsible for the campaign messages made if elected into the House of Legislature.

Consequently, the majority of uninformed Ghanaians literally drag their MPs to the public square if they are unable to fulfill these promises.

President Akufu Addo could have been prompted to that effect, perhaps, since his days as MP for Abuakwa South in 1997 - 2008. That, many of the citizens don't know who to hold accountable for lack of development in their electoral area, Metropolis, Municipality, or District. Hence, this exercise of a referendum, if successful, is to allow divert the attention of the masses from lawmakers because they voted for them, to these local government actors (MMDCES), so that parliamentarians will have their peace to function properly.

This is what all this referendum is all about. Whatever constitutional provisions that need to be amended is not the portion of Ghanaians, for God's sake.

Constitutionally, as we know, the president has the mandate to appoint some thirty percent of the local level leadership directly. The rest are in turn being appointed by the appointees of the president in their capacities as the MMDCES.

Before I move on to let the point be made, that the largest opposition party, NDC, is really not against electing members at the local government level. A position they took which a section of the Ghanaian populace mistake as flipflopping and hypocritic. Those who are accusing the NDC of brazen smug piece of hypocrisy are of the opinion, though misplaced, that our new nation's Defender-in-Chief of governmental mess and nepotism, His Excellency President Akufu Addo, consulted former Presidents of the republic about his intention to allow the people of Ghana to now share his mandate with the actors of local government through the ballot and not by appointment anymore. Probably these statesmen among whom former President Mahama is part had also endorsed the demand of President Akufu Addo when the latter did the consultation. As the leader of the biggest opposition party, former President Mahama might have as well given the go-ahead to the new stands that his party NDC has now taken to vote against the President's demand of democratizing the local government.

As a result, some Ghanaians think it is Judas if not Pharisees, on the part of the NDC to have their former president's endorsed a deal in one breadth then make a sharp U-turn in another breadth to oppose the same deal.

However, that is not the case. Myself when I first listened to the former Attorney General, Marrieta Appiah Oppong, from the NDC side trying to discredit the referendum by asking Ghanaians to vote No, I went on verbal coma a minute. Until she explained that the NDC as a party does not object to making local government actors electable, but they strongly disagree that it should be based on political party lines.

The NDC's reason is that the country is too polarized already and the only place one may find a modicum of activities in the bipartisan lens, is at the local government level. Therefore, if that place is now also rendered partisan we could be doomed as a country. So, for them, it is of concern to have one aspect or level of government being bipartisan aside, perhaps, the civil sector.

As any discerning Ghanaian mind can see, this referendum is of paramount importance because, it is going to be a basis each of these parties undertake an acid test of their electoral relevance, which will determine to some lesser extent, their victory or otherwise in the 2020 general elections. That is, if Ghanaians reject the demand of the President at the polls, the governing party has a cause to worry, and may even start preparing their handover notes. Because, there are many Ghanaians who will vote Yes, not because of anything but for Free Education.

On the other hand, if the Yes wins, the opposition may know despite the "boot-for-boot" counter-attack that has been unleashed on the government over the last three years has not yielded any fruits. The opposition may decide to prepare for election 2024 instead to waste their time on jejune and emptiness if Ghanaians listen to the call of the President to have the MMDCES elected.

So, Ghanaians must appreciate that this referendum goes beyond the mere allowing MMDCES to be elected. It is a good platform to test the murky waters of the political space and what the long term electoral doom or success portends and hold for both parties (victory or victim) in 2020.

Now, some civil organizational groups such as the National House of Chiefs, have come out and are literally up in arms to, in unequivocal terms, state their position as far as this whole important referendum is concerned.

Fundamentally, the local leaders' leadership that should have known better and allow sleeping dogs to lie by not choosing side in this whole political bet, has called upon Ghanaians to reject the president's demand by voting No. Ghanaians should support the NDC to vote No they argued.

They adduced their reasons in a press release that is fundamentally warped (no space to regurgitate the content of their communique here). But what is clear is that the National House of Chiefs don't also want local government to be tempered with politically.

I laughed in Ewe when I read their statement.

To say that some parts of our governance processes are not partisan is either a joke carried far or an open practice of hypocrisy. Today, it is more obvious than female nudity in Ghana that our country is more divided than the "backside" of a modern-day Slay Queen if not cola nut. Very polarized so much so that, even animals know which part of the country they are bred: whether it is the stronghold of the New Patriotic Party or the electoral World Bank of the National Democratic Congress, NDC. Ignore the other Ps political parties. Their flagbearers don't vote for themselves in an election.

Fellow Ghanaians, whether we like it or not, this country has been democratically polarized, with those who want Free Education without the wherewithal and qualification on one side, and those who believe in progressive Free Education where priority will be given to qualified potential high school goers on the other hand.

Even at our ceremonies: funeral or wedding, we distinguish between envelopes that come from opposition and government let alone in political leadership.

Those who are of this opinion should, therefore, give us a break. As for the NDC, my party, I know it is just an avenue to test how deep the Agenda 2020 sinks with Ghanaians.

Nonetheless, it is important to redirect Ghanaians to those who are genuinely responsible for their developmental projects. That could only be achieved by subjecting these local government actors (MMDCES) to elections, whether through bipartisan or partisan. They must be elected as a form of introduction to the people.

Long Live Ghana,

Long Live our nascent but vibrant Democracy,

God Bless us all.

The Writer, Iddrisu Abdul Hakeem, is a MasterCard Foundation Scholar (Alumnus, National Service Person) At KNUST.

Iddrisu ABDUL HAKEEM, © 2019

The author has 31 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: IddrisuABDULHAKEEM

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