The National House of Chiefs is on fire as the traditional rulers held eachother's throat over their position on the upcoming referendum that could introduce multi-party sponsorship of candidates at the local level provided the electorate votes 'Yes' on December 17.
A statement authored by Togbe Afede XIV and Nana Kweku Ewusi VII, President and Vice-President respectively, opposing the December referendum, has drawn fury, denial and harsh remarks among the top chiefs.
Ogyeahoho Yaw Gyebi II, Paramount Chief of Sefwi Anwhiaso Traditional Area and President of the Western Regional House of Chiefs, who doubles as Chairman of the Governance Committee of the National House of Chiefs, described the statement as bogus and arbitrary and added that it smacked of 'drunkenness and abuse of power' by Togbe Afede and Nana Kweku Ewusi.
The Okyenhene and other prominent chiefs from the Eastern Region have also distanced themselves from the statement made by the president of the House of Chiefs and his vice.
But Togbe Afede who does not appear ready to countenance dissent on the matter has described the reaction of his colleagues as consistent with 'dishonesty'.
Even before Ghanaians could brood over the now discredited and dissenting statement, Nana Yaw Gyebi swiftly dealt it a fatal blow impugning simultaneously the stewardship of Togbe Afede and his vice, which for him is arbitrary.
The National House of Chiefs issued a statement last Friday urging electorate to vote 'No' similar to what the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) is urging the public to do.
The chiefs, in the statement, had said that the development implications of such reforms were by no means self-evident.
“All the partisanship that resulted from the presidential appointment of the chief executives would be worsened with the amendment of Article 55(3), because the amendment itself is designed to introduce partisan politics into the election after the removal of the President's power of appointment of the chief executives of the assemblies,” it said.
“The framers of the 1992 Constitution had good reasons for protecting our local government system from partisan politics, and the rationale for the new reforms has not sufficiently addressed the grounds for the exclusion,” it added.
They said “we are concerned that the introduction of partisan policies into local government will be accompanied by the unwholesome political culture and the corruption associated with partisan politics, which has already done a lot of harm to our society and economy.”
Even before the ink dried on the statement, Ogyeahoho Yaw Gyebi II rubbished the statement as bogus and not representing the House.
He told DAILY GUIDE in an interview on Saturday that the work of the House is hinged upon a set of procedures, adding that these precede statements but in the case of the one purported to have been issued in the name of the House, these were not adhered to.
Issues of this nature, he explained, must first go before the Governance Committee of the House of which he is chairman, and he denied seeing such an item.
The chief said when issues with governance slant are tackled by the Governance Committee, they are then referred to the Standing Committee whose members modify, reject or accept the contents.
In the face of an acceptance, he went on, the issue was sent to the General House for ratification before a statement was issued.
He said the foregone procedures were not applied in the case of the statement which had been issued in the name of the National House of Chiefs, the paramount chief, who represents the Western Region in the national house, said.
When there are emergency issues, he said all members of the Standing Committee would be called to discuss it before a final decision was taken.
Two persons, as the President and the Vice-President have done, cannot take a decision and create an impression that it was representing the whole House.
“We are not practising Executive Presidency at the National House of Chiefs. The National President is always elected among equals and before any decision is taken, we should have discussions to get a national consensus,” he stressed.
He said it was unfortunate that “the statement was issued on the letterhead of the National House of Chiefs and created the impression that it was coming from all chiefs but that is not the case.”
Continuing, Ogyeahoho said “I have spoken with some of the chiefs and they expressed disappointment at the statement issued by Togbe Afede.”
Asked whether there are divisions within the House, he said he could not tell, but suggested that Togbe Afede and Nana Ewusi were dabbling in politics and or “power drunk,” hence “they feel they can do whatever they like.”
A statement signed by Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofori Panin, the Okyenhene, who is also President of the Eastern Regional House of Chiefs, noted that the reaction was informed upon receipts of complaints from chiefs and people of the region.
The Okyenhene pointed out that being a responsible body of eminent chiefs and the symbol of traditional and national authority, the National House of Chiefs position on critical national issues “evolves from broad consultation and deliberation to reflect and enforce collective national conscience and aspirations.”
The statement of 15th November 2019, the Okyenhene said, “had not the knowledge of the Governance Committee Chairman, Ogyeahoho Yaw Gyebi II.”
The Standing Committee too, he pointed out, had no records of deliberations on the matter as was the various regional houses of chiefs.
“In relation to the above, it is the considered opinion of the Eastern Regional House of Chiefs that the statement issued by the President of the National House of Chiefs does not reflect the views of the traditional leadership of Ghana. The public should expect from Nananom in the coming days a communiqué on this critical national issue in line with established consultative processes.”
Togbe Afede Returns
Following a visit by the Deputy Minister for Local Government on the subject of making the appointment of MMDCEs a partisan affair, Togbe Afede stated in a rejoinder he co-authored with the Deputy President of the House.
He appeared to say that the matter was referred to the Governance and Development and the Legal Affairs Committee to meet and prepare a position paper on the subject.
At the Standing Committee's meeting of 25th February 2019, Togbe Afede stated that Nana Asante's Report on the subject which represented the House's position was adopted.
Present at the meeting on the issue, Togbe Afede noted there were 14 members including Ogyeahoho Yaw Gyebi II.
The acting Registrar, he recalled, informed the House that he had submitted their position on the election of MMDCEs to the Local Government Ministry.
The issue contrary to the position of Ogyeahoho Yaw Gyebi II and the Okyenhene, according to Togbe Afede, was thoroughly discussed at the House as he put it “both by the Steering Committee and the General Meeting.”
Continuing, he affirmed the report presented by the Chairman of the Legal Affairs, Nana Krobea Asante, which formed the basis of the recent press statement was adopted 'as the position of the House' and it included the recommendation that the House should strongly object to the notion that membership of local assemblies should exclusively comprise representatives of political parties as in Parliament.
Togbe Afede and his colleague Vice-President ended the rejoinder rather harshly by saying, “Any suggestion that the proposed referendum to allow partisan politics in our local elections was not discussed by the House is not only dishonest, but also wanton mischief.”