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Opinions of Saturday, 31 December 2016

Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

Election of MMDCEs is long overdue

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

President-Elect Akufo-Addo’s announcement that beginning in 2018 all Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executive Officers will be elected directly by the people of the localities these officials intend to serve is a step in the right direction (See “MMDCEs Will Be Elected from 2018 – Akufo-Addo” Ultimatefmonline.com / Modernghana.com 12/27/16).

It could not be more opportune. Indeed, it is long overdue. It also raises the image and stature of Nana Akufo-Addo a notch above all the democratically elected leaders of the country’s Fourth Republic. But even more importantly, this radical policy measure, if successfully carried out, would further deepen the country’s democratic culture. It would also significantly reduce the existing winner-takes-all regime, in which the sitting president of one political party gets to literally handpick some 300 local government administrators.

There are several advantages to having local residents elect the leaders of their own local government, just as is presently done with the presidency and the national legislature or parliament. This way, our leaders will become more accountable to the people, rather than the current neocolonialist system, doggedly championed by the key operatives of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), whereby these local leaders are only directly made accountable to the President of Ghana and/or his assigns, the so-called presidential staffers, which renders our Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives far out of touch and in many instances utterly disrespectful and abjectly insensitive to the needs and aspirations of the people they have been appointed to serve.

It will also drastically reduce the level of political patronage and corruption at the highest levels of government.

The present system encourages gross administrative incompetence, as the mode of selection of these local chief executives is nearly wholly based on a political spoils system based on whom you know and one’s party affiliation and loyalty, rather than one’s proven competence via one’s performance on the ground, as it were.

It also bears underscoring the fact that the country has witnessed the brutal and Mafia-style assassinations of quite a remarkable number of these local chief executives because many of the people whom they governed felt insufferably violated and criminally imposed upon, especially where these appointees had no substantive cultural and/or organic ethnic links to the people. As President-Elect Akufo-Addo aptly hinted while addressing a plenary session of the Central Regional House of Chiefs, elected local officials are more likely to perform at their utmost best if they are pointedly made aware of the fact that they have to periodically return to the people whom they govern for the renewal of their mandate.

The newly proposed system also stands the salutary chance of reducing the tedious and unwieldy burden of having the Chief Resident of the Flagstaff House appoint these local leaders, in addition to managing the hectic job of having to appoint members of his cabinet, Regional Ministers and other high-level civil and public servants, in addition to the daily grind of managing the affairs of the entire country.

One also hopes that as the country’s decentralization process further develops and the country assumes the status of a mini-federation, the post of Regional Ministers would become elective as well. This would ensure that even the marginalized opposition political parties would get to play a significant role in the national governance process.

That it has taken this abominably long and a prohibitive battle to induce such a positive change must be squarely blamed on political autocrats and faux-socialists like Messrs. Ato and Kwamena Ahwoi, the two most notorious brothers of the Ahwoi clan and diehard National Democratic Congress’ machine operatives, who have been perennially hell-bent on stalling the inevitable evolution of a healthy democratic political culture in the country.

It also comes as good news to hear President-Elect Akufo-Addo observe the need for our legitimately invested traditional rulers to be actively engaged in the selection of their own local administrators, at least in the lead-up to the 2018 proposed election of all Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives in the country. This policy measure promises to become one of the most enduring legacies of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.