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Opinions of Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Columnist: Zambaga Rufai Saminu

New Districts/Regions: Ellembelle model of silence isn't an option in participatory local governance

Decentralization has been used as an anchoring framework by successive governments in Ghana since independence to spread development.

The focus primarily has been to distribute development evenly to the nook and cranny of the country hence the creation of regions, Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDA's) when necessary.

This simple but important governance practice has not only offered hope for hopeless regions, districts and communities hitherto reeling under the command and dictates of other regions and districts in terms of development, but has succeeded in assisting those who could not take any active part in local governance to develop keen interest in the concept. Others previously sitting on the fence have also taken to center stage to make the process meaningful and relevant.

To begin with, Shama District in Western Region used to be under Shama Ahanta East Metropolitan Assembly (SAEMA) but was carved out of it in 2008 and inaugurated by the administration of President John Agyekum Kufuor as an autonomous district on 29th February 2008.

The question however now is whether the reason for government making SAEMA an autonomous district has been achieved. This is because, the area is still struggling in terms of development.

For instance, a Polyclinic under construction in the district which started over a decade ago when the area was part of Shama is still incomplete as at 15 January 2019.

This development lacuna, in our governance process as shared above perhaps requires serious rethinking, attention if not an overhaul.

This is to make development an integral part of local governance else the creation of regions, districts and electoral areas will remain irrelevant if not repugnant.

Also, For many years, the Prestea-Huni valley area has been part of Wassa West with administrative capital based at Tarkwa, but it was carved out of Wassa West district during the administration of President John Agyekum Kufuor in 2008 to make room for development to hit all the mining communities geographically located within the Tarkwa enclave.

Unfortunately, for almost a decade since the area was carved out of Tarkwa, nothing concrete has been done in terms of development to show that the creation of the district had indeed made impact and caused transformation, except the visible administrative structures created in the district capital (Bogoso).

This disappointing development has rather created anxiety in the area, and opened windows of opportunities for illegal activities such as galamsey (illegal mining) , robbery and prostitution among other immoral incentives to thrive.

The Ellembelle Model

On the contrary, when Ellembelle district was carved out of current Nzema East Municipality under LI 1918, the area was completely underdeveloped. Today, Ellembelle is competing seriously in terms of development with district Assemblies that had existed before it was born due to commitment made by indigenes of the area.

Although the district was established during the administration of President John Agyekum Kufuor just like the others in 2008, it has since witnessed massive development projects provided by various governments from the era of Kufuor, John Evans Atta Mills, John Mahama and now President Akufo-Addo.

The level of infrastructure development been witnessed in the area has been facilitated by both public and private institutions through the lobbying skills of commited individuals in the area.

Dr. George Sipa Adjah Yankey, former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ghana National Gas Company (GNGC), who also served as Minister for Health under President Mills, current Member of Parliament for Ellembelle, Emmanuel Armah Kofi Buah, who served as a Deputy Minister of Energy under Professor Mills and subsequently a substantive Minister for Petroleum under John Dramani Mahama, his senior brother Frank Buah, one of the successful business moguls in Ghana, Freddy Blay, former Member of Parliament for the area, now National Chairman of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) and other notable figures have vowed to make the development of Ellembelle their primary responsibility hence the commitment to lobby for projects, investors and any opportunity they can find available for Ellembelle.

Perhaps, this is the reason why one can now find very beautiful hotels inundating the area to support tourism development.

In addition, hundreds of health facilities have been provided for desperate communities. The area can also boast of better schools dotted across the length and breadth of the district.

Many have attributed these sprawling development in this coastal district with rapid expansion of infrastructure to three factors. First , they believe because the first President of Ghana Kwame Nkrumah comes from Nkroful, the district capital, it would automatically attract development. What though they have failed to realize is that Essiama, and Anyinase, are currently the most densely populated towns in the district, hosting virtually all social and commercial activities with Nkroful, the district capital rather being dormant.

Others also credit the development of Ellembelle with the discovery of oil and gas in commercial quantities in the country, but they have failed to realize that the oil discovery per the description of experts was made offshore cape three point in Ahanta West district which is older than Ellembelle, but in terms of development, Ellembelle far outweighs Ahanta West.

There are those who also believe that the active participation of the vibrant youth in the area in the local governance process contributed significantly to the development of the area.

The Assembly is usually under the control of youthful Assembly Members. The Assembly currently holds the record of being the most powerful in decision making in Western Region. They ( Assembly Members ) reject candidates they consider unfit to lead them through voting during confirmation of nominees.

When candidates are nominated by Presidents, and they don't meet the qualities the Assembly Members are looking for, they would reject the person even if they would have to do that hundred times until they get the preferred person to lead them, they would do it.

When he assumed office, President Akufo-Addo tasted the robustness of the Assembly when he repeatedly presented Stephen Donkor as DCE Nominee , but he was rejected countless until the current DCE Kwesi Bonzo was nominated for consideration and he had forty two (42) votes against ten (10), representing over eighty percent endorsement by the Assembly with majority of the Assembly Members pledging their allegiance to his administration.

Kwesi Bonzo has since received the blessings of all the key stakeholders in Ellembelle to paddle the development canoe. The MP for the area Armah Kofi Buah has declared publicly by word and action that he would collaborate with the DCE to succeed in pushing foward the development agenda of Ellembelle.

The DCE on the other hand has pledged to tap into the rich experience of the lawmaker in the ultimate interest of the district. Whilst the MP believes the young DCE needs his support and guidance, the DCE also says, he needs the former Minister to succeed because he is currently the greatest political asset in the district due to his exploits in government and wider network internationally.

But, the understanding amicably reached by the two political figures holding the local governance keys to the development of Ellembelle has rather incurred the displeasure of their respective political parties. Whilst NPP supporters want the DCE to ditch the MP and concentrate on establishing his dominance with projects in order to contest the MP in 2020 elections, NDC supporters also want the MP to allow the DCE to fumble and fail, so that they can use it against his party in 2020, but the supreme interest of Ellembelle, the two leaders insist, surpasses the political considerations hence their resolve to work together.

For the Ellembelle model, one key observation that must be acknowledged is the commitment of those considered as key stakeholders to work together in the supreme interest of the district despite their political differences. They include Assembly Members, the Presiding Member, the DCE, and the MP.

The use of public and private sector institutions to facilitate development through lobbying by indigenes considered as heavyweights , the desire of citizens in the area to allow structures work instead of kowtowing to the whims and caprices of authorities.

The judicious use of platforms such as Nzema Youth Association, Nkroful Community Development Association, Nzema Association New York, National Association of Nzema Students, and all Nzema Associations abroad, as pressure groups to drum home support for development as well as adopting best practices to guide the development path of the district all contributed to make the district the cradle and model of hope for other districts lacking behind in terms of development.