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Opinions of Thursday, 24 March 2011

Columnist: Arthur, A. K.

The Castle Must Respect Metropolitan/Municipal/District Chief Executives

The local government structure has been a very crucial tool for grassroot participation in the political dispensation in Ghana since the decentralization concept was introduced. Again, every Metropolitan/Municipal/District Assembly has played and continues to play important role in Ghana’s democratic governance under the 1992 Constitution.

The Constitution gives the President the power to appoint Metropolitan/Municipal/District Chief Executive (MMDCE) with prior approval of not less than two-thirds majority of members of the Assembly present. In accordance with the Constitution, the MMDCE shall preside at meetings of the Executive Committee of the Assembly; be responsible for the day-to-day performance of the executive and administrative functions of the District Assembly; and be the chief representative of the Central Government in the District. In other words, the MMDCE represents the President in the District and therefore has the power to act accordingly on the behalf of the President. The same constitution has given the President the power to remove any MMDCE who fails to perform his or her functions as expected.
During the NDC 1 under ex-President J.J. Rawlings, the agitation for the removal of Metropolitan/Municipal/District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) by party executives and members at the various districts was not as rampant as we witnessed during ex-President J.A. Kufours’s NPP regime, and now on the ascendency under President Professor J.E.A. Mills’s NDC administration.
Since the NDC came back into power and MMDCEs were appointed to head metropolitan, municipal, and district assemblies, the rate at which some NDC constituency executives and party members as well as other opinion leaders in the various districts have been agitating for the removal of MMDCEs is very alarming. Not a day passes without the media reporting of constituency executives and party members (foot soldiers) of the NDC calling for the removal of MMDCEs for no apparent reasons. These agitations have resulted in the removal of some of the Chief Executives by the President without any reason being given as to why they were removed.
The recent removal of five MMDCEs, namely, Mr Victor Herman Condorbrey of the Hohoe Municipal Assembly, Mr Kobina Pra Annan of the Sekondi/Takoradi Metropolitan Assembly, Mr Joseph Jones Amoah of the Ahanta West District Assembly, Mr Moses Kofi Armah of the Bibiani/Ahwianso Bekwai District and Mr Victor Nyianyi Keblan of the Jomoro District Assembly should be a matter of concern to all Ghanaians.
There is no doubt that the President might have acted in good faith by removing the affected political appointees. However, the way and manner their termination of appointment was communicated to them was not the best in this democratic era. How can someone who has applied for the position of a metropolitan, municipal, or district chief executive; gone through the hassle of vetting process; nominated by the President; voted by not less than two-thirds of assembly members present; and finally appointed by the President and formally be given an appointment letter be removed from office through radio announcement? No matter the gravity of offence of the chief executive, hearing of his or her dismissal through radio announcement is not best and all Ghanaians must talk against it, no matter what political party one belongs to. This is not a matter for only NDC, NPP, CPP, PNC, or any other political party. The practice whereby political appointees were never informed of their removal from office but through the news media must be a thing of the past and must not be allowed to prevail in this 21st century. We have matured well in our political journey so we must accord a level of respect to our political appointees.
Personally, I think the sacked Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolitan Chief Executive, Mr. Kobina Annan Prah has every cause to be upset at the Presidency and the Castle for humiliating him and the other affected chief executives, and also putting him through psychological trauma.
I am member of the NDC and I do not support Mr. Annan Prah for saying that he would expose the secrets of the party, but I think we did not treat him and the other dismissed chief executives with the due respect they deserved. It is very painful, disgusting, and unacceptable for a metropolitan, municipal, or district chief executive to report to office to perform his or her functions as the President’s representative in the district only to receive phone calls from friends or hear from the radio that he or she has been removed from office by the same President he is representing. You can imagine the shock, sorrow, disappointment, betrayal, pent-up anger, psychological torture, and sense of being useless that person would be experiencing.
My problem with Castle, the seat of government, is that couldn’t the Office of the President have invited the affected chief executives and informed them of the decision of the President to relieve them of their position? Alternatively, couldn’t the Office of the President have relayed the President’s decision in a more humane and formal way through the respective Regional Ministers for onward transmission to the district chief executives days before the media release? In much as the same way an appointment letter is given to a Metropolitan, Municipal, District Chief Executive, or any political appointee, it would be prudent for him or her to be informed formally in writing of about the termination of his or her appointment.
Now some party executives, members and government officials are condemning Mr. Kobina Annan Prah for opening his mouth too wide against the President and the party. If Mr. Annan Prah had died as a result of the shocking news about his dismissal through the unconventional way, would the President, government officials (especially, Elvis Afriyie Ankrah, Deputy Minister of Local Government), Party Executives and members be bold to look straight into the eyes of the widow and say, “Your husband was a gentleman, hard working, dedicated, humble, kind, a man of principles, etc. He died in the course of serving his country. We shall always remember him”. Would the same people be bold and look straight into the eyes of the bereaved children and say, “Your father was the best public officer Ghana has ever had, he was the people’s man, and was liked by all party members.”
One will argue that after all the former Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolitan Chief Executive was not the only person who was fired from his post with radio announcement, so why should he throw tantrums at the President and the party. The fact the others had not complained about the way their dismissal was communicated to them did not mean they were not peeved. We as human beings do not possess the composure when it comes to matters of such nature.
Now the President has ordered a forensic audit to be conducted into the stewardship of the sacked Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolitan boss. Is it witch-hunting or victimization? We should be careful about the way we handle our party members in such situations. The forensic auditing into his stewardship will not stop the problem in the NDC. The unnecessary agitation by party members calling for the head of government appointees because the appointees are not succumbing to their demands for non-existing contracts and jobs must be addressed passionately without making anybody a scapegoat. After two years of coming into power, the government has not been able to come out with any report on forensic auditing into the stewardship of Metropolitan, Municipal, and District Chief Executives who served under the NPP government. Why Kobina Annan Prah? Most Metropolitan, Municipal, and District Chief Executives are suffering silently, but they cannot complain for fear of being fired over the radio. When things are not going well, we the members of the party must be bold and point them out. If we do not take care we shall hand over power to the NPP on a silver platter, come December 2012. No party member is an outsider. We must strive hard to attract and retain members into our fold. Today, it has happened to Kobina Annan Prah, Joseph Jones Amoah, Moses Kofi Armah, Victor Herman Condorbrey, and Victor Nyianyi Keblan. Tomorrow, it can happen to any party member.
Let me take this opportunity to congratulate Captain (Rtd) Cudjoe on his nomination as the Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolitan Chief Executive. My only advice to him is to be careful and tread cautiously when he gets nod of the Assembly because the same people who facilitated Kobina Annan Prah’s exit are still around. Let me also commend Annan Prah for apologizing to the President and the party. I hope someone from the castle would also call the sacked chief executives and apologize to them for communicating their dismissal through news media. They are still our party members and must be accorded the same respect we wish to be accorded us.

By A. K. Arthur (Aspiring NDC Parliamentary Candidate)

Effia Kwesimintsim Constituency