Mahama, listen to the cries of your own people

Sun, 21 Jul 2013 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

President Mahama, listen to the cries of your own people (Part I)

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Our democracy may still be regarded as young and pardoned for not helping us move our country out of the woods, more than 20 years of its adoption; but our leaders cannot be pardoned for failing to use the opportunities provided by the democracy to improve conditions in the country. That the 4th Republic has survived so far is more adventitious than carefully orchestrated, I daresay.

Certain happenings confirm fears that our leaders do not have the tact and commitment to help us grow our democracy. Thus, we continue to deceive ourselves that the ritualistic holding of general elections every four years to put a President and Parliament in office is a mark of success. Or that the election of two-thirds of District, Municipal, and Metropolitan Assembly Members is an accomplishment to thump our chests over.

These political rituals are a mere window-dressing and don’t sustain democracy. Just as one swallow does not make summer, so do these rituals not constitute any advancement in democracy to celebrate. A democracy is acknowledged as viable when it helps put in place feasible parameters that function to serve the needs of the people and country!! The existence of a mere shell doesn’t confirm the existence of life therein. Unfortunately, that is what our democracy has been all this while.

It is regrettable that despite the sacrifices being made by the people to sustain our democracy, those in leadership positions are not committed enough to help change the situation for the better. Happenings in the country indicate that the old order of doing things has not changed, and Ghanaians can hardly see any difference between what was and what is now—or what is to come.

Talk about moral decadence, economic stagnation, political depravity, and ideological bankruptcy! What about tribal politics, nepotism, cronyism, bribery and corruption—grand designs to loot the national coffers? You have them all on a regional scale in our democracy. What, then, is the difference between then and now?

What makes a democracy really worth its while is the manner in which the people get involved in decision making and actions that affect their lives. We may be boasting of a local government system that ostensibly suggests that there is widespread local-level participatory democracy, but the reality proves otherwise. Not until the people take responsibility for governance, whatever happens will not suit their needs. Such is our case in Ghana.

Do the MPs consult their constituents to know what specific concerns there are to place before Parliament? Who appoints the Chief Executive Officers for the Metropolitan, Municipal, and District Assemblies? Why should the President appoint a third of members of the Metropolitan, Municipal, and District and all others to state boards, corporations, and many more?

In effect, our democracy is a mere façade and still vests Central Government with all the powers, thus depriving the people of their rightful role in governance. This lapse has wide-ranging negative implications, some of which we are manifesting in the local communities all over the country.

Since President Mahama released the list of nominees for Metropolitan, Municipal, and District Chief Executive (MMDCE) positions, several open demonstrations against the nominees by the citizens and rejection of some by the Assemblies have come to notice. In some cases, so angry were the people in the various communities that they took the law into their own hands.

A classic example for you: A group of irate youth of the governing NDC in Wulensi (Nanumba South District of the Northern Region) burnt down a party van and ransacked the party’s office. The vandalism by the youth on Tuesday was part of protests against the president’s re-nomination of the former District Chief Executive, Alhaji Amidu Seidu.

Other protests include:

1. Sekondi-Takoradi

A group calling itself “The Concerned Youth of Sekondi-Takoradi” has petitioned the president through the deputy Western regional minister, to replace the Municipal Chief Executive (MCE) of Sekondi-Takoradi. They claim that the MCE, Captain Anthony Cudjoe (Rtd.), has neglected the city and performed poorly in his two years in office and should not be given another appointment.

2. South Tongu

Some youth of the South Tongu District of the Volta Region have asked the President not to re-appoint the current District Chef Executive, Daniel Ameloku. Their reason? There has been no “meaningful development of the area” during his tenure of office; and is not physically fit to be in office, suggesting that the President appoints a young talented energetic person to administer the affairs of the district.

3. Asante Akim North

The Asante Akim North District Assembly rejected Mr. Paul Kinsley Aweh Averu (a Laboratory Technician at the Agogo Presbyterian Hospital), as their DCE at a special meeting held at Agogo on Wednesday.

4. Agotime Ziofe

Even though Mr. Michael Kobla Adzaho, the DCE of Agotime Ziofe, has been re-nominated by the President, the chiefs and people of Agotime Traditional Area have kicked against any move to retain him. The delegation of chiefs had gone to the former President’s office to elicit his personal support to carry out their sentiments and frustrations to the government for action.

5. Assin North/South and Ekumfi

In Assin North, Alex Antwi Boasiako was rejected and government changed 14 Assembly members before he was confirmed. Kennedy Agyapong (NPP MP) has accused him of embezzling the MP’s share of the Common Fund and is calling for his arrest by the BNI. In Assin South, Sabina Appiah-Kubi was rejected twice. In Ekumfi, Ibrahim Kwaku Dawson was also reject once but was confirmed by a 35 ‘YES’ to 2 ‘NO’ votes in the second round, following the warning by the Regional Minister.

6. Ajumako-Enyan-Essiam

In Ajumako-Enyan-Essiam, Peter Light Koomson was reject in the first round, and he had to practically beg Assembly members for votes even after the government had changed eight assembly members to pave the way for him to sail through.

Despite all the plea for votes, Koomson still failed to obtain the two-thirds majority votes required for him to be confirmed, but the Presiding Member still declared him confirmed, which triggered a court action by some 23 elected members of that assembly.

Many more are likely to follow suit over the next few days when the Assemblies sit on the matter.

Clearly, those opposed to the nomination of these personalities can’t all be lumped together as NDC fanatics. In most cases, the negative reaction transcends partisan political lines, which even worsens the situation. It means that the President will lose the people’s goodwill if he digs in, which will translate into political traction and detract from his worth in all the affected localities. Is that what he wants?

Generally, the rejection of these nominees suggests that something is not adding up properly and must be addressed. Our democracy stands to gain if grassroots consultation replaces this kind of imposition, which hurts the people’s will.

The President hasn’t deemed it necessary to reach out to these aggrieved people to allay their fears and reassure them that whatever is being done is geared toward addressing pertinent problems in local governance. This silence or inability to tackle the problem is disturbing. Why should the President not be in touch with these people who are crying out against officialdom’s imposition of Chief Executive Officers on them?

Instead, Samuel Sarpong (Central Regional Minister) has given them a bitter pill to swallow by. His statement that “President Mahama can rubbish rules and impose nominees on District, Municipal, and Metropolitan Assemblies” is the most idiotic pronouncement that I have heard in many years.

That is why his warning that the way the various District and Municipal Assemblies in the Central Region “are rejecting President John Mahama’s nominees can cause the president to change the rules and impose his nominees” deserves maximum condemnation. So also does his haughtiness in making that pronouncement: “I want you to understand that if the President nominates someone for the position of DCE and you refuse to confirm him as such the president can set aside your decision and appoint the person in acting capacity… it is as simple as that.”

Then, he capped it all with this one: “In this world, the only law which cannot be changed is the Biblical Ten Commandments … but every law made by man can be changed by man … it’s as simple as that …and nobody has the right to tell us that what we have done is wrong... nobody… it’s as simple as that.” That was what he said he told members of the Ajumako-Enyan-Essiam Assembly.

Such an utterance is reprehensible and antithetical to a democratic dispensation. In a democracy, where consultation and consensus are expected to guide human actions, such pronouncements from a high-ranking government official demonstrates “mental and intellectual laziness” (apologies to Kwame Pianim) and a deep-seated disregard for civility in governance. I hope that Sarpong’s pronouncement doesn’t have President Mahama’s backing. Otherwise, it spells more than doom for him.

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.