Who is misinforming President Mahama?

Wed, 14 Aug 2013 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Monday, August 120, 2013

The spate of open agitations and rioting against the manner in which President Mahama is handling the nomination of CEOs for the Metropolitan, Municipal, and District Assemblies (MMDAs) continues throughout the country. Concerns are rife that the President’s retention of undesirable CEOs or nomination of others described as “unqualified” is needlessly creating tension and threatening local governance. The President has stuck to his guns. What does he hope to get from this fracas?

The unfortunate part is that someone in his circle may be misinterpreting the agitations against his nominees to mean a challenge to his authority. It is not so. The protests are against his nominees, not his authority as the President, empowered by the Constitution to appoint CEOs as such.

Two opinions expressed by some of the concerned citizens speak volumes to suggest that the President needs to sit up:

a. “The party (NDC) has come so far but sadly those at the helm of affairs are killing the spirit and light that form the backbone of the party” (Alhaji Alhassan (a staunch NDC member in the Nkoranza North District in the Brong-Ahafo Region).

b. “Some people had misinformed the President about the appointment of MMDCEs” (Nana Okofo Gyabaah, chief of Busunya).

A President who has his ears on the ground will not miss the import of such opinions or fail to be influenced by them as he consolidates his hold on power, eight months after being installed in office despite the petition by the NPP challenging his legitimacy. I am more than alarmed at the turn of events.

The opposition to President Mahama’s nominees is not provoked by mere personal issues; it has more to it than the President or those advising him know. It is the inescapable culmination of many years of disregard for the interests, senses and sensibilities of the citizens far down the chain of governance. Yet, our Local Government Act 462 regards the MMDAs as the third-tier, the foundation on which the Regional Co-ordinating Councils and Central Government should depend and draw their strength to boost our democracy.

The agitations continue to assume ugly dimensions that are frightening, not because they reflect a big disconnect between the President and the people but also because they don’t bode well for the President’s public image. Furthermore, they smack of insensitivity to the concerns of the people and threaten the viability of the local government structure (the third-tier level in our democratic experience). The rumblings are definitely damaging the President’s political fortune in the various localities.

Although he has hinted at his support for the future election of CEOs for the MMDAs that disposition won’t resolve the current impasse. It is far removed from current happenings, if anything at all, and cannot even be put forward as a solution because there is no political will to enforce it in good faith to give the Assemblies those with the requisite expertise to manage affairs efficiently. A mere mouth-talk!!

Nothing can solve the current problem but the President’s ability to get a hang of the issues at stake and to address them expeditiously. I have already written on this problem and drawn the President’s attention to the harm that such agitations are doing to his personal image and the negative public perception of his governance style, which detracts from his worth. What must be happening?

Let’s backtrack. Long before John Dramani Mahama rose to the highest office of the land, he had come across to us as an “affable” and good communications expert. In the various positions that he held, he carried himself in such an admirable manner as to reinforce perceptions of him as a “people’s man”. That was one major reason for the overwhelming support and goodwill that the electorate gave him, although he had spent barely 40 days campaigning for Election 2012 when his main opponent had spent years doing so only to find his way to the dark chambers of the Supreme Court, not the Presidency.

I don’t think that President Mahama has so soon lost grips on himself or cast off those attributes; but current happenings are overshadowing his “affable” side and painting a different picture of him. I will tell him so, as I have gathered from my rounds, not because I don’t want to respect him for what he is but because I want him to reconfigure things and act quickly to undo the harm that a single decision made by him is causing his public image and threatening to endanger local governance. As is often said, in political times of this sort, it is better to act wisely than to react vigorously.

So, what are the issues now threatening President Mahama’s hold on the affairs of his own party’s support base and other segments of the society crying against his nomination of CEOs for the MMDAs? His dogged determination to retain in office those who have issues with their own people in the localities being assigned them and the nomination of new faces who come across as “undesirables” is the sole cause of the mess. To worsen matters, he seems ill-prepared to shift grounds even when cogent reasons have been given by the dissenters to warrant a reconsideration of his decision.

Incontrovertible proof has been given by those rejecting his nominees to suggest that his refusal to listen to them is regrettable. Official statements that the President deplores the agitations and the directive to the security services to arrest those protesting against his nominees and resorting to vandalism haven’t solved the problem thus far. They are not the solution and will only annoy the agitators all the more for them to raise the tempo of dissension.

The vandalism by NDC followers in Nkwanta North and other places was preventable but inevitable because someone did the wrong thing and failed to connect with the people. Unfortunately, those taking the law into their own hands are mostly the NDC and the President’s own supporters. Many have been arrested for baring their teeth just for registering their dissension. The fracas has revealed the deep-seated revulsion that the party’s activists have for the nominee.

Even the MP for the constituency and the NDC local chairman were reportedly spearheading the rioting and have been declared “wanted” by the police. The 25 NDC activists arrested are being prosecuted, already denied bail at the first hearing of their case, to languish in custody just because somebody pushed them to the wall to put their words into action. Why are we more interested in harming each other than working together to solve pertinent existential problems?

Now, let’s turn to other areas. We go to the Nkoranza North District in the Brong-Ahafo Region, where the chiefs and people are reportedly gearing up for a showdown with the President for re-nominating Kwadwo Adjei Dwomo as DCE. We note that the First Lady (Lordina Mahama) hails from this area.

The citizens are angry that President Mahama still supports Dwomo whom they have accused of abusing his office to amass wealth within a short period and rejected. Nana Okofo Gyabaah, chief of Busunya, articulated the concerns of the citizens—and they have history behind them too. As Nana Gyabaah put it, since Lordina Mahama hails from the district, the citizens will not like to do anything untoward which will incur the displeasure of the President because “The president is our in-law.”

But they are disinclined toward his choice of Dwomo as their CEO. Can’t anybody in authority understand this simple concern of the people and deal with it diplomatically? For the President particularly, this agitation must be very challenging and embarrassing, considering the fact that it is not the first time that Dwomo is being written off as an undesirable.

“In the run-up to the 2012 general elections, the chiefs of Nkoranza North held a press conference and appealed to the President to remove the DCE from office, accusing him of being corrupt, incompetent and arrogant. They also threatened to campaign against the DCE who vied for the Parliamentary seat for the second time. After the President failed to remove the DCE from office, the people of Nkoranza North voted massively for President Mahama but against Mr. Dwomo,” said the news report.

As Alhaji Alhassan (a staunch NDC member) revealed, “if the President still thinks Kwadwo Dwomo is his preferred choice, he (the President) will have the shock of his life since the Assembly members will surely vote massively against him.”

His advice? President Mahama must quickly revoke Dwomo’s nomination in order to avoid a chaotic situation and wanton destruction of property in the district like what happened in Nkwanta North. A warning not to be dismissed with a mere shrug of the shoulders in officialdom. Certainly, what all these people are kicking against can’t be slighted as mere effusions of disgruntled trouble makers. These are not troublemakers but people with genuine concerns to be addressed.

Then, let’s turn to Agogo, where public anger is high because of the imposition of Awule as DCE. He has already been voted down twice but indications are that he will be rammed down the throats of the people as their CEO. None other but the Agogomanhene, Nana Akuoko Sarpong, has articulated the anger of the people at this development. The Assembly members are all set to reject him.

The more these nominees are rejected all over the Assemblies, the more they cast serious and disturbing doubts over the President’s own sense of judgement and political propriety. I don’t want to be told that President Mahama has developed a tough skin for such an embarrassment and poor standing in the eyes of the public. I expect him to put behind him the “briefings” that he is given by those sycophants parading before him, doing overtime to catch his eyes and be retained in office. He should go beyond them to know what exactly is happening all over the Assemblies that have so far opposed his nominees. Then, and only then, can he be in a position to reach out to all these embittered segments of the population.

He needs to be reminded that these nominees need the support and goodwill of the citizens in their administrative areas to function. If they are not favoured, there is no way they can settle in the groove to function; and their non-functioning won’t help the Assemblies solve pertinent problems. We all know that these CEOs are political appointees but will not be in office to do only political work for the appointing authority. They are expected to help the people solve their socio-economic problems.

That is why they must come from among the people and be regarded as capable hands needed to solve those problems. Otherwise, what is being done now will be counter-productive; and it will undermine the integrity of the Assemblies. How can undermined Assemblies solve problems to improve living standards? The President must re-think his approach to this MMDAs problem and regain trust and confidence among the people, especially those supporters of the NDC who are unhappy at these impositions. Act now, President Mahama, to avert any waste of time on damage control in the future!

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.