Why does the government delight in creating problems for itself?

Fri, 29 Jun 2012 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The controversy surrounding the creation of 45 new constituencies by the Electoral Commission is troubling. So also is the anger that the government’s creation and hasty inauguration of 46 new districts and choice of their capital towns.

While the EC’s action may be justified with precedent and supported with evidence of population figures and the need to make the electoral process less cumbersome, the manner in which the government approached the case of the new districts and their capital towns is not.

Otherwise, will there be any need for security personnel to be mobilized to guard against any physical acts of the aggrieved people in protest? Or, would the government have created unnecessary enmity for itself with this issue?

I have insisted that for as long as the old negative bureaucratic measures continue to be taken to undermine the integrity of governance, our democracy risks being endangered.

Were the government to be more disciplined and mindful of the sentiments of the people for whom the new districts have been created, it would have found better ways to approach the issue instead of doing what has definitely led to its losing face.

It is pathetic that the government won’t factor the expectations of the people into its governance scheme and do things to win their hearts, not antagonize and alienate them. Our democracy will grow better if the local-level structures serving as its support base are strengthened with the goodwill of the people.

What has been happening over the past 20 years that this 4th Republic has been in existence is nothing but a gross disrespect for the people at all levels.

It seems once some people in authority make up their minds on issues, they set themselves and their preferences in stone and don’t allow for any dissension. That is not how a democracy should function.

In this matter of the new district assemblies and their inauguration against the background of protests from sections of the population in those affected areas, the government should be blamed for not respecting the interests of those with genuine complaints.

Instead of inaugurating these district assemblies in the teeth of bitter opposition and flexing all muscles to that effect, the government could have hastened slowly to hurdle all the barriers. But it didn’t do so, and has certainly succeeded in creating new pockets of opponents for itself.

How does the government expect to gain votes if it continues to alienate segments of the electorate on a daily basis as has been happening for some time now? Or how does it expect to be judged in terms of respect for its attitude to the laws of the country?

A former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Ayikoi Otoo hit the nail right on the head when he said that the conduct of the government in inaugurating newly created districts is a clear indication that “it holds the rule of law in contempt.”

He said for the government to proceed to inaugurate the assemblies in spite of a case pending at the Supreme Court challenging the creation of the districts is a clear demonstration that it had no respect for the rule of law (Ghanaweb, June 28, 2012).

I agree with him and add that it is also politically suicidal for the government to do so. Shame unto it!

Furthermore, I consider the reaction of a Deputy Minister for Local Government, Elvis Afriyie Ankrah, to the charge against government as hollow and immature. Maintaining that the government was acting according to law is bull-crap because once a suit is pending in court against the creation of the new districts, no one expected the government to side-step that suit to do as it wishes.

The Deputy Minister’s contention that “the Ministry could not wait for a court ruling challenging the creation of the Assemblies” smacks of arrogance and a premeditated disposition to flout the authority of the judiciary.

Here is the foolish question he asked: “If somebody has gone to court and the court hasn’t given a ruling, then we should stop the inauguration of new assemblies?”

When a case is pending in court, none of the parties affected by that suit can take a unilateral action and expect to be respected. In this case, the government has only succeeded in complicating matters to its own disadvantage.

In a more worrisome sense, it has set itself on a collision course with the judiciary, which will deepen its credibility problems in the long run. Should the case proceed to its logical conclusion for the court to nullify the creation of the new districts, what will the government do?

By rushing to inaugurate these districts, the government has pre-empted the suit and jeopardized or prejudiced its outcome. That is not good for our democracy.

What is the need for rushing to inaugurate these district assemblies? I don’t see it and won’t be surprised if funds are quickly mobilized to support infrastructural development in these new districts only for them to be abandoned. If the creation and inauguration of these assemblies is for political expediency, the tension this measure has created overshadows any capital expected from it. Poor judgement!!

The cloud of anger and suspicion hanging over the creation of these new districts and the choice of the capital towns of some in places that aroused anger among some residents of those new districts is a clear indication that something went wrong. Why couldn’t any prior consultation be done for consensus before the creation of the new districts, choice of their capital towns, and eventual inauguration?

After all, if the re-demarcation of old districts and the carving out of new ones from them is meant to solve problems and improve rural development for the benefit of the people, why weren’t those people included in the exercise right from scratch for them to proffer views to avoid all the brouhaha that has characterized this process?

The people for whom the new district-level administration has been created should have had a say in the matter. What sort of consultation did the government do to ensure that the process could move on smoothly?

Some of those aggrieved people in places such as Ningo, Sene East, Aflao, Vakpo, and Binduri made their voices heard on the wrongfulness of the government’s actions long before the new districts were established and the Legislative Instrument passed to concretize their existence.

Those of Ningo, for instance, had gone a step further to write to the government, urging it not to do the wrong thing by siting the district capital at Prampram. And they adduced enough sound arguments, backed with historical evidence, to strengthen their plea. They eventually saw their MP, E.T. Mensah, as not doing enough to fight their cause and expressed no confidence in him. The government didn’t even bother to respond to their petition.

The same applies to Aflao and the other areas. But the government disregarded the sentiments of the petitioners.

Truth be told, this wanton disrespect for the people is one of the major weaknesses of this Atta Mills-led government. As the situation stands now, the people of Ningo and those areas challenging the status of their new districts and capital towns will have no use for the government. They have already been pushed to the wall and shouldn’t be expected to support the government.

Unfortunately, the anger that this issue has provoked will not subside soon. It will influence the people’s electoral decisions.

It is not to say that those in the towns invested with responsibility as the capital of the new districts aren’t happy enough to support the government. They may welcome the fact that such areas will now see an improved development; but the price that the government will pay is high.

Couldn’t the creation of these new districts and the choice of their capital towns be done devoid of this acrimony?

Is this how our democracy is designed to function? Without regard for the sentiments of the very people for whom it is being implemented? I don’t think so.

• E-mail: mjbokor@yahoo.com

• Join me on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/mjkbokor

Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.