The nightmare scenario of Ghana’s grassroots democracy

by Bajin D. Pobia

The government’s decentralisation policy is to bring government to the doorsteps of the people. To fulfill this policy, is a local government system with substructures to enable the people participate in decisions that affect their lives.

District Assemblies consists of electoral areas and each area is represented by one person.

Seventy per cent of district assembly members are elected while 30 per cent of them are appointed by the President in consultation with interested groups and traditional authorities in the district.

A candidate seeking election to the district assembly or any lower local government unit shall present him or herself to the electorate as an individual and shall not use any symbol associated with any political party.

A political party shall not endorse, sponsor, and offer a platform to or in any way campaign for or against a candidate seeking election to a district assembly or any lower local government unit. In effect, the district assembly election is non-partisan.

However, in some cases this is not the process on the ground due to the politisation and polarisation of the procedure.

Ghana is treading on a dangerous road to sustain its young democracy, since politics had eaten deep into the fibre of the nations traditional set up and divided communities on political lines.

Although the district assembly election is supposed to be non-partisan, some political parties are sponsoring candidates.

Some traditional rulers have also hijacked the process in the selection of candidates and asking other contestants to step down in place of their favourite ones.

Some members of parliament (MPs) are also not left out in the violation of the non-partisan nature of the district assemblies.

A visit to some rural electoral areas speaks of MPs providing bales of used clothes, magi cubic, herrings (Amani) and onions to woo people to vote for preferred candidates.

This practice is destroying the political decentralisation, dysfunctions structures and systems at the grassroots level and weakening the electoral legitimacy.

For instance what happens to the 30 per cent of assembly members allocated to the President to appoint? These are people who are supposed to be technocrats, with refined and specialised knowledge and expertise in areas that are demanding to fine-tune the operations of the assembly.

However, some these appointees are selected on political lines and their major task is to help confirm district chief executives nominated by the President thereby defeating the objectives.

The 30 per cent appointees are important but the danger is that the appointing authorities are abusing the system and causing troubles in the district assemblies.

The calibre of people elected into the assemblies, especially at rural districts is also not the best; apart from signing for allowances and eating rich prepared as lunch, they contribute nothing meaningfully to the decision making process.

This is endangering the country’s young democracy and the only alternative to address these challenges is to rethink outside the box and allow political parties to nominate candidates to contest the district assembly election as it is done in the presidential and parliamentary elections.

The political parties are jeopardising grassroots level participation in the democratic process, especially the electoral college processes, for how come only a few people of an assembly of less than 50 persons be allowed to take decisions for the majority in the communities?

The metropolitan, municipal and district chief executives (MMDCEs) of the various assemblies should be elected and not left in the hands of a few.

The citizens should be given the authority to elect people to represent them rather than allowing the President to nominate district chief executives (DCE) and appointing party supporters as government appointees whose sole duty is to help confirm a DCE and mess up the assembly’s work.

Ghana needs the political will to make the systems work in the best interest of the decentralisation and grassroots governance.

The time has come for Ghanaians to take their destiny into their hands and allow election of assembly members to be conducted on political lines, to improve the democratic processes.

The discharge of the civic responsibilities of Ghanaians would be incomplete unless they address certain pertinent issues on the appointment of MMDCEs.

The citizenry should be given the chance to elect qualified, competent, upright and loyal persons to occupy the positions of MMDCEs.

Political parties should make a fine sieve and rigorous criteria applied across Ghana in the selection or nomination process to ensure that only the best candidates are presented to contest the assembly election.

The country should avert the perennial situation whereby some MMDCEs are burdened with acquisition of wealth to the detriment of serving the people.

Currently, the situation is that MMDCEs loyalty and commitment are only to the President and the political party that ushered them into office and not the citizens. There is the need for the nation to stop the agitations for positions among party cronies and lobbying of a winning political party.

Some people see the offices of MMDCEs as a gold mine and that the sacred cow should be milked with impunity; and therefore come forth in droves at the next opportunity to vie for positions.

Election of MMDCEs is a must and all Ghanaians must demand for it. It is the best requirement that would help the democratic process to grow and flourish and the citizenry should stand up and fight for it now irrespective of their political affiliations. GNA

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