Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, has criticised the neglect of chiefs in the ongoing reforms at the local government level, siding with the National House of Chiefs led by Togbe Afede XIV, and the Vice President, Daasebre Nana Kwebu Ewusi VII.
The Asantehene’s position, is in sharp contrast to that of the Okyenhene and President of the Eastern Regional House of Chiefs, Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori-Panin, who has already decided on the matter in support of government’s call for the amendment of article 55(3) of the Constitution which will provide the choice for Ghanaians to contest for local government office on either partisan platforms.
A public statement issued by D.M. Ofori-Atta, the Okyeman State Secretary, called on the public to reject “calls from certain quarters, urging the good people of Ghana, to vote against the amendment of the Constitution”, saying “It is not founded on a well-considered understanding of the greater national interest.”
It was unclear, if Okyenhene, had consulted Eastern Regional House of Chiefs before issuing the statements on their behalf.
But speaking at the Annual Leadership Lecture Series organised by the University for Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA) last Friday, the respected traditional ruler, said had chiefs been consulted, some chiefs would not have declared that the proposal to elect Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) and political party participation in the same process was incompatible.
“Local government in the modern era is only traditional government in Western attire. How is it possible then that the central government representing the modern state and nananom [chiefs] representing the traditional state, could find no space for engagement for the consideration of a major reform on local government and to agree a common position before such crucial reforms were rolled out.
“If there had been such engagement, I could not think of how anyone would have ignored the logic in the case for according our chiefs the rightful representation in the new structure. And by the same token, I could not think of how any chief would have seen any incompatibility in the removal of the entrenched clauses in the Constitution to permit the election of the metro and district chief executives or mayors and also allow political parties to sponsor candidates for local elections,” he said.
Deep cracks within the National House of Chiefs over the national referendum on whether or not to allow political parties to sponsor candidates for local level elections emerged following a press statement that sought to suggest that chiefs backed political participation of MMDCEs.
The press statement released a fortnight ago, on the letterhead of the House of Chiefs and under the signatures of the President, Togbe Afede XIV and the Vice President, Daasebre Nana Kwebu Ewusi VII, said the House was against the government’s ‘Yes’ position on the December 17 referendum to amend the Constitution to allow elections at local assemblies to be partisan.
According to the statement, the House of Chiefs is concerned about the adverse effects of partisan politics on local level development if this referendum goes through.
“We want the citizenry to know that the referendum is meant to permit unbridled partisan politics into local government, and so the merits of the proposed reform should be assessed on that basis. We strongly recommend its rejection by the citizens”, the House said in the statement.
However, Chairman of the Governance Committee of the National House of Chiefs, Ogyeahoho Yaw Gyebi II of Sefwi Anhwiaso in the Western Region, revealed that the statement did not represent the collective view of the House of Chiefs.
Subsequently, The Okyenhene, who is the President of the Eastern Regional House of Chiefs, said he backed the ‘Yes’ campaign in the referendum, contrary to the position of the National House of Chiefs.
Delivering a keynote address at the UPSA event, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II said: “Because this is a matter of monumental importance, I hope all concerned will step back and take the heat out, so we can see the light in the discourse.”
Asantehene also admonished governments work against the true tenets of multiparty democracy when they reward individuals who are loyal to the political parties they belong to.
Describing the system where ruling parties reward persons deemed to have been loyal to them as “patronage” and “clientelism”, the king of the Ashanti people said countries that have rooted out this system have reaped many rewards.
“In clientelistic states, political parties provide individual benefits to people in exchange for their votes. These benefits can include jobs in the public sector, cash payments, political favours or even public goods like schools and clinics that are collectively given to political supporters.
“It took more than a century before the United States was able to clean the system and put an end to both political patronage and the scourge of clientelism and the United States has been all stronger for it,” he said.
He said although Ghana has made great strides to abandon unfavourable governance systems like military regimes and one-party state system, the problems with the current multiparty democratic system must be a source of concern.
“Yes we have the luxury of joining the party of our choice and the supreme right to choose which party manages our affairs but what difference does the change bring if the new system also makes party loyalty the source of all rewards?” he quizzed.
Below is statement issued by Okyenhene
OKYENHENE ENDORSES THE YES VOTE FOR THE DECEMBER 17TH REFERENDUM
18TH NOVEMBER, 2019
The Okyenhene and President of the Eastern Regional House of Chiefs wishes to express his support for the amendment of article 55(3) of the Constitution which will provide the choice for Ghanaians to contest for local government office on either partisan or non-partisan platforms.
The Osagyefuo welcomes the amendment with the understanding that it limits the executive authority of the President and thus provides the needed space for greater citizen participation in governance.
Political parties are established and recognized public platforms that shapes, plans and evolve strategies and ideas for social-economic development, and cannot be excluded in the crucial area of local government.
Political party participation in local government politics is practiced all over the world; Ghana cannot remain an exception.
Under the current system, Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) are appointed by a partisan President who also by unchecked discretion chooses a third of the membership of the Assembly.
Most MMDCEs are rejected partisan politicians at the polls (defeated parliamentary candidates) who later by intrigues and back door tactics of central government impose themselves on the people.
A clear example can be sighted in the fact that the New Patriotic Party (NPP) was rejected in the Volta Region in 2016, however it places its defeated parliamentary candidates as Municipal and District Chief Executives by means of the appointing authority of the President to supervise social and economic programmes which does not meet the approval of the people and their communities.
In the same way the National Democratic Congress (NDC) appointed a thrice rejected parliamentary candidate, the late Simon Asirifi as the East Akyem Municipal Chief Executive. The story never ended well.
This situation is unacceptable and incompatible with the objectives of inclusive and transparent local government system; a key factor to the furtherance of the goal of national development and progress.
The Osagyefuo, however, wishes to state that the amendment of Article 55(3) is not far-reaching. There will be need for broader legal and administrative reforms to ensure the financial independence of local governments, particularly with regards to the administration of the District Assembly Common Fund (DACF).
The current situation where contracts and projects are concluded in Accra and funded through the DACF without the consent of the local authorities poses the gravest challenge to the decentralization programme.
The Okyenhene however wishes to commend Government for the bold initiative to amend Article 55(3) of the Constitution as a positive step in the uphill task of total decentralization.
It is Osagyefuo’s stance that calls from certain quarters urging the good people of Ghana to vote against the amendment of the Constitution should be ignored. It is not founded on a well-considered understanding of the greater national interest.
D. M. OFORI ATTA