I’m back to one of my favourite subjects — elect District Chief Executives (DCEs) and assembly members and carry out regulatory and institutional reforms to fundamentally alter the direction of Fourth Republican party politics in a positive way.
In my last write-up on this matter, I reminded us all to look out for the referendum next year.
Since then, I have been asked by many whether I think the referendum result should be in favour of amending our Constitution to enable multiparty elections for our DCEs and assembly members and I have answered yes. I have spoken about why the “winner-takes-all system” is bad for us and how the new arrangement will bring about more consensus building in our politics and make us more collaborative. Currently, there is an over-centralisation of power in Accra.
We used to talk a lot about decentralisation but it never really happened. I am convinced that the antidote to such a state of affairs is to truly bring local government to life. With DCEs suddenly coming from different political parties, the government becomes inclusive and more in touch with communities. Not so now — a situation that holds back development.
Truth be told, political parties are invisibly active during district elections. We are all pretending that they are not and that candidates are competing on their own steam. Enough of the pretence. Let’s just legalise it. Legalise party politics during district elections. It is already happening. It is time to face the truth and just formalise it.
The whole idea behind the current system is now a farce.
Parties are not observing Article 55 of the Constitution which debars them from being involved in local politics. For a political party to say local government officials must be elected without political parties when they are behind candidates is disingenuous. What they should be doing is calling for it to be legalised and streamlined. In addition, the system has to be properly regulated so that it works in the peoples interest. It’s not going to be easy because there are many pressing problems at the district level that need to be addressed.
For example, money meant for districts does not always get there. Some of it gets spent in Accra. Adequate money is not going to the districts to support the provision of public services such as health, education and sanitation. There is not much for infrastructural and local economic development either. We have to understand that progress in different districts means national progress.
It is not possible to do it all from the centre which is pretty much what we are practising now. The Presidency and the ministries are making decisions for far-flung areas without the involvement of the assemblies.
Instead, assemblies are being asked to do this or that and lately they are being asked to support one-district, one-factory, among others. It is this kind of order-from-above thing we must avoid — top-heavy directions from the centre. How we minimise this kind of thing must occupy our attention.
Then there is the issue of persistent conflicts between the DCE and the parliamentarian. Ambitious DCEs find the idea of becoming a parliamentarian more appealing as it largely guarantees security of tenure. (MPs have no term limits and cannot be removed by the President).
The result is that they don’t work together harmoniously for the well-being of the district, with their personal ambitions getting in the way.
Folks, we need a real overhaul. Get all the parties on board at the local level and let them aspire to be a national government. There will be a lot more progressive dynamism going around and it will make a difference to the nation’s and the people’s well-being.Let’s do this.
• The writer is the host of the Time With David interview programme