There is something strikingly missing in the government’s response to all the agitation against the nomination of certain people as District Chief Executives. It’s alright to hear the local government minister tell the agitators to back off because the president has exercised his constitutional prerogative. It’s also very heart-warming to hear the Castle press secretary say emphatically that the president will not buckle and that he’s not going to withdraw any of the nominees – it shows his balls are gradually hardening and that’s exactly what every president needs: a steely paid.
But it’s rather disheartening that so far no one in government has said anything about the need to pass legislation get the DCEs elected in the not too distant future. That’s where we should be heading.
For years, the appointment of DCEs has been used as a tool of political patronage. Very few people are appointed as DCEs because they presented a workable plan for developing their communities, improving sanitation and providing all the services we should expect from our district assemblies.
In most cases, our presidents offer the positions of DCEs to people as gifts or as payback for some service rendered. That’s why we have NDC hoodlums in a place like Akwatia destroying public property because the ‘gift’ went to a man they consider to be undeserving of it. The offer of DCE jobs as gifts and rewards to political cronies also explains why the district assemblies are so ineffective and inefficient. The only way to change this is to allow the people to choose their DCEs.
Before Kufuor came to power, the NPP promised to give us the right to choose our DCEs. The moment they gained power, they changed their minds. This was after they realised that those positions can be offered as gifts to political cronies and people who are deemed to deserve some reward for contributing to the party’s cause. They later insulted our intelligence by giving us the excuse that the country is not ready for a system under which DCEs are elected.
If we elect our president and our lawmakers, why are we not ready to elect our district administrators?
The NDC – under Jerry Rawlings started using the DCE positions to reward party faithful – so it is not exactly surprising that the party, back in power, doesn’t seem so keen on changing the status quo. That’s why no one in government is talking about the need for the country to start moving to a place where the selection of DCEs will no longer be one the issues that trigger presidential headaches. Only God knows how many tablets of ‘EFPAC’ President Mills has had to swallow with all the agitations against his DCE nominations. He can save all those who will come after him all of these bouts of migraine if he takes the bold decision to ensure that we vote for our DCEs in the not-too-distant future.
It may not be the most politically expedient thing to do. But it’s what this country needs to make sure that decentralisation concept works for the people. Electing the DCEs means they will go to the people regularly to seek or renew their mandate to serve. When that happens (as is the case at the national level) DCEs who underperform will be kicked out and new ones brought in to deliver the goods.
Frankly, most of us are tired of the excuses they keep offering for the heaps of garbage in our cities and towns, the choked gutters, the dirty markets, the flagrant violation of housing regulations (people don’t have loos in their homes) and the rundown schools. The only way to change this is to make sure that the right to decide who should be a DCE is no longer a presidential prerogative. I don’t think this will diminish the president in any way, will it?