The work of devolving political, administrative and fiscal authority to local governments that begun in 1988 seems to have called for what might be the biggest showdown in referendum history in this apampamu-store republic. And while MMDCE elections since then have barely made the headlines – other than Assemblymen-wannabes sharing cola nuts and making local gin bitters loosely available in village squares and apio bars respectively – this referendum on the same local government decentralization process is a differing cup of tea.
It all started in 2016 when the current government in its manifesto promised to oversee the direct election of MMDCEs within 24 months of coming into office. Even that did not so much as pique social media curiosity until, probably in search of some trumpian quid pro quo, the government decided to require partisan MMDCE elections as a trade-off to relinquishing the power to appoint our abronye DCEs. Because the 1992 Constitution frowned on partisan elections at that level, the government needed to hold a referendum to amend Article 55(3) of the Constitution.
The offending article reads: “Subject to the provisions of this article, a political party is free to participate in shaping the political will of the people, to disseminate information on political ideas, social and economic programmes of a national character, and sponsor candidates for elections to any public office other than to District Assemblies or lower local government units.”
This is what the government wants us to amend by referendum. Whether we vote YES or NO, MMDCEs will in the next district assembly elections be elected from among local MMDCE contenders. We, the People, are only to decide whether we want partisanship contests at that level or whether we want that prohibition in place. Piece of cake, really, but here’s why it’s not:
A nosy lawyer-journalist called Samson Ayenini wrote a piece provoking a No-Campaign that got social media debaters drawing swords and reining in long-forgotten Spartan shields. Since then, everyone else that didn’t give a squirrel’s posterior about the outcome of MMDCE elections, including people like me who have never voted in those elections, have taken up arms and chosen sides in this battle that, if nothing at all, will give Ghanaian future governments pause when it comes to considering referenda as easy ways to give politicians what they want. Even the National House of Chiefs is divided on the matter with the President of the House calling for a No-Vote, and the king from the President’s tribe calling for a Yes-Vote. It’s fair to assume that opinions are split right down the middle on what to do. The governing NPP says to vote hell-YES and the opposition NDC says to vote tweaaa!
H. Kwasi Prempeh, for example believes that “there is room for divergence of opinion as to what might or might not work. If winner-takes-all, loser-opposes-all is one of the underlying causes of the counter-developmental partisanship in our space, as many of us believe, then I don’t see why it is so unreasonable for some to see a YES vote, which opens up the prospect of opposition party participation in direct governance at the local level, as a reasonable antidote to the problem” of partisan politics in Ghana. Many prominent opinion leaders like Franklin Cudjoe of Imani Ghana agree with him. They all argue that the prohibitively non-partisan MMDCE elections is latently partisan anyway and it’s best to cement our multi-party democracy by extending the canker of partisanship down the district lane. The strongest point for the yea-sayers is that it breaks the culture of winner-takes-all that has bedeviled Ghana’s democratic experiment over the years. The nay-sayers and No-Campaigners say they’d sooner gulp down swine flesh with a swirl of akpeteshie in an Arab state than condone the sickening, disgusting partisanship that dogs national elections at the district level. They swear by the seven gods of Berekusu that this country will go down irredeemably into a despicable quagmire of NDC-NPP politics if we let political parties in.
This Jungle Boy pitches his tent irrevocably in the camp of the No-Vote Campaigners. I don’t believe our forebears forsook gari and beans and laid down their lives so our thieving, conniving politicians can sweep into every facet of governance in this republic. That would be a terrible waste of gobe.
But there’s one important thing Yes-Vote campaigners fail to understand about No-Vote campaigners. Yes, we engage you on Facebook and Twitter and pretend to offer this or that intellectual thought as our reason for choosing to vote NO. But deep down in your guts, we know you know that for us, this referendum isn’t so much about the issues at stake as it is about having our say, passing a vote, and saying our honest-to-jollof view about partisan political participation in this country. We simply refuse to give up the relishing pleasure – the orgasmic thrill – to give Ghanaian politicians the middle finger with a capital “F” in this referendum enterprise. We choose to not pass up this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have our true say, never mind that FVCK YOU is not really on the referendum ballot. For us, NO and a brown smudge are synonymous with a big, red, lipstick-wearing middle finger. And if the politicians don’t like it, what do they plan to do about it?
So, next time you argue with a No-Voter, remember, Yessies, that it is all truly about our inalienable right to do a Juli Briskman on Ghana’s teefing politicians. Your heart rates and cardiac arrests should improve dramatically with this knowledge.
JayJay D. Segbefia is a current affairs and adventure travel writer. Trained as a journalist and a licensed outdoor adventure operative, he combines an ocular attention to factual detail and an acerbic wit to his writing. He is author of the Executive Hallucination, a Ghanaian thriller.
Leave a Reply