Ghana’s decentralization programme has helped to empower citizens at the local level. The enthusiasm that characterized the recent District Assembly and Unit Committee elections clearly show that people at the local level are committed to lead the crusade to accelerate development in the various communities. Strengthening governance at the District level is a practical process to consolidate the gains made in constitutional democracy and sustainable development.
After the victories by the Assembly members and the composition of Government appointments, the Assemblies were recently inaugurated throughout the country with the core message that they are the agents of development at the grass root. There is no doubt that the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies are the vision for rural development and transformation.
The current session of Assemblies was delayed over some disagreement regarding the constitutional Instrument for conducting the elections. In effect, the MMDAs did not have the complement of the full house to conduct business. Now that the Assemblies are in session they need to work extra hard to recover the time lost over the issue of constitutional instrument.
The Presiding Members are critical in the conduct of business at the Assemblies. Because of their special role, it is incumbent on the District Assembly to have a Presiding Member who shall be elected by the Assembly from among its members. The Presiding Member shall be elected by at least two-thirds majority of all the members of the Assembly and shall preside over the meetings of the Assembly.
It is in this regard that the deadlock in electing Presiding Members at some of the MMDAs must be resolved as quickly as possible so that development projects and programmes are not delayed further. It is gratifying to note that other Assemblies have elected their Presiding Members and are set to push forward the decentralisation and democracy agenda.
This is the time for members at the Assemblies with the deadlock in electing Presiding Members to show maturity and let the interest of the Districts be their prime focus. When they reconvene to conduct another election to fill the vacant Presiding Member positions they should let their personal interest give way to the collective interest through this they can pursue the development agenda of the District for the next four years in peace and unity for the public good.
Indeed by 1988 people’s movement were galvanized for the decentralization process. Ghanaians had known they were to vote to elect representatives and forming their own governments at the District Assembly level long before the 1992 constitution. Many structures were enshrined to check abuse of power. It is probably one of the reasons the election of Presiding Members is crucial to promote social and economic rights of the citizens at the grass root.
Ghanaians have come to understand the need to participate in processes that will ensure that the Assemblies follow due process. One of such process is the election of Presiding Members to steer affairs at the Assemblies to solve local issues.
The test case for the current session of the MMDAs will be seen in terms of how they work towards consensus building which need to feature in the work of the assemblies, if they are to make any head way in the development aspirations.
Those Assemblies with the deadlock have no excuse to further delay the election of Presiding Members. They must watch carefully the dancing steps of detractors and listen attentively to messages that call for consensus building as they approach the next election of the presiding members.
All too soon the 21 days for those Assemblies that could not elect their Presiding Members will be the thing of the past. As elected and appointees assembly members there is the need to use their privileged position for transformation at the local level and not for destruction. If there are issues, our Assemblies need to approach them in a manner that will not retard development and growth.
BY: JONAS ANBAZU, UNIVERSITY FOR DEVELOPMENT STUDIES, WA CAMPUS.