On several occasions I have asked myself that why is it that we in Africa and Ghana in particular with all the resources that God has given to us – why is it that we are lacking so much in the development index?
When you watch CNN or Euronews, and you see the streets of New York, Paris, Montreal, Sydney, Amsterdam……………… oh God, when will Africa ever catch up?
The answer is NOT that the quality of our human material is poor, no, not at all. The answer is NOT that we do not have the natural resources, not at all.
The answer is that over there, America and in Europe, all over, they have developed very strong LOCAL GOVERNANCE institutions, so the people GOVERN themselves.
It is not the duty of the President of USA to fix sanitation in Texas or education in Chicago. It is not the duty of the UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, to solve agricultural productions in Birmingham or fix street lights in Edinburgh.
Their national governments deal with NATIONAL issues – inter – city highways, defence, finance and so on.
Here in Africa, it is a completely different story.
In the colonial days, the British had a policy of INDIRECT RULE that is, allow the people to develop or rule themselves, while we concentrate on exploiting the economy for our own good. They built railways to facilitate carting of goods to ports, they strengthened “Ahenfo Police” and they were OKAY.
Kwame Nkrumah and his CPP Administration continued with the system of local governance, and deepened it. At the time of the coup in 1966 we had over 726 LOCAL COUNCILS, directly elected by the people, all over the country.
It was the duty of the elected LOCAL COUNCIL to administer every problem in the area, to raise revenue through taxes to develop the area.
I was born and raised up in the village of JINIJINI, then about 10 kilometers outside Berekum. Believe you me; even with the bad state of road network, at that time, 1966, by latest 10am… we have had daily newspapers from Accra!!!!
By contrast, today, 40 years, with all the asphalt and so on, Daily Guide, Graphic and Times get to SUNYANI, the Regional Capital (let alone villages in the Districts) AFTER 10:00am, DAILY!!!!! What happened?
When the soldiers booted out President Nkrumah’s CPP government they dissolved all…….. the over 700 Local Councils, and overnight the gigantic national local governance machine was brought to an end.
How can I ever forget 1964, when I was in class six or so- and one morning, the newly elected chairman of the Jinijini Local Council, accompanied by his entourage, visited our Presbyterian Primary School for inspection –the Head teacher and the teachers were running up and down, and this fairly young looking Local Council Chairman, in white shirt over black trousers, waved at us, smiling…………… oh God, one day I will grow to become a Local Council Chairman!!!
The soldiers abolished all that, and centralized everything on Accra and Kumasi, the regional capitals.
Professor K A Busia, one time DCE for Akuse and Elubo understood the power of local governance. He and his Progress Party Administration produced a comprehensive local government policy in 1971 – unfortunately his government was brought down in 1972.
Slowly and systematically all semblance of local administration collapsed completely until the Kwamena Ahwoi directed reforms of 1988 which were thorough and far reaching.
From 64 operated districts, PNDC introduced a total of 110 District Assemblies and tried to reorganize the nation at the grassroots. NPP under J. A. Kufour increased the districts and Mills regime finally brought us to a nation of 216 Districts.
But, we are still far behind Nkrumah’s 726 Local Councils. With new districts come new development agenda – district offices, departmental heads, infrastructure, roads and generally, a semblance of development performances.
Right now, after nearly 40 years of CENTRALISM, the biggest problem Ghana faces today is how to cede power from the centre to the grassroots, to let the people solve their own problems – it is as simple as that.
I was Deputy Minister for Local Government for four years, and everywhere you go, as a government official, the chiefs at a durbar or festival will pile before you a tall list of demands – our roads, our schools, police, toilets, community centre, market, water……..the list is endless. Our generation has grown up with a Psyche that everything MUST come from the central government. How possible?
One day at Yendi Community centre, I gave a speech to the people, and they were clapping and laughing and cheering, then I posed the question: the way you are all cheering me, which of you will want to go to my hometown, Berekum, to dig a public toilet for the people of Berekum?
Nobody raised his hand.
So I put it before them: if you will not go to dig public toilet for ANYBODY, why should you think that somebody else, will come from his area to dig toilets for you? Why?
Our elders have a proverb: serving yourself, is NOT slavery. Simple. Let us together, as a community, whether in Asikasu, Mankransu, or Goku – let us seize our destiny into our own hands:
Let us directly ELECT our Mayor, DCE, or Governor Or Local PREFECT, let us collect our taxes, let us give him a budget to run – to control education, sanitation, agriculture, transport and all ……… if he does not deliver, we change him in the next at election. Period.
At Local Government, I led a team of DCE’s to tour Canada and we visited a CITY called DUNCAN, and in this Canadian city of DUNCAN, population – 5,000 – they have their EVERYTHING including a University College!!!!!!! We met their Mayor, some lawyer; just returned from court, in his robes as a lawyer and interacted with us.
Contrast this with a community called NSOATRE in Brong Ahafo Region( Hon Baffour Awuah’s hometown), with a population of over 30,000, it is not even a District Capital. Contrast this with KWAMIKROM in the Volta Region; contrast this with TECHIMANTIA in the Brong Ahafo Region, JINIJINI in the Brong Ahafo Region, ANYINAM in the Eastern Region – each of these communities has over 30,000 inhabitants – but they are just there, WAITING for Central Government, located in far away District Capitals to attend to them.
And as for more regions, unless you don’t know rural Ghana. How can you sit at Ho, as Regional Headquarters and control far off remote areas like NKWANTA, DAMBAI and KETE KRACHI? Why not bring government closer to them by creating OTI Region for North Volta people?
Have you ever visited Western Region? Sekondi, the regional capital sits at the coast, pretending to control far off areas like TARKWA, SEFWI BEKWAI, ELUBO, BIBIANI; why not bring central government closer to the people by creating a region for them?
Do you know the largest most populated Region in Ghana? It is the Brong Ahafo Region, stretching from La Cote D’Ivoire in the west to River Volta in the east. How on earth successive governments expected Brong Ahafo Region to function effectively as a region has always beaten my mind. Visit Sene East District and you will think they are hundred years behind Accra.
Why not create a region for West Brong, based at GOASO, then another region for Brong East, based at Techiman? In terms of land size, there is a case for another region in the North, except that they have a population problem due to poverty, but even so, a new region based in Damango will be very appropriate.
Kwame Gyasi’s opposition to the creation of more districts and regions is because of endemic corruption and policy implementation.
I beg to differ.
In fact, centralism promotes corruption.
Why should somebody sit in Accra to decide who should be the DCE for Bunkpurugu-Yunyoo? Why don’t you allow the people of Hohoe to decide who should be the District Director of Education? Why should a bureaucrat in Accra decide who should be the District Director of Water in Bole? Why not allow the directly elected DCE select a police officer to be the Police District Commander for Jomoro? Centralism promotes corruption.
Why should somebody in Accra buy books for Agona Swedru Secondary School?
Appoint this person from Accra and he will be responsible only to Accra and NOT the people at where he is supposed to serve.
Sierra Leone is rated as one of the poorest countries in the world, but recently it was in the media that a Minister has enough money to buy a mansion in London!!
In Germany, the central government relies on revenue from the constituent local governments to survive, so much so that the salary of the Mayor of Berlin is higher than that of the chancellor of Germany!!! And why not? If the people of Kumasi are able to raise enough remaining money, and they make statutory payments to central Government, why can’t they use the money the way they like? Have you ever been to the Mayor’s residence in Kumasi? Even Senior Minister Osafo Maafo wlil envy the residence.
It is my view that the surest way to promote and accelerate economic development in our nation is to STRENGTHEN LOCAL GOVERNMENT, create more regions and at least let us have 300 Districts to check corruption. Let us elect all leaders at the local level – and we will be on the highway to progress and prosperity.
From Nkrabeah Effah- Dartey