President Nana Akufo-Addo is disappointed in the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) for campaigning for a NO vote prior to the cancellation of the national referendum.
Nana Akufo-Addo on Sunday, December 1, 2019, announced to the public his decision to cancel the referendum that was scheduled for December 17 over lack of “durable national consensus.”
The referendum was to allow Ghanaians to decide whether or not they want Article 55 (3) of the 1992 Constitution amended to allow political parties to sponsor candidates for local level elections.
He also instructed that the Bill which was before Parliament to amend Article 243 (1) to allow Ghanaians to vote for their Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) instead of being appointed by the President be withdrawn.
Speaking on the Citi Breakfast show, the Information Minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah who disclosed that he spoke to the President personally after calling off the referendum explained that President Nana Akufo-Addo is not upset but rather pained with regards to the outcome of the referendum.
“It is not [the referendum] being suspended, withdrawn or aborted that the President is upset about. I spoke with the President personally. He is pained that we had a brilliant opportunity after 25 years to do this now, but we hit a snag. He is hopeful that as we move along and engage and explain it a bit more we get that consensus back we can still reach that objective in a short period of time,” he said.
But as part of his speech, Akufo-Addo said prior to triggering processes for the referendum, he consulted all the former presidents in Ghana including flagbearer of the NDC, John Mahama. He was however unhappy with the current turn of events.
“It was in furtherance of this and other matters that on Tuesday 18th April 2017, a little over four months into my mandate, I held a meeting with my three predecessors, the first, second and fourth presidents of the fourth republic; their Excellencies Jerry John Rawlings, John Agyekum Kuffuor, and John Dramani Mahama at Jubilee House to seek their views and counsel on these issues.”
“I came away from that meeting with the view that there was a consensus among us that time [and I thought that] the time had come for political parties to participate openly in district assembly elections and local governance. Regrettably, two weeks ago, the main opposition party, the National Democratic Congress made what I can only describe as a U-turn and stated that it was no longer prepared to go along with the national consensus. They indicated further that they will actively campaign for a NO vote,” he stated.
NDC campaigns for a NO vote
As the referendum day drew closer, there was a noticeable split among major stakeholders and observers including the NDC.
After a seeming consensus on a YES vote in the referendum, the NDC suddenly started advocating for a NO vote.
According to them, when district assembly elections are made partisan, there will be party-motivated projects and programmes such as ‘NDC Communal Labour Day’ and ‘NPP Communal Labour Day’, particularly in rural areas.
The NDC Chairman, Samuel Ofosu Ampofo, said a YES vote, will open district assemblies and unit committees to “the needless NDC-NPP polarization”.
The General Secretary of the party Asiedu Nketia supported this move with claims that they were not consulted by the government on the referendum.
He said the government’s failure to engage the party was not surprising, given that it took a similar stance when the NDC raised issues with the Limited Voters’ Register and the Ghana card registration.
Also justifying the party’s decision to vote against the motion in the referendum was the party’s flagbearer John Dramani Mahama indicated that the country’s politics was already too polarized for such amendment to be allowed.
According to him, an amendment to Article 243(1) of the constitution was more pressing than changes to district level elections and should be more focused on rather than the referendum.
Hajia Mahama surprised at NDC’s U-turn
The NDC’s sudden shift of position regarding the referendum came as a surprise to many individuals and groups, including the Minister for Local Government and Rural Development Hajia Alima Mahama.
Hajia Mahama, reacting to the NDC’s decision, found it difficult to rationalize why the sudden change after having earlier agreed that the said article should be amended.
“The Minority agreed by consensus on July 29. They said they were hesitant to amend article 243 (1) because they wanted to have the referendum so that MMDCEs could be elected on partisan basis so it is important we go for the referendum, get 55 (3) amended before we amend 243 (1). However, we were of the view that article 243 (1) should be first amended before holding the referendum,” she said.