A statement issued by the National House of Chiefs (NHC), calling for a ‘No’ vote in the upcoming referendum on local government elections, has stirred controversy in the house. At the centre of the disagreement are the President of the house, Togbe Afede XIV, and his vice, Daasebre Nana Kwebu Ewusi VII, on one side, and the Paramount Chief of the Sefwi Anhwiaso Traditional Area, who is also the Chairman of the Governance Committee of the NHC, Ogyeahoho Yaw Gyebi II, and the Okyenhene, Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofori Panin, on the other.
Last Thursday, Togbe Afede and his vice jointly signed a statement indicating that the house was against the proposed referendum to allow partisan politics in local elections and, therefore, called on Ghanaians to vote ‘No’ at the polls. The statement elicited reactions from Ogyeahoho Gyebi and the Okyenhene, who expressed indignation about its contents. The Okyenhene, in a statement, said the contents of the statement signed by Togbe Afede and his vice did not reflect the views of the traditional leadership of the country.
Ogyeahoho Gyebi, who spoke on Joy FM and Asempa FM, said the decision was not the collective view of the house because it did not go through due process. But Togbe Afede, in a statement issued yesterday, maintained what was contained in the earlier statement, saying: “Any suggestions that the proposed referendum to allow partisan politics in our local elections was not discussed by the house are not only dishonest but also wanton mischief.”
Reacting separately to the original statement, Ogyeahoho Gyebi said the ‘No’ vote should be disregarded. He said personally, he was not aware of any consultation or meeting held to discuss the matter in the house and added that as far as he was concerned, the statement came from the two individuals and not the entire House.
He said he feared that once the two major political parties had taken different positions on the referendum, attempts by chiefs to take a stance on the referendum could be seen as involving themselves in party politics.
In a statement issued on November 15, 2019, the Okyenhene expressed surprise at the statement from the President and the Vice-President of the NHC. The Okyenhene, who is also the President of the Eastern Regional House of Chiefs, said his statement was informed by “complaints from the chiefs and the people of the Eastern Region and well-meaning Ghanaians in reaction to the purported opposition of the NHC to the December 17th referendum”.
Stating what he described as the facts, he said the NHC was a responsible body of eminent chiefs and the symbol of traditional and national authority, for which reason its position on critical national issues evolved from broad consultations and deliberations to reflect and enforce collective national conscience and aspirations.
The Okyenhene said the statement by the NHC did not have the knowledge of Ogyeahoho Gyebi, “who has found the need to express shock at not being aware of the statement by the President of the NHC and other related matters, in violation of due process”. He said the Standing Committee of the NHC had no record of deliberations on the matter and also the whole house was not informed or met on the matter in question.
“The leadership of the various Regional Houses of Chiefs have not been informed or consulted. In relation to the above, it is the considered opinion of the Eastern Regional House of Chiefs that the statement issued by the President of the NHC does not reflect the views of the traditional leadership of Ghana,” the Okyenhene’s statement said, and asked the public to expect from “Nananom, in the coming days, a communiqué on this critical national issue, in line with established consultative processes”.
In a riposte yesterday directed at Ogyeahoho Gyebi, Togbe Afede expressed disappointment in his colleague for denying that the house and its Standing Committee had discussed the referendum. Togbe Afede’s statement touched on a visit to the house by a Deputy Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Mr Kwasi Boateng Adjei, on December 19, 2018, at the invitation of the house to discuss the election of metropolitan, municipal and district chief executives (MMDCEs).
“Togbe President directed the Governance and Development and the Legal Affairs committees of the house to meet and prepare a position paper on the election of MMDCEs for the consideration of the house and subsequent presentation to government,” the statement said.
It also mentioned a report by the Asokoremanhene and Chairman of the Committee on Legal Affairs, Nana Susubribi Krobea Asante, submitted to the house on January 22, 2019, which stated: “The house should strongly object to the notion that membership of local assemblies should exclusively comprise representatives of political parties, as in Parliament.”
Standing Committee Meeting
Togbe Afede’s statement said the Standing Committee of the house, at its meeting on February 26, 2019, discussed and adopted Nana Asante’s report as the position of the house, as captured in the minutes. “The election of MMDCEs on partisan basis was discussed by the committee. The committee also adopted a memorandum on the election of MMDCEs submitted by Nana Susubribi Krobea Asante, Asokorehene, as the position of the House,” it said.
Lending further credence to his position, the President of the NHC said: “The house, at its meeting on 27 February, 2019, had a final discussion on the election of MMDCEs through partisan elections,” adding that Ogyeahoho Gyebi was at the meeting. The statement also indicated that a multi-stakeholder conference was held at the Bank of Ghana Auditorium, Legon, on June 7, 2019, and again Ogyeahoho Gyebi was present.
Following from the developments, Togbe Afede said, the proposed referendum to allow partisan politics in local elections was thoroughly discussed at the NHC, both by the Standing Committee and the General Meeting.
Meanwhile, the President of the Greater Accra Regional House of Chiefs, Nii Okwei Kinka Dowuona VI, has declared his full support for the statement issued by the President of the NHC which advocated a ‘No’ vote in the upcoming referendum, reports Charles Benoni Okine. He told the Daily Graphic yesterday: “We elected the President of the NHC, and per his mandate, he can take decisions on our behalf, and in this case he did so because that has been our position.”
Nii Dowuona, who is also the Paramount Chief of the Osu Traditional Council, said the NHC had been discussing the issue of the referendum since 2018 and had taken a strong position, adding that “our collective view and position, as expressed by the President of the house, is not out of the blue”. The Awoemefia of the Anlo Traditional Area, Torgbi Sri III, would, however, not state a firm position on the matter, writes Timothy Gobah. He, however, urged Ghanaians to go out and exercise their franchise on December 17, saying “everyone must vote”.