There is no denying the fact that Ghana’s Electoral Commission has over the years been the shining example to all in Africa having consistently superintended over smooth transition of power from one government to another among other democratic milestones to its credit. However, it is regrettably worthy of note that our EC can no longer pride itself with this enviable feat owing to its notorious intransigence, disdainful regard for due process, “yentie obiaa” attitude, institutional indiscipline and impunity. These unfortunate developments have today, justifiably culminated in a significant waning of confidence in the hitherto, vibrant election governing body. For instance, the startling and embarrassing revelations during the 2012 Election Petition Hearing painted a gloomy picture which suggests that all is not well with our EC.
You would again recall how the EC threw caution to the wind in their belligerent insistence to proceed with the organization of the district assembly elections in 2015 without regard to the necessary legal regime until a fisherman went to court to stop them resulting in huge financial loss to the taxpayer (over GH¢ 300 million). The EC is not independent nor sacrosanct after all. A lot of us thought that the appointment of a new EC Boss, Madam Charlotte Osei was going to restore confidence in the commission and better its lot. But we were all wrong as the woes of the commission continue to get even worse each day under her leadership.
The raging debate on the loud call for a “new” credible voters register for the 2016 elections and the handling of same exposes the crass incompetence of the EC under Charlotte Osei. It would be recalled that when some leading political parties including the NPP, CPP, NDP et al starting making a strong case for the compilation of a new credible register, the EC set up a five – member Panel (the VCRAC Crabbe Committee) to inter alia, organize a forum with the view to collating views from all stakeholders to advise it on the way forward in relation to the new register debate. Surprisingly, even before the committee could finish their work, Charlotte Osei appeared before them (at the forum) and stated quite succinctly that the EC wasn’t ready to compile a new register because it wasn’t feasible and proceeded to add that, the EC was not under any obligation to accept the Panel’s recommendations anyway.
By this, she was essentially preempting the committee’s work and telling the whole world that the exercise was a useless venture because they (the EC) had already concluded on what to do and nothing could change their mind. So, if she knew this, why did she waste our time and resources in appointing the Panel and in the organization of the forum? This notwithstanding, the Panel proceeded with their mandate and eventually came out with their report/recommendations. They, among other things, kicked against proposal for a new register apparently taking a cue from Charlotte’s rendition. The EC then quickly issues a white paper that says they have accepted the Panel’s recommendations and would proceed to progressively implement same. However, we are now seeing a different posture from the EC altogether.
The commission has only accepted the recommendation which says it shouldn’t compile a new register but deliberately turns a blind eye on all the other equally important recommendations the Panel had made towards ensuring a credible register for the 2016 polls. For instance, the Panel also makes the point that the current voters register is dangerously over bloated with more than half a million invalid records and therefore not fit for elections. It added that, owing to the sheer numbers, these invalid names (over 600,000) cannot be deleted using the EC’s age-long approach of exhibiting/displaying the register for people to point out these invalid names with evidence of same as well as to proceed to testify before a court of competent jurisdiction is NOT a viable option. “You cannot do the same thing and expect different results”. The EC should consider extending the exhibition exercise to have voters confirm their names on the list, an indication that they would want to maintain their voter status”.
“In the same way that a new registration would have required citizens to physically appear for registration, the cleaning would require that they should confirm”. Rather than make others responsible for maintaining voters’ names in the register, the individuals should themselves do that” in the words of the EC’s Panel. All these relevant quotes can be found between pages 18 and 22 of the Panel’s Report. The Panel by this, is clearly recommending voter validation and there is no ambiguity about that at all except if we want to be intellectually disingenuous. In fact, the current law governing the conduct of our elections (CI 72) does not allow for deletion of names of foreigners from our register but minors, mentally impaired and deceased persons. So validation is certainly the only option we have and if that would entail enacting a new legal regime to support it, then so be it because we can’t afford the alternative.
It is regrettably worthy of note that, Charlotte Osei thinks that all those calling for a new credible register including the NPP only wish to unjustly get hard at her and the EC and she would stop at nothing in “dealing with them” in return. This, obviously was what pushed Charlotte into singling out the Ashanti Region (NPP stronghold) as the region with an outrageously over bloated register of over 200,000. Later, the EC had to quickly retract that and set the records straight thereby exposing the obvious fluffs of the Chairperson. How can these reprehensible actions of Charlotte Osei build the needed confidence in the EC as we head to a crucial polls in November? I’m sure you also remember the infamous 18-member National Steering Committee of the EC which was met with an unwavering resistance by the political parties due to its unconstitutionality (per the explicit provisions in Article 42) but shockingly, the EC still insists it hasn’t abandoned that move. How pathetic!
The most egregious move of Charlotte Osei is that, instead of focusing on how to get a credible register, she is much more concerned about getting a NEW LOGO for the Electoral Commission as if that is the panacea for a free, fair and credible elections. Mind you, aside the fact that the new logo comes at a huge cost to the poor taxpayer, the said logo, which has justifiably incurred the wrath of journalists and all well-meaning Ghanaians, doesn’t bear any of our national emblems; not even our famous Coat of Arm. It is in fact, a plagiarized symbol of a certain University in Turkey as it is now emerging. This is how Charlotte Osei is subjecting our EC to international ridicule and shame. I don’t know about you, but I am very worried with the culture where increasingly, the NDC sees nothing wrong with every move the EC makes and defends same at all-time even when all the facts suggest otherwise.
From all indications, our election governing body is increasingly losing credibility as evidenced in the recent barometer report which reveals that the confidence of the electorates in the EC had significantly reduced to less than 47% and described the situation as precarious. This, I also see as a serious threat to our democracy and national security because the enervating and debilitating cost of a disputed elections cannot be exaggerated seeing how same have destroyed other African countries. The EC has to do a lot more to assuage the justified apprehension of Ghanaians and restore the necessary confidence in its operations. This confidence cannot be restored through media and public relation gimmickry but pragmatic interventions that resonate with the citizenry and political parties in particular.
We have only seven months to the November Polls yet the EC hasn’t still told us in unequivocal terms, how it intends to clean this “dangerously over bloated register” in the words of the EC’s own Panel. There is no doubt that Madam Charlotte Osei is a very beautiful and articulate woman, but the work of the EC goes far beyond her physical beauty and excellent communication skills. Her beauty and enviable credentials must necessarily reflect in her work. She and her commission must as a matter urgency, do what is expected of them immediately for God and country. Respectfully, madam electoral commissioner, the time to act is NOW!!!
A concerned Ghanaian in the struggle
Youth Activist/Social Commentator
Former NUGS Secretary