Feature Article of Saturday, 1 December 2012
Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame
By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
I have said before that Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, the chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC), has outlived his proficiency as Ghana’s Electoral Commissioner, or Chief Election Supervisor, and must be relieved of his post and duties. Now, once again, the man has offered us the most significant signal yet that he is no longer equal to the task for which his services were originally engaged some twenty years ago.
In his latest faux-pas, Dr. Afari-Gyan has publicly told Ghanaians that his commission either deliberately or inadvertently registered quite a significant percentage of minors, or children, during the biometric registration exercise several months ago (See “Afari-Gyan Erred on EC Stance on Minor Voting – Tony Aidoo” JoyOnline.com/Ghanaweb.com 11/28/12).
What the foregoing means is that there is a great possibility of under-18-year-old Ghanaian citizens casting the ballot on December 7. And when this happens, the entire Ghanaian democratic process would have been irreparably compromised. Needless to say, if this grievous anomaly is not promptly rectified, the nation could well be mired in a constitutional crisis in the offing. And if this happens, a civil strife may well ensue.
Presently, though, the problem is not merely the fact that the integrity of the electoral register has been significantly compromised by the inclusion of legally unqualified, or underage, citizens. Rather, it is the flat and adamant refusal by Dr. Afari-Gyan and his staff to promptly expunge such anomaly that is compounding the problem. Instead, the Electoral Commissioner wants polling officials to engage in the patently illegal and decidedly defective act of persuading children whose names appear on the voters’ register not to cast their ballot on December 7.
Nothing could be more preposterous, to speak much less about the outright idiotic. I make no apologies for the preceding statement. For, sometimes the best way to radically address gross professional and administrative incompetence is to bluntly call a spade a spade and not a laptop computer.
You see, the idiocy in attempting to dissuade registered minors from voting inheres in the very fundamental principle that being registered and made eligible to vote is the highest constitutional obligation of every citizen in a democratic culture. Thus counseling a registered voter not to exercise his or her franchise is a treasonable offence that is punishable by imprisonment. It is akin to asking polling officials to deliberately and systematically conspire with registered and eligible voters to overthrow the government.
Another aspect of the problem is the glaring fact of the near impossibility of determining precisely who is a minor and therefore ineligible to vote on Election Day, especially if any of these minors appears at the various polling stations scattered across the country with forged birth certificates and ID cards whose authenticity cannot be immediately verified. In other words, rather than stubbornly and sheepishly bury his head in the sand, as it were, by pretending to facilely wish the problem away, the EC would be far better off expunging the names of underage voters by using available records in its own possession or keeping.
The most effective approach to the problem, however, is to threaten any illegally registered minor with prosecution and a long prison sentence for committing an act of fraud and/or treasonable felony and actually be prepared to back it up with the coercive powers of the state. Short of the preceding, the integrity of Election 2012, irrespective of its outcome, cannot be guaranteed. And if it cannot be guaranteed, then we might just as well have stuck with the terror-charged political climate that prevailed in the country prior to the coming into force of Ghana’s Fourth-Republican Constitution.
My beef, or grievance, with Dr. Tony Aidoo, the nondescript Head of Policy Monitoring and Evaluation at the Presidency – and that is rather a needless mouthful of a job title – is that he has studiously and religiously backed every mischievous attempt by the Afari-Gyan Gang to undermine the integrity of Ghanaian democracy, including Dr. Afari-Gyan’s clearly devious and inauspicious attempt at the creation of some 45 additional parliamentary seats or constituencies with barely three months to Election 2012. So why is the policy wonk now crying foul and faulting Dr. Afari-Gyan for doing precisely what the Mahama-Arthur-led government of the National Democratic Congress has been hoping and praying for all along? Talk of hypocrisy!
*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is Director of The Sintim-Aboagye Center for Politics and Culture and author of “Ghanaian Politics Today” (Lulu.com, 2008). E-mail: [email protected] ###