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Feature Article of Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Columnist: Kyei-Mensah-Osei, Kofi

Dr Afari Djan’s Intransigence

Dr Afari Djan’s Intransigence: Has Water Stayed Too Long In The Bottle?

The Akan’s have a saying which goes like this: “Nsuo kye ahina mu a, eyi hwa.” This literally translates thus: When water is stored too long in a bottle, it goes bad. The Akan’s usually resort to this expression when certain character trait previously unknown about an individual suddenly surfaces after that person has stayed in a certain position of authority for far too long. In fact, Sir Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, the English Catholic Historian captures this succinctly in his letter to then Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887 when he said: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." This for me sums up the status of Dr Kwadwo Afari-Djan right now. The Chairman of the Electoral Commission appears to have been corrupted at the tail end of his tenure having served his country so well in position previously.

The Chairman of the Electoral Commission was appointed to this position back in 1993 after having served as Deputy Chairman in charge of operation in the defunct Interim National Electoral Commission. From that time till now, Dr Afari-Djan has had vast knowledge and experience in supervising elections within and without the borders of the country. In deed, he has undertaken a lot of electoral work for the Commonwealth, the United Nations, The International Foundation for Election Systems, The African Union, ECOWAS, Friedrich Ebert Foundation etc as a result of which he should have been aiming at bequeathing an unblemished legacy to Ghanaians in the upcoming general elections. However, apart from the NDC, the rest of Ghanaians seemed to have given the man too credit than he probably deserves. The man is strutting his stuff like a peacock with no regard to the sentiments of well-meaning Ghanaians. He is hell-bent on creating 45 new constituencies and damn the consequences!

With the experience Dr Afari-Djan has had in handling electoral matters in this country and beyond, one would have thought he would wish to leave a lasting legacy in making sure that 2012 general elections is free and fair. One would have thought Afari-Djan would like to leave little or no room at all for any one or any group of persons to accuse the E.C of rigging the 2012 general elections in favour of one political with its concomitant potential to throw the country into chaos. This would have elevated the man to the status of a living legend. Though I am hesitant to tag Dr Afari-Djan with senility as I he is not that old yet dogged arrogance in going ahead in creating 45 new constituencies for the December general elections surely borders on infantile docility. This is why opposition parties seem to suggest that the man is in bed with the ruling party and that he is being dictated to by his paymasters who have probably promised him some monstrous take-home package for his retirement should he help them to win.

My heart really sunk when the Head of Public Affairs of the Electoral Commission announced that; “The EC is fully prepared and will go ahead to conduct elections in the 45 newly created constituencies in the country,” in December against wise counsel. That statement was stomach churning and made me physically sick! What happened to reasoning? Afari-Djan’s intransigence is sheer buffoonery and I say so with no apology to any one!! No one begrudges him for working within the perimeters of his constitutional mandate. However, neither Afari-Djan nor anybody else could contest that when the Constitution says “review” constituencies; it does not necessarily mean to “create new ones”. It could mean leave it as it is, re-demarcate existing boundaries or even merge constituencies so that we would have even fewer than what we now have! So why the fiendish haste to increase it by a whopping 45 new constituencies barely 13 weeks to general elections? How come only those in government are the ones who agree with the E.C on this? Even in parliament, it is only the NDC majority who have turned themselves into spokespersons of the E.C. The clergy, Imams, TUC and many other civil society groups have advised against the creation of the new constituencies at this time but Afari-Djan has turned deaf ears to those admonitions.

Ironically, the Chairman of the Electoral Commission lachrymosely tells the country how he is being threatened with “death” for performing his constitutional duties but he gleefully shrugs-off all suggestions to hold on to the creation of the additional 45 constituencies for now! The man is behaving as if someone is holding a gun to his head on the blind side of Ghanaians. Did the Parliament of Ghana not pass “ROPAL” which enfranchises Ghanaians resident abroad into law in 2007? In spite of their massive financial contribution to the economy of Ghana, Afari-Djan still conveniently disenfranchises Ghanaians abroad by not implementing “ROPAL” yet wants to hurriedly push through the creation of the 45 new constituencies. The 2012 elections have a novelty; in that, we are going to use the biometric voters register which is already fraught with a lot of anomalies. There are registers missing in some regions, males who appear as females in the register, constituencies which have been swapped and names which have been placed in registers of constituencies the electorates do not live in and various other such inexplicable deficiencies! Intriguingly, Afari-Djan would want to prioritise on creation of 45 new constituencies rather than ensuring the cleansing of the biometric register which is sine qua non for free and fair elections any where in the world. Only God knows what is pushing him.

From foregoing, I challenge the Chairman of the Electoral Commission to focus his energy on streamlining the register towards maiden free and fair biometric elections in December 2012. The way things are going though, I shudder to say that Dr Kwadwo Afari-Djan does not care a hoot about what anybody else say right now. I want to sound a note of caution to the E.C however, that as they scheme to go ahead with the creation of the 45 new constituencies, they should not in any way toy with the peace and stability of Ghana. Afari-Djan has indeed disappointed for not listening to voice wisdom. His stiff-necked intransigence in this discourse is legendary. It is indeed true when our elders say: “se nsuo kyere wo ahina mu a, eyi hwa.” In deed, what Ghanaians now smell from Dr Kwadwo Afari-Djan’s office really stinks to the high heavens!!!

Kofi Kyei-Mensah-Osei

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