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Opinions of Saturday, 5 November 2016

Columnist: Ebo Quansah

EC Chair is all noise and little substance

I have heard a number of pundits suggesting on television that a section of the media is putting the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Mrs. Charlotte Osei, under unnecessary pressure. Some also pontificate that by suggesting that the Nigerian-born boss had sidelined other members of the commission, those unnamed media houses, were inferring other officers of the commission have no minds of their own.

Opinion, someone observed the other day, is like the nose. Everyone has his or her own. I do not shy from owning up as one of this nation’s media practitioners who has been hard on the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission.

Let it be known that the consistent pressure I have piled on the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, is not borne out of malice. I am a Ghanaian and seriously concerned about the danger she is putting this nation through, as a result of her obstinacy.

I also have a serious problem with the choice of this untried and untested personality to conduct our polls, when there are other competent Ghanaians who could have done a much more honest job.

I have the hunch that Mrs. Charlotte Osei was handpicked to lead the Electoral Commission, not because she is the best personality in the whole country to lead the charge of the commission as Ghanaians prepare for the polls. Unless someone is suggesting that I do not have the right to form an opinion, based on things happening, and express same as a newsman, I would continue to state why, in my humble view, Mrs. Osei has no business leading the Electoral Commission from the Mrs. Osei has impeccable academic credentials, no doubt about that. But everybody knows that in handling a major assignment like the leading the Electoral Commission to supervise over the vote to determine who becomes President of Ghana, it takes more than letters to one’s name.

I hope nobody is getting me wrong. I am not suggesting that holding a chain of degrees is not good. What I am suggesting here is that those degrees must go hand in hand with experience and a person’s attitude. I am afraid Mrs. Charlotte Osei has not exhibited that she has benefitted from that kind of experience. Her own bossy attitude is not helping either.

The most dangerous development in the jigsaw is the belief that Mrs. Osei could be manipulated by those who appointed her to that office. I will explain why. But before then, let us look at the background of the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission. Charlotte who?

If you Google Charlotte Osei to Wikipedia, you would be informed that she was born in Nigeria on 1st February 1969. His mother, now deceased, was a Nigerian. I have had confirmation from someone who knows the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission inside out, and who informs me that Charlotte was born outside wedlock.

I am informed that the father, who at the time had his own wife and children, refused to marry her mother. And that became a source of family feud. The father, still alive, is half Nigerian and half Ghanaian. It is believed that Mr. Kesson-Smith’s half Ghanaian nationality is split between Nzema and Fanti.

The father, a staunch Methodist advocate, was married with children when he met Charlotte’s mother, according to those who have inside knowledge about Charlotte’s background. The parents of the mother wanted the father to marry the mother, but he refused, pointing out that as a Christian, he was not allowed to marry more than one woman.

The little girl was left in Nigeria with her mother until she got pregnant at the age of 14. When she brought forth, aged 15, her father decided to re-locate her to Ghana, and enrolled her at the Ghana National College, Cape Coast, where she was taken care of by a paternal relative of the father.

I am told that when Charlotte arrived in Ghana, she could not speak a word of any Ghanaian local language, and was drawn more to things about Nigeria than anything Ghanaian.

From Ghana National, Charlotte enrolled at the University of Ghana to read law, and like they say, the rest is history. Those who know the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission say she appeared to be weighed down by the failure of her father to marry the mother, one reason why she appeared to jettison almost everything Ghanaian, as a girl growing up.

While a student at Legon, she was fondly referred to as ‘Ama Alata.’ At the Queen’s University in Canada, where she obtained her Masters in Law, Charlotte chose to join the Nigerian National Students Association, while there was a vibrant Ghana National Students Association as well.

Though she is married to a Ghanaian, Emmanuel Osei, who is half Asante (from Jachie) and half Akwamu (Apegusu), Mrs. Osei appears to be emotionally attached to Nigeria, her birthplace, than Ghana, her current matrimonial home.

I have narrated this background of Mrs. Charlotte Osei to buttress my assertion that it is wrong to place a sensitive national institution like the Electoral Commission in the hands of someone whose emotional attachment to this lovely country, formerly called the Gold Coast, is suspect.

If you talk to those who were closely associated with Jerry John Rawlings, the former junta head, who founded the ruling National democratic Congress (NDC), you are likely to get the impression that the main reason why the former President of Ghana appeared emotionally disturbed as a man growing up was that he could not truly identify with his father.

The rise of Mrs. Charlotte Osei in contemporary Ghanaian politics owes its genesis to the occupation of the seat of Government by the late Prof’ John Evans Atta Mills. When the late former law lecturer ascended the national throne at the Castle, he promoted two of his darling students at Legon, who obviously showed some tendency to understand the NDC’s way of doing things.

Ms. Laurretta Lamptey became the Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, while Mrs. Charlotte Osei was posted to head the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE). Ms. Lamptey’s exit from CHRAJ was not that auspicious. Apparently, for all the time that she was supposed to pronounce on people attacking the public purse, she was staying at a hotel and attracting huge bills. Throughout the period, not much happened at CHRAJ though. Mrs. Osei did not fare any better at the NCCE.

That is why, in my opinion, it was wrong to place the responsibility of conducting this nation’s elections on the tiny shoulders of such a person, who, throughout her formative years, never really identified with this country.

I am not an expert on such issues, but I can well guess that the decision to jettison the Coat of Arms in the Electoral Commission’s logo could have been induced by her true inner feeling towards this nation. As a proud Ghanaian, I am offended that my nation’s Coat-of-Arms was thrown out of the EC’s logo in that manner.

When Mrs. Osei sat before television cameras and shrugged off agitations against the decision to abandon the state’s Coat-of Arms in favour of a school boy’s drawing with crayon, I felt the vote was in danger.

I also have very serious reservations about Mrs. Osei’s ability to build consensus, which is the prime requisite for leading the Electoral Commission.

These concerns aside, a number of people who have ever worked with Mrs. Osei are not that charitable when it comes to assessing the EC’s Chairperson’s ability to work as a member of a team. I am told that while at the National Commission on Civic Education, she tended to shrug off senior officers’ suggestions, and virtually ran solo.

I dare state too that Mrs. Osei has not exhibited the ‘Can Do’ spirit to many Ghanaians. She was the boss of the NCCE, when this nation had one of the most difficult elections ever staged since independence. The educational aspect of the vote was conspicuous by its absence. That is why, in my humble view, Mrs. Osei’s appointment was wrong. Let all of us rally round and force her out, or ensure that she works according to the dictates of the moment.

As it is, she may be all noise and very little substance.

I shall return!