Feature Article of Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Columnist: Yaw III, Nana

A Travesty of Justice for Thousands of Voters?

LET MY VOTE COUNT – A Travesty of Justice for Thousands of Voters?

Yesterday some information appeared in the media about a campaign that was undertaken in Dome-Kwabenya by some members of the NPP. At this campaign, dubbed “Let My Vote Count”, Professor Mike Oquaye is reported to have addressed the youth at the meeting, telling them among others that the results declared at the last elections were not a true reflection of what took place.

Having no notion of who Prof. Oquaye is, I went online and checked what Wikipedia had to say about him. At http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aaron_Mike_Oquaye) I found that “Aaron Mike Oquaye (born April 4, 1944) is a Ghanaian politician who has been the Second Deputy Speaker of the Parliament of Ghana since 2009. A member of the New Patriotic Party, he was Ghana's High Commissioner to India from 2001 to 2004, then Minister of Energy from 2005 to 2006 and Minister of Communications from 2006 to 2009… Oquaye is a Baptist Minister... ”

Having checked on the gentleman, I considered the report at the meeting a joke and did not really think about it. However, this morning, as I was watching the news on TV3, I saw Prof. Oquaye and heard him address a crowd at the meeting, telling them that it was not just enough to have the petition of allegations of fraud or irregularities in court, but that it was important to inform Ghanaians on what took place on December 7/8 last year. I was surprised and baffled. That a matured man, university professor, ex-legislator, one-time ambassador, legal practitioner, and a Baptist Minister, could stoop so low as to embark on a warped campaign of this nature, apparently to educate and inform the youth on what took place during the elections, was beyond my comprehension.

The campaign, which I understand took place in at least one other region (Ashanti), has been dubbed “Let My Vote Count.” What does Let My Vote Count really mean? In principle this is a request to all and sundry, but especially the laws of the land, to ensure that all votes cast during the elections are properly counted. This means all votes cast on December 4 (Special Voting Day), December 7, and December 8 2012. The votes that can, and must, be counted are votes properly and legally cast.

In Ghana our laws define a valid vote as a vote cast by any person of 18 years and above, who is legally registered as a voter, and on the voting day has presented himself/herself at the assigned polling station, been identified (via a voter ID card, existence of name in the voter’s register, and facial identification by comparing the photo on the ID with the face), and finally a positive response from a biometric verification machine. If a voter goes through all these identifications and casts his/her vote in the prescribed manner, that vote is supposed to be counted.

In terms of vote count the most important aspect of the challenge (of the electoral results) at the Supreme Court (SC) is a prayer to the court that votes allegedly cast “Without Biometric Verification” and “Over-votes” must be struck out of the results that were validated by the Electoral Commission (EC). I will therefore make some observations on these two alleged errors. But for the avoidance of doubts, I will reproduce below the basic laws governing voter identification and biometric verification as stated in CI 75 (PUBLIC ELECTIONS REGULATION, 2012).

Regulation on Voter Identification: 30. (1) A presiding officer may, before delivering a ballot paper to a person who is to vote at the election, require the person to produce (a) a voter identification card, or, (b) any other evidence determined by the Commission, in order to establish by fingerprint or facial recognition that the person is the registered voter whose name and voter identification number and particulars appear in the register. 30. (2) The voter shall go through a biometric verification process.

34. (1) Where the proceedings at a polling station are interrupted or obstructed by (a) riot, open violence, storm, flood, or other natural catastrophe, or, (b) the breakdown of an equipment, the presiding officer shall in consultation with the returning officer and subject to the approval of the Commission, adjourn the proceedings to the following day.

Regulation Concerning Special Voting 21. (10) Subject to sub regulation (11) voting at a polling station for special voters shall be conducted in the same manner as voting on polling day. 21. (11) The returning officer shall at the end of the special voting, (a) ensure that the ballot boxes are kept in safe custody after the poll has closed; (b) ensure that the ballot boxes are sealed with the seals of the Commission and any candidates who wish to add their seal; and (c) arrange for the ballot boxes to be opened at the time of the counting of the votes cast on the polling day and the ballot papers shall be counted in the same manner as those contained in the ballot boxes used on the polling day.

Based on the above regulations, I submit the following observations:

VOTING WITHOUT BIOMETRIC VERIFICATION. Wherever this allegation is made the reason for which voting took place without verification was unanimously attributed to the failure of the verification machines to function. Voters had queued for long hours and had been identified but could not vote because a machine in which humans had placed so much trust failed to function. (It is interesting to note that our lawmakers could put so much trust in the reliability on a machine, and thus, fail to make proper legal provisions for immediate and pragmatic alternate solutions in case the machine mal-functioned). Somehow, the humans who were at the helm of affairs chose to go ahead with voting (a pragmatic decision that may be legal, and is definitely more economic) and as such allegedly permitted voting without verification. It must be noted that the so-called voting without verification took place before the EC announced that voting was to continue the next day in polling stations where the verification machines had functional problems.

The petitioners find fault with voting without verification by the biometric machine, and are calling for the annulment of all votes thus cast. What baffles me is that the petitioners, and the likes of Prof. Mike Oquaye, only find the solution to the problem in the annulment of the votes cast by citizens in the alleged polling stations. Prof. Oquaye and Co shout “Let my vote count” and yet call for the annulment of the votes cast by tens of thousands of Ghanaians. Should it not be the voters (in the alleged areas) that ought to organise themselves and request that their votes (which are being challenged by the petitioners) be counted? The NPP, members of the Let My Vote Count Alliance (LMVCA), and the SC, should at worst call for re-voting in the alleged areas, with the biometric machines, so that all who voted will have their votes counted. This, to me, is the road to fairness and justice. Otherwise, with the laws that were in force and the constitution in hand, we simply have to allow those votes to be counted; as has already been done by the EC.

OVER-VOTING Over-voting, as defined by the petitioners, simply mean that more votes were counted at some polling stations than what was accounted for as ballot papers issued at the alleged polling stations. What the petitioners forgot to factor-in, in their computations, is the fact that voting took place in most (if not all) of those alleged polling stations on the special voting day. The law is that the votes cast on the special voting day are supposed to be kept in their ballot boxes, taken back to their respective polling stations on the voting day and counted with the mainstream voting.

Who is to blame for not having considered special voting results in the alleged polling stations? In working numbers and dealing with logic and common sense, the promoters of fraud and massive irregularities have over this short period proved to have very little or no capability in the aforementioned fields. Clear examples are evident in their petition, where they failed to sum correctly their table of irregularities (1,343,047 “illegal votes” instead of the 1,342,851 as stated by them), and yet still stated that the Total Valid votes cast in the elections for all presidential candidates was 14,158,880. If in their own petition they could commit such unforgiveable basic mathematical blunders, what can we expect from them when proper and honest analysis and deductions are supposed to be made of logical issues?

ROUTE TO DISASTER The NPP is gradually sliding to a place in the political world that can for now be described as a journey towards self-destruction, member disaffection, and disaster. It is very worrying that grown men, knowledgeable men and elders of one of the major political parties in this country, could embark on an adventure as stupid as the campaign (Let My Vote Count) some leaders of the NPP have embarked upon. It was so disheartening for me to hear Prof. Oquaye tell the youth that he was at the campaign to inform them of why they are in court, when deep down his preacher-man’s heart he knows he is mis-informing and mis-educating his audience. Ghana cannot afford to have such men as our leaders. The truth must be told, and not twisted to suit our personal and political goals.

When one starts a campaign of the nature that the NPP has embarked upon, the natural thing for the accused (NDC, in this case) is to also embark on an opposing campaign to tell their version of the story. Such actions could only lead to accusations and counter accusations, possible clashes, and unnecessary waste of time and resources in dealing with an issue which is currently in the hands of the highest court of the land. Why can’t we embark on a campaign to “Let the Supreme Court decide?”

CONCLUSION Ghana has more important problems to deal with, and the energy and resources being spent to mis-inform and mis-educate citizens could and must be channelled towards solving the problems that bedevil our nation. I was at Dome-Kwabenya last week, and could not believe what I experienced. The place (like many other villages, towns, suburbs, etc., of our beloved country) is connected with dirt-roads, very stinky and open gutters, poor water supply systems, and is teeming with countless numbers of jobless young men and women.

Why can’t we leave the petition to the SC and channel our energies to brainstorm with the youth on how to better the situation described above? Why do we only have to win political power before attempting to undertake or assist in developing and improving the lives of our people? I simply cannot understand our attitudes and politicians.

I will therefore like to use this medium to appeal to all concerned to turn their energies towards resolving the day to day problems facing us instead of compounding them. We want peace and we want development.

Thank You. Nana Yaw III (nanayawiiigh@gmail.com) Jan. 29, 2013.