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Opinions of Saturday, 1 March 2008

Columnist: Antwi, William

A Soulless Ropal Defines A Clueless And Visionless Akuffo Addo!

We were righteously angry when we learned that our Election Commission was not going to implement ROPAL - The Representation of People Amendment Law - for the upcoming general election in December of this year. This momentous announcement has gone a long way to feed our idea that this government has become so predictable that it is not funny anymore. Indeed, we are in deep, deep trouble as a nation with the kind of political leadership presently lording over us. The same bunker and bankrupt mentality that has driven most of their core decisions was on full flight and display during and after the debate on this useless law. We knew all along that the President and the Akuffo Addos of Ghana could not suppress the truth for long, to wit, that this law could and cannot be implemented in our peculiar legal, political, economic and social circumstances.

The irresistible question presently tormenting the minds of discerning Ghanaians is: So after all the anguish and agony the nation went through before and after the passage of ROPAL, is its non-implementation our just reward? Back to square one? After all that? What really happened to the so-called right of non-resident Ghanaians to "register to vote" in public elections and referenda according to Article 42 of our constitution? Shouldn’t the non-implementation of ROPAL give credence to the fact that there are good laws and bad laws? And, we must be quick to state that ROPAL is one such useless, bad law designed by a group that is an outcast to the realities of our peculiar situation as a nation - a nation so bedeviled by the cruel depravities of poverty, disease, deprivation and humiliation! Worryingly, didn’t our President and the majority in our rubber-stamping parliament think about the cost of this misguided political venture before appending their imprimatur to the bill? Importantly, didn’t the opposition lucidly and impressively talk about the outrageous and frightening financial outlay to underwrite this massive, elitist boondoggle at a very crucial time in our nation’s history when our children are studying under trees, our roads collapsing, our hospitals deprived of basic medical equipments like MRIs, blood pressure machines, beds and common "APC" medication? Now, talk to me about bunker and bankrupt mentality of the leaders of the ruling party now led by Akuffo Addo!

In all seriousness, how can any sensitive, responsible and accountable government talk about passing such a law without seriously thinking about the cost that would be involved in its implementation? This was a classic case of a clueless President and his follow-follow group putting the cart before the horse! Or, was this yet another case where they were massively counting on the same foreign donors who have been financing our elections to subsidize the implementation of ROPAL? Or, worse still, were they going to borrow the money from foreign financial institutions and individuals as they have done in many cases including, but not limited, to the celebration of our 50TH Anniversary or the building of the presidential palace or buying of bullet proof cars etc.? When are we going to shed this depressing, dependent and global panhandling mentality of always looking to the white man for assistance? When are we going to learn to cut coat according to our size? But why should we blame them when these same donor countries and financial institutions condone our leaders’ corrupt practices! For all I care to know, I think these donors countries love the donor-beggar relationship.

Be that as it may, our Electoral Commission can prognosticate and the government can spin this electoral debacle all they want, but, the fact remains that they would better serve their conscience well if they tell the nation the truth and nothing but the whole truth about why ROYAL is dead and buried, forever! For example, how could they forget to tell us that ROPAL is one fraud-infested law. How was/is the law going to deter the incidence of voter fraud in situations where many foreigners are walking around with Ghana passports (not to mention diplomatic ones) and birth certificates? Should we easily forget about the stark fact that we don’t even have the data on the number of qualified non-resident Ghanaians? What about the personnel to handle this electoral exercise in foreign lands? And, if we decide to use absentee ballots, can we honestly tell ourselves that we have the mechanism or technology to run that system into fruition? All said, did they seriously consider the fact that voter-fraud impairs the right of legitimate voters by diluting their votes and creating legitimacy problems? And, these are individuals who want us to believe that they are all for the integrity of our electoral system!

In truth, if the government and its fawning supporters had only listened to common sense and legal reason, they would have saved the nation this cruel agony, pain and humiliation. If only they had accepted the legal and common sense premise that the whole debate was not about the right of non-resident Ghanaians to "register to vote" but, rather, their claim right to receive ballots in their places of residence. No matter how hard we pumped this simple distinction into their heads, they would not listen to reason because they have a super-majority in Parliament to pass the bill and a disappointing President to sign it into law! In fact, what was and still is annoying is that a vociferous section of the non-resident population still believes that the government has a constitutional obligation to put ballot boxes in their places of residence! What arrogance! Why don’t they ask the government to put ballot boxes in their bedrooms, then?!

Once more, we are cordially inviting this section of the non-resident population actively supported by Nana Akuffo Addo to tell us how they are going to vote in our parliamentary elections. Maybe, Nana Akuffo Addo is in a good position to offer his legal assistance! While doing so, Akuffo Addo should not forget that since it is their central argument that residence is not tied to Article 42, any qualified Ghanaian - resident or non-resident - can vote in any constituency of his or her choice! Can we imagine the chaos that would be created by such a system? Just imagine outsiders deciding an election in your constituency! And, I mean voters who don’t live in the constituency but are bused in just to cast their votes for a rich parliamentarian!

In drawing the curtain on this sad law and political episode, no Ghanaian should forget about the lightning speed with which the President, cheered on by the Akuffo Addos, signed the bill into effect: Notably, the bill was passed by "our way-or-the-highway" majority in Parliament on February 23, 2006. The following day, amid political fanfare and pageantry, the President signed it into law. One is left wondering whether the President and the Akuffo Addo have the intellectual and moral wherewithal to confront the Electoral Commission and reality - the reality that the law would not be implemented! Are they going to go court to compel the Election Commission to implement the law? It would be a crying shame if they don’t do just that!

Against this ominous backdrop, we say without remorse that we are being ruled by narrow-minded, clueless, visionless and vindictive leaders whose sole aim of being in politics is to serve their cheap, selfish and parochial ends and not the supreme interest of our already blighted nation! Hopefully, Akuffo Addo and the party he now leads would stop believing in their fantastic lies and deceptions and deal with the reality of our situation as a poor, fragile democracy! Merely passing a law without any clue as to its efficacy is a colossal fantasy - in fact, a deadly fantasy only experienced by those who enjoy the pernicious fruits of a bankrupt and corrupt political system.

A word to the wise . . . !

We will be back.

WILLIAM ANTWI, A.K.A. BAFO (OYOO BUSANGA)
NEW YORK.


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