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Opinions of Friday, 28 August 2015

Columnist: Africanus Owusu-Ansah

All is well that ends well

The king’s a beggar, now the play is done.

All is well ended, if this suit be won,

That you express content; which we will pay,

With strife to please you, day exceeding day:

Ours be your patience then, and yours our parts;

Your gentle hands lend us, and take our hearts.

Epilogue (spoken by the King)

All’s well that ends well

William Shakespeare.

PLEASANT NEWS IT IS that the doctors have suspended the strike action with effect from Monday, 24th August, 2015. One would only hope that their demands would be examined carefully and respectfully through negotiations. Let us forgive and forget the past, and let the forward march be done on a ‘tabula rasa’ (clean slate)

Having acknowledged the doctors’ gesture, and that of the government and other stakeholders, we quickly turn our attention to the challenge thrown by the New Patriotic Party to the Electoral Commission to “compile a new credible voters’ register now and it must be compiled in time for the 2016 elections”.

According to Dr Mahamadu Bawumia, an investigative team was set up and charged with the task of unraveling the mystery surrounding the unusually high and statistically questionable voter population of 14 million, representing 56 percent of the total population.

The team found that the names of tens of thousands of foreigners were on the country’s electoral roll. By comparison of Ghana’s voters’ register with that of Togo, astonishing revelations were made. Using biometric facial recognition technology, the team found “potential matches” of 76,286 names on both registers (i.e. that of Ghana and Togo), Dr Bawumia stated: “These voters used the same names,… the same and other features of both countries… this is just a sample; it is quite a lot and it is quite amazing”.

It came out that some of the pictures were taken from documents. He noted further: “There were pictures clipped to documents and shot for purposes of registration. Most of the pictures were scanned into the register. If you take a digital picture, you cannot staple it, but clearly most of the pictures were stapled”.

He declared that the Electoral Commission’s assertion of overseas registered voters who numbered only 705 for 2012 presidential (Not: parliamentary) elections was an unsatisfactory explanation. Besides, some of the people had registered using the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) cards acquired in the Volta and Brong Ahafo regions in the build – up to the 2012 elections. The voter population of these two regions rose up by more than 50 percent and the question was what activities had caused the people to migrate into those constituencies along the border. By comparison, Sekondi – Takoradi which had experienced an oil boom had had its population declining.

Dr Bawumia offered a six –point recommendation for reforms, one of which was the compilation of a new register simultaneously in two weeks in all the polling stations across the country.

At the press conference, the National Chairman of the NPP, Mr Paul Afoko appealed to Ghanaians not to use elections in the country as a period to draw swords at one another, but rather one for people to express their will freely.

The flagbearer of the NPP, Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo, reminded President Mahama to do for Ghana just as he had recommended for Togo to reschedule its general election because the opposition had expressed doubts about the credibility of the voters’ register. President Mahama had made these recommendations in his capacity as the Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

In a sharp rebuttal to the opposition NPP’s claims, the NDC through its humble General Secretary Asiedu Nketia described the NPP’s claims as misleading and born out of ignorance of the electoral process. He added further: “Accepting their argument as it is now will mean that we have to assume that Ghana’s population remained static and all ages of citizens remained static; no births, no deaths between 2010 and 2012”. While conceding that 14-year olds were registered as voters in 2012, he stated: “…the good thing is that because the register was captured four years ago, by 2016 anybody from 14 years and above who was captured would be 18 years and above in 2016”. Thus, they will be qualified under our electoral laws to cast their votes, the illegality of the fraud committed earlier notwithstanding!

He saw nothing wrong in allowing those who had used the NHIS cards to register, since the laws of Ghana frowned on laws taking retrospective effect.

The “most unkindest cut” of Asiedu Nketia’s quick response was the “tribal” tinge he gave the NPP’s assertions. According to him, NPP’s singling out Volta Region showed signs of “disrespect and disdain for certain tribes”. This is not the first time – nor may it be the last – that the NPP would be given the “tribal” label, but is the perception factual?

The NPP’s assertions were made by Dr Mahamadu Bawumia, the NPP running mate and Paul Afoko the NPP National Chairman. Which tribe do these two men belong? But when President John Atta Mills (then candidate Mills) mentioned some constituencies in Ashanti as having been bloated, no one, especially no Ashanti, ever gave him the “tribalist” tag. Meanwhile, some gentlemen who styled themselves as NDC youth, perhaps disgruntled— because the ‘noko-fio’ had not dropped on them —had confessed to having assisted some Togolese to acquire NHIS cards with which they were able to register for the 2012 elections. Led by one Robert Tetteyfio Adjase, the group stated: “The NDC and its leadership know that when a new voters’ register is compiled they will lose the 2016 general elections because in the Volta Region when it is time for registration a lot of big men come and then we cross over to the other side of the border, bring in some Togolese, explain to them what we want them to do, and then we give them motorbikes, a lot of things, promises, especially this health insurance thing”. The youth continued: “When you go to Kpedze, Aflao, Kpetoe, Agotime, Nyive, Shia, These are the places where these things are done”. Adjase and his compatriots who claim to have defected from the NDC to the NPP, asserted that the Volta Region was no longer “the World Bank” of the NDC, stressing that: “A lot of youth are disappointed …and should there be elections today, the NPP would win, because NDC has deceived us, and we have done a lot of dubious jobs for them, and now we have seen that we are fooling ourselves”.

The Electoral Commission led by its Chairperson, Charlotte Osei, in an effort to quench the raging fire has asked the political parties to give their positions on how the concerns raised by the NPP should be managed. The deadline for submission of the recommendations is September, 22, 2015.

In her maiden press conference since assuming the E.C. chair, Charlotte Osei, in a “baptism of fire”, declared that a stakeholder’s forum would be held to seek consensus on whether there should be a new voters’ register. Should the forum fail to reach a consensus, the E.C. would step in and take a firm decision. This is a bright show, by the E.C. Chair, and if she should continue this way – engaging the political parties in dialogue – she would help build and strengthen our democracy to loftier heights. Nana Agyemang Konadu, a former First Lady, and the Leader of the National Democratic Party (NDP) has proposed electronic voting for Ghana. She says: “It is very important because it removes prejudices, negativity, and the perception of over—bloated voter roll; it will bring sanity and transparency into the voting system”. She insists: “The doubtful integrity of the voters’ register cannot be disputed; indeed, you do not need a magician to tell you that there is a problem with it”.

The NPP presidential candidate, Nana Akufo Addo, has asserted that the NPP will not take any electoral petition to the Supreme Court after the 2016 elections. The courts will be the 26,000 or so polling stations. Mind you, we are no different from Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Kenya, and Rwanda. Let us spend money to save this nation, noting that: “All’s well that ends well”.