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Opinions of Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Columnist: Antwi, Eugene

An Open Letter To Ghana’s Electoral Commissioner

An Open Letter To Ghana’s Electoral Commissioner Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan



Dear Dr Afari-Gyan,

Could you kindly unburden me by providing
answers to the following burning questions please?

Sir, I would first like to draw your
attention to events in late December 2008 when after the second round of voting
with no early declaration of a victor in the Presidential elections, members of
the NDC, were irresponsibly rallied through Radio Gold by top NDC honchos into
preparations to storm your offices to force your hand. Chaos was avoided
because the NPP Flagbearer conceded with the support of the outgoing president
Kufuor. Question: have you
not learnt the lesson that elections are emotive events with incalculable
outcomes such as nearly happened in Ghana,
and certainly happened in Kenya,
Ivory Coast and to a certain
extent in Nigeria?

It is said that the wise man learns from other people’s mistakes, but the fool
ignores such to his peril. In essence
therefore, Mr Electoral Commissioner, if you are mindful of delivering free,
fair and safe elections – as you ought to in 2012 - how then can you account
for the following?

1]Sir, it is trite to say that “a thing worth doing is worth doing
well”. To wit, how is it that you do not ascribe sufficient importance to being
accorded all the tools you require to deliver you mandate – a credible,
universally acceptable, free, fair and safe set of elections in 2012?
Otherwise, why would you say, as if it was an after thought, that “if
the money can be found”, you would provide verification to go with the planned
biometric registration
exercise! May I ask, Sir,

(a) whose call is it in deciding exactly what tools,
equipment and systems you, as
the designated Electoral Commissioner would need in order to deliver your
constitutional mandate? Else,

(b)
how could you make such a cursory statement in relation to a most integral part
of a viable biometric registration exercise, such as the verification element
of it?

(c) Why would it be the
decision of the
government whether they deem the additional expense in providing verification,
necessary or not? (d) Whilst studying and
arriving at the decision to introduce biometric voting to Ghana, how is it that
you failed to note that biometrics without verification is an incomplete and
wasted opportunity?
(e)
More pertinently, why are you
acting as if you are unaware that the developed Western democracies that wage
wars to remove despotic regimes and install fledgling democracies at enormous
domestic costs do have reserves to assist any developing country desirous of
strengthening
their democracy? In the UK
for instance, the Department for Foreign & International development [DFIP]
has budgeted funds for exactly such purposes. All you need to do is ASK!
Therefore, please spare us the excuse of whether the NDC government’s Finance
Minister deems the cost element of Verification affordable or
not!
(f) But if, against all odds you still
find excuses with costs, how about the
simple but effective suggestion of the NPP Chairman Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey that
you could RENT the abundant and redundant biometric equipment from
neighbouringNigeria at
minimal cost?! Abaaa!

2]Sir, it goes without saying, that as the Electoral Commissioner,
you are ultimately responsible for all that transpires within your department,
including the actions of officials working under you. Therefore Sir, how can
you explain your silence in the face of your head of Research at the EC being
not only at the NDC party Functional Executives’ strategic planning retreat on
1st Sept 2011, but is actually reported to have briefed the ruling
party executives on how to cheat the biometric technology? You will appreciate
that an excuse such as saying that any other party is at liberty to invite a
‘resource person’ from the EC to attend and brief them on the impending
exercise will not wash. You will appreciate that the EC Head of Research’s
attendance, and the level of his briefing, associated with his known political
allegiance [NDC], makes this ‘formal invite’ quite unlike an innocent and above
board one. Therefore, Sir, I dare say
that if you fail to rein in officials working under you in sensitive positions,
then you are deemed complicit and liable for their actions! At a time when the NPP,
the leading opposition
party - and by all accounts of successive opinion polls, the next party in
government - is leading a chorus of complaints against the non-inclusion of
verification to the process of biometric registration, it is downright blasé
and irresponsible for your Director of Research, Amadu Sulley, not only to
‘represent’ your department as a ‘resource person’ at an NDC Executives’ strategy
retreat, but contribute to the extent he did. It is arguably treasonable that
his brief centered on fudging the biometric register and how to render its
capability useless!

Perceptions as is oft said could be as real
as reality. Therefore, if Amadu Sulley went further to advice the NDC officials
not to back the verification element of biometrics and to lobby other smaller
parties to follow suit, does that not vindicate the PNC and NPP and others who
deem verification as indispensable to making the entire biometric exercise
worthwhile? That point made, Sir, is this not enough of a reason for you to
endeavor to appear honest, uncompromised, unintimidated by authority and above
board, and therefore adopt any and all means and measures, including
verification, in your bid to render a free fair and uncontroversial 2012
elections?

Carrying on with the theme of perception,
how does it appear that hither-to, apart from your department’s stance against
verification, that you equally inexplicably opt for sub-standard 2 mega-pixel cameras
rather than the international standard 10 mega pixel, and 500 dpi [dots per
inch] finger print capture equipment rather than the international standard
1200 dpi equipment for the biometric registration exercise?! All this
on top of the controversial manner of picking the shortlisted company to supply
the equipment against the spirit of the Public Procurement Act 2003 [Act 663]! I
think you and your department’s conduct
in all things biometric leave a trail of unanswered questions, a lot to be
desired, and certainly a festering problem and a looming blowout in the
future!! And this is not crying wolf! On the contrary, anyone dismissive of
this is rather playing the proverbial ostrich burying its head in the sand!

3]Sir, how do you view your relations with IPAC, the Inter Party
Advisory Council? The independence of your department not-withstanding, I
believe you recognize that you cannot hold your position in a vacuum, and for
that matter, you ought to have mutually respectable relations with the
political parties on whose behalf you conduct elections! Therefore, would you
not agree that it is untoward that you are ignoring the calls by major parties,
including the NPP and PNC for including verification whilst introducing
biometrics into our electoral system? After all, you are not holding the
registration and subsequent voting on your own behalf but on behalf, as
aforementioned, of these very same political parties! That is also why you were
out of order to instruct IPAC to only ‘observe but not ask questions’ in
relation to the biometric equipment you acquired, when you first convened IPAC.

4]Finally Sir, are you not alarmed that the NDC Functional
Executives’ election strategy meeting your Head of Research controversially
attended, adopted an election motor: “Victory By All Means -Do or Die!”? Surely, as
a citizen of Ghana yourself,
you are witness to the performances of the incumbent government as well as the
results of a series of opinion polls. It
is said that coming events cast their shadows. Therefore Sir, with the forgoing, it
is
incumbent upon you, indeed, it is imperative that you take preventive measures
NOW in order to prosecute the free, fair, uncontroversial and universally
acceptable 2012 elections. At this present time, the immediate elevation of the
verification element of the biometric exercise to make it inseparable from the
main, and steps to obtain the funding for it, is the one litmus test to your
desire to keep our beloved country Ghana safe after December
2012. Otherwise, leave well alone the
current flawed voting system until such time as your successor will properly
plan towards moving Ghana
to the era of biometric registration and voting. Half measures in this endeavor
are dangerous and must be avoided. Drink deep or taste not the Pierian Spring.

In
conclusion Sir, not that you need any education on
the merits of biometrics in elections, which is fundamentally to avoid multiple
registration and multiple voting. Therefore, it is quite inexplicable that any
party would need to belabourthe need for the EC of Ghana to make verification
integral to the
introduction of biometrics into our political life. Because, essentially what
is the use of a biometric register on election day when that cold list cannot
vouch that the potential voter presenting himself at a polling station is who
he says he is, especially not helped by the sub-standard camera pixels and
fingerprint identification equipment preferred by the Electoral Commission?
This would in effect turn out to be a waste of resource without eliminating voter
fraud, with the potential for electoral violence of hither-to unseen
proportions! Remember the NPP has
declared ‘All Die Be Die” as a declaration of intent not to meekly allow its
electoral fortunes to be fraudulently stolen from it. Equally, and in
counterpoint to the NPP’s stance, the NDC have declared “Victory By All Means -
Do or Die!” Do both of these declarations not bode ill and serve as a timely
warning that the one man and his department who can play a hand in ensuring
probity and, free and fair elections, is you and your Commission Sir?

Whilst I await your considered answers to
these burdensome questions, Sir, Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, Electoral Commissioner
of the Republic of Ghana, let it be declared here and now, that the immediate
post 2012 electoral future of Ghana, lies very much in your hands! Rein in your
sub-officers including David Kanga, your Deputy
responsible for Electoral Operations, and your Director of Research, Amadu
Sulley, and exhibit actions that demonstrate beyond any doubt, that you are
honourableand uncompromised. The 2012 elections would be your swan song.
Leave a legacy of peace and honourfor your several
years at the top of the conduct of Ghana’s elections. Play your
responsible part in delivering a free and fair 2012 elections and leave
responsibility of any other fall out to the party that precipitates it.
Otherwise Sir, on your head and that of your deputy, David Kanga lies any
AVOIDABLE conflagration post election 2012! A word to the wise is indeed
enough, Sir! Over to you.


Yours Sincerely,

Richard Dombo Diedong Esq.


Regards,




Eugene Antwi