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Opinions of Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Columnist: Cobblah, Tete

Are Ghanaians In The Diaspora Not Bona Fide Ghanaians?

By Tete Cobblah

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that all citizens have the inalienable right ,come election day, to vote for the candidates of their choice to run the affairs of their countries. Whether they are within or outside the borders of their countries, that right can never be taken away from them, not even by a bulldozer. Wherever human beings find themselves on this planet of ours, unless they are in a corner of the planet where civilization is yet to manifest itself, they have the right to vote during parliamentary and presidential elections.

It was against this background that yesterday,7th August 2011,I could not help burying my chin in my palm and looking, in utter admiration, at citizens of the Republics of Cape Verde and São Tomé e Príncipe in the Diaspora, waiting patiently in a queue outside their respective embassies in a Lusophone country, to vote in presidential elections. I am not talking about a few dozen Cape Verdians and São Tomenses, but thousands of them.Cape Verdeans alone numbered over two thousand and São Tomenses over three thousand. If countries that look like dots on the map of Africa can organize elections for their citizens in the Diaspora, why is it that the governments we have had since the ´´gladiatorial caudillos´´ were shown the exit with their tails firmly between their legs, have not been able to organize elections for Ghanaians in the Diaspora? Why is it that we seem incapable of stopping politicizing this issue and extending universal suffrage to Ghanaians in the Diaspora? Why is that the Ghanaian authorities have not been able to do this when the countries I have mentioned have been making arrangements for donkey´s years for their citizens in the Diaspora to vote in presidential elections? A lot of countries, African and non-African, make sure that their citizens in the Diaspora exercise their right to vote during parliamentary and presidential elections. Or are Ghanaians in the Diaspora not bona fide Ghanaians? Are they counterfeit Ghanaians? Are they ersatz Ghanaians? Are they half-Ghanaian by virtue of the fact that they live beyond the confines of the Motherland?

A few years ago, if my memory is not playing any tricks on me, there was a debate in the Ghanaian parliament on this issue. For some arcane reasons that totally surpass my comprehension, the debate came to an abrupt, screeching halt, and there has been a sepulchral silence over it ever since. It is my ardent hope that it is not in an irreversible coma.

I have been asking myself the following questions over the years; could it be that our relevant authorities have been harbouring, over the years, apprehension that something untoward might happen during elections at our various missions around the world? Could it be that those who have been at the helm of affairs in Mother Ghana, have not had an iota of confidence in their own diplomatic missions abroad? If the Ghanaian authorities are at a loss as to how to organize elections for their citizens in the Diaspora, they should eat a humble pie and ask the authorities of the Republic of Cape Verde and the Republic of São Tomé e Príncipe to teach them the ABC of psephology

With the Ghanaian elections not too far away, I would like to remind my fellow countrymen of the appeal I made in various articles prior to the last cliffhanging presidential elections in Ghana; I would like to appeal, once more, to all and sundry to ensure that the elections are free, fair and incident-free. Gratuitous insults and dragging of names in a fetid gutter should cease forthwith, and candidates and their fanatical supporters should refrain from making inflammatory speeches. No part of the country should be declared a no-go area by any party and its supporters. Mother Ghana belongs to the entire electorate and no political party and its supporters have the right to tell any voter where to go and where not to go. The Police and other security agencies should bear in mind that they are supposed to protect all Ghanaians and not a section of Ghanaians. Candidates should do away with the ugly and not very dignifying habit of declaring themselves winners before the Electoral Commissioner announces who the winner is. A candidate who declares himself winner and convinces his followers to follow him, like chicks following their mother, to the offices of the Electoral Commissioner, to put pressure on the Electoral Commissioner to declare him winner, is not worth being called a patriotic Ghanaian politician. Should the current Ghanaian authorities decide to change the Electoral Commissioner, they should make sure that he or she is as level-headed as the good old Electoral Commissioner we have had for years. I have no doubt that Ghanaians who can accuse him of not having worked sedulously over the years can be counted on the fingers of one hand. The choice of a good and non-partisan Electoral Commissioner will go a very long way to obviate the need to waste precious hours, days and sometimes months wrangling over the election results. Things should be properly done before elections. We should not wait till the politicians in power choose an Electoral Commissioner who sings from the same song sheet with them and ends up helping to massage, to doctor the results of the elections nicely before we raise hue and cry and plunge the country into an orgy of killings, maiming and bludgeoning of fellow citizens to death. The orgy of senseless killings and general destruction that accompany the announcement of election results on our continent, sending shivers up and down the spine of peace-loving citizens should be nipped in the bud, and should not be given any oxygen to breathe in our midst. I fervently hope that the opprobrium with which all sane Ghanaians will view any politician who sows seeds of discord in the run-up to the elections and when the election results are announced, is not lost on Ghanaian politicians worth their salt. No Ghanaian who has the welfare of the country at heart should be accused of verbal indecency if he describes such a politician as an old political goat. Ghanaians, in particular, and Africans in general, are sick, sick and sick to the core of pre and post election chaos. Any politician, or supporter of any political party, who is bent on treading the path of beastly behaviour should be sent to the jungle where he will feel at home, living with beasts.

On the question of vitriolic attacks on political opponents, I must say that I squirm with rage whenever I hear politicians accusing opponents of having smoked this or that and of having specialized in unzipping their trousers before any female human species with the speed of lightning when they were a school. If we were to disqualify citizens from standing for elections or holding political office because of what they did when they were at school, very few Ghanaians would hold any political office in Ghana. Have we never had ´´big men´´ who disobeyed every single school rule when they were at school, but later catapulted themselves to the fulcrum of power and made themselves the linchpin of obedience, the pith and epitome of rectitude? Do we not see these same people going round looking very uppity and supercilious, accompanied by an uxorial procession led by a four-storey-headgear-wearing firebrand, throwing a spanner in the works of those with whom they sang from the same hymn book yesteryear? Have we not had ´´big men´´ at the helm of affairs in our Motherland whose fingers had a special magnet that attracted into their dormitories and their ´´chop-boxes´´ ´´gari´´ belonging to other students when they were at school? Have we not had ´´bigmen´´ who wore their birthday suits, in full view of curious damsels, and polluted a pond in the abode of the damsels with the content of their bladder? For heaven´s sake, let us put a stop to these vitriolic attacks on fellow citizens in the run-up to elections and let us concentrate on debating issues like how we can supply drinking water to the populace, how we can put an end to the constant power cuts, how we can help fellow Ghanaians to bid farewell to penury and abject misery. These vitriolic attacks only sow hatred in the hearts of citizens.

Finally I would like to postulate that any Ghanaian politician that really believes in the tenets of Democracy should not take defeat during elections as the end of the world. In a democratic dispensation there are bound to be losers and victors. We cannot have two presidents after elections. We are all witnesses to what catastrophic consequences an attempt by two African political leaders to sit on the same presidential seat has had on their already lacerated country. A candidate who acquits himself well in the run-up to elections, thinks before speaking, does not speak before thinking and treats politicians of other parties with a high degree of civility, will not feel that his defeat is the end of the world. He will even feel that his defeat has all the ingredients of victory because, he has done all in his power to promote Democracy and remove one more rusty nail from the coffin of African Democracy.

By Tete Cobblah

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