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Opinions of Thursday, 2 May 2013

Columnist: Appiah, Papa

Blank is Zero! Dr Bawumiah’s Nonsense

I suggest to you, that the on-going live transmission of events in the Supreme Court has turned us all into pocket lawyers. We all have opinions, clearly coloured by which side of the debate we happen to be on. I must therefore declare, that I have always believed, that the kind of exercise that the NPP has engaged in to detect administrative and technical errors in the election is the kind of exercise we, as a nation should be engaged in anyway to try to plug loopholes in our system in what after all, is a 20 year old democracy. Long-surviving democracies like America are still working to improve on their electioneering process, never mind Ghana. So in a way, one must commend the NPP for the exercise. I have however, never believed that the NPP ever had enough reason to demand that 4 million innocent Ghanaian votes be annulled so Nana Akuffo Addo becomes president and nothing I have heard in the petition hearing so far has given me cause to change that view.

Dr Bawumiah has proved one thing and one thing only so far in the election petition hearing, and that is, that he is a very intelligent gentleman and a genius with numbers. Unfortunately, it is the same intelligence and sharpness of mind that is slowly eroding his very credibility as a witness. For, at the end of the day, who really believes an individual who avoids answering questions but keeps repeating sound bites he has already prepared. The only reason one refuses to answer questions directly is when one has something to hide and this has not been lost on the judges. Mr Atuguba, on a few occasions, has had to remind the gentleman to “show some discipline” and answer the questions in a manner required by the courts and not as if he was on a political platform. What sounded like a harmless humorous statement, in the manner Mr Atuguba is becoming famous for, was actually a sharp criticism and an indictment on the integrity of the star witness.

When Mr Bawumiah was asked whether people in the committee, chaired by himself, that was set up after the election to analyze the pink sheets were party loyalists whose primary agenda was to ensure that Nana Akuffo Addo became president, he answered that he had not asked them. This answer was as unfortunate as it was rude. For while Mr Bawumiah may be clever, he dares not presume, that Ghanaians, including the judges, are stupid. He would be making a sad mistake. Everybody understands that no party would select any other than staunch party loyalists to be on such a committee. Lawyers ask these questions for a purpose. He even proceeded to state, that people were in the committee to work to sustain democracy in Ghana and to ensure the right thing was done. Was it not interesting therefore, that he later made a comment to the effect that errors made in an election should not affect somebody’s presidency. That is the bottom line! The presidency! All that rubbish about working to sustain democracy, whisked away in one single unguarded statement.

Throughout the hearing, Dr Bawumiah has desperately tried to redefine the role of the polling agent. Firstly, they were mere observers and then when challenged, exalted observers. Even when he was repeatedly reminded of the roles of the agents as stipulated in CI75, he would not budge. There is a certain level of insincerity inherent in that kind of attitude. You see, Dr Bawumiah is aware that the very core of their case hinges on their ability to devalue the role of the polling agents and place the onus of responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the EC. And if that means redefining what is in the constitution, then so be it. Win at all cost.

“Whizzkid” Bawumiah seems to think we should all be impressed that his evidence was generated by computers when in fact, what really matters is the kind of command given the computer. Believe me, anybody can command a computer to produce results to prove anything. Statistics can be used to prove anything. That is why we have an Electoral Commissioner with 20 years experience to assess each case on its merit. So for instance, a blank may not necessarily be a zero if circumstances are taken into consideration. If a presiding officer forgets to sign in the right place but has written his name the date and the time and all polling agents have certified the results were to their satisfaction, and there were no official protests as allowed by law, then the electoral commissioner, being a human being with brains in his head and not a machine, can use his prerogative to allow those results.

We are talking here of an election where there are over 26,000 presiding officers, with different levels of education and understanding of the process. Mistakes will be made. Humans make mistakes. The important thing is to ensure, that all party officials are satisfied with the conduct of the elections and that there are no official protests. To say that innocent Ghanaian votes should simply be wiped out for little clerical errors, irrespective of other evidence that the election was lawfully conducted, much like some robotic machines, is simply absurd. And then one finds out, that the affidavits for their evidence was actually sworn in Akuffo Addo’s bedroom and many were not stamped and some of the stamped ones lacked exhibition numbers and signatures. Is blank equal to zero? Dr Bawumiah can surely answer that. He is the clever one.

CI75 says that a presidential candidate may appoint a polling agent “for the purpose of detecting impersonation and multiple voting and certifying that the poll was conducted in accordance with the laws and regulations governing the conduct of elections”. Anyone who believes that the law, as stated above, means that the polling agent is merely expected to observe, is either daft or a liar. So when good old Mr Afari Gyan receives results from the whole country, all signed by polling agents, and no official protest has been launched by any party officials on the ground as demanded by the law as to the conduct of the elections, then he has to go on and announce the results to the nation.

The alternative would have been to have allowed himself to be bullied by the NPP and held on to the results, thus creating a precedence where in future elections, all losing parties would drive up to the Electoral Commission and say “ Hey, don’t announce the results! We are losing! We have no ready evidence of irregularities, and we know all our polling agents and party officials have signed the results and we know none of our officials have protested, but just give us a few weeks and we can produce administrative errors that prove that we actually won the elections.” If in refusing to kowtow to such abject nonsense, our internationally respected Electoral Commissioner with 20 years experience is now a thief, then so be it.

Papa Appiah