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Opinions of Monday, 1 October 2012

Columnist: Damoa, Adreba Kwaku Abrefa

Can Electoral Commissioner be NDC’s Surest Hope for Winning?

Can Ghana’s Electoral Commissioner Dr Afari Djan be NDC’s Surest Hope for Winning 2012 Elections?

Ghana’s electoral commissioner Dr Kwadwo Afari-Djan appears to have world-wide international approbation and acclamation as an able and competent electoral commissioner who has been called upon on several occasions by international bodies to assist in the electoral processes in some developing and even democratically advanced countries. They say charity begins at home but for people like Dr Afari-Djan, charity begins and ends outside one’s home; therefore what prompts these international recognitions of approbation of a man who not only appears to be but is rather a devious character on the home front on matters of Ghana’s electoral processes is a subject matter for scrutiny if Ghana’s impending general and Presidential elections are to be conducted peacefully. From what angle reputed international organisations do focus their lenses on Dr Afari-Djan that depict him as an objective electoral ‘angel’ of delight and of Rhadamanthine impartiality that remains oblivious of his controversial dealings to them when it comes to Ghana’s census and electoral matters is of great concern to concerned Ghanaians, a matter which the reputed world bodies which adore him must be made to know at this time.
African and in fact all developing countries including all countries of the former Soviet Block and its former and present allies have a different perception and understanding of the currently prevailing Western democratic system pervading throughout the world. Though it cannot be adjudged the best, the world has not yet found any other alternative better system than that, all of them struggle with objective fairness let alone goodness and excellence. There was even a time when a democracy like that of the UK was unfairly biased in their dealings with their former Colonial subjects. A case in point is the Clement Attlee-led British Labour Party Government’s open hostility towards Dr JB Danquah in the 1951 general elections when they overtly opposed Dr Danquah against Nkrumah because Nkrumah was a pro-Russian ideologue, at a time when the British feared the Russian Red Army and their prowess during the 2nd World War like Hell fire and bowed down to wherever Russian influence prevailed [Ref: Post-script notes to George Orwell’s Animal farm and JB Danquah letters] In the same vein, during the 1st Republican era, Nkrumah’s One Party State did not tolerate any political opponent let alone free and fair elections. Though the position of Electoral Commissioner is supposed to be independent, be mindful of the fact that in almost all developing democracies, ruling authorities fish out for their favourites to be appointed Electoral Commissioner; someone they can trust to depend on when the need arises. This obviously suggests that ruthless ruling authorities in developing countries have a good deal of influence over electoral processes either with some direct bearing, indirect bearing or by some overt flagrant tactical application to the acquiescence of the Electoral Commissioner so appointed who has no option but obtemper.
Post-CPP Ghana saw in the seat of Electoral Commissioner Mr Justice VCRAC Crabbe who was appointed by the NLC to supervise Ghana’s transition from Military rule to multi-Party democratic 2nd Republic. This is not to say that Mr Justice Crabbe like every other citizen did not have leaning to any political tradition at that time however, his office enjoined him to be objectively fair to all in doing service to his nation. His office performed its duties to Ghana not to any one political Party hence no overt or covert influence was complained of by any of Ghana’s political factions. After Mr Justice Crabbe was Mr Justice IL Abban who in spite of the ruling authorities’ pressure on him and contrary to the aspirations and expectations of the appointing regime SMC 1, he performed his task with so much professionalism to exquisite perfection. At a time when he had to declare to the nation Ghana to which he belonged and loved as proved by his objective deeds that the regime had lost in their bid to win the thumbs up in the UNIGOV referendum, he felt threatened by the appointing body and sought for armed protection. The Electoral Commissioner considered all electoral factors relevant to fairness in jurisprudence, so he did not adjudge the verdict only out of the ballot papers counted in the boxes irrespective of how they got in; he took into consideration the extent of the government’s organised flagrant bullying, intimidation and unbridled rigging to declare a no win by the government in the referendum. These are the Peace-makers and the children of God who refuse to be compromised at the expense of peace and tranquillity. Mr Justice Kingsley Nyinah was appointed by the SMC II to supervise another transition in an electoral process which saw the Dr Limman-led PNP win political power. In all these afore-mentioned electoral processes, all census and electoral register figures reasonably tallied proportionately to credulity for all and sundry to accept wholeheartedly. Mr Justice Kingsley Nyinah is adjudged as one of the finest of Ghana’s Electoral Commissioners who supervised over one of the most free and fair elections in the country’s history.
Ushering Ghana into its 4th Republic in 1992 saw the appointment of Dr Kwadwo Afari-Djan as Electoral Commissioner whose performance profile needs to be carefully considered to determine an answer, if any at-all for the rubric of this script. Dr Kwadwo Afari Djan was appointed by the PNDC administration that dropped the ‘P’ abbreviation and retained the NDC to oversee to another of Ghana’s transitions. He began his task with a national census incident to compiling an electoral register. Concerned observers from even the appointing regime decry to this day a bloated census which was meant to match and conceal a bloated electoral register which followed later. A case in point is a tiny village between Asuotiano and Dormaa Akwamu in the Dormaa East District of Brong Ahafo Region with only eight partly dilapidated structures and a small cemetery sitting at the junction to this settlement called Mmomesumuor. In the 1992 elections, from this tiny settlement with only 8 structures and a population of less than 60 people including children, toddlers and the yet unborn, the electoral officers declared an NDC win with over 3,000 votes which Dr Afari Djan as Electoral Commissioner who hails from around the area and knows this tiny village accepted the votes so declared. In the 1992 elections, notwithstanding the massive boycott, this Electoral Commissioner declared a fantastic 90% voter turnout, a turnout record figure only possible in former Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Dr Afari-Djan’s maxim is that once the ballot papers are in the ballot boxes, they must be accepted, suggesting a complete departure from the ‘spirit’ and judicative ethos that must characterise the objectivity expected of him as an EC office holder as did Justice IL Abban.
Dr Afari-Djan has been Ghana’s longest serving Electoral Commissioner due to Ghana’s prevailing political stability, during which period there has been three transitions from one political faction to another, one of them (the NPP) being in opposition to his apparently favourite appointed authorities. Dr Afari-Djan can be read to be either stilted or flexible in his position on both census and voting issues depending on how it may advantage or disadvantage the NDC which effectively appointed him even if the realistic facts and factors are unreasonable. For instance, the EC boss is aware that the electoral register is bloated yet does nothing about it and goes ahead to create 45 new constituencies which clearly amounts to gerrymandering in favour of NDC. The EC has the constitutional mandate to expand or absorb some constituencies into others where the figures determine which way to go. The EC only appears bound by the letters of the legislation, he is in his capacity devoid of the spirit of the legislation. After-all the ancient Solomonic celebrated decision was not written in any book of law, he used discretion in the spirit of prudence to determine who the mother of the child under dispute genuinely was. Such is what is expected of Ghana’s EC boss Dr Afari-Djan, to be rationally reasonable not to be stilted with bias.
The EC boss appears to be merely ‘window-dressed’ in his position, ready for the ruling NDC to oppress, intimidate and bully in opponents’ strongholds, rig en masse in their strongholds whiles he would sit unconcerned and apply his maxim. It can therefore be confirmed that he is the NDC’s surest hope for retaining themselves in power after losing on all their contested and contestable issues that the voting public would consider to determine whether to return them to power or not. If therefore a light is shone on Dr Afari-Djan for recognition by reputed international bodies, it is not by reason of any good job done but by reason of the forbearance of affected Ghanaians over the years since he has been EC boss, a situation which other developing countries with young democracies are in dearth of. He has not earned his apparent recognition by any proven deed rather it is a bestowed credit thanks to tolerant Ghanaians who bear discomfiture in dignified silence and also the lack of post-election disturbances in Ghana which is prevalent in other young democracies. If however he thinks it is the contrary, 7th Dec 2012 will be his acid test
Adreba Kwaku Abrefa Damoa, (London UK)