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Opinions of Monday, 29 February 2016

Columnist: Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

Charlotte Osei is a victim of Afari-Gyan’s gross incompetence


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I am quite certain that Nana Obiri-Boahen, the Deputy General-Secretary of the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), did not speak for the party and its teeming army of members, supporters and sympathizers when he recently suggested that Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan was a better Electoral Commissioner than his successor, namely, Mrs. Charlotte Kesson-Smith Osei (See “Afari-Gyan Much Better than Charlotte Osei” Citifmonline.com / Ghanaweb.com 2/22/16). Actually, Mrs. Osei is the victim of the gross incompetence of the recently retired EC Chairman and the paranoia of the movers and shakers of the New Patriotic Party.

Nearly every battle that has been fought against the present Electoral Commission’s Chairperson by the leaders of the New Patriotic Party has centered around problems either largely created by the former University of Ghana political science lecturer or smugly supervised by Dr. Afari-Gyan or both.

The very first of these problems and one that the NPP leaders have been tussling over with Mrs. Osei, ever since the latter assumed chairmanship of the EC late last year, has to do with the widely perceived bloating of the National Voters’ Register, a problem which was created partly because of the abject lack of vigilance on the part of the seemingly pathologically complacent NPP leadership.

The solution proposed by the Akufo-Addo group clearly lacks validity because it facilely and cavalierly presupposes that merely scrapping the existing voters’ register and creating a new one would automatically eliminate the problem that precipitated the contamination of the current voters’ register, which is clearly that the Electoral Commission and the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) and the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS), I believe, have yet to establish a reliable set of a National Identification System (NIS) aimed at reliably weeding out ineligible voters who, nevertheless, attempt to register to vote, often at the criminal instigation of some of the very politicians who are pontifically decrying this morally dispiriting state of affairs.

The fact of the matter is that both the leaderships of the ruling National Democratic Congress and the country’s main opposition New Patriotic Party have been complicit in the set of events that engendered the problem of our bloated National Voters’ Register. I have even suggested that the New Patriotic Party leadership seems to be the more aggrieved by this rampant electoral anomaly only because they appear to have been outmaneuvered by their National Democratic Congress counterparts. What is clear is that Mrs. Osei is having a hard time cleaning up the Stygian mess created by Dr. Afari-Gyan in the 22 years during which he was literally allowed to get away with murder.

In other words, attempting to conveniently reduce, albeit erroneously, and tie her performance and competence to her recent establishment of an Election Steering Committee would not wash. Very likely, the entire idea was borrowed from another country that used it quite effectively in a recent election.

I am quite sure of this because unlike the smug and obnoxiously imperious Dr. Afari-Gyan, Mrs. Osei has admirably demonstrated that she is a quick study and one who is not averse to learning a thing or two from her counterparts elsewhere and putting it to good effect. This, of course, is not necessarily to say that the Electoral Commissioner’s every move or decision has been in the right direction.

Rather, what the preceding means is that too many unrealistic demands on her by all the major stakeholders of Election 2016 may be making the EC Chair’s work more difficult for her and her staff than it ought to be.

In the near future, Parliament may need to review the method by which the Electoral Commissioner is appointed, as well as the need to possibly impose a reasonable limit on how long anybody ought to be allowed to assume this most significant and critical professional responsibility.

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