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Opinions of Thursday, 5 May 2016

Columnist: Aficanus Owusu – Ansah

Charlotte who? No misogynism here

My father laid on you a heavy yoke;

I will make it even heavier.

My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.

1st Kings 2:11

ARROGANCE, HAUGHTINESS, HUBRIS, egotism, or self –importance would be the last characteristics of the Electoral Commissioner or the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission or the staff there. As the people at the centre of the electoral process, who are expected to act as the referee or umpire, one would hope they would demonstrate impartiality, neutrality, indifference, justice and objectivity.

The image of the Electoral Commission had sunk so low during the hearing of the petition of the 2012 presidential election. This nation was sitting on edge, after certain revelations were made and admitted by the then Chairman of the Electoral Commission.

In the ‘Forward’ to Mabel Aku Baneseh’s ‘Pink Sheets: the Story of Ghana’s Presidential Election Petition’, Georgina Wood, the Chief Justice quotes Joseph Stalin: “The people who cast the votes don’t decide an election, the people who count the votes do”.

Georgina Wood writes: “From one perspective, it seems to me the burden of deciding who wins an election lies on election officials. Equally persuasive, is the perspective which suggests that it is the voter that decides an election.

Could it be one or the other? Or could it be both? Wither (sic) are we drifting? At rock bottom, however we look at it, this quote seems to sum up the issues that bog our minds on elections and electioneering activities in Ghana.”

There was confusion over the interpretation of ‘over voting’ which is “votes cast that exceeded the number of voters entitled to vote at these polling stations” Aku Baneseh writes on ‘over – voting’: “On the issue of over – voting , the majority held the view that even if there were cases of over – voting, the error was of no significance as to affect the outcome of the election. In reaching this conclusion, some of the judges adopted a sarcastic view and even trivialized the whole issue of over-voting – whether to classify it as over – voting or ballot stuffing.

Even though the Electoral Commissioner had stressed that once, there is evidence of over voting even if it is by one vote, the credibility of the election should be treated as compromised, the majority disagreed with this basic principle in elections and held the view that over –voting should never be a factor for annulling any election result unless it can be shown to have in fact affected the result”.

It is fascinating that among the ‘lessons’ drawn from observing the hearing of the petition of the 2012 presidential election, Aku Baneseh notes : “The EC must at all material times, involve political parties in its major decision – making processes. The voters’ register must be reviewed periodically to make it more transparent and acceptable to all stakeholders”.

Ghanaians heaved a sigh of great relief when the time for Afari Gyan’s exit came and he exited peacefully without plunging this nation into chaos, because the petitioner, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo decided to accept the judgment of the Supreme Court, despite his displeasure at the verdict.
The independence of the Electoral Commission is provided under Article 46 of the constitution of the Republic of Ghana, 1992: “Except as provided in this Constitution, in the performance of its functions, the Electoral Commission shall not be subject to the direction or control of any person or authority”.

That is right, but to what extent does the Commission hold and exercise this ‘independence? So, the Commission can act in any way it thinks best, without sounding the opinion of the electorate for whom it exists? Oh, judgment…(Don’t force me to quote Shakespeare).

Charlotte Osei (have I mentioned her name correctly?) stepped into the shoes of Afari Gyan and she now has the whole country in her hands. As if the country was an egg, it must be held in a gingerly manner, daintily and delicately.

In the face of the various challenges facing the Electoral Commission, one would have hoped that the EC would not provoke and generate any further agitations by changing the logo of the Commission.

Charlotte discloses that she is “…not the only one married to a graphic artist ..” So, what is the purpose of changing the logo? Why was the coat of arms removed? Why, why, why? There are far too many questions to be asked and to be answered.

Charlotte Osei states as an explanation for the removal of the coat of arms that “… we do not represent the authority of the state ; we are more than the ballot box. Our mandate is beyond just the ballot box. We believe that and even from the research we did, the coat of arms does not speak to the legal and functional independence of the commission … we should not represent the authority of the state”.

The old logo appeared catchy. What about the present logo? We must note that symbolically and emotionally, colour meanings can vary from culture to culture.

We have been programmed by our various cultures to interpret colours differently, but Charlotte Osei tells us: The Circle represents the unity of the nation; we being united in our purpose; the blue represents the stability and independence of the Commission; the inward – moving arrows (what shows this?) reflects all the people of Ghana, EQUALLY coming together for the common purpose – the right to select their political leadership. The use of red, gold and green represents our country, Ghana.

So? What does one say about the rumour in town that some soothsayers or magicians have predicted a win for a particular political party if the colour scheme of the electoral referee was changed? Oh, Africa! So are the various institutions thinking of changing their logos? Police, Prisons, Fire Service, Judicial Service et cetera must take note.

How I wish I was not compelled to write this piece about Charlotte Osei, the Electoral Commission’s chairperson.

I am no misogynist or a person who harbours hatred, dislike or mistrust for women or girls.

May I be forgiven for going to town about this beautiful lady who until she assumed this heavy burden of an office was ‘sitting her somewhere, thinking about herself’?

The task for her is no child’s play. I am not like Socrates who thought that one sign of democracy’s moral failures is the sexual equality it promotes.

Nor am I like Aristotle to be saying that while the courage of a man lies in commanding, that of a woman lies in obeying.

Sophocles saw Euripides as a woman – hater, but was quick to add that “… He may be |(a woman hater ) in his tragedies, but in his bed he is very fond of women”.

Am I like Euripides?

I am Africanus, and I am like Africanus.