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Opinions of Thursday, 9 July 2015

Columnist: Ebenezer Afanyi Dadzie

Dr. Afari Gyan too deserves a state award?

Using the phrase ‘Afari-Gyan too’, may sound a bit awkward; or if you like offensive. But that’s merely for the purpose of emphasis because indeed a few persons have loudly discredited the state honour bestowed on him; while others have done so silently – which only epitomizes the usual hypocritical nature of many a Ghanaian.

Well; inasmuch as I have some reservations about the man Afari-Gyan, I wish to say that, I would have been very proud of him if I had come through his loins.

My admiration of him from afar; is rooted in the bravery that he exhibited in his over two decades of dedicated service to this country.

Yes; it may be an undeniable fact; that in being firm, which is for me the most important but unmentioned requisite in heading an institution such as the Electoral Commission, he may have sometimes gone overboard – for which reason his critics have touted him as stubborn or intransigent.

This may not be weird or untrue about Dr. Afari-Gyan because although I am not an expert in human behavior; it is rational that anyone who exhibits firmness in their deeds, may sometimes go overboard by ignoring what is right and sticking only to their own positions.

In some cases also; such persons are wrongly misjudged or hated for their firmness; so, the criticisms may be bias.

But if for nothing at all; the court action that led to the cancellation of the District Assembly level elections, after millions of cedis that had been pumped into the exercise; somewhat confirmed his supposed intransigence.

This was for me a blot on the record of Dr.Afari-Gyan, and an unfortunate end to a rather impressive career.

And anytime I think about that incident as well as the historic legal tussle that followed the 2012 elections, the scenario that plays in my mind, is the sad incident that befell the astonishing career of three-time world footballer and French International Zinedine Zidane.

The man Zinedine Zidane; was few hours away from retiring from football when the nasty incident occurred at the Germany 2006 World Cup.

The man who was so revered in football circles and was touted as one of the greatest of the game of football, out of anger; found himself in a head butt incident and got sent off. Millions of the world’s population watched with shock as their idol stooped quite lower.

Zidane after some months apologized for disappointing the millions that loved and watched him but said he did not regret his action because the player used offensive words on him repeatedly.

He explained that if he regretted his action or apologized directly to the player; it would mean that the player was right by offending him – a view I strongly agree with.

So why the Zidane analogy? Well; despite this mishap, Zidane’s accolade as one of the greatest of the game remains with him and in the books of history. His over forty awards in his entire career are intact.

In fact, I have read that not long after the incident, Zidane rather got countless high profile roles in football circles – an indication that the blunder he committed; had not necessarily erased the indelible marks he left behind.

The lesson is that; you cannot judge a man’s deeds by a few errors, while overlooking the many visible good deeds. It is most inhumane, ungodly and cruel to judge any person in this manner.

And for this reason; I would say that Dr. Afari-Gyan indeed deserves the state award that was conferred on him by President John Dramani Mahama. And that’s the answer to the article’s caption.

As fallible as he was like any other human being that ever lived; Dr. Afari-Gyan achieved great strides for this country with all the commissioners that assisted him. In fact; the position he occupied, is one of the most sensitive positions anywhere in the world because it has the propensity to make or break a nation.

And if he has discharged himself so well despite a few hiccups since this country switched to democratic rule in 1992, then he surely deserves the Companion of the Order of the Star of Ghana award; the nation’s highest award.

And like our elders say; the one who fetches water; is the same person that breaks the pot – so we cannot allow a few errors to blind us to all his good deeds.

In fact, there had been times I was personally awed by Dr. Afari-Gyan’s fortitude and wisdom. And one clear incident that has been on my mind, took place during the 2008 elections.

I remember there was so much tension in the country after two rounds of elections without a clear winner. And then when many of us were pondering what was next, Dr. Afari-Gyan took one of the most critical decisions which I believe was stimulated by a supernatural power.

He announced that the winner could only be determined after one constituency in the Brong Ahafo Region, Tain, had its results added.

At this point, nerves were calmed because as we waited for that result, it appeared clearer, who was going to emerge the winner looking at the numbers of the votes already counted, and the fact that Tain, was the eventual winner’s stronghold.

Elections everywhere are characterized by tensions, suspicions and mistrust and Ghana is not an exception. The only difference is that; it is almost worst here. And from my little experience from covering elections, I do not think that rigging, whether perceived or real, is largely perpetuated by the Electoral Commission which is the referee.

Yes,some officials of the commission can be corruptible to partake in rigging; but from the little we have seen in Ghana, rigging itself is largely perpetuated by political parties.

And in Ghana, we know the parties that engage in this. It is an open secret that rigging takes place in party A’s stronghold region, where they are sometimes aided by some security personnel dispatched to protect the ballot and some officials of the EC.

This simultaneously takes place in party B’s stronghold region. In 2008, a friend who is sympathetic towards party B, confessed to me the kind of rigging that took place in the constituency he voted.

As a journalist who was there not only to vote but to cover the elections, he shamefully confessed to voting twice for that party; and he said the rigging was aided by military personnel at the polling station.

I have heard similar or worst stories also in the stronghold of party A. So it is hypocritical when after these parties have marshaled all the machinations to win by fair or foul means and things backfire, they turn around to blame the Electoral Commission or it’s chairman for their woes.

So who or which party is spotless to judge Dr. Afari-Gyan or the Electoral Commission?

And this is why I have always had a problem with the phrase ‘free and fair elections’, because I find it very contentious.

I think that perhaps we only accept the phrase as it is, when after an election; no concrete issues may have been raised by any of the participants like the one in 2012 that sent us to the Supreme Court.

Political Pollster, Ben Ephson, recently made a statement which I found quite profound. He said ” no matter who becomes the chair of the Electoral Commission, the votes of political parties cannot be protected by the EC; except by the parties themselves”.

And talking about Dr. Afari-Gyan’s state award, let me sound a bit witty here; in this country, a man who served as a president for eight years before his party lost power to the then opposition; literally decorated himself with a state honour- which for me was one of the most ridiculous episodes on the matter of leadership integrity in this country.

My view; which I believe is supported by many is that, naturally and morally, there is nothing noble about honouring one’s self and there can be no justification for that self praise.

Well, I did not intend to descend into the arena of equalization but I think that precedence, ought to be imported into this scenario.

So can anyone really justify why Dr. Afari-Gyan doesn’t deserve recognition after 23 years of public service; but someone else qualifies to even award himself after eight years of service that was not equally rosy?

Well, the silent critics say President John Dramani Mahama whose reign coincides with Dr. Afari-Gyan’s retirement, decided to reward him because his actions aided him to win the 2012 elections. That logic, can only be comments borne out of sour grapes because we all know the outcome of the court action whether you agree with the verdict or not.

And I must say that, inasmuch as political opponents describe that court action as a waste of time and resources, and even attempt to tag the initiator with unpalatable words, that single historical action saved this nation from being plunged into political instability.

And that’s worth more than the money and time believed to have been wasted during the eight months hearing.

And it has undeniably set the pace for subsequent disgruntled parties or individuals, to use the courts to settle electoral disputes. It indeed remains a major boost for Ghana’s democratic credentials.

But seriously; if the state honour had not been conferred on Dr. Afari-Gyan now, would anyone else have done it later or perhaps we will do it posthumously like we’ve done for some of our heroes and heroines?.

I think whoever conferred the award on him is inconsequential – the bottom line is, he deserves it.

This is a quote from the NPP’s National Chairman Paul Afoko, when he was interviewed at the awards ceremony; he said ” He (Dr. Afari-Gyan) has served his nation well, I will leave judgment to posterity”.

The PNC’s Alhaji Ahmed Ramadan, said this about Dr. Afari-Gyan, “There was a problem so he created a platform so that we can be talking to each other and that broke the ice and we became so close”.

He also praised the former Electoral Commission chairman for his tough stand at IPAC meetings, acknowledging that if Afari-Gyan had accepted every opinion or suggestion from the political parties, it would have destroyed the independence of the commission.

Indeed; Dr. Afari-Gyan like the Biblical Paul, has fought a good fight and deserves the earthly crown he received.

I have no power to know the things that are concealed; but I do not believe that at any point, he purposefully changed the will of the people of Ghana for any one party to benefit. But that sure answer lies in the bosom of the all-knowing God to whom he would account his stewardship after eternity.

From the depth of my heart like to a romantic lover, and on behalf of many well-meaning Ghanaians, I salute and congratulate Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan.

And lest I forget, with the appointment of the first female chair, who succeeds him at the commission, we can only hope that she crosses the hurdle with tenacity the baton handed over to her.

I have read about her work in private and public service and her academic credentials which are fine enough; but the most important ingredients that will ensure her success in that sensitive and pressure-field position, are integrity and courage as exhibited by Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan.

Author: Ebenezer Afanyi Dadzie Journalist/