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Opinions of Friday, 22 April 2016

Columnist: Adjoa Yeboah-Afari

EC, ‘if it aint broke, why fix it’?

Charlotte Osei, EC Chairperson Charlotte Osei, EC Chairperson

I find it incredible that when the Voters Register issues are still simmering, the Electoral Commission has managed to generate yet another controversy, this time over its proposed change of logo.

It has emerged that the EC intends to introduce a new logo. The decision to change the logo in itself appears to be a surprise to the public. Then, as if that wasn’t disturbing enough, there is the matter of the design of the proposed logo, which seems to have excited extremely negative reactions.

The familiar, tried and tested existing EC logo features the eagles from the national Coat of Arms; the lodestar of African freedom; a shield with a ballot box in the middle into which a hand is putting a ballot; the words ‘Ghana Electoral Commission’ as well as ‘Transparency’, ‘Fairness’ and ‘Integrity’.

Assuming that the design currently in the public domain is it, the proposed replacement has only one thing in common with the current logo, the words ‘Electoral Commission of Ghana’ at the bottom. It is a circular shape, with what look like eight arrows, tips pointing towards the middle, and coloured dots or circles between the arrows.

The irony, is that despite all the controversies emanating from the EC since Chairperson Charlotte Osei assumed office on June 30, last year, so far nobody has questioned the continued use of the existing logo. There have been no complaints about it having outlived its usefulness!

Seemingly, it’s the one thing about the EC that nobody has any quarrel with. Why then change it? And why replace it with something so obviously unfit for purpose?

Last week, when the EC apparently decided to test the waters with the new logo at a media workshop in Accra, according to reports it met with instant and vehement disapproval from the journalists present.

Deputy EC Chair in charge of Finance and Administration, Mrs Georgina Opoku-Amankwah reportedly said there that the new logo would be launched soon. She was quoted as saying that it had gone through “a lot of processes and considerations before eventually being accepted”.

This of course leads to questions as to who were consulted and when. Does the fact that the EC is an independent body mean that in a matter as important as its logo, the electorate should have no say about changing it?

For example, if there was agreement on the need to change the existing logo, there could have been public discussion, including a competition and a panel to select the one which conveys the mission of the EC best; as well as providing nationalistic symbolism. Even in the then Gold Coast, when the nation needed a national flag, a competition was organised, (won by Mrs Theodosia Okoh), how much more in this technological era?

In any case, is it a must for the EC to change its logo this year? Does Election 2016 need a new logo to ensure its success?

If Mrs Osei feels the need to tell the world there’s a new person at the helm that is understandable, but couldn’t that be achieved in other ways, even if she has ruled out the ‘new Chairperson, new Voters Register’ suggestion from some quarters?

Also, there is information that the design isn’t even original! The Daily Guide of April 15 reports that according to the research of journalist Manasseh Azure Awuni, Ghana risks being charged with theft of intellectual property because of the new logo’s similarity to the logo of an organisation in Turkey.

If a journalist could find out this information, how come the artist who designed the new logo could not do that basic search to save the EC and Ghana this potential huge embarrassment – and, possibly, expense?

Why this, when Ghana abounds with artistic talent, young and old, as well as artists of international repute?

Incidentally, if there should be a new logo, where is the money coming from to brand all the EC’s documentation and EC-related things: ballot boxes, voting booths, uniforms, directional signs, letterheads, complimentary cards, vehicles, etc, etc, etc?

We are now being told by various EC officials that the explanation, the rationale for the new design will come later. Is this not a case of, as the popular saying puts it, ‘putting the cart before the horse’ – reversing the logical order of introducing a new thing?

And, curiously, the logo that is yet to be launched, is reportedly already being used on some of the EC’s publicity materials!

Clearly, from the discussions in the media, public places and in homes, it’s not explanations about what the new logo represents that people are asking for. People simply don’t see the need for it. A new logo is not a priority for the Ghanaian electorate now because the existing one is fit for purpose!

Earlier this week, during a TV3 newscast, I heard President John Mahama talking about the logo controversy and sounding quite irritated with critics of the EC and the new logo. If I heard the President well, he said “every little thing”, they’re attacking the Commission. “How is the logo going to affect the quality of elections in this country?” he asked.

But that is precisely the point of critics, I believe. If a new logo isn’t going to contribute anything to the main activity of the EC this year, which is the general election, why change the existing logo now?

And with all due respect, Mr President, the logo of a national institution like the Electoral Commission can’t be a “little thing”. It confirms its identity.

Furthermore, in an era when much disquiet is being expressed about dwindling patriotism should we not rejoice that people feel such passion as is being demonstrated over a national symbol, the EC’s logo?

Perhaps EC Chairperson Mrs Osei needs to be reminded of another saying, that if something is working well, there’s no need to spend time, energy and resources to change it: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”!