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Opinions of Thursday, 23 July 2020

Columnist: David Adumbire

How my mum and brother 'lost” their fingers in the 2020 Voters’ Registration Exercise

File photo File photo

We initially argued against this exercise. Some said, it was a wastage of the Ghanaian tax payer’s money. That, it was too expensive to compile a new voter’s register than to clean an old one. Others alluded, time was too short for the exercise. But how short is time? We can’t allow dead men to mingle with the living in a voter list because of time.

Those ghost must not have the opportunity to register, should we compile a new register. More so, our neighbors who are usually in the business of entering into our register and then ritually, they come to choose our leaders for us would be prevented. These were some of the arguments made by proponent for a new register.

I think both of the debate is valid. It’s true that, ghosts exist in our register. During the district assembly and unit committee elections in Ghana in December 2019, I saw names of dead people in the voters’ register. I went for Adongo Akolgo’s funeral but his name was in the register. Even in that election, Nmaah came to vote but died the following day. Eddy died but his name, is in the register. A professor at the Department of Surgery, University of Ghana Medical School, Professor Rudolph Darko might still have his name in the register.

Then, in that register, the name of Hon. Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie popularly known Sir John-the politician I admired so much, still exist. So one could be right if s/he complained about the presence of ghost names in our register.

The other day, I read about Donald Trumps’ request of Americans who are ill to just hold on and vote in November 2020, before they die. But it is my prayer that, the God of Ghana would preserve the lives of all those who have registered in this exercise, so we can have a ghost free register for the 2020 election.

But what about the cost? It is really expensive. Expensive for the tax payer. An amount of GH¢390 million has been voted for the compilation of the new voters’ register. Yes, very expensive. When the dust finally settled on this registration brouhaha, I initially planned to go back home with my family to register in Sirigu. I did the budgeting and realized I would have spent not less than Gh¢ 3,000.00 travelling with the family from Accra to Sirigu and back. So the initial plan is buried.

I left for Kumasi from Accra on a public transport. Joined Stan Akembula-a brother in Kumasi. At the shell filling station, he paid Gh¢ 940.00 for fuel. Together with Heavens Akannae, we took off from Kumasi. We had a brief stop in Techiman. I ate fufu. Stan and Heavens ate too.

Couldn’t we have registered at where we were traveling from? “No.”

First, some of us has “funny” names and can easily be taken as foreigners in the land of our birth. In a registration where a birth certificate cannot proof citizenship, one with such funny names should be worried where to go and register. In a registration where a previous voters’ ID card is invalid, one has to be worried about the possibility of a foreigner with a Ghanaian passport, serving as a guarantor for a Ghanaian without a passport to enable the latter register for a voter’s ID in a country of his/her birth.

The second reason for our going to register at home is about a story told by my grandma. In that story, grandma spoke about a cow who went far away in the forest to graze. But in the graze land, the cow still remembered its homeland, grandma said. But Uncle Azongo even amplified it in my ear when he said, “a bird only flies in the sky but dies on land”. So home is always is home. And every Ghanaian would have wished to register at home. But that wish comes with a lot of cost.

We arrived home. I used my passport as a form of identification and to later guarantee for my mum. Though from Burkina Faso, she got married to my dad under age 20. We are four surviving children after her tenth parity. She has voted in previous elections in same polling station. But this time, my kinth or I was to guarantee her Ghanaian citizenship.

I took my turn and the EC was to capture my biodata.

“Press hard. Put your fingers in such a way that the middle lines in your fingers do not cross the metallic coat.” The EC data entering clerk instructed me. Someone has already done same but was not successfully captured. She was asked to stand aside.

“Please take your hand and press again.” By this time, my heart had missed a beep. Prior to our arrival, we had planned a u-turn journey. I took my fingers and then carefully place it again on the device. “Press hard.” Said, the clerk.

“Sammy, go and assist him. Press his hands hard on the machine.” “Okay, use the alcohol and wipe the surface. Try it yourself and see.” If we were to be among the “smuggled” voters in that polling station, we would have be caught. The machine over delayance would have led to someone engaging us in a conversation. Which it really did.

I recently, read a story about how the Togolese get into our register. There are vote “smugglers” in some parts of Ghana. Anytime, we are compiling a new register, these smugglers go to neighbouring countries to import voters. It is like a political business or if you like election winning strategy. Potential voters are often recruited or imported to register. Such victims are then coached on what to say or not say to hide their identities at the registration centres. One of such hints, is to limit interactions so as not to expose their tongues. However, in this year’s registration exercise, that business of voter importation has been curtailed with the heavy deployment of security officials to “all” Ghanaian borders where this practice hitherto exist.

“Let’s shut it down and reboot it. This is the second machine. The technician came and replaced it this morning after the one we were using became faulty. This is new. The battery is also going down, I don’t know if we can print those we have registered.” The data clerk lamented.

This is the fifth time in my entire life. It was in 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016 and then this 2020. Every election year, we compile a new register. We started with black and white ID cards with the thumb print. We graduated to colour and then picture. But none of these previous exercises ever took my mum’s fingers. It never invited any warning shots. Neither did it led to the burning of motorbikes. We must be in a new era.

I had my data finally captured. Both facial and finger prints. Next was Stan. He went through the same ordeal as I did. He went back to wash his hands even though we had done that when we arrived at the polling station. But that still did not help. His fingers failed to capture. I doubt if he didn’t have the physique to do the “press hard magic”.

“Would you wish to take a picture alone rather than the finger print?” The data clerk suggested.

We agreed on that suggestion. Stan took that option. He sat to face the camera. Then the EC data clerk clicked on the “missing fingers” button. My brother had to miss his fingers for the EC’s “Chinese Machine” to capture his photos. My mum later “lost” same for the machine to capture.

But apart from people losing their fingers to faulty machines, the waiting time per what we experienced that day is extremely slow-moving. If that’s a nation-wide phenomenon, I fear we may compile a register devoid of “ghosts” and foreigners but we would successfully disenfranchise lots of Ghanaians who are eligible to vote.