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Opinions of Monday, 25 February 2019

Columnist: Akyena Brantuo

Lessons from the ugly NDC parent who birthed a beautiful child

John Dramani Mahama's 95% victory is not the biggest surprise in the National Democratic Congress's (NDC) just-ended presidential primaries.

Not even the fact that Professor Joshua Alabi polled less than 2%.

It was the beautiful electoral process which gave birth to these results.

And we are pleasantly surprised because this is unlike the NDC and Ghanaian electoral process.

In fact, less than a week before this sacrosanct process, Wasiru Iddrisu, an activist of the NDC, had been shot in the Kumasi office of the NDC following a disagreement in a meeting. This happened about two weeks into the sitting of the Emile Short Commission, the body constituted to investigate the bloody violence which marred the Ayawaso by-elections.

What was the game changer in this election? Why were the days where violence was visited on the party Chairman, Dr. Obed Yao Asamoah, merely for daring to contest against a favorite of the party founder, not revisited?

While it may be easily tempting to say the process was this beautiful because it was conducted by the National Electoral Commission (EC), with the Ghana Police providing security, it is important to note that almost all electoral processes in this country have had security by the Ghana Police Service, with the EC conducting the polls.

What changed this time around?

They (the police and EC) were disinterested in the process and had no favourites. Their interest was to the oath of their profession, which included being fair to all people at all times and upholding the highest professional standards in the discharge of their duties. They were not intimidated.

That was not all. The NDC party leadership, who had been playing the victim in the recent Ayawaso by-election violence, until they were exposed by their own fatal violence at a party meeting, switched off the oxygen of Ghana's electoral violence.

Disowning the NDC Hawks and others like them prior to that election was a major step forward towards the peaceful elections.

But it was the commitment of the executive not to interfere with the work of the police and the EC which ultimately won the day.

What is a professional police force with manipulation from the executive? The same can be asked of the EC.

Without much proof to vouch for the competence of the current reconstituted EC to conduct a credible national election, our electoral bane has never been their competence to conduct credible elections as it is about whether or not they will not be susceptible to the pandering of the Executive who appointed them.

That is why the roadmap to having a successful 2020 general election must include disbanding political militia, commitment to have a neutral police force on duty and the same for the Electoral Commission but most importantly a commitment from the Executive not to manipulate them.

To even take this commitment beyond discretionary act of benevolence by the executive to the citizens, the executive may rather want to realign its commitment to pass a legislation to ban political militia [if the leading political parties fail to conclude on an amicable solution].

Rather, the Executive should commit to making the appointments of the EC and police chiefs done by a body other than themselves. And the tenure of office of the police should be fixed similarly as the judiciary.

Moving forward, we may want to act without the presumption that our political leaders mean well. Well, they don't.

Their commitments have neither been held against them largely because they are neither bound by law or the law that binds them are enforced by themselves. In other instances, the appointees owe their appointments to their benevolence.

What then is at stake for the government, the EC and the police service in conducting and guaranteeing free and fair elections in 2020 may not necessarily be the same as what was at stake for them while ensuring that a party in opposition gets leaders.

In 2020, it will be their very jobs which are stake. Should the NDC win, the leadership of the police service will be out of work. So too is the Executive.

Given the recent precedent in removing the EC chair, Charlotte Osei, chances are that unless a miracle happens, Jean Mensa, the current EC boss, may go too.

What will be the interest of these bodies whose livelihoods are threatened to ensure that the polls are fair? Is it a love for democracy?

Bertrand Russell was thinking about this when he asked, “What degree of hunger will make a man prefer a bag of grain to democracy?”

What will make our government abandoned their hold on power only to give to another without same and become victims of the exercise of the same by the newcomer?

The national executive of the NDC may have given their party militia excuse duty in an internal contest involving just family members. And the government, police, and EC might have ensured peaceful polls for the NDC because they have nothing to lose.

What about 2020 Presidential and Parliamentary elections?