Feature Article of Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Columnist: Diedong, Richard Dombo

Is Dr Afari Gyan On A Dangerous Ego Trip?

The inevitable question is: Is the Electoral Commissioner, Dr Afari Gyan on an ego trip or what, in relation to his intransigence, indefensible stubbornness, and potentially reckless off handed dismissal of ringing calls for him to include verification to the prospective biometric registration exercise?
It is a sad commentary when you see people placed in positions of trust and influence, growing into the role and assuming themselves as centre stage rather than the purpose for which they hold that office. This is how megalomaniacs and egomaniacs are created. You see, Dr Afari Gyan, after running Ghana’s electoral system for the best part of eleven years, has at the present time, attracted unseeming attention unto himself. Pardonably, he is of the ‘old school’ of running an election machine such that the biometric system may be beyond him. However, a truly ‘big man’ accepts his limitations and gives way to others more capable. This conclusion is appropriate considering the man obviously fails to grasp the importance of the follow up element to a biometric register, which is the verification element. With a proper grasp of the important adjunct that verification is to the biometric register, the EC would not have presented his package for finance to the Government excluding the verification element, such that it is now a separate request, if ever made, to fund this element. It further reveals either poor research, or criminal negligence, there is no middle option!
It has been responsibly argued by a wide cross-section of concerned Ghanaians for the addition of verification to the impending biometric registration exercise. However, all such calls seem to fall on to the deaf ears of the Electoral Commissioner. You see, Dr Afari Gyan can deflect responsibility as much as he likes, but the muck sticks with him! Is he the Finance Minister of Ghana? Why is he inordinately concerned about the cost of the verification element of the biometric exercise? A responsible EC and democratic government would not place a price on democracy! In any case, as has been argued by the present writer among similar calls by responsible media houses, the NPP Chairman, the NPP Flagbearer, the PNC, research groups like IMANI, most recently, ex –President JA Kufuor, and even by the convocation of Catholic Bishops, etc, why does the EC bother to change the current electoral system with a new but incomplete system of biometrics? A thing worth doing is worth doing well, it has been argued endlessly! Is Dr Afari Gyan basking in his front seat role and forgetting that he is not the subject, but only a facilitator? Is he on an ego trip? Or more worryingly, is he compromised?
Unless Dr Afari Gyan is criminally compromised, he is forgetting that the post of Electoral Commissioner is inextricably linked with the political parties of the country. That, the EC holds office in trust for the people of Ghana as represented by the political parties of the country. That, meeting with and listening to IPAC is a necessary recipe for peaceful, successful and uncontroversial elections. That Dr Afari Gyan should take a unitary position, backed only by the ruling NDC, lends himself to a charge of being reckless and criminally compromised! Criminally compromised because the potential fallout when the election results are disputed by the other parties in 2012, is not only avoidable, but lie within his authority and remit to avoid by what he chooses to do with the biometric exercise. With the recent past bad experiences from Kenya, Ivory Coast and to a certain extent, Nigeria, it is grossly irresponsible for Dr Afari Gyan to appear as unconcerned, and sound so blasé in relation to calls by concerned parties and individuals, to include verification in the biometric exercise so as to forestall a disputed election in 2012. Recently, he most reluctantly relented a little when he said that he would consider - not that he sees its necessity – verification, if the money can be found to fund it!
Is Dr Afari Gyan so insular and tunnel visioned that he is oblivious to worrying reports about the Head of Research at the Electoral Commission, Amadu Sulley, attending and briefing NDC executives on the limitations of the biometric register, and how the system can be cheated? Following that criminal briefing by Amadu Sulley, is it not worrying that significantly, of the major parties, only the ruling NDC was previously silent among calls for verification, and now openly against it? The NDC General Secretary, Johnson Asiedu Nketia, has openly declared his party’s opposition to verification offering the most spurious of excuses – possible electric outages or the lack of, in rural areas! It does not require conspiracy theorists to conclude that something is horribly fishy here! These same NDC executives at this same meeting with Amadu Sulley, came out with the 2012 election motto of WIN AT ALL COSTS – DO OR DIE! May I humbly ask, is Dr Afari Gyan not wary enough to grasp the questions and suspicions that these events throw up, and for his part, ought to take steps to at least show he is not compromised as well?
Finally, the good Doctor could, in the interest of transparency, and demonstrating he is not egotistic or compromised, do a number of things: First of all, he SHOULD acknowledge that verification is integral to the biometric exercise. Secondly, he MUST come out and make a direct demand to the government for financing the verification element of the exercise. This would shift the goal posts, and a failure by the government to grant the request from the EC to provide the EC with the required finance and support to deliver a free and fair election in 2012, would leave any fall out squarely at the door steps of the NDC government. Thirdly, the EC could scrap the whole biometric exercise pending a fully funded implementation of a fully packaged biometric system in the future. Fourthly, the EC could in the interim, go to the international community such as the International Development Agency of the United Kingdom, for funding to provide the verification element of the biometric exercise in Ghana. By doing any of these things, Dr Afari Gyan could just about show that he is not self centred as he currently appears, but is as expected, focussed on delivering a free and fair 2012 elections.

Authored by: Richard Dombo Diedong