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Opinions of Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Columnist: Ajoa Yeboah-Afari

Is the Electoral Commission really ‘sleeping on the job’?

File photo of a directional sign of the Electoral Commission File photo of a directional sign of the Electoral Commission

Doubtless, one can say that the Ghana Electoral Commission has some failings – like any other institution.

But is it just to accuse them of ‘sleeping on the job’?

I think that critics should bear in mind the word ‘fairness’ captured so well by the proverb about the running expertise of the animal known in Twi as okwaduo.

What that well-known proverb emphasises is that even if you have reason to hate the okwaduo, in the name of fairness, you have to acknowledge that when it comes to speed, few animals can match it. (An informed source told me that ‘duiker’ is the English name of okwaduo, which belongs to the antelope family.)

Thus, one should give everyone their due, even if one dislikes them.

Last weekend when I heard during a Radio Ghana news bulletin comments made by the Minority Leader Hon Haruna Iddrisu, about the Provisional Voters Register, and asking the EC “to wake up from their slumber”, I thought I had not heard right.

I wondered: Did Mr Iddrisu really say “slumber”, as in ‘sleeping on the job’? As in ‘being inactive’?! The Electoral Commission of Ghana described as “slumbering”!

However, other media reports confirmed that my ears had not deceived me.

The following is a summary of a Ghana News Agency report of September 19, about the Provisional Voters Register Exhibition, which began on September 18 and was scheduled to end yesterday, 25th: Haruna Iddrisu, Minority Leader and National Democratic Congress MP for Tamale South, has raised issues with discrepancies in the voters register in his constituency.

He said the total number of people in the register does not tally with what his party recorded during the registration exercise. “There are major discrepancies in the register.”

Mr Iddrisu also expressed disappointment at the inability of “the EC to have taken advantage of this exercise to showcase their biometric verification devices …

“You see, the essence is that you took bio-data so the minutiae for facial recognition and minutiae of bio-data of finger prints are what I should be authenticating not just my name. So the EC must wake up from its slumber (emphasis added).”

Also in the news that day was a disturbing allegation by the MP for Ashaiman, Ernest Henry Norgbey, of the NDC. Mr Norgbey had reportedly said that the names of 21,000 registrants in his constituency, as well as his own name, could not be found in the provisional register!

Furthermore: “It appears that it’s a deliberate attempt by the EC to remove certain categories of people from the register if you look at the number of people from both the Volta Region and the Northern Region that have been deleted, it could be a deliberate attempt,” he stated in an interview with Citi FM.

However, anybody who followed the Commission’s handling of the voter registration (June 30, to August 6, 2020), would have noticed the emphasis they put on getting every eligible Ghanaian to register; and how swiftly they acted to solve emerging problems. Evidently all were aimed at ensuring a smooth exercise to achieve a credible register for Election 2020, scheduled for December 7.

The alarming allegations by Mr Norgbey were quickly countered forcefully by the EC in an official statement: “The Commission wishes to categorically state that this is false.”

Moreover, “the law incorporates and makes provision for the Exhibition Exercise and mechanisms such as the inclusion process, which allows persons who registered but cannot trace their names on the Provisional Register to file for inclusion.”

Along with their statement, the EC attached the part of the Ashaiman register showing the MP’s photo and said the allegations were “a deliberate effort to tarnish the credibility of the Commission and the Voters Register.”

Even the way the Commission carried out the registration gave a clear indication of an organization on top of its work.

There were regular updates, as well as colour coded charts showing trends. Also underscoring the transparency were the weekly briefings, dubbed ‘Let the citizen know’.

These were all impressive evidence of an institution focused and alert. Definitely not an image of a body in “slumber”, as defined by the dictionary.

In any case, if names were missing, that is what the Exhibition Exercise is about: the opportunity for the public to point out errors, omissions and any need for amendments. Isn’t that why a ‘Provisional Register’ is factored in?

What would the EC benefit from deleting 21, 000 names from the provisional total registered of 16,963,306 they are so proud of achieving?

And why would the Commission target Ashaiman? Also, how would the EC know that the names removed were all supporters of a particular political party?

As stated above, I think that the one thing that Ghana’s Electoral Commission can’t be accused of is ‘sleeping on the job’, especially not the current Commission with Mrs Jean Mensa as the Chairperson.

When criticism is clearly not supported by facts, it is cause for concern.

It means that even when the critics point out genuine national interest matters, the Government will not take their views seriously; and it will be hard for the public, too, to believe in their good intentions.

This is why the proverb about the duiker should serve as a guiding light for everyone: Fairness!

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