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Opinions of Thursday, 13 October 2016

Columnist: James Kofi Annan

Papa Kwesi Nduom is too big to be ignored

Papa Kwesi NduomPapa Kwesi Nduom

By: James Kofi Annan

This week the Electoral Commission earned my respect for instituting a form of vetting mechanism, to ensure that only credible qualified candidates contest for Ghana’s presidential elections.

It definitely makes a lot of common sense to remove Madam Akua Donkor from the presidential race. Yes she might be qualified to vote, and by the literal interpretation of the electoral laws she might qualify to run for the presidency.

But we need to agree that she does not have the practical capacity, and the network to mobilize followers to govern a country such as Ghana. She clearly does not understand the issues, and it is obvious that she is, with all due respect, a mere nuisance on our ballot papers, probably only available to muddy the waters for the leading parties.

In the year 2000, at a CODEO workshop in Kumasi, the then Electoral Commissioner, Dr Kwadwo Afari Gyan lamented that such smaller and irregular parties only create unnecessary nuisance for media reporters, and prolong the governance conversations, and even delays the declaration of election results. I agree with Afari Gyan. I want to hear more from President John Dramani Mahama and what he has to offer.

I want to hear more from Nana Akufo Addo and what he has to offer, and I need to hear more from those who have the capacity to appreciate governance, political and business economy, and those who hold the capacity for mobilizing electorates. Those people need more airtime to put across their messages, and we need to hear more from them, for us to make informed choices.

In the past if the Electoral Commission had done its work properly, parties such as IPP, GFP, and RPD should have had their licenses withdrawn completely. The political party laws state that political parties must have on their national executive committee one member from each region, and the parties shall have branches in all the regions, in addition to being organized in not less than two-thirds of the districts in each region. The law further states that a registered political party shall have in each district at least one founding member who is ordinarily resident in the district or is a registered voter in the district.

Most of the smaller parties obviously have several of their subscribers who are not qualified to be subscribers, and most of them have no offices in the Regions, let alone districts as contained in the law. Yet we allow them to exist, we allow them to submit their nominations to contest as presidential candidates, such a serious solemn national exercise.

Who are the national, regional and district executives of the RPD, DPP, GFP, and the IPP, and where are their offices?

This year our electoral process has certainly been enriched by the inclusion of Papa Kwesi Nduom. He has put in more capacity, has offices in all districts and constituencies, he has all the essential ingredients of the mobilization and organization of a political party.

The PPP seem to have fielded more qualified parliamentary candidates than most of the big parties, including even the NPP and NDC. Most of the PPP’s parliamentary candidates are graduates, managers of companies, and experienced professionals in their own rights.

I believe that the Electoral Commission should concentrate its efforts on the important legal issues; withdraw the licenses of those who do not meet the requirement of the political parties law. This is more fundamental in ensuring sanity in our governance, and our electoral processes, than how we are handling this issue of deadlines.

I am not a lawyer but I believe the Electoral Commission has made a fundamental error in disqualifying Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, and Papa Kwesi Nduom.

How can you blame me for the error of another person? If somebody has registered twice, how am I supposed to know? If someone has impersonated himself, from one district to the other, how am I supposed to interpret the subscriber’s voter ID card? Could these errors not have been deliberate attempts by my opponents to sabotage my efforts, and why should I be punished instead?

As I have mentioned, there are a lot of political parties in this country who do not qualify, not necessarily because of how they filled their nomination forms. Elsewhere the Electoral Commission should have maintained a desk to assist political parties to complete their forms, like it is done for customers of commercial banks, rather than maintaining stern faces at nominees. In essence, the filling of a presidential nomination form should not be seen as an avenue for punishing candidates.

A fundamental question arising is; why would you accept my nomination forms, keep it till the deadline is over, then you turn round to accuse me of not conforming to your deadline when, in fact, if you had pointed the errors to me at the time of submission, I could have turned the time around in my favor? Four years ago when Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings submitted her forms to Dr Kwadwo Afari Gyan, to contest the presidential elections, when Afari Gyan thought Nana Konadu did not fulfill all the requirements of the electoral laws, and did not properly fill her forms, she was immediately sent back, to properly fill the forms.

Her forms were not accepted, to begin with. In the end she could not come back, because she was unable to correct her forms within the stipulated window given her. At least she was given the chance, and that is the proper thing to do.

If you have set out deadlines for submitting forms (and please note that the deadline was only for submitting the nomination forms), and I have met the deadline, and you have accepted the forms, and you did not query it, and I have left your offices, then the onus is on you to give me the opportunity to correct any error that you might have identified. You cannot accept my forms, and later tell me that you are rejecting the forms because it contains errors, and because the deadline is over, I cannot have the opportunity to correct those errors?

The PPP cannot be disqualified. It will be too expensive for the Electoral Commission to do so, it will be the height of political injustice to have such a vibrant political machine, with such enormous capacity, to be left out of our electoral processes.

An error cannot be substituted for illegality. The individuals who impersonated themselves could be singled out and dealt with by the law enforcement agencies. But the PPP cannot be held accountable for someone’s illegality; we cannot victimize the victim in such a situation. The PPP must be allowed to remain as the third force of our political system.

In boldness, would the Electoral Commission have disqualified President John Dramani Mahama, and would she have disqualified Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo, if they had detected such errors on their forms outside of the deadline? Do you think if anyone of them, the NPP or the NDC, had been disqualified, do you think Ghana would have been alive still?

In my view, Papa Kwesi Nduom has been more consistent in propagating ideas and solutions than any single presidential candidate in Ghana. It was Kwesi Nduom who in the year 2001 proposed the National Identification system (NIS) during the Ghana National Economic Forum. It was thought to be a way of ensuring efficient way of administering health, justice, security, social interventions, and a way of reducing corruption.

Kwesi Nduom is the only politician who is campaigning on his own personal life records, and he is the only person who is showcasing entrepreneurship in politics.

He has succeeded in taking politics to another level, virtually springing from nowhere to spreading all over the country, fielding parliamentary candidates in nearly every single constituency in the country.

If I have any prediction that this year’s election will go into run-off, then I will think it will be due to the Kwesi Nduom Factor. I have seen a craze for the PPP in many ways, people suddenly have found an alternative to the NPP/NDC dominance, and I believe no serious politician in any one of the two dominant parties will ignore the PPP threat.

I have always been the person condemning mediocrity. I have always preached about the need to stop the culture of sub-standardization. So I hold a moral duty to condemn whoever was not meticulous enough to ensure that these contested errors were avoided.

However we cannot trivialize our presidential elections in the manner that we are currently witnessing. If we could not have disqualified NDC, if we could not have disqualified NPP, then we cannot disqualify the PPP. They deserve the opportunity to correct the errors on their nomination forms. Mrs. Charlotte Osei should know that she holds a thin line between the peace of the country, and a full blown civil war.