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Opinions of Saturday, 17 October 2015

Columnist: Cameron Duodu

Why Are Public Officials So Stiff-Necked In Ghana?

If I were Mrs Charlotte Osei, the newly-appointed Electoral Commissioner, I would ponder carefully over the tattered reputation which my predecessor, Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, took with him into retirement. She can look up Afari-Gyan’s record in Wikipedia, in case she hasn’t bothered to read his file.

Dr Afari-Gyan made it a point to ignore most of the complaints made by the stakeholders whose operations were governed by the electoral laws of Ghana. Although those who wrote the 1992 Constitution had been careful to make the Electoral Commissioner as independent as possible – so that everyone could accept his decisions –instead of making it work for the people of Ghana, Dr Afari-Gyan took full advantage of that independence to spurn the concerns of those who had to work within those laws. What was his riposte to their complaints?

QUOTE: “It’s becoming very nauseating! (he claimed) “Everywhere you turn to” (he expanded on his moaning) “Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, Kwadwo Afari-Gyan!… What have I done? I don’t know…Every time, we are accused of being in bed with the government. During the Rawlings time, we were in bed with the government; in the Kufuor regime, we were in bed with the government; now we are in bed with this [NDC] government. We must be special prostitutes to be in bed with all these various governments!”(he laughed). UNQUOTE

But it was all hogwash. Eventually, a quintessentially neutral body was called upon to adjudicate on whether his moaning was justified or not. Yes – he met his ‘Waterloo’ at the Supreme Court of Ghana in January-August 2013. There, statements he made from his own mouth exposed his hypocrisy and tore his arrogant self-justifications to shreds.

The nation watched him on live television, unable to believe its eyes, when he professed not to know what “over-voting” was. He said he could accept the signatures of polling agents as being equivalent to those of Returning Officers. “Pink sheets”? There were two kinds, he postulated. The nation was ushered into total confusion. Was this the Electoral Commissioner who had earned so many plaudits abroad?

It was left to one of the Supreme Court judges, Mr Justice Jones Dotse, to put the nail firmly in the coffin of Afari-Gyan’s reputation:

QUOTE: “My observation is that, Dr Afari-Gyan appeared to have concentrated his oversight responsibility at the top notch of the election administration, thereby abdicating his supervisory role at the grass-roots or bottom, where most of the activities critical to the conduct of elections are performed.

“In this instance, he even appeared not to be conversant with some of the basic procedural steps and rules that are performed by his so-called temporary staff. So far as I am concerned, Dr Afari-Gyan has cut a very poor figure of himself, and the much acclaimed competent election administrator, both nationally and internationally, has evaporated into thin air, once his portfolio has come under the close scrutiny of the courts.” UNQUOTE

Nevertheless, so meaningless has the idea of an apolitical election process and administration become that Dr Afari-Gyan was awarded the highest honour this country has to bestow on anyone – the Order of the Star of Ghana- by President John Mahama, the very man who stood to gain most, personally, from Afari-Gyan’s purposeful “errors”!

Now, Mrs Charlotte Osei didn’t appoint herself Electoral Commissioner.

She is not obliged to avoid the mistakes of her predecessor.

And, whatever she does, the precedent has been set and she will get her award at the end of her term as Electoral Commissioner.

Charlotte Osei, Order of the Star of Ghana! Yes!

There is just one thing I want to tell her about her dogged resistance to the idea of compiling a new electoral register, as demanded by the ppposition NPP and several organisations. And that is this: Madam, if you see J A Kufuor (ex-President) and J J Rawlings (ex-President) saying the same thing, you’d better listen and listen well.

Between them, these two gentlemen have governed Ghana for some two decades. Not only that – they don’t often see eye to eye on public issues. So, if on a sensitive issue like the compilation of a new electoral register, they independently come up with a common position, it should be taken very seriously indeed.

All manner of issues are connected with the need for a new electoral register issue. The allegations being made about the old register, especially the notion that it has been bloated by foreigners whose names have been inserted into it because the registration process was not – as Mr Justice Dotse put it, “adequately supervised” at the “grass-roots” level, is a nation-splitting matter, no less.

For some Ghanaians don’t mind being ruled by a party they did not vote for, so long as they know that those who voted for the party they do not like were genuinely more numerous than them.

But to give them a majority by dint of a palpable sleight of hand is not something they will easily tolerate.

Were you not in this country at the time everyone was waiting for the verdict of the Supreme Court on the election petition of 2012? Didn’t you hear of the threats that were made about what would happen if the Supreme Court made the wrong decision?

Maybe you didn’t hear of the allegations of bribery made against Justices of the Supreme Court?

Was it all worth it, Mrs Osei? What did we get but a government that colluded with Alfred Woyome to mulct and share GH ¢51 million of the taxpayers’ money? Have you heard of GYEEDA? Of SADA? Etc? In the age of dumsor?

Please listen to the advice of the elder statesmen and do the right thing. For this is not a country in which cheaters get away with what they do – for ever.

Even as you read this, remember that people are talking about something no-one could ever have forecast would happen in this country.

I mean the Anas saga.

If, you understand the Twi language, I leave you with the words, “Oba nynsafuor, yebu no be na yennka n’asem!” (The person born wise is best spoken to in proverbs, and not in plain words!)

Or as the English version goes: “A word to the wise is enough”

That will do!