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Opinions of Saturday, 2 March 2013

Columnist: Ata, Kofi

Should Nana Akufo Addo Apologise, if ......?

By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK

Within the last few days, the first, second and third respondents to the Presidential Petition at the Supreme Court (SC) have responded to SC directives as per the amended petition. The first and third respondents (President Mahama and NDC respectively) have both claimed that the petition of the Claimants has no merit and should be dismissed accordingly, though not much details were provided. Their inability to provide detailed facts and figures to support their pleadings is reasonable and expected because the second respondent (the Electoral Commission – EC) is the one best placed to respond to the specific allegations made by the petitioners. As part of post election series, I want to discuss the response of the second respondent (EC) vis-à-vis two of the allegations contained in the petition.

According to the amended petition, 2,009 pink sheets were unsigned by the presiding officers but the EC is claiming that, “1,099 were in fact, signed by the presiding officers at the polling stations or, at the instance of the returning officers at the collation centres and 905 were unsigned”. The EC further claims that 1,989 of the alleged unsigned pink sheets were signed by the polling or counting agents of petitioners. (see “All voters used biometric - EC says in response to petition”, Ghanaweb March 1, 2013). So who is telling the truth? The fact is, one of them (either the Petitioners or EC) must be deceiving the public (to be diplomatic), unless they are referring to different pink sheets. Is it just possible that the petitioners and EC have different pink sheets (copies and originals respectively)?

In my candid view, that is not possible because the pink sheets in the possession of the petitioners were copies of the originals that were supplied to their agents by the officials of the EC during the elections. So therefore, the petitioners must not only have the copies of the original pink sheets that the EC has but also information on the originals must tally with those on the copies. Someone must be lying which I believe would be unearthed during the full hearing at the SC. One could have given both parties the benefit of the doubt had the differences between them been minor but the gap between 2,009 and 905 unsigned pink sheets is too wide to be either arithmetic or typing error.

Could it also be feasible that the pink sheets (copies or originals or both) have been tampered with and if so by who? This, I will rule it out not because it is an offence in Ghana for anyone to tamper with electoral materials but particularly as the declared results are being disputed and with a petition pending at the SC. I know some conspiracy theorists will say that I am naive to believe that tampering with election materials in Ghana is impossible. But why would any of the parties involved in the petition take such a high risk endeavour which could result in public humiliation, potential imprisonment and an end to a career if found out?

The EC has explained the lack of signatures appearing on the (905 or 2,009 ) pink sheets being complained of by the petitioners as follows: “It should also be noted that when several pages of paper impregnated with a carbon are used in order to have several copies of each page, it could happen that if the person signing or writing thereon does not press hard enough on the paper, the signature or writing could appear faint or illegible on some of the pages” (ibid). Whilst this could be a valid and reasonable explanation, I am still to be persuaded on this explanation. For example, how come all those pages or copies that had no signatures (as being alleged) ended up with representatives of the petitioners on the election days?

Was it because representatives of each candidate were assigned a specified page or copy of the pink sheets and for whatever reason/s Nana Akufo Addo was assigned the last pages or copies so the signatures did not appear on them because the signatories did not press or write hard enough? With such an important national exercise and the urgency for fairness and transparency to be sacrosanct, why did the EC not take all the necessary steps to ensure that the signatories applied all their energies to press or write harder on the paper for their signatures to appear on every carbon copy? I am also yet to be persuaded as to why (only) Nana Akufo Addo’s agents received that many copies of pink sheets without signatures as has been alleged.

Finally, did the petitioners’ agents check copies of the pink sheets given to them on the election days to satisfy themselves that there were signatures on them and if not, what did they do about the lack of signatures? If they did not check or checked but did not complain, who is at fault? I have no answers to these and other burning questions but just to say that, there is only one truth and that is, somebody must be hiding something that the public is yet to know as Donald Rumsfeld, the former US Defence Secretary said, “there are known knowns, there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know”. Confusing? No, he was spot on.

The second issues I want to draw attentions to, is the case of the petitioners that some voters in 11,916 polling stations did not go through Biometric Verification Machines which according to the petitioners, contravenes the 2012 Electoral Laws and therefore the total votes without verification from those polling stations should be annulled by the Supreme. According to the EC responses as referred to above, “upon being served with the further and better particulars by the petitioners on 11,916 polling stations where alleged irregularities took place, it examined and analysed its records and the analysis confirmed that, no voters were allowed to vote without verification at any polling station.”

The question for the petitioners is, since they have no access to the verification machines that were used for the elections on the December 7 and 8, 2012 how did they come by this figure of 11,916 polling stations? I have made my position on this matter abundantly clear in an earlier article. That is, the “no verification, no vote” edict by the EC was unconstitutional because Regulation 30 (2) of CI 75 contravenes Article 42 of the Constitution. My conclusion then was and still is, the relief being sought by the petitioners on this matter is irrational and unreasonable because it is reasonably possible to verify the identity of eligible registered voters from records of the EC at polling stations without necessarily going through the Biometric Verification Machine (see “Constitutional Challenges for NPP at the Supreme Court”, Ghanaweb January 9, 2013).

From the EC’s responses to the petitioners’ requests on the two matters as per SC order of January 5, 2013, it is becoming increasingly possible that the two allegations against the EC are beginning to suffer cracks under the forces of EC’s laboratory microscope and could be potentially unreliable. However, the EC, co-respondents and their supporters should not jubilate yet because the two sides of the coin are yet to be crossed examined at the SC hearing. Nonetheless, I am beginning to entertain fears for the petitioners because if, and it’s a big if, the EC’s version is accurate, then, the super structure or pillars of the petitioners case could be in tatters.

If the benefit of the doubt could be given to the EC because it holds the originals of the pink sheets as well as the Biometric Verification Machines and assuming that they have not tampered with the evidence, then why did the petitioners take Ghana, President Mahama, the EC, Dr Kwadwo Afrai-Gyan, the SC and the NPP, party members and supporters through the petition and subsequent apprehension and uncertainties in Ghana?

If, and again a big one, what the EC is claiming is the gospel truth, and the petition is dismissed by the SC, will Nana Akufo Addo apologise to Ghanaians, President Mahama, the EC, Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, the SC and his party for all what his petition has caused (the damage to the credibility of Ghana, her electoral system and democracy in Ghana and abroad; the questioning of the legitimacy and authority of President Mahama; the tarnishing of Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan’s reputation; the potential damage to NPP and the boycott of parliamentary business by NPP MPs, etc)?

On the other hand, should the EC’s responses be far from the truth and indeed, the EC has been economical with the truth, lied or tampered with the evidence, so the petition succeeds, should the EC, Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan and any individual/s and organisation/s found to be involved in such fraud also be apologising to Nana Akufo Addo, Ghanaians, the SC and NPP members and supporters for bringing Ghana into disrepute and gargantuan embarrassment and disgrace?

Whatever the final outcome of this petitioner, at least one party (either the petitioners, all, some or at least one of the respondents) would be found wanting or culpable. That individual/s or organisation/s must be will be willing to face squarely the consequences of their, his/her action/s and or omission/s and render an unqualified apology to Ghanaians and whoever has been cheated and robbed of what was legally and rightful his in shame.

In conclusion, even if it is Nana Akufo Addo who has to offer the apology with his political career haemorrhaging irreparably and irreversibly into oblivion, I will still give him some credit for the effort because his petition has made Ghanaians aware that there are problems with the electoral system management in Ghana, which will definitely be improved as a direct result of Nana Akufo Addo’s petition. I can assure you that the EC and all political parties will learn lessons from the petition and improve on the 2016 and subsequent elections. So please do not hang Nana Akufo Addo even if his petition is dismissed for lacking merit. I suspect history will be kind to him for being the first presidential candidate to go to the Supreme Court to challenge the results declared by the EC either successfully or in gargantuan failure, or the first to successfully or unsuccessfully hold Ghana to ransom for weeks or months after the declaration of presidential results.

Some are waiting anxiously and others with excitement. Which part are you? Whichever side you are, Nana Akufo Addo’s place in history either as the Messiah or the Pariah is already assured. Just do not call me anti or pro NDC/NPP writer. I am not the devil but just the devil’s advocate, so if you disagree with my views that should not make me an anti or pro.

Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK