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Opinions of Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Columnist: Atik Mohammed

The EC’s alleged sins against Ghana’s self-righteous civil society activists

Bright Simons of IMANI fame Bright Simons of IMANI fame

The guiding principle that underpins all thriving democracies is that, people disagree to agree or agree to disagree whatever the case may be. It is against this setting that, individuals and groups are free to express views that run counter to state establishments’.

These views free as they may be, become insufferable when they are motivated by ill-will or malicious intent.

It is common knowledge that, the EC’s decision to compile a new electoral roll was from the outset, met with needless and in most cases, malicious resistance. Much of this resistance came from some CSOs including IMANI.

Their plea against a new register rested on varied and mostly inconsistent arguments. These arguments, given their weak fundamentals, kept crumbling each time they were confronted with the facts. The waterloo of the anti-new register brigade came when on the 25th day of June, 2020 the Supreme Court, cleared the EC to proceed with the new registration exercise.

With the start of the exercise, one would expect that, the arguments against a new register would be interred eternally. This is not to be for some whining, self-righteous civil society activists who feel, they cannot allow and will not accept to lose debates because they possess superior brains to everyone else in this country. One of those people ruled by such illusion is Bright Simons of IMANI fame.

Still mining for some vindication, Bright Simons has resorted to composing his own set of facts; which facts are far from the truth and attributing same to the EC. He then proceeds on the basis of these very distortions to attack the EC- a typical scenario of giving a dog a bad name to justify hanging it.

For starters, the characterization of the registration exercise by the EC as sheer show of brute or raw power is outrageous and should be contemptuously disregarded. How can the legitimate exercise of powers duly conferred on a state institution by the constitution be construed as brute power? This logic only subsists in the reasoning of the likes of Mr. Simons. He also contends the attempt by the EC to deepen our democracy by compiling a new register, constitutes moral and administrative irresponsibility; whatever that means. I wouldn’t strain a vein questioning this view because it is a subjective one not founded in any fact and which he is free to express anyway.

Now to the main issues or allegations Bright Simons raises relative to what the EC has done or not done.

1. He alleges that, one of the reasons advanced by the EC for the production of a new register included the fact that, the absence of facial recognition in the BVRs rendered them less effective and inaccurate. This is a lie. The EC never explained that, the inclusion of the facial recognition feature in the BVRs would be a panacea to problems of inaccuracy and ineffectiveness.

In point of fact, the rationale for the inclusion is to ensure that, persons whose fingerprints cannot be captured either due to the calloused nature of their palms or some other inexplicable reason, can still be biometrically verified.

This helps limit the use and abuse of the “Odikro” system whereby individuals could vouch for others to vote without verification. If some of our CSO friends cared to objectively listen to the EC, I have no doubt they would have abandoned the resistance against the new register long ago as it would seem from Simons’s claims, they were misled by their own distortions and prejudices.

2. He also accuses the EC of insisting that, fears of Covid-19 were overblown and that they have the capacity to implement the safety protocols. The EC has never underemphasized the threat of the Covid- 19 pandemic.

Indeed, the pandemic and the fears thereof, have shaped the course of the registration exercise. It is precisely the fear of Covid that led the EC to postpone the commencement of the registration from 18th April, 2020 to 30th June, 2020. Again, these fears caused the EC to expend money which by the way, was unbudgeted for, to procure Veronica buckets, sanitizers, thermometer guns, gloves, face masks and paint.

The essence was to ensure that, the commission was prepared to honor the safety protocols during the registration. The claim about prospective registrants disregarding the social distancing protocol is a shared concern.

The EC however cannot be held entirely liable for that mishap. If all Ghanaians who turned up at the various stations, obeyed the EC’s instructions and acted responsibly, we would not have such unfortunate episodes. Nevertheless, the EC introduced the Queue Management System (QMS) to help deal with the needless crowding at the peripheries of the registration centers.

It is also worth mentioning that, members of our team who are monitoring the exercise in many of the other regions report that, registrants comply with the social distance regulations and that, the process has been orderly thus far. The challenge has largely been in some parts of the Greater Accra region. And I dare say, the situation has since improved from the first phase.

2. A. the accusation that the EC did very little to enforce all the safety protocols in poor neighborhoods is disingenuous. There is no gainsaying that, E.I. 164 criminalizes the non-wearing of masks in public places for all Ghanaians. Therefore, if a recalcitrant prospective registrant who is outside of the marked area decides not to wear a mask, how can the EC be held answerable for his actions?

All those who are within the registration perimeter mandatorily wear their face masks or shields, wash their hands, have their temperatures checked, sanitize their hands and socially distance, as we have seen. I have personally seen these arrangements first-hand in my monitoring rounds.

Maybe, my friend would better appreciate the situation if he did a little monitoring, instead of relying on some videos he purports to have seen. More so, the EC requested the presence of the police and other security agencies to enforce the protocols and maintain order. So the question of enforcement of protocols cannot be answered by the Commission unless you are assuming that, the EC’s use of “raw power” as you allege includes enforcement powers.

2.B. An outrageous allegation is also made to the effect that, not all the equipment procured for the registration were delivered by the EC’s vendor i.e. Thales. Whereupon, the commission relied on some of the old equipment which were pronounced obsolete. This naked mendacity is simply mind-boggling. Where was it reported that, some of the old equipment were in use during the registration? Mention just one center where this was noticed.

This ludicrous allegation is the extension of his imagination and yet, he inflicts that untruth upon all Ghanaians as a point of fact. This is the lowest Mr. Simons could go just to smear the EC and this otherwise successful exercise in order to feel vindicated. In any event, they (IMANI) predicted per some strange procurement analysis that, Thales would never be able to deliver within the stipulated duration.

Thales rose to the occasion as some of us believed they would, necessitating a shift in their narrative. The new narrative as ably communicated by Bright Simons is that, Thales has delivered the equipment but not enough. Records at the EC unfortunately indicate this new narrative is false.

There has to be a point where our self-righteous activists would say, our expectations for a failed registration exercise have been bruised, so we are moving on.

It is ok to sometimes get the debates wrong.

That does not take away your activist prowess nor your integrity. It only implies, other views had stronger grounding. Let the record reflect the EC’s compilation of a new register has so far been successful. And that, no amount of malicious publications or advocacy could slow that wave.