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Opinions of Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Columnist: Forson, Prempeh

The electoral commission is neutral but Charlotte Osei is not

The constitution of Ghana is not without serious flaws but that is a whole topic for a different day. What I wish to discuss today is the Electoral Commission and the interpretation of its powers given by the constitution of Ghana. Ghanaians are always reminded of the neutrality and independence of the Electoral Commission and cautioned to allow it to exercise that independence as it deems fit for the nation. I believe this point is moot and this is why:

The electoral commission of Ghana is an independent institution but the chairman of the commission is not neutral notwithstanding the fact that a lot depends on what she thinks or if you like what her ‘employer’ requires of her. The Chairman is not elected by popular vote but rather hand-picked by the sitting president. This practice is of course in accordance with our seriously problematic constitution and as such perfectly legal.

If any president were to exercise confidence in me by choosing me to become the chairman of the EC, I will return that confidence by voting for him to lead the country. The logic follows that whoever you vote for is the person you wish to see as winner. On this basis Charlotte Osei cannot be said to be neutral in the determination of our nation’s next leader. President John Mahama found Charlotte Osei worthy of handling the electoral commission and surely Charlotte will find Mahama worthy of handling our country. This is why many of Ghanaians suspect Charlotte Osei to do what John Mahama tells her to do, hiding under the umbrella of independence given to the EC by, again, our largely flawed constitution.

The electoral commission does not decide for Ghanaians but rather gathers the choices of the people and declare it. The question to ask is this: In the matter concerning a new register, what does Charlotte Osei’s EC see as the choice of the people of Ghana? So far we have had thousands of Ghanaians pouring out to the street, clashing with the police and losing eyes just to register their desire for a new register. We have not witnessed such public display from a section of the population asking to keep the existing register and therefore, one can safely conclude that the choice of the people, as loudly pronounced so far, is to have a new register. The independence of the EC does not include the RIGHT TO IMPOSE their decisions on Ghanaians. This is why the EC prepares CI for elections and send it to parliament for approval.

I believe it will serve Charlotte Osei’s professional interest to allow a new voters register to be compiled. It is obvious where her personal interest lies and who will receive her vote in the general elections. She is totally entitled to that choice as a private Ghanaian but in order to gain our trust as someone who is not going to look the other way whilst the election is manipulated in favour of the man who hired her, she has to do what most Ghanaians are asking for – a new voter register for starters.

Our recent history has taught us a great lesson. The argument holding Dr Kwadwo Afari Gyan, having supervised several elections successfully with change of governments, to be fair and neutral is nothing but a twisted logic. Jerry Rawlings appointed Dr Afari Gyan as EC Chairman and served full 8 years tenure under him. When it came to the choice between Prof. Mills and John Agyekum Kufuor the latter won all two elections. Prof. Mills later won against Akufo Addo in 2008. At this point Ghanaians still had some trust in Afari Gyan until it came to Akufo Addo v John Mahama. The 2012 elections led to many revelations, confessions and embarrassments which reduced Dr. Kwadwo Afari Gyan to nothing but an incompetent and dishonest man. First of all, our seemingly all-knowing and brave EC boss, with Ph.D in Political Science from the USA and years as EC chairman, disgracefully could not tell us what over voting means. Dr. Afari Agyan went on to tell Ghanaians that the EC does not conduct the elections. It only employs ordinary Ghanaians to handle the electoral process and therefore the EC could not be held tightly responsible for most of the things which go wrong. Our award winning EC boss in broad view of the cameras at the supreme court of Ghana, told Ghanaians and the whole world that he only declares the results which is brought to him.

There was so much bordering on transparency and clear intentions. For instance Dr. Afari Agyan’s EC denied having anything to do with a foreign company alleged to have been hired to assist in transmitting the election results. The chairman later admitted in court to have hired the services of the said company but failed to give details of the service they provided. This company was alleged to have manipulated the figures in favour of John Mahama.

From the above posture of Dr. Afari Gyan as seen in the Supreme Court, it appears to me that all what the EC boss did was to sit in his chair and gather the finance team together with all the other departments to workout how much it will cost to run the elections. They then proceeded with request for funds from government and carried out all the procurements, recruitment and logistics necessary to run the elections. The quality of the process and who emerges winner is a whole different story. At the end of the day someone will be declared President Elect and when that happens, not even the Supreme Court of Ghana will change it. After all, the winning party and the EC can come together to remind us it is the same EC which conducted previous elections with results in favour of the two major parties at different times.

This is what Dr. Afari Gyan did over the years. Unfortunately, we live in the part of the world where longevity in office equals to success and “hard earned reputation” even if that long stay was just a mere imposition on the people and associated with many questionable acts. If Sepp Blatter is a Ghanaian we will by now be bombarded with a list of press release singing his records and all the successful FIFA tournaments he has conducted. He will accuse his enemies and detractors of trying to bring him down. We will have Kwaku Baako, Kwasi Pratt, and many of the general commentators telling us how they are friends with him and how good he is as a person – as if being friends with certain circle of people in Ghana and being good by their definition automatically makes one innocent in all matters. How many times haven’t we heard people mention how close they are to the Mahama family and how wonderful a person John Mahama is? This is a man who heads a looting brigade and has plunged our country into darkness for nearly 4 years watching businesses to fold up and many lives to perish. That is how twisted the Ghanaian society has become.

The truth of the matter is that, elections in Ghana is not about political parties but rather the presidential candidates. This is why the role of the electoral Commission is very crucial. I have come to learn about the determination of certain group of leaders of this country to prevent Nana Akufo Addo from becoming the president of Ghana. This group is so powerful simply because they cut across the political parties including the NPP. It is possible Dr. Afari Agyan’s conduct would have been different and better had the NPP presented a different candidate for the 2008 and 2012 elections respectively. In a country full of extremely corrupt and fail leaders, I am curious to know why most of them hate one man and will do anything to prevent him from leading the country. The only answer I can arrive at is the fact that he is different from them. He is not corrupt, he is not a thief and they are afraid of him. It is my hope that the EC under Charllote Osei will not dance to the tune who desperately wish to prevent Nana Addo from offering his brand of leadership to this country.

I have no doubt that the EC under Kwadwo Afari Gyan was in on the ploy to block Akufo Addo from becoming the leader of this country and had a perfect defence of supervising elections under the two major parties. The determination to stop Nana Addo still remains and much stronger now than before considering the mess on our hands and the need to pass the power around between people who will not ask questions and take the Buhari style of actions. How this plan would be executed under the new EC is yet to be seen given the fact that a certain section of the NPP has converged with the ruling powers.

When Charlotte Osei was appointed as EC boss, I did not see or hear anything wonderful she has achieved so far beside the fact that she has had a long career in civil service. She was heading a state institution which as far as I am concerned hasn’t done anything remarkable in the last decade. I am hoping that she will make her position as chair of the EC count towards a real professional achievement by discharging her duty with higher competence, fairness and quality to the people of Ghana. The nation deserves that from her more than anything.

Prempeh Forson