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Opinions of Friday, 19 August 2016

Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

Was Charlotte Osei protesting out of ignorance or arrogance?

Charlotte Osei, Chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Ghana Charlotte Osei, Chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Ghana

Now, I am fully convinced that Mr. Kennedy Ohene Agyapong is right on the money, when the New Patriotic Party’s Member of Parliament for Assin-Central says that Mrs. Charlotte Kesson-Smith Osei may very well have been appointed Electoral Commission (EC) Chairperson for a criterion other than pure merit or competence.

I would, however, not go down as low as to luridly suggest that such criterion had been coital in nature. Indeed, as of this writing, Mr. Agyapong had widely been reported to have said that his inexcusably sexist impugnation of the chastity of Mrs. Osei had been purely done in jest. I hope such refreshing acknowledgment of vacuous badmouthing, actually slander, will be promptly followed by the rendering of a profuse public apology.

What started me on this column, however, is the report that in a Metro-TV interview with Mr. Paul Adom-Otchere, host of the program “Good Evening Ghana,” the EC Chair had observed being utterly flabbergasted by the discovery that only some 56,000 registrants on the National Voters’ Register (NVR) had been positively identified as having registered to vote in the 2012 general election by the use of their National Health Insurance Scheme-issued ID cards, following the order by the Wood Supreme Court for the EC to expunge the names of all NHIS ID card holders who had used the same to register to vote in 2012.

The Apex Court recently concluded that the National Health Insurance Cards were not a foolproof method for identifying a bona fide Ghanaian citizen, because the issuance of these cards had been predicated more on one’s Ghanaian residency than one’s Ghanaian citizenship.

Well, I find Mrs. Osei’s public expression of surprise to be rather more annoying than anything else, because she has consistently maintained, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s order, that deleting the names of all voters who had registered to vote by the use of the recently proscribed NHIS cards was an elitist edict that was certain to disenfranchise the overwhelming majority of the country’s electorate, particularly residents of the rural areas who had no ready access to such authentic forms of citizenship identification as a driver’s license and a passport.

What the latest revelation means is that all along, Mrs. Osei had been vehemently protesting the Apex Court’s order purely on grounds of willful ignorance and, to the latter, one may aptly add “arrogance.” We must also promptly and significantly mention that the EC Chair would not have gone public had Mr. Sydney Casely-Hayford, the renowned and highly respected financial analyst, not gone public to observe that although he had registered to vote in Election 2012 by the use of his NHIS-issued ID card, his name had not been deleted from the NVR by the so-called Independent Electoral Commission to conform with the Supreme Court’s order.

At the time, an EC panelist on the same program on which Mr. Casely-Hayford had made his decidedly unsettling observation had cynically attempted to impugn the mnemonic credibility of the renowned financial analyst. Now, we have the proverbial horse confirming what Mr. Casely-Hayford and many of us avid students and observers of postcolonial Ghanaian political culture have known all along. We may be righteously miffed by the presumptuousness of the EC’s Chairwoman, but it is also quite refreshing, at least morally speaking, that she would be honest enough, albeit belatedly, to publicly admit to the inescapably obvious.

Still, we are faced with serious and significant problems here; for instance, Mrs. Osei has yet to inform the Supreme Court and the Ghanaian public precisely what she intends to do in order bring the EC into full compliance with the Apex Court’s order.

The order also, it is significant to note, included the need for the EC to grant eligible voters whose names had been deleted from the National Voters’ Register, the chance to present more authentic or reliable forms of identification in order to have their names restored onto the NVR.

It would also be decent of her, if the EC Chair rendered an unqualified public apology to the 2016 Vice-Presidential Candidate of the country’s main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), whom Mrs. Osei had sarcastically sneered at for supposedly being too elitist and anti-democratic.


(See “56,000 NHIS Registrants Surprised Me – EC Boss” / 8/12/16).