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Opinions of Friday, 8 January 2016

Columnist: Eyiah, Kobena

What Kind of People do we pay to run the Affairs of Ghana?

i) Turn your lights off, if electricity is expensive' – Minister of Energy 2013)

ii) If you cannot afford petrol, park your car and take “Tro tro”- (Chairman of the Parliamentary Finance Committee 2016)

iii) The magnitude of multiple registrations in the current register is very acceptable by any standard estimated at hundreds in the entire register of 14.8 million people. (Electoral Commission 2016)

In 1965, Kodwo Addison, the Propaganda Secretary of the then ruling almighty Convention People’s Party (CPP), advised Ghanaians to “spread palm oil on their bread if they could not find margarine or butter.” Of course, it did not take twelve months for him and others to line up, falling over each other at radio stations and newspaper offices to claim, “We were all gaping sycophants!”

Half a century on, while the world has moved on into the age of Information Technology and touch-button knowledge, the appointees of another “leftist“ government of Ghana are showering Ghanaians from their backsides, with what can be described in conservative terms as utter disrespectful bunkum. In fact, if I were writing in “French,” the title of my piece would have been “what kind of idiots are we paying to run the affairs of Ghana?” But then, I am writing English!

The Minister of Energy had forgotten that as candidate John Mahama, his boss promised to end “Dum so” within six months if he was elected president. However, more than a year later as he spoke, that disgraceful episode of mismanagement in our national history was still playing. Even today, after the establishment of a whole new ministry with its attendant dissipation of more of the poor taxpayer’s loans, the problem does not seem to be ending anytime soon.

Meanwhile, this minister who does not pay rent, electricity and water bills or petrol, has the nerve to tell the people whose taxes fund his extravagant lifestyle to turn off their lights and go for candles and lanterns.

In any decent jurisdiction, the members of Ghana’s Parliamentary Committee on Finance would be facing prosecution in the courts, for the untold hardships that have been visited on the people of Ghana in the past year, especially. A man who heads a committee that has facilitated the approval of dubious loans, the purchase of inferior tables and chairs from China, in exchange for toy telephones, approval of undeserved judgement debt payments and overlooked systematic annual looting of state coffers by government agencies and departments, has the effrontery to tell me to park my car and take “tro tro” when he probably drives a four wheel vehicle that is paid for and serviced by my taxes!

Someone has just sent me a “WhatsApp” message with a photograph showing insets of former President Kufuor and President Mahama. The captions which say it all show the world crude oil price of $147 per barrel in 2008, with the ex-pump price of GHC1.30 per gallon against the 2016 equivalent of the world market price of $38 per barrel and the ex-pump price of GHC16.00 per gallon. In 2008, Ghana had no oil production, but the country has a sizeable oil production in 2016. So compared to 2008, whatever comes from the oil production today is bonus. Therefore using the falling revenues from oil to fix sky rocketing prices for refined products is neither here nor there. Finished petroleum product prices should reflect low international prices.

Put simply, it is the sheer incompetence and criminal mismanagement of the economy that has brought Ghana to its current sorry state. In the UK, the ex-pump price of petrol has fallen more than 60% in the past year. If the Kufuor administration could manage without oil production, to buy crude oil at $147/barrel, process and sell it for GHC 1.30, why on earth should Ghanaians that are paying outrageous prices for everything under God’s sun, be insulted by some village MP whose only raison d’etre is that he has fan fool constituents who will vote for him no matter what he does?

Hear the newly appointed Electoral Commissioner, “The magnitude of multiple registrations in the current register is very acceptable by any standard estimated at hundreds in the entire register of 14.8 million people. The register does not have the multiple registration challenge that is being alleged.” What kind of statistical illiteracy is that? Lord Almighty, which schools and universities in Ghana are churning out such graduates? Graduates who have no self-respect or adherence to any professional ethics, ready to do the bidding of thieving politicians?

During the now famous Election Petition hearing at the Supreme Court, the then commissioner, Dr Afari-Gyan admitted under oath that Ghana’s electoral register is not credible and asked the nation to help repair it. He did not do anything about it, probably after he was chided by his paymasters in private, for that public admission.

To start with the new chair of the commission does not seem to know the number of multiple entries in the register. Naturally, she does not have the self-confidence to make a decision on the register, not even after some party “foot soldiers” announced to the whole world that they registered Togolese nationals in return for Ghana’s National Health Service policy membership. As usual, whatever is wrong with the register is the fault of the “computer software” we are using. She has never heard of (GIGO), ‘garbage in garbage out.’ She does not have the self-confidence to make a decision, even though she has known since the hearing in 2013 that the register is not fit for purpose. Dr Afari-Gyan was probably too scared to state that fact in his handing over notes, if he left any, that is.

The former chairperson of the Convention People’s Party has alleged that between 2004 and 2008, the number of voters in her Jomoro constituency increased by 500, which was expected. However, between 2008 and 2012 (thieves in charge), the numbers increased by an unbelievable 11,000 voters. In any decent society the EC officials in that constituency would have been arrested and prosecuted, but not in Ghana.

South Africa has just 28.8% of its population below the age of 14, and registers the highest number of eligible voters in sub-Sahara Africa, 47.1%, and that is not surprising, judging from the literacy rate of that country. Ghana has a population of 25 million, a whopping 38.8% of which is below age 14. The analysis of the 2012 national census does not give the breakdown of the age group between 15 and 17, but since we generally have a young population, the percentage of all Ghanaians under age 18 cannot be lower than 42, leaving 58% or 14.5 million ELIGIBLE to vote.

Statistically, the world maximum, for countries where registration is not mandatory is about 49% of eligible voters. So it is statistically impossible for Ghana’s eligible voters’ register to contain more than 14 million names! That is not rocket science. And that is why Dr Afari-Gyan admitted that Ghana’s electoral register is not credible and he had known that way back in 2010!

In effect, Nana Akufo-Addo is dead right in saying that Ghana’s electoral register has more than 2 million ghost voters. I will probably make it anywhere between 2.5 and 3 million. It is a total disgrace and everybody remotely responsible for creating that fraudulent document ought to be prosecuted. Therefore it is statistically illiterate and morally reprehensible for the Electoral Commission and the so-called eminent citizen’s group to claim that the case for a new register is not convincing. As for the ministers of the gospel among them, I shall not be in a hurry to listen to sermons from them because if they can crucify a modern, verifiable data set that shamefully, it is difficult to imagine what they will do to the Bible!

Yes, in view of our current abject poverty, the register may be cleaned to some reasonable level for inspection by all and sundry and that should not be difficult because 16 year olds are using the common Microsoft Access software to do more sophisticated things!

Let no one think it cannot happen in Ghana because the African countries that have gone through traumatic experiences after elections in the past, do not wake up one day to find themselves in such situations, It usually starts with such small and seemingly inconsequential dishonest decisions and arrogant high faluting nonsense by state officials, just as happening in Ghana today!