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Opinions of Friday, 11 November 2016

Columnist: Africanus Owusu-Ansah

Whither the Electoral Commission?— Respect is the order

“I who am the ring-giver Commanded you to action and death… As a thane ought to do, returned justice to where our ancient peoples drink. All men will do that which I bid.”

Queen Wealtheow in ‘Beowulf’

“…For surely the food that memory gives to eat is bitter to the taste and it is only with the teeth of hope that we can bear to chew it”.

Ayesha in ‘She’ by Rider Haggard

I am guided by the Daily Guide editorial of Tuesday, November 8, 2016 to exercise caution when handling issues affecting the softer sex (a euphemism for ‘weaker sex’). I am threateningly haunted by the fiat: “…only the most uncouth would go to such an extent especially in dealing with a married woman”.

Wherefore, I shall not throw a tantrum, or lose my cool or temper, but discuss Charity Osei in a sober and somber manner. ‘Misogynism’ is general dislike for women, and ‘misandry’ is hatred for men. Neither of these is meant in this analysis. I hope to bring out the facts as objectively as they are.

In my article on the E.C. Chairperson, headed ‘Charity Who?’ published in May, this year, I quoted 1st Kings 2:11 “My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions”. This was an allusion to what Ghanaians had experienced under Dr Kwadwo Afari Gyan and what they were to expect from his successor, Charlotte Osei. A Biblical allegory, if it fits. Or a metaphor, if you are still rigid.

I introduced the article thus: “Arrogance, haughtiness, hubris, egotism or self – importance would be the last characteristics of the Electoral Commissioner or the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission or the staff there. As the people at the centre of the electoral process, who are expected to act as the referee or umpire, one would hope that they would demonstrate impartiality, neutrality, indifference, justice and objectivity.”

These hopes did not appear to materialize. Charlotte Osei appears to enjoy, not only publicity; she rather triumphs when she wades into controversy and shrugs off all the criticisms. Like Ayesha, the queen in Henry Rider Haggard’s novel, she was “…yesterday, and today and tomorrow. (She was) sorrow and longing and hope unfulfilled… (She was she). She who must be obeyed.”

Her first task, on assuming office, was to change the logo of the Commission, spending so much time, energy and funds. She defied every criticism or every suggestion until she had introduced an amorphous logo which she ‘like (d)’ and ‘love (d)’.

Ensconcing herself under Article 46 of the Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, 1992, she claimed immunity and decided to disqualify twelve presidential aspirants. When Dr Kwesi Nduom took the matter to the High Court and judgment went to his favour, the E.C. decided to go to the Supreme Court. Some of the discerning lawyers and other concerned Ghanaians felt the E.C. did not need to go the Supreme Court. But they did, forgetting the warning by the Supreme Court: “You think going to court is easy”! But, of course, lawyers, including my friend, Thaddeus Sory deserve their pay or their recognition, and the opportunity offered itself.

In the end, the Supreme Court threw away the E.C’s appeal, to make it fall ‘efom birim’. The E.C. was ordered: “Invite the interested party and all presidential candidates who were able to submit their nomination papers by close of the nomination day, of September 30, 2016 and were disqualified without a hearing and give them a hearing within the extended period”. The Supreme Court also ordered the E.C. to grant the candidates the opportunity to comply with Regulation 9(2) of the Public Election Regulations 2016 (C.I. 94) which states: “The returning officer shall inform a candidate that the candidate’s nomination is invalid where (a) the particulars of the candidate or the persons subscribing to the nomination paper are not as subscribed by law; or (b) the nomination paper is not subscribed to as required by law and shall give the candidate an opportunity to make amendments or any alteration where necessary, within the stipulated nomination period”.

Now, the sluice gate has been reopened for all the 12 disqualified candidates (including Akua Donkor) to troop to the Electoral Commission office for a hearing. (You remember Dr Paa Kwesi Nduom requested a hearing for just 5 minutes!). His request was not entertained. One cannot understand the Electoral Commission. Is it there to axe electoral candidates or it is there to encourage the candidates to do the right things according to law? What would they lose or gain if someone is disqualified?

Another controversy seems to be brewing -this time, about the pink sheet contract given by the Electoral Commission to a liquidated firm in the United Kingdom. According to the story, the E.C. has contracted Aerovote to print the pink sheets at a cost of $8.95 million. This is in spite of the offers by Ghanaian Companies like Acts Commercial Printing, Buck Press and lnnolink all of which had tendered offers of half the price of that of Aerovote.

The E.C. owes Ghanaians an explanation as to how the contract was awarded to Aerovote, ignoring all advice, especially about the problems the company had had in the U.K.

The E.C. must read Martin Amidu’s statement: “There can be no free, transparent and fair elections when any of the disqualified aspiring candidates and any political party sponsoring them have their names added to the ballot more than three weeks belatedly, because the Commissioner’s preferred and approved candidates would have had an unequal advantage over them in the contest for the Presidency. “Martin Amidu warns Ghanaian citizens: “I have already said elsewhere that this Commissioner was appointed with a rigging agenda. Let us as citizens defend the Constitution by watching her every step during this election.”

In other democracies, the citizens do not know the existence of the Electoral Commission. It is as if the Commission, by whatever name it is called, does not exist. Everything moves systematically. The Electoral Commission of Ghana has a heavy duty towards Ghanaians: the Commissioner, the deputies and all the staff have the country in their hands. You know one trick about Afari Gyan—he would carry a smile on his face, even if his interlocutor was aggressive, pugilistic or stiff-necked. He would be witty, and answer questions sarcastically if he had to. Respect, respect and respect– that should be the hallmark of people in charge of organizing elections in Ghana. The elections of 2012 and aftermath are lessons for all Ghanaians. Ghana was on the brink of disaster during the 2012 Election Petition. But for the maturity of the Petitioner, Nana Akufo Addo, hell would have broken loose and nobody could have predicted the outcome. Joseph Stalin once remarked: “The people who cast the votes don’t decide on election, the people who count the votes do”. In her foreword to Mabel Aku Baneseh’s book “Pink sheets: The story of Ghana’s Presidential Election Petition”, Mrs Georgina Wood, the Chief Justice writes: “Survival instincts of political parties are heightened in electioneering periods – the incumbent to mend any chink in their armour, and the challenger to ram at the incumbent until the latter buckles. It is not uncommon to witness agitation by the vanquished and opposite reaction and jubilation by the victor. It is tolerable in a democracy.”