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Opinions of Saturday, 23 July 2011

Columnist: Akoto, Akwasi A. Afrifa

Would The P-ndc Bungle The Biometric Voters Register?

Like all Ghanaians I received with great joy, the news that government has finally committed *GHC80m to biometric voters register. At the same time though, I have my reservations. History- or fate or luck-it seems, has once again, conspired to put the P-ndc in charge of yet another monumental task that is going to define our country for the foreseeable future. And judging by the results of the three other nation defining tasks that History has given the P-ndc to execute, I 'm a little pessimistic about the overall outcome of the upcoming biometric voters registration exercise.

For whom amongst you are enthusiastic about the form and content of our Constitution; about how our censuses have been conducted and over the voters register that ushered in the Fourth Republic? These three strands - the Constitution, the census, the voters register- the most basic foundations, the sine quibus non, the without which our Fourth Republic wouldn't survive, have so far created more headaches for the country than is necessary. In fact the ills of the Fourth Republic can be directly traced to the "structures" of these three strands. And no one can be blamed for these shortcomings except the architects and ultimately the initiators and the "visionaries" behind the whole undertakings.

Take our Constitution for example, apart from the Indemnity Clause that has sharply divided the country into two, for and against, many, if not all seem to be in agreement that the document is seriously flawed. In reality, no Constitution is perfect. But ours is so flawed that, I doubt if a single clause or article was left untouched by criticisms and recommendations sent to the Constitutional Review Commission. The need for the commission itself, the popularity, reception and the passion that have been given and shown to the review commission at their meetings all attest to the dissatisfaction with the document. , Then you take the census: all the censuses in recent memory, including the last one have been conducted by the P-ndc - because of the machinations of History. Like the Constitution, Ghanaians are all experiencing the nightmares that the inaccuracies of the censuses have created and the adverse effects it has had on the country economically, politically, administratively, on our elections and taxes etc. It is true that no census is perfect but the way the last one was conducted - after numerous delays - and the lack of post - census comprehensive analysis by the Mills government, almost a year after the exercise, show that the P-ndc has not improved much after eight years of self reflection. Many, even in our capital city, did not get counted last year in this age of advanced technology; not to forget the manipulation of the whole exercise to their benefit. There are still many areas where the figures on paper fall short or are way above the actual numbers on the ground, for one reason or another.

As for the voters register, perhaps the most important of the three and of all strands - as it decides the fate of the country every four years - the least said about it the better. In fact it is due to the shabby nature of the voters register that has made the biometric voters register a necessity. We all know about the ghost names, underage names, foreign names, double names that are littered throughout the register. Nor did these discrepancies originate from a vacuum. Some one was there at beginning of the original voters register in early 90s. Some one supervised the whole thing, set up the agenda and budget and logistics etc. And we all know who "they" are.

Consequently, we have all been witnesses to the abyss and chaos that the country was nearly thrown into because of the accusations of the voters registration fraud. But now it seems the country will be able to dodge that bullet after all, with biometric register, if indeed it comes off. The only question remaining is that, judging from their history, would the P-ndc be able to undertake the exercise and execute it to near perfection, without any hangovers?

The future of the nation depends on the successful implementation of the biometric register. The country would be given a new lease on life if the project is finished. As such, let us all pray to the almighty to give the P-ndc the needed wisdom and vision and fortitude to see the project through, without any of the negatives and sour after tastes that have come to characterize their "work.” Akwasi A. Afrifa Akoto.