Opinions of Sun, 26 Aug 20184
Jean Mensa-led EC needs our prayers urgently
Ghana's newly constituted election management body, the Electoral Commission (EC), is on my mind this morning...for a GOOD reason: the Jean Mensa-led EC NEEDS our prayers urgently!
When His Excellency President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo decided to unilaterally appoint Madam Jean Mensa and (3) others to constitute the "new" EC, many were those who expressed various concerns, and legitimately too.
Among the concerns raised was a reference to the President's disregard for his own principles, in that, a few years back, when former President MAHAMA had to make a similar appointment of an EC Chair following the retirement of the legendary Dr Afari Gyan, the indefatigable former EC Boss, it was then-candidate Nana Addo who cried the loudest about the need for wide consultations to be made by the then President in determining who the new EC Chairperson should be. Naturally, therefore, it was expected that having had the opportunity (or "created" one?), the good old politician would have done what is right and principled. But our President did not. And some may want to call that "equalisation" but I call it lack of integrity and principle, as far as our governance is concerned.
But beyond the appointment of the (4) new members of the EC, there was another equally important concern, which is that, if this precedent is anything to go by, then it is likely that before the 2020 elections, the same President may have to appoint 3 more "new" EC members due to the fact that 3 of the current members of the EC will have reached retirement age and would naturally have to go or be sent away. This simply means that by December 2020 when our dear country goes for the next Presidential and General elections, we would have a President Nana Addo-led NPP government having appointed a Jean Mensa-led 7-member Electoral Commission, whether by design or default.
Hmmmmm, any political watcher of African governance and politics since independence in most of our countries about 60 years now, should know that in our governance arena, PERCEPTION IS EVERYTHING...from corruption to (the existence of) infrastracture to (provision the provision of) potable water, among many other societal issues.
Indeed, a renowned law professor in Ghana even dared recently to suggest from a research he conducted that, even the appointment of judges to the superior courts, especially the apex court of the land (ie. the Supreme Court) has been known to "affect" judgements made by those judges vis-a-vis the governments that appointed them, etc. (Of course, it is now public information that this "research finding" did not sit down well with many of the men and women on the prestigious apex bench, not least the Chief Justice herself. So I am not going to make any further comments or references to this matter. Because, despite everything we all complain about, I love to enjoy my TZ "in freedom").
In short, the EC as it is currently constituted, will be in dire need of all our prayers in the weeks and months ahead, especially as we inch closer and closer to Election 2020. And if I had the power to amend the Liturgical proceedings of the Holy Mass of the Catholic Church of which I am a proud and unrepentant member, I would have included Ghana's new Electoral Commission in the section where the Church usually prays for the Holy Father - the Pope - the Bishop(s), Clergy, etc. so that immediately after praying for the number 1, 2 and 3 in the hierarchy of the Church, we would go on to pray for the EC.
At least, this can be a proposed amendment to affect only the "local" Church in Ghana. Because, my brother, my sister, if you have been around for a while now and also had the opportunity to visit other African countries, you will understand how DANGEROUS it can be for the POLITICAL UMPIRE (in this case, our EC) to be perceived as bias right from the outset. So we must all pray and continue to pray for Jean Mensa (the EC Chairperson) and her colleagues, on whose hands NOT we the people but His Excellency the President has placed the political destiny of our dear nation, Ghana. (Sounds a bit like a prophecy of doom, right?)
Well, if anyone thinks that this is a prophecy of doom, just throw your mind back at the events of last week, when the new EC had the first opportunity to meet representatives of our political parties via their platform, known as IPAC (Inter-Party Advisory Committee). First of all, the meeting was supposed to be an "emergency" IPAC meeting, which turned out not to have any "emergency" on the table, as has been reported. Then, there were issues about the manner in which the political parties were summoned for the meeting, to wit, the short notice given to them, etc. And most curiously, the inability or refusal by the main opposition party - the NDC - to attend the said meeting.
(Remember that prior to the 2016 elections, the same NDC party - then in government- had severed its relationship with the IEA, the governance think tank hitherto headed by the new EC Chairperson, Mrs. Jean Mensa. And indeed, when the President first gave the indication that it was the same Jean Mensa of the IEA who would be heading the "new" EC, many were those who questioned the prudence in the President's decision, even if the "JM" in in this case had the needed qualifications, competence, etc). Not only that, the new EC Chairperson herself was absent from the very first meeting to be held between her institution and one of the key stakeholders her Commission will be dealing with in many years to come.
But we have a Constitution which virtually empowers our President to virtually do as he/she wishes, especially when it comes to appointing people into all manner of public offices. Ironically, not too long ago, the institution that Madam Jean Mensa had been heading until her recent appointment (ie. the IEA), was at the forefront of championing what became known as the advocacy AGAINST "winner takes all" politics.
In fact, the IEA went as far as establishing a platform known as the Advisory Committee on Winner-Takes-All (WTA) or WTA AC, and the Committee was made up of eminent Ghanaians from all walks of life, including former Commissioner of CHRAJ, Justice Emile Short, Dr. Rose Mensah-Kutin, a well known gender activist and governance practitioner, His Excellency Kabral Blay Amihere, a former diplomat during the Kufuor administration and the person who helped me personally to cut my journalistic teeth in the mid "90s at "The Independent" newspaper, and our own Most Reverend Archbishop Gabriel Charles Palmee-Buckle, just to mention a few.
I must also mention that I had the singular honour in my capacity as Governance Advisor to former President MAHAMA to meet this highly respected Advisory Committee of the IEA to discuss the specific issue of winner takes all (WTA) and how the government of the day could assist in addressing it. And by way of context, the IEA had been conducting consultations across the length and breath of our country soliciting views on how to deal with the "albatross" provisions in the 1992 Constitution that give so much unfettered power to the Executive President to appoint so many thousands and thousands of public servants, including heads of public agencies that should otherwise be "independent" of Executive control or influence.
(Don't ask me where the Winner-Takes-All Advisory Committee - WTAAC - has been since the change of government after the 2016 elections. For, I can only hazard a guess that maybe the WTAAC or its sponsor (the IEA) has run out of funds for its advocacy programmes; or that many of its members have become too busy in government or simply "lost interest" in this "boring" subject matter; Or, who even knows, it is possible that the problem of Winner-Takes-All has actually "disappeared" with the disappearance of the NDC from government and/or the coming into office of the NPP administration?!?)
I can only propose that some political science student(s) perhaps take interest in this matter and pursue it from where the IEA and its WTA Advisory Committee left off!!! Or, maybe when a "new crop of journalists" emerge in the years to come (perhaps after the NPP leaves office whenever this might be....), they may also find it necessary to delve "deeper" again into this otherwise important subject matter relating to our Constitutional democratic governance?!?
I would leave further details of the matter of my personal encounter with the IEA's Advisory Committee on WTA for another day. But suffice it to say for now that it is this my encounter with the IEA and this Advisory Committee in particular, that left me with many unanswered questions about the genuineness of some of the "advocacy projects" being intermittently undertaken by some of our CSOs or governance think tanks, as they are sometimes called. Indeed, a recall of what transpired between the erstwhile MAHAMA-led administration and the IEA on this particular WTA matter, only brings back memories and some amount of "evidence" that may go a long way to support some of the concerns about the possible NEUTRALITY (or lack of it) on the part of the new EC Chairperson in particular.
I am also tempted to even raise questions bordering on her COMPETENCY for the job based on the personal experience I had over the WTA project in particular and its "delayed" report that was released much later than expected after the nationwide consultations, at least from where I sat at the time acting as interlocutor between the IEA and the government of the day.
My question from that experience would be, what can happen to our dear country if national election results ever got "delayed" by the returning officer for the Presidential election (which is usually the EC Chairperson himself or herself)?!? Your guess is as good as mine...
But again, I can only urge that WE ALL PRAY that the new EC Chairperson does not go about her job in the public governance institution the same way as she did with her privately owned NGO in time past.
A word to the wise is still enough, I believe. More so, on a solemn Sunday after the first IPAC meeting to be organised by the new EC during which at least 2 of the critical actors - the opposite NDC and the new EC Chairperson - were both missing in action.
Greater honesty works indeed!!!