Opinions Sat, 18 May 2013
By Margaret JacksonMay 17, 2013
In the next election cycle, precisely the year 2016, if you happen to be engaged by the NPP as a polling agent, you’ve got to have it at the back of your mind that you are nothing but a “glorified” agent.
I think it may even be proper to say that if the NPP employs you as a polling agent all that is required of you is to behave as a zombie, and go to the polling station you’ve been assigned to and do nothing apart from observing illegal activities that will go on and sign off that all was well at the end of the polls.
This is the gospel propagated by Dr Mahamadu Bawumia, the NPP star witness in the on-going Supreme Court challenge to the 2012 Presidential results. According to Bawumia, tens of thousands of polling agents who were trained and paid by the NPP to man the 26,002 polling stations nationwide on Election Day on December 7, 2012 were nothing but “Exalted Agents”.
Dr Bawumia, who has adopted his own definition of the roles played by polling agents during elections, has stated pointedly on multiple times that polling agents have no powers except to sit quietly and watch, approve and sign off on illegalities and irregularities that go on at polling stations.
Such is the mind-set of the former deputy governor of the Bank of Ghana, who has run and lost on the ticket of the NPP twice as the number two man. If the only role of a polling agent is to just be passive and watch illegalities and irregularities at polling stations, then the NPP will be better off going to elections without bothering to hire and pay any agent.
Not even after Dr Bawumia who was forced to read aloud in court the role of polling agents from the Guide to Candidates and Agents would he change his mind. To the amazement of all, Bawumia still noted that NPP polling agents are nothing to write home about and has since then made disparaging comments about them. This was before Bawumia claimed in court that he does not even know of the existence of the Guide to Candidates and Agents published and distributed to political parties by the Electoral Commission.
But the work or role played by a polling agent is considered very important by the EC since it enhances the credibility of elections. Polling agents who are expected to arrive at their polling stations in time to observe the preparations before voting begins, are also expected to help in the detection of impersonators at polling stations. Furthermore, one of their roles is to help prevent multiple voting and also prevent people who try to tamper with the contents of a ballot box.
Therefore, if you are cast in the mode of an NPP polling agent who according to Bawumia has no role at the polling station, then when you even see somebody attempting to vote twice, all you need is to fold your arms and urge the person on.
Dr Bawumia, who has set his own laws governing the Electoral Commission, perhaps is of the false impression that the justices have no minds of own to read the EC laws and determine what the requirements are. That is why he has repeatedly disparaged the NPP polling agents who witnessed the voting at 26,002 polling stations. These agents were around during the counting of the votes, but saw nothing to generate any protest and finally signed the declaration part on the pink sheets that the results were true to their valuation.
It has become a common feature to hear Dr Bawumia saying in court that because the NPP polling agents who he claims have no power to protest about any irregularities, that is why he is in court with his subjective analysis and pink sheets. But a polling agent can even make an objection against any person in relation to an election by telling the presiding officer.
The facts of a case are not based on someone’s analysis. It is based on the evidence on the ground. If you accuse somebody of stealing a goat you don’t go to court and assume that because that person passed through your backyard you are 100 per cent sure that he may be the culprit.
If the person who was supposed to watch your goat did not see that accused stealing that goat, you cannot by force make a determination that your analysis of events on that day should be classified as your water tight evidence to convict the suspect. Evidence speaks for itself, that is why when you have good evidence it takes less a hassle to convict someone.
In the next election cycle, I bet that the NPP will have tons of individuals applying to become polling agents since their roles are already cut out by Dr Bawumia. Just go to the polling station, fold your arms, or perhaps go home and sleep for a while, return to your station and just shut up whilst illegalities and irregularities go on. At the end of the counting of ballots, just sign your name and vanish because Dr Bawumia will appear from the moon and be able to determine all the illegalities and irregularities on the pink sheets even though you and him were not at the 26,002 polling stations.
Columnist: Jackson, Margaret