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Bishop Dela Writes to Dr. Afari Gyan

Sat, 17 Jan 2009 Source: Bishop Dela

Dear Dr. Afari Gyan, I have listened to, and read many wonderful comments by some Ghanaians who think that you have handled the just passed 2008 elections very well. I disagree with them because I do not think you have been strict, fair, firm, and fearless enough in discharging your duties in the run-off elections in particular. I was not in Ghana during the first round of voting, but judging from the conduct of the run-off I suspect that a lot may have gone wrong during that round as well. I am very surprised at the manner many of our country folk are easily content with little progress and fairness. We fail to demand the best from our public officials and rather continue to glorify mediocrity. Any critical brain that followed the 2008 elections closely would not fail to realize that Ghana was saved from a chaotic situation only because of the amazing support and determination of many of the citizens to ensure that Prof. Mills won and was proclaimed as the elected President of the nation. You failed to exert proper authority and judgment that was required of you in the conduct of the elections. You mostly sought escape routes to avoid collusion with NPP in particular.

To start, you cannot convince anyone that you were unaware that our electoral register was bloated with about 3 million or more names. I know that it does not make sense to you that Ghana, with a population of about 22 million people would have about 12 million eligible voters, who are people with 18 years and above. You would therefore know that the political parties might want to exploit this anomaly to their advantage in the general elections unless everybody was vigilant and the EC was strict and fearless. It should be unacceptable to Ghanaians that in spite of this knowledge you would easily condone suspicious activities of some of the political parties without your personal investigation and judgment and rather challenge complaining parties to provide evidence before you act. Your duties are not the same as those of judges who act on the submissions made, and evidence adduced by counsel in trials. You were the conductor of the elections and you made the rules. You were authorized by law to fairly regulate the process in a way that would be acceptable to all interested parties. You had the responsibility to investigate on your own accord and act if something did not make sense to you and whether or not a complaining party presented you with evidence.

Before the second round of voting, it had not been made clear to anyone that elections in Tain Constituency would be organized and might be necessary to determine a winner of the contest. Ghanaians could therefore objectively conclude that your outfit was going to conduct the second round of voting and declared the results without organizing elections in the Tain constituency separately. You had the authority to do this because you could always explain that it was administratively impossible for you to organize elections in the Tain constituency due to the damage the constituents had caused to the property of the EC. You could therefore declare the second round elections with or without voting in Tain, and irrespective of how close the results might be between the contestants. Your last minute decision to organize voting in Tain appeared to me as one of the escape routes to avoid the wrath of the NPP government. It was only meant to appease NPP that the EC was willing to do anything including what it had not originally intended to do in order to make the defeat of the party clearer to its members. The ability to organize voting in Tain within such a short period also suggested that the EC could have organized voting in the constituency on December 28th as done all over the country in the first place. If this is right, it was wrong that the EC failed to organize the elections on December 28th anyway. It does not matter that NDC agreed to the voting in Tain. They had limited options in the circumstances when all that everyone, including the EC wanted to do was to accommodate the desires of the NPP in order to make them accept their obvious loss.

The EC’s silence on the overall voter turnout and turnout rates in the various regions amidst comments by some political parties that over half a million of their supporters in certain parts of the country had not voted in the first round and promised to vote in the second round was another worrying sign of the commission’s compromise of the process. The EC, as the conductor of the elections was not a neutral party as far as the sanctity of the elections was concerned. It is the responsibility solely of the EC to organize a free and fair election, which others were merely required to help the commission to achieve. The comments referred in this paragraph were a second stage in a well-orchestrated vote-stealing arrangement by the political party which made the comments, and which was aware of the bloated register and the opportunity to exploit the excess numbers in its strongholds to steal the verdict of Ghanaians. Dr. Afari Gyan’s EC did absolutely nothing about this. I would not, like many Ghanaians, say Dr. Afari Gyan was strict, fair, fearless, and firm in this circumstance. During the elections itself on December 28th we heard several allegations of multiple voting in many parts of the country. Whereas there might be some speculation in some of these allegations, it is sad that the EC totally ignored the allegations as though all of them were completely false. If Dr. Afari Gyan believed that the allegations could be true but he lacked the capacity to verify their authenticity then it is dangerous for our democracy because people could win our elections through cheating and the EC is incapable of detecting that. We cannot therefore give high marks to the EC only because at the end of the process there is peace.

But let’s assume that our EC is indeed incapable of conducting a simple and fair election as being suggested by Dr. Afari Gyan’s outfit. Should the EC still be adamant when a particular party has complained that figures from constituencies in Kumasi that had long been received were later doctored and re-sent as new figures? Couldn’t the EC verify this independently from Joy FM, Peace FM, Metro TV, and Coalition of Domestic Elections Observers (CODEO) as part of its own investigation instead of asking the complaining party to provide evidence, which it might not have because of the smartness of the vote thieves? Indeed, the named organizations had provided their reports to the EC to show that results from Kumasi constituencies had already been received and were being doctored by the NPP. Why then did Dr. Afari Gyan fail to reject the new figures only because NDC was unable to provide results slips from polling stations as evidence against the new figures? This was another escape route for Dr. Afari-Gyan to endorse NPP’s obvious forgery and dodge the party’s wrath. Why did Dr. Afari Gyan not brainstorm about where the earlier figures came from to Joy FM, Peace FM, CODEO etc? Couldn’t Dr. Afari Gyan look at the figures without the prompting of NDC and determine that the percentages were ridiculous? Couldn’t Dr. Afari Gyan realize without NDC’s prompting that the voter-turnout of 83% in Ashanti Region was too high when the average turnout was less than 70% with Greater Accra with 70% and Volta with 73%? Couldn’t Dr. Afari Gyan utilize all the above information to realize that the figures from Kumasi constituencies had indeed been changed and the new figures must be rejected? Why did he not do it? How can we say he is courageous, fair, and firm when he has woefully failed to determine the obvious and instead confused everyone that “the rule of the game was evidence” and without NDC providing further evidence all the newly doctored figures must be accepted notwithstanding the contrary evidence available to all the media houses and the CODEO?

For failing to exert strict authority on the conduct of the elections, and adding figures that were obviously doctored by NPP, Dr. Afari Gyan has endorsed NPP’s thievery of election figures and I find it difficult to praise him for a good job done. As I have already implied elsewhere in this write-up, the 2008 elections ended successfully and peacefully because in spite of all the scheming of the NPP to win the elections at all cost, and in spite of the EC’s tacit support for the efforts and tricks of NPP to turn the verdict in their favor, an overwhelming majority of Ghanaians remained vigilant and determined to ensure that Dr. Afari Gyan named the true winner of the elections, Prof. Mills as the President-elect. Instead of giving any credits to Dr. Afari-Gyan and the EC for our successful elections, I would rather give the credit to all those Ghanaians who insisted on vigilance; who stayed at the polling stations to ensure that counting of ballots was done accurately; who guarded ballot boxes to prevent scavengers from bolting with the boxes; who besieged the premises of the EC when they suspected that the people’s verdict might be in danger; who gave all kinds of information to the radio stations to keep the populace on the alert; who engaged the telephones constantly to share information among friends and relatives on how to ensure that the elections ended fairly; etc etc.

If Dr. Afari-Gyan had been all that some people want us to believe he is, there would not have been the need to organize the last voting in Tain constituency; the difference in votes between Prof. Mills and Nana Akufo-Addo would not have been so close; Prof. Mills would have won the elections by 52% or something very close; and perhaps, Prof. Mills would have won the elections even at the first round. Let’s call on Dr. Afari-Gyan and his EC to be more proactive. Let’s speak out loudly against any of the deputy commissioners who may be compromising the integrity of the commission.

I am writing this letter to Dr. Kojo Afari-Gyan because he is still Ghana’s electoral commissioner and would have other elections to organize for Ghana. He cannot continue to please the political parties when he is expected to act without fear or favor. We must not give him the false impression that his outfit has just organized a good election that must be the standard for future elections. We must require more of him. If he thinks he encounters special difficulties in conducting elections in Ashanti and Volta Regions, he must begin to propose a pilot electronic voting in the 2 regions in our next general elections. If this is acceptable, we must seek assistance from donors to ensure that only qualified voters in these 2 regions vote in our next elections, and must vote once and only once. It is doable, let’s support it.

BISHOP Dela dela@bishop.com

Columnist: Bishop Dela