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Opinions Fri, 1 Jul 2016

Dare Me! - ‘There is something of the night about her’

I don't scratch my head unless it itches, and I don't dance unless I hear some music. I will not be intimidated. That's just the way it is. (Remember the Titans, 2000)

There is no denying the fact that Mrs Charlotte Osei (Chairperson of Ghana’s Electoral Commission) will be reeling under severely injured feelings, having had to endure the recent comments of the infamous yet undeniably redoubtable Kennedy Agyapong, the firebrand NPP Member of Parliament (MP) for Assin North in the Central Region. It will also be most unfair and admittedly, slanderous, if Kennedy Agyapong made those comments without any proof of the EC'S alleged conduct or had no reasonable grounds for believing in the truth of what was alleged. To that extent many of us can empathise with our female Chairperson of the Electoral Commission and can share in her agony at this time.

However, except for Kennedy Agyapong’s choice of words, he has clearly made a serious allegation against Mrs Osei (the E.C.) which should rather have necessitated demands for proof of his assertions rather than that of all manner of organisations queuing up to condemn Kennedy for attacking the E.C’s gender. No doubt, a case of slander cannot be made out in Court unless the underlying facts of the allegation are untrue. Hence, as bad as Kennedy’s language may be alleged to be, it is not beyond the ordinary for a Court of competent jurisdiction to hold that ‘its a fair comment’, if he is able to he is able to substantiate his assertions.

Honourable Kennedy Agyapong made a specific accusation against a specific person and not a generalised statement against any particular group of persons nor did he cast aspersions against women. It will be wrong for Ministers of State and respectable institutions, including Ace Ankoma of legendary legal skills to generalise his comment in a manner that only obfuscates the serious underlying facts which probably ought to be investigated.

The simple issue is, if indeed the E.C. is proven to have had an affair with say the President of the Republic and/or any others significantly involved in her appointment as E.C., then she would seriously have been compromised, if not merely conflicted in a manner worse than even the recent accusations of bribery against the President and would rather require a an expeditious look into the facts.

Undoubtedly, Kennedy Agyapong should be asked to channel his grievances to the appropriate quarters and if in doubt about the processes or the relevant institutions, to produce authentic proof of his allegations. Furthermore, the question of whether a political platform is an ideal place to make serious allegations of sexual immorality against a public officer is also arguably in point. These should constitute the crux of the matter.

To borrow the rather notorious expression of the former conservative MP, Ann Widdecombe, there is clearly ‘something of the night about the Chairperson of our EC’.

When Ann Widdecombe was asked to explain her expression – ‘the night about’ - she really couldn't and to date, she merely contends that she was speaking to people's instincts. Following this swipe at him, Michael Howard woefully lost his conservative leadership bid, coming last in a competition between 5 contestants.

We are made to believe that our E.C. is academically gifted, that she possesses impeccable legal skills and experience. The NDC Government are still celebrating her experience. Yet all her actions in a post/role that she is expected to act as an independent arbiter, she does not even seem desirous of disguising the appearance of bias in her conduct. There was the weird change of the Ghana Electoral Commission’s emblem at substantial cost to the taxpayer when her focus should have been as to what she could do to ensure a free, fair and peaceful election – a fresh register for elections could have been the fairest way she could have established her neutrality. You do not need a professional qualification in Law to appreciate the import of this.

She also left the Nation completely befuddled about a clear Supreme Court Order requiring deletion of the names of all voters who registered using the NHIS card as evidence of identity. She was interestingly backed up by the eloquent intellectual dishonesty of NDC apparatchiks and indeed by the sheer sophistry of the President's former executive secretary, Richmond Atuguba. The Nation was beginning to feel that the Law was really a ...until the timely remarks of a Supreme Court Judge and the ‘impatience’ of the Chief Justice when the matter returned to the Supreme Court for clarification.

Honourable Kennedy Agyapong has asked to be dared in this matter, and he is not known to be associated with empty threats. One will recall that it was Kennedy Agyapong, who on a Joy FM’s current affairs programme, Newsfile, rained vituperations on his colleague MP for Sene, Twumasi Appiah, alleging that Mr. Twumasi Appiah attends parliamentary committee meetings inebriated with Indian Hemp. This happened when the latter accused him of reticence in Parliament as against the loud accusations he makes from outside the House. Mr Agyapong was pursuing his allegations that other people, aside the Chief State Attorney, benefited from the fraudulent judgement debt paid to the beleaguered businessman, Alfred Woyome. When asked to withdraw what was perceived by her host Matilda Asante as out of order, the firebrand MP refused and walked out of the programme. On his way out, he retorted, “you cannot intimidate me”.

Already some organisations are calling for him to withdraw his comments about Mrs Charlotte Osei or be taken to Court. This time round, he has asked to be dared!

He is loved by many in his party but undoubtedly hated by others. To some, he is a poisoned chalice; he has the funds to fuel the NPP’s campaign and able to say the most auspicious, if not audacious things which no one has the temerity to say for the party, although at other times, the man is known to go on a frolic of his own and can say things that could clearly hurt his party, perhaps unintentionally. No one knows where to place his latest comments.

We cannot however deny that his audacious confrontation with the facts/allegations involved in Woyome’s theft of 38 million dollars of State funds which, but for the Government’s unwillingness to pursue the culprits as robustly as appropriate, could have recovered desperately needed funds to enhance the quality of the lives of millions of Ghanaians.

An accusation can only amount to an insult if it is indeed false. There is, however, no greater pain than to suffer loss from a false accusation, be it emotionally, physically or other. Ghanaians may therefore want to hold the honourable member of parliament for Assin Fosu to strict proof of his allegations in the interest of the State and/or as to the rights of Mrs Osei but should carefully ensure that they do not bury any possible case of Conflict of Interest in the Conduct of the most Senior Referee of National Elections.

Columnist: Kwame Ohene Asare