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Opinions Sun, 23 Aug 2015

Dr Bawumia’s Stolen Verdict!

\“Although the petitioners complained about the transparency of the voters register and its non or belated availability before the elections, this line of their case does not seem to be strongly pressed.

In any event, the evidence clearly shows that the petitioners raised no such complaint prior to the elections, nor has any prejudice been shown therefrom.

Indeed even in this petition the petitioners claim that the 1st petitioner was the candidate rather elected, obviously upon the same register.’’ —Justice William Atugubah in the 2013 Election Petition.

When I listened and digested the New Patriotic Party (NPP) press conference and statements last Tuesday, calling for yet another new voters register for the upcoming 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections, I was immediately reminded of another public display of disagreement with election results: The Stolen Verdict of 1993, a much publicised work by the NPP to challenge the results of the first presidential election held to usher in the Fourth Republic in November 1992.

Do we remember what happened afterwards? The then National Chairman of the NPP, the late B.J. da Rocha, who was similarly disgusted with the work, issued a statement that the party would not take up the alleged irregularities published in the book, which inured to President Rawlings, to court because the Supreme Court was appointed by the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) of the same Chairman Rawlings. I remember this clearly because I took part in drafting the da Rocha statement.

The next thing that happened was that the NPP, marooned in the political wilderness because of the boycott of the parliamentary elections in December 1992, then sought a place in the political space by campaigning for doing business with the government of President Rawlings. This realistic approach, the alternative to political irrelevance and disappearance, was championed by Mr Kwame Pianim, who worked ceaselessly and selflessly in those days, for the cause of the NPP.

Can you believe the same people who had championed the boycott of the parliamentary polls jostled and lobbied Chairman da Rocha to be included in the delegation which met the government side led by the late P.V. Obeng, including one particular champion of the boycott and co-author of The Stolen Verdict? It is a wonder to me that all these gymnastics indicative of congenital political confusion, still attracted the support of Ghanaians.

I subsequently worked for some time with one of the authors of that exercise in legal and intellectual sophistry, and told him that work was not worth the paper on which it was written, because the otherwise serious lawyers who authored it, should have known that any judge would have thrown out of court the so-called evidence assembled in the book to prove the illegitimacy of the victory of President Rawlings in 1992.

NDC’s response I was even more surprised that the General Secretary of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), Mr Asiedu-Nketiah, aka General Mosquito, found it necessary last Wednesday to respond to the NPP statements the previous day.

It was not necessary, because Dr Bawumia failed to make the case for a new voters register. I shall show why presently.

Obviously, the NPP believes we have all forgotten or discounted the fierce defence of the necessity for a new register, this time biometric, to replace the last analogue register compiled in 2002.

That successful campaign was orchestrated by the Dr Svengali of the NPP, Gabby Otchere-Darko, then of the Danquah Institute, which is an acknowledged cadet wing of the NPP. Agreeing to this would mean five spanking new registers in seven elections, a rate of change which cannot be defended by anybody.

A biometric register is the best technological register available in the pantheon of models available in the world. Our register, in its present form, needs only a few more steps to make our voting system completely computerised, and not subject to human foibles. Why are we being asked to change this register and replace it with another using a similar technology, without a single new, foolproof method suggested to prevent or check the alleged anomalies detected by the NPP?

Considerations for the national purse

Democrats who don’t care about the use to which the public purse is put are not democratic or nationalists, neither are they patriots. But I also disagree with those challenging the provenance of the so-called Togolese register.

It is like the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) protesting loudly that their proposed conditions of service have been leaked. In a democracy, the citizenry is the source of authority, and taking them into confidence is a sign that you expect ultimate acceptance from their agreement, because you are reasonable, not unreasonable co-citizens. Which one, paying the doctors, or funding a new register, would a Nana Addo-led government have found the money for?

The problem with the Togo justification is more fundamental than this. The last time our neighbours had a new register was this very year, 2015, and we had ours in 2012. Which register then, is more likely to be corrupted by the other?

This observation cancels out completely the value of the Togo register, so-called. Presenting over 2,000 pieces of evidence out of 76,000 assembled so far does not meet the legal requirement for consideration for a new register, because even the bigger figure certainly does not meet the test for substantial evidence which our laws and judges always rely on.

To say it is partial evidence uncovered is a curious way to advance a policy option; a work in progress unsubjected to criticism should decide our choices.

The quotes dredged from 2008 and 2015 from President John Mahama are doubly unfortunate; both the Ghana and Togo instances benefitted the NDC and the sitting Togolese President, Faure Gnassingbe Eyadema, not the NPP nor the Togolese opposition. The quotes had no purpose to them.

NPP’s opposition of new constituencies

A variant of this sort of political gymnastics ending in unintended results was the vehement opposition mounted by the NPP to the creation of 45 new constituencies by the Electoral Commission right up to the Supreme Court prior to the 2012 elections.

The party lost the case, the new seats were created, and the NPP won a majority of the seats, 23 to the 22 for the NDC. Of course, the victories were heartily welcomed, as they should be.

But why the haste to damnify the Volta vote? Is there no gratitude at all for the lives and work of J.W.K Harlley, A.K Deku and E.K Kotoka, who led non-Ewe soldiers to overthrow Dr Nkrumah in 1966, paving the way for Dr Busia to come to power in 1969?

These people forged a coalition of Ghanaians from all over our country to achieve this. Maybe without them, neither Prime Minister Busia nor President Edward Akufo-Addo would have attained leadership positions in this country.

Demonising a region because they don’t vote for you is extremely bad politics, a contemptible clarion call to the ethnic cleansing other countries have experienced. I am led to this conclusion because both Dr Bawumia and Nana Akufo-Addo threatened us all with mayhem and death if the wish of the NPP is not granted. Really?

The authors of The Stolen Verdict were three prominent NPP lawyers, late Agyare Koi-Larbi, Leonora Kyeremanteng and Nana Akufo-Addo.
Columnist: Colin Essamuah