An open letter to the Electoral Commission of Ghana

Jean Mensa 7 Jean Mensa, Chairperson Electoral Commission

Sun, 26 Jan 2020 Source: Amankwa Benjamin Kwame

Dear Electoral Commission,

To know you and not to love your goodness in providing a comparatively free, fair and credible election in Ghana will be an argument of a total want of sense in anyone. In us, the citizens of Ghana, it will amount to the highest ingratitude not to feel in the most sensible manner the great degree of peace and tranquillity we have enjoyed over the years under your stewardship in democratic Ghana. Most of us the citizens of Ghana have come to appreciate your efforts and the herculean nature of your task. “Ayekoo”.

As I am your ardent admirer, lawyer and defender in the court of public opinion, however, I have deemed it fit and appropriate to alert you when I think you are veering or have veered off the objective for which you have been established, that is ensuring free and fair elections in Ghana. This might not necessarily be intentional as I believe that in every human institution, lapses are not just a possibility but a certain one.

It is in my nature not to give cause to people to doubt my intentions especially in religious and partisan political debates and discussions. I have thus developed the irking habit of professing my faith any time I enter into the realm of politics and religion. Allow me a little latitude to profess my faith before addressing you further.

Profession of faith

Currently, I am loyal to no political party in Ghana. I am a free thinker who believes that the political parties in Ghana especially the two major ones, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) are formations based on the selfish interests of collected few. To support any of them is to deprive the country of the oxygen it needs to exist. However, I also believe that they are necessary evils as they are the means by which we honour our cherished democracy. In this dilemma, I participate in the process of elections without really expecting anything new or extraordinary. I simply don’t expect the worse.

The issue of new voters register has been in the public domain for some time now. Whilst I know that you are clothed with the constitutional powers to do what in your view will lead to achieving your mandate of free and fair elections, it is my view that the constitution does not exist in a vacuum.

The constitution is for the benefit and interest of the people of Ghana and in carrying out your mandate as a sensitive public institution, it should be done in a consultative manner, not in a commando fashion. Let me be quick to add that, I understand that in African politics and for that matter Ghanaian politics, the opposition parties most often see everything wrong with every state institution just to frustrate institutional processes with the hope to gaining some advantages.

In this vein, there is the need to sometimes completely ignore them in the interest of the public. The issue of the new voter register acquisition does not, however, seem to fall into this latter domain as many citizens adduce reason and logic to punch significant manholes in your argument for a new voters register. I need not remind you that about eighteen civil society organisations (CSOs) some of which are internationally recognized have thrown into the dustbin, your reasons for a new voter register before the pending 2020 December elections.

Your major reasons if I remember correctly for a new voters’ register include software proprietorship, the verification of some thirty-four thousand Ghanaians manually (which is just about 0.6% of the total voter population) and the possible failure of the Biometric verification devices (BVDs) among others.

As an institution, I know you have a highly qualified human resource with possible external bodies to advise you as and when necessary. The fact is that sometimes there are forces so powerful that they can sway the heavens itself in directions that it does not wish to take. The advice of an old man in such circumstances is to listen to the voices of reason.

On your reason of software proprietorship, the same software was recently used in a nationwide election of assembly members, why did this issue not come up? Was the issue only realized after the district assembly elections? On the manual verification of some thirty-four thousand Ghanaians which is only about 0.6% of the total voter population, Is it prudent to collapse the whole existing system because of a possible problem with just a fraction? On the possible failure of the biometric verification devices, do we not have a continuous improvement process paid for by the Ghanaian taxpayer which is supposed to take care of worn out electoral materials?

As I alluded to earlier, I am sincerely not qualified to advise you as I believe that you have the men and women capable of doing that. But you see, sometimes the cat learns from the mouse not because it lacks the skills in its operation but to help sharpen them and make it better.

We are all aware that the constitution of Ghana gives you the powers but the constitution itself is not in all perfect that is why we often have constitutional review committee that is tasked to look at possible areas for amendment. The most irritating and disturbing aspect of the whole debate is your seemingly static position on the new voters' register and publications to ‘show your powers’.

Even if you will make a new voters register, engage all the parties in this conversation for you can only be an effective referee if there are two opposing sides.

Your lawyer in the court of public opinion

Columnist: Amankwa Benjamin Kwame