The world must listen and take a serious view of what is on the horizon somewhere in Africa. The current happenings in Ghana are suggesting that the West African nation is marching itself close to the slim verge of becoming the next country the United Nations might turn its multiple-aid attention to anytime soon.
Basically, democracy is a New World Order that has come to stay and to spread. And as it spreads, there must not be any misleading alteration to its identity at any time and anywhere. Countries that must subscribe to democracy must fully follow its inseparable triple tenets of Fairness, Freedom and Transparency.
Election occupies the heart of democracy. It is not just the day the people queue to vote that an election is described as free, fair and transparent or not. The fairness, freedom and transparency of an election begin even before the day the people queue to be registered to vote and before the candidates pick their nomination forms in an open quest to be voted for.
For an election to be seen and collectively accepted as free, fair and transparent, it means all the parties involved must really have no cause to protest. And if they do protest, even if it seems to anybody that those who protest have no basis to complain, they must be allowed to fall on any applicable and permissible means they wish to confront whatever confronts them relating to the election. In democracy, an election must not leave any party in doubt as to who or which party truly has lost or won. There is always enough room in a true democracy to clear all threatening doubts if there is a disputed outcome at an election.
Avoiding the doubts starts from ensuring that there is no reason for the general public to have misgivings about those who have been appointed, employed or engaged to man the electoral commission. And clearing any doubts before and after the election is very important for the continued existence of the democracy and the stability of the country. The progress of any country today rests best on democracy and stability.
Failure or refusal to have the doubts duly cleared in time, especially where a dissatisfied party is protesting, can unlock the country’s door for instability to come in. When the seed of conflict is planted in the soil of distrust, irrigated with the water of indifference and warmed with the heat of crackdown, regrettable violence is often the harvest. That is where Ghana is heading today. There are clouds on the horizon.
Distrust and Demonstration
Ghana, until its latest elections were conducted three weeks ago, was about the only country that election observers had always pointed at as a model for the rest of Africa.
The bloody controversy that disfigured a by-election that was held in 2019 at Ayawaso West Wuogon, a constituency in the national capital, Accra, foretold an unfamiliar trouble coming unhindered to rock a democracy just 28 years old.
Long before the polls, members of the country’s biggest opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), had persistently accused the Electoral Commission (EC) of exhibiting biases in favour of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) and President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo who fired the former EC boss, Charlotte Osei, in 2018 and appointed the current Chairperson of the commission, Jean Adukwei Mensa, along with two new deputies and a new member the same year.
The NDC also had faulted the election management body over the introduction of a new voters’ register and the registration exercise itself. Former president and presidential candidate of the NDC, John Dramani Mahama, had equally stressed that his party would not accept the results of a “flawed” election. It was very clear that he would not accede and, for that matter, he would not concede.
About three weeks to the 2020 general elections, the Commonwealth’s Senior Director of Governance and Peace, Prof. Luis G. Franceschi, heaped praises on Ghana for having organised peaceful elections since 1992 and urged the country to reaffirm the exemplary democratic credentials at the polls ahead. But the elections passed with at least six people killed by gunshots at separate locations in the country.
Allegations also unfolded all over the place that some media houses and practitioners covered the elections as compromised agents hired to, in collaboration with the EC, project the governing party as the winner of the polls. Some media houses slipped on banana peels when they called what was communicated to the public as EC-certified results only to get it terribly wrong in the long run.
It became even more embarrassing when some famous broadcasters voluntarily told the public that the election results, which some media outlets announced with confidence, were received from the incumbent NPP. A report put together by the European Union (EU) election observers says state resources were misused and, whilst the voting process was transparent, collation was less transparent. Data-related errors and inconsistencies in declared figures rendered the outcome murkier. The mess has tossed the EC into a thorny corner that appears to have loaned substantial credence to the NDC’s loud claims of election rigging and made its calls for audit of the election sheets (colloquially also called the pink sheets) even more appealing to many more ears.
Massive street demonstrations, staged by supporters of the umbrella party on the basis of their collective conviction about the election results, have continued to spread nationwide with bonfires and fireworks ever since the EC declared the NPP’s Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo as President-elect on December 9, 2020, with 6,594, 875 votes (51.48%) against 6,130,698 votes (47.86%) it called for the NDC’s John Dramani Mahama.
The opposition is relentlessly protesting the presidential results, maintaining that they are a product of a flawed election. It says Mahama won the election but the EC swapped some figures for Akufo-Addo to keep him in power for another four-year term. On the other hand, the NPP is asserting that the electorate have fairly given the elephant party another four-year term and Akufo-Addo has gone ahead to constitute a 15-member transition team ahead of a swearing-in ceremony scheduled for the first week of January, 2021.
Government accused of ‘attack’ on Free Speech
Ghana, Africa’s torchbearer of democracy, is stepping perilously deep into the dark. An explosive suicide of a promising democracy is looming— looming large.
Some prominent figures, who are uncomfortable with the direction the country is heading, are calling on stakeholders to clear all doubts associated with the results of the polls.
A few days ago, a representative of the United Nations International World Peace Advocates, Bishop Samuel Ben Owusu, suggested the Parliament set up an independent body to probe the results of the elections.
He is quoted to have warned: “We have to be very cautious about the pockets of demonstrations taking place across the country by members of the opposition National Democratic Congress.”
The NDC, whose General Secretary, Johnson Asiedu Nketia, is also said to have stated that the party’s protests may spin out of control, is already in talks with international organisations as it seeks to intensify pressure on the EC to ensure “proper collation and declaration of the election results of 2020” are done.
“Spontaneity of our demonstrations will intensify and may get out of control. You saw what went on in Mali. If we don’t want same to happen in Ghana, then, the one bringing the injustice must be called to order. She must correct the injustice for peace to reign in Ghana,” he reportedly said.
Some peace brokers want the NDC to accept the results as declared by the EC for the sake of peace. But the NDC, confident that it won the election, maintains that it will “not swallow injustice for peace to prevail”.
Whilst the demonstrations keep coming up, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service are also inviting persons whose comments are deemed ‘inflammatory’ in the department’s interpretation.
The NDC and some human rights advocates have accused the government of using the security agencies to suppress free speech and have pointed the finger at the security agencies for inviting and detaining only those who speak for the opposition but paying no attention to supporters of the governing NPP said to be ‘guilty’ of similar ‘inflammatory’ speeches.
Some Media entities helping to create a ‘Monster’
Clearly, the NDC looks to have been so unfairly treated by some media houses with how they went about their coverage of what was supposed to be a democratic exercise— the 2020 polls.
And right from the time the NDC began to speak out against the appointments of some individuals as EC officials and against some alleged abnormalities about the operations of the EC to the day of the elections and to this day, the NDC also has continued to express unreserved shock at the “protracted silence” of the National Peace Council (NPC), some traditional authorities and some civil society organisations in the face of some election-related “injustices” it says a “tyrannical system” created by the NPP government has so far dished out to the opposition party.
Before the NDC protests started in the streets, some media practitioners in the country threw ethics into the wastebasket by ridiculing and expressing disapproval of the NDC on social media platforms whilst they also proudly and openly took sides with the NPP. Members of the affected party have seen the comments and might find it hard to trust that those media practitioners will be truly unbiased and trustworthy in their coverage of any multiparty political event.
By supporting one party to ‘repress’ the voice of another in a democracy, the perpetrators of the ‘repression’ and their collaborators are helping to create a ‘monster’ that will eventually rise and devour everyone without discrimination.
Martin Luther King Jr. said: “A riot is the language of the unheard.” If, based on the deliberate failure of some state institutions including the media the voice of a particular political party gets choked by the biases or unfairness exhibited by those state institutions and the media against the party in favour of another party, the NDC feels unheard in the studios and concludes that the demonstrations must be sustained in the streets in order to be heard, those who have taken sides against ethics should also be held liable if the country is hit by any form of instability, if there is any bloodshed anywhere and if there is ever a ‘roll call’ at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes committed against humanity.
Until Democracy Wins, No Party Wins
There is no denying the fact that Ghana has been self-dragged to a crossroads where its promising democracy is in danger.
Ghana is recklessly toying with the life of democracy like a reckless play in a surgical theatre, indifferent to the ultimate price! Distrust of a system is like a spark and suppression from the same system is like fuel. The more suppression is applied to crush the voices of courage whose protests are deep-rooted in distrust, the worse things can only get!
An election in democracy must not leave doubts behind in the minds of any of the parties involved as to who truly has won and who truly has lost. No party wins an election until democracy wins. A nation dies when democracy collapses. Wherever the voice of the people is repressed is where democracy explodes. And when democracy explodes and dies, there is always an unwanted khaki-wearing ‘undertaker’ waiting in a hurry to organise its burial.
No actor should be in any rush to crash a sovereign state whose interest is paramount and must be preserved. If any party is dissatisfied, the affected party should be allowed to choose any option available within the remits of the law to seek redress— be it by calling for audit of the election sheets, by organising fresh collation or by heading to court. When that is truthfully done and there is obviously no basis for any party to protest, then, democracy truly has won and the outcome must be accepted and respected regardless of which side has won. Democracy is not self-seeking; it is cooperative. Democracy is not shady; it is transparent.
In a democratic system of multiple options, it is undemocratic for anybody to directly or subtly impose any option on any affected party or make any choice for any affected party. It is only by following the instructions contained in the manual that comes with democracy that what has terribly gone wrong can be righted. That is the only way the true winner and the true loser can be known and must be accepted. That is how the parties involved can derive true satisfaction. That is how peace can prevail. That is how Ghana’s democracy can survive. And that is how Ghana can live on— free and just!