I read the News Desk’s report titled “Why EC Is Bent on Compiling New Voters’ Register: Interesting Details Emerge” (Modernghana.com 1/19/20), and did not find much that was either revealing in a refreshingly instructive manner or that should compel any critically thinking bona fide and patriotic Ghanaian citizen to want to change his/her stance on the imperative necessity for the compilation of a new National Biometric Voters’ Register (NBVR), by the Jean Adukwei Mensa-Chaired Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), in the runup to the 2020 general election.
In the main, there are two separate arguments offered by Ms. Clara Kassar-Tee, the law lecturer at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), and Mr. Bright Simons, Honorary Vice-President of the IMANI-Africa policy research institute. We shall examine the arguments of this pair of anti-new NBVR compilation, who recently appeared on the Samson Lardy Anyenini-hosted Newsfile talking-heads program, among several other panelists, on Joy News-TV, respectively.
In the main, Prof. Kassar-Tee, who comes off to yours truly as a conservative constitutionalist, argues that the framers of Ghana’s 1992 Republican Constitution did not anticipate the recompilation or re-creation of the National Voters’ Register as temporally rampantly as it seems to be occurring presently, whereby the leaders of the country’s two major political parties make demands for the total scrapping of the current NVR and the recompilation of a new virtually at whim.
She may very well have a point, except that the GIMPA lecturer significantly either fails to point out or conveniently ignores the fact that the 1992 Constitution had been crafted almost unilaterally by operatives of the then-ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), or rather operatives of the Chairman Jerry John Rawlings-led junta of the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC), after approximately half of the membership of the Constituent Assembly, largely representing the neoliberal-democratic views and ideological orientation of the present ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), walked out of the Assembly, on grounds of the patent unfairness and the politically tendentious nature of the entire process.
To be certain, the latter group of legislators was justifiable in their view that the Draft 1992 Constitution, as it stood at the time of the boycott, had been unacceptably effectively and exclusively crafted to serve the interests of the bloody PNDC “revolutionaries” who adamantly and flatly refused to be made accountable for their wanton acts of heinous criminality during the previous decade, or so, when they governed the country with iron-fists as part of the de facto Rawlings- chaperoned one-party PNDC dictatorship. What with the clutter of Indemnity Clause hedges protective of the thuggish killers and terror-peddlers of yesteryear?
In essence, the major problem that Prof. Kassar-Tee has here in carrying through with her otherwise perfectly sound argument is one that clearly verges on credibility. You see, the framers of the 1992 Constitution woefully lacked the standard criteria of both the moral authority and legal credibility that ought to command the respect of any civically responsible and law-abiding Ghanaian citizen and, indeed, democracy- and human-rights-loving person anywhere in the civilized world. This, of course, explains primarily why venerable and authoritative legal lights like Mr. Sam Okudzeto, the distinguished former President of the Ghana Bar Association (GBA), Justice Emile Short, Ghana’s pioneer Commissioner for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), have been vehemently calling for the immediate thorough review of the Constitution, a quite laudable proposition which, nevertheless, is highly unlikely to meet with the unreserved approval of President Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, in view of the scandalous combination of factors that precipitated the abrupt scrapping of the December 17, 2019 Referendum that was auspiciously aimed at the progressive democratization of local governance in the country.
For his part, the main thrust of Mr. Simons’ argument is that the earmarked and Parliament-approved budgetary expenditure of GH? 444 Million for the complete retooling of the country’s electoral machinery is unacceptably prohibitive, in view of the fact that several African countries, among them Zimbabwe, Kenya, Nigeria, Benin, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have embarked on the exact same electoral or election-related overhaul at much lower expenditures than the budgetary proposal presented to Parliament by Ms. Mensa, the Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission, and duly approved by Parliament, largely along partisan voting lines but, nevertheless, legitimately approved all the same. We must also hasten to quickly point out that there is absolutely nothing amiss or wrong with this process, since that has always been the norm from the inception of Ghana’s Fourth Republic.
Now, where we vehemently disagree with Mr. Simons regards the question of the patently inadvisable decision of the eternal or perennial refurbishment of long-outdated decade-plus-old Biometric Voting Machines and the clearly unsavory lingering protocol of partial replacement gradualism that has become characteristic of the hitherto NDC-controlled administrators of the Electoral Commission (EC), when an immediate and complete replacement of these cybernetic machines which, on average, have an operational currency lifespan of approximately 5 years, at a much cheaper expenditure over the long haul, would have effectively solved the problem. For instance, we recently woke up to learn from Mr. Yaw Adomako Baafi, the New Patriotic Party’s communications operative, that due to an avoidable operational malfunctioning of some of these outdated BVMs, at least 35,000 eligible and duly registered voters had been prevented from voting in the most recent “nonpartisan” District Assembly Elections (Peacefm.com 1/20/20).
Now, in a keenly and closely contested general election, especially a presidential election, as may very likely be the case in December 2020, such glaring but avoidable administrative faux-pas, largely bred of gross incompetence or downright dereliction of responsibilities or a combination of both, could create quite serious political disturbances, if not outright civil strife, in the country. So, ultimately, it all boils down to cost versus electoral credibility, accuracy and integrity. And on the latter count, it is quite obvious that no magnitude of expenditure could be deemed to be either inordinately excessive or insufferably prohibitive. You see, it is the destiny and the lives of poor and ordinary Ghanaians, for the most part, that are at stake here. And we cannot simply play it cheap at the expense of those who most need a clean and credible general election, with the best and the brightest and the most responsible and the most visionary of our leaders being duly and rightfully elected to govern our beloved nation for the next momentous and eventful four years.
By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., PhD
English Department, SUNY-Nassau
Garden City, New York
*Visit my blog at: kwameokoampaahoofe.wordpress.com Ghanaffairs