Limited voter registration

Tue, 7 Jun 2016 Source: Brig-Gen J. Odei

When Voltarians voted massively in the 2008 elections for the NDC, in spite of President Kufuor’s massive development in the Region, I came to the conclusion that no matter what the NPP does the voting pattern of the Region would never change. However during the recent registration exercise whilst monitoring the exercise in the Southern part of the Region, an incident took place at Metsrikasa in the Akatsi North Constituency which changed my perception. Southern Volta comprises fourteen constituencies; Ho Central, Ho West, Adaklu, Agotime Ziope, Akatsi North, Akatsi South, Ketu North, Ketu South, North Tongu, South Tongu, Central Tongu, Anlo, Keta and South Dayi. In the Volta Region especially the South, when it comes to electoral matters, the laws are abused with impunity by NDC and electoral officers and the security personnel become lame and dumb.

In Metsrikasa LA Primary Registration Centre in Akatsi North Constituency on 7th May, 2016 between 9am and 10am, information got to the Regional Chairman of the NPP that the registration equipment were being moved from Metsrikasa to Wuata a village on the Ghana- Togo border and the Chairman called all monitors who were within the vicinity to join him. My team was about two kilometres away and therefore we headed towards Metsrikasa. About one kilometre from the town, we met the Regional Chairman who showed us his bruises and asked us to hold the fort whilst he made a report to the Regional Police in Ho.

On arrival at Metsrikasa we met a group of about thirty young men who bravely assisted the Regional Chairman and Mr Avulatse to prevent the Police vehicle, a TOYOTA TUNDRA with registration number GP 3983, loaded with the registration equipment and EC officials from moving to Wuata which had NOT been designated as a registration centre. The brave resistance put up by the young men in support of the NPP had never happened in the history of politics in the Volta Region and this was the incident that changed my perception. Mr. Ken Ofori-Atta later joined us at Metsrikasa, thanked and congratulated the young men.

Why should the registration of our children, relations and nationals who have attained the age to vote during elections create so much tension? The answer is simply the desire by the NDC to cheat by registering Togolese. Before the registration, the NDC in diverse ways had made known their intention to register between three and four hundred thousand (300,000-400,000) potential voters in the Volta Region. The NDC is aware that the figure targeted was preposterous and consequently drew a comprehensive plan that necessitated the movement of other nationals from Togo, Benin and surprisingly Ivory Coast in mini buses and motorcycles to Ghana to register.

The plan included the construction of feeder roads to inaccessible towns and villages along the border with Togo to facilitate easy movement of Togolese who wanted to register and influenced by the bait of GH¢100 per person; some Togolese youngsters we interacted with were enticed to register. Transportation was organised with mini buses, motorbikes and fishing boats. ‘Contracts’ were signed with the bike riders and payments were made, based on the number of people each rider conveyed and registered on daily basis. Discussions with some of the drivers/riders revealed that money was the main motivating factor since the cash offered was good. The riders did not seem worried when questioned about security implications on frequent movements across the border.

From our intelligence sources, similar operations were organised along the borders with our neighbouring countries of Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso and even Greater Accra was not spared as the NDC registered thousands of foreigners in Nungua (Krowor Constituency) and others as confirmed by some disgruntled NDC members. Through this unpatriotic actions, Ketu South a sparsely populated constituency succeeded in registering a huge number of 11,689 (mostly Togolese) within ten days whilst the second highest in the region, Anlo Constituency recorded 4,725.

Why would NDC undertake such unpatriotic moves to register other nationals to vote in Ghana? Why should the security agencies keep silent, turn a blind eye and pretend that the illegal movements along the borders unimpeded did not come to their notice? Do we have security agencies in this country whose personnel are paid with the tax- payers’ money? What did the EC whose sole responsibility to register Ghanaians do to ensure that only Ghanaians were registered? What a SHAME.

The NDC has never felt comfortable with the number of registered voters in the Ashanti Region and has tried desperately in the past to narrow the gap with the voters from the Volta Region but to boost their numbers with other nationals is fraudulent. The practice affects our population and undermines the naturalisation laws because all foreign nationals who obtained Voter ID Cards have automatically been naturalised as Ghanaians. The economy is already distressed and to increase the population within ten days for political purposes is unpatriotic. Apart from the economic implications, the interference in the internal politics by foreigners is unacceptable and those who are peddling them are nothing but nation wreckers and saboteurs. It is being alleged that the NHIS is collapsing mainly due to the heavy pressure on the scheme by millions of other nationals from our neighbouring countries who hold the NHIS cards.

Nothing new was introduced in the limited registration except that problems that characterised previous exercises under Dr. Afari Gyan rather magnified. The machine breakdowns, shortage of materials, inefficiencies and arbitrary decisions of Returning Officers, movement of electoral materials to unnamed centres etc, persisted. The most disastrous was the identification of Ghanaians (in the 21st century) which was exercised by dubious guarantors since most registrants had no documents to prove their citizenship, thanks to NDC’s sabotage of the national identification programme initiated by President Kufuor. The responsibility to register Ghanaians solely rests with the EC and therefore it should have instituted stringent measures to ensure that only Ghanaians were registered as the ‘guarantor system’ is bogus and was seriously abused.

The Commission lost total credibility at the end of the Supreme Court’s trial in the 2012 election petition. The most important, logical and urgent thing for any Commissioner to do is to redeem the lost image but unfortunately the Commissioner’s pride, ego, arrogance, apparent collaboration with NDC and latest rebranding antics suggest that restoring the Commission’s credibility is not a priority. She has been playing the game of ‘musical chairs’ with serious decisions that affect the elections in 2016. This ‘musical chairs’ strategy is a deliberate ploy to delay and avoid taking important decisions on electoral matters on the voters’ register or its validation and now the removal of voters from the register who registered with NHIS cards as ordered by the Supreme Court is hanging like an albatross on the Commission.

There seems to be some political virus that affects the occupants of the high seat of the Commission because pride, ego, arrogance and stubbornness exhibited by Dr. Afari Gyan which landed him at the Supreme Court are still with us today. The other Commissioners’ have outlived their usefulness because their presence is not being felt and it’s about time a sole Commissioner is appointed. Mrs. Charlotte Osei on the independence of the Commission stated that ‘’we do not represent the authority of the State, we are more than the ballot box. Our mandate is beyond just the ballot box. We believe that and even from the research we did, the coat of arms does not speak to the legal and functional independence of the Commission …. We should not represent the authority of the state’’. The ballot box determines who rules this country and the authority of the state is the Constitution which created the Commission. If the Commissioner therefore thinks she is more than the ballot box and does not represent the authority of the state, then what she is doing now explains it all. The Constitution has inadvertently created a Frankenstein monster whose activities must be clipped before she consumes us all. The Commissioner is 47 years of age and will retire at 70 and I dread the problems she would create within the next 23 years. I think the Constitutional provisions on the Electoral Commission especially the tenure of office of the Chairperson needs a review.

From these experiences we must put an end to this madness of ‘’one time’’ registration of potential voters. Electoral Offices in all districts must be authorised with stringent rules to register ONLY Ghanaians who attain the voting age routinely as done in other developed countries. This will eliminate the pressure and tension on electoral officials and avail them with the opportunity to investigate the background of individuals before they are registered to vote in our elections. “The world suffers a lot not because of the VIOLENCE of bad people but because of the SILENCE of good people” (Napoleon).

Columnist: Brig-Gen J. Odei