RE: How NPP is Recreating Ivory Coast in Ghana

Wed, 15 Mar 2006 Source: Sarfo, Naasei Akoto

Dear Webmaster,

I would like to respond to the article written by one Mr Abdul Musah on the passage of the ROPA Bill and his conclusions that the bill poses a threat to peace and tranquillity in Ghana, to the extent that he draws parallels with the Ivory Coast. I hope you can publish this article on your website.

Mr Musah, what I can't get my head round about your position most of all is the constant threat of mayhem and blood-letting you and other opponents of the bill raise on an issue which, regardless of the passion it ignites, is essentially about extending NOT DEPRIVING voting rights. Why that is so bad is beyond me. You may see yourself as a foreign Ghanaian because you are domiciled in Canada but I don't see myself in similar light simply because I am permanently resident in the UK. In fact I do see myself as a bona fide Ghanaian, who although physically lives outside of the geographical boundaries of Ghana, however does feel and contribute to the development of the land. You may choose to devalue that contribution according to your own criteria but I don't see it that way.

Essentially, as far as you are concerned, ROPA is not a constitutional right but a privilege, and that it is also a recipe for violence because "it is a bill only for the purposes of sustaining NPP's grab to power." Excuse me but the biggest trouble with the NDC is their collective problem with amnesia. What did your lot NOT do to hold on to power, when Ministers of State even thought the best use of their time was to ferry ballot boxes around, colonise the air-waves by turning the state broadcaster into the personal fiefdom of the president and his wife, use the police and army to intimidate leading opposition figures, to mention but a few? If Ghana didn't go the Ivory Coast way under those circumstances, ROPA is NOT going to unleash that, whatever you threaten from your cosy location in Canada, I humbly submit. Just a small lesson in democracy; every political party exist to win and use power, hopefully for the ostensible reason of advancing the course of the people in welfare and security terms. On that score the NPP is doing nothing wrong by extending voting rights. And if extending that right to Ghanaians abroad means they tap into a rich voting mine field and win the most to retain power, then so be it. Your gripe most of all seems to be that Ghanaians abroad, should be disenfranchised simply because they are out there out of personal volition (in arguably the majority of cases but not all). And for what reason? Because, allegedly the NPP governing party think majority of Ghanaians abroad are sympathetic to their views, but which party, seeing an advantage in the electoral process that doesn't involve depriving others of the franchise would not exploit it? Why won't the NDC try to win the hearts and minds of Ghanaians abroad if they believe their numbers are significant enough to make a difference in the over all votes cast?

I cannot believe you are trying to draw parallels with education and election. I'm trying very hard here to remain civil with you on this point. Yes you are right that if Ghanaians abroad want to exercise their rights under the FCUB then they will have to send their children home. Why is that the case? It is simply because the Ghana government has no say in the education curriculum abroad unless it decides to establish exclusive schools abroad for Ghanaian expatriates governed by the Ghana government's education curricula. On the other hand, every mission post abroad is technically Ghanaian grounds, hence public holidays in Ghana applying to the mission posts. Therefore, political decisions in Ghana affect situations on the ground in mission posts abroad. And that is why these posts are the rightful places for Ghanaians to go and vote in an election. One doesn't need to go to their 'village' to exercise their right. When I cast my vote in the 1992 General Elections, I did so in Dansoman, my place of residence, NOT Duayaw Nkwanta in the Brong Ahafo Region where I hail from. I guess you realise that your analogy is a convenience but illogical and inaccurate one used to throw dust in non-discerning readers eyes. Ghanaians abroad have done nothing fundamentally wrong to be deprived of their voting rights, and unless and until they legally renounce their Ghanaian citizenship rights, their right to participate in national referenda and other decision-making processes is sacrosanct. ROPA only rights and affirms a fundamental constitutional point taken away by the (P)NDC.

Your other problem appears to be a conflation of the technical problems associated with exercising this right with your politically inspired opposition. The latter bit is understandable but like other points you make, the former is grossly misplaced. Yes mission posts abroad will be responsible for the conduct of any registration of Ghanaians abroad and their subsequent votes in any General Elections. And if there is the need, and surely there will be the need to take steps to ensure fairness every step of the way, then that is what the opposition should concentrate their energies on to ensure it happens, just as the NPP, peeved by the conduct of the 1992 elections, among other things fought for the use of transparent ballot boxes to reduce the incidence of fraud in subsequent elections.

Mr Musah, as regards your point on the difficulty of establishing who a Ghanaian is, I am surprised you haven't actually called for the cancellation of elections entirely since as you put it "In fact we cannot not distinguish an Ezemah (I assume you mean Nzema) of Ghanaian origin from Ezemah of Ivorian citizenship,........." The bottom line you make is, our system is so arcane and unreliable that any election result is bound to be unfair and perhaps inaccurate so why the bother at all? Astonishing coming from those who railed against constitutional governance every step of the way, yet saw it fit to manipulate the imperfections in the system to win power in 1992. We may not have a sophisticated system of citizenship identification. Nor do we have a foolproof method at our disposal, but by God, regardless of the flaws inherent in the system, we have still done well to the extent that you and your lot were reasonably confident that you won fair and square in '92 and '96. Your protests about 2000 and 2004 were barely above a whimper. Of course every flawed process calls for a doubling of efforts to make right, but not to use as an excuse to halt progress. That will be a self-defeating exercise, tantamount to accepting our inability to make better.

Perhaps you know of 20,000 or even 200, 000 or more foreigners in Canada so fascinated by the political shenanigans going on in Ghana that they will drop everything to sign up to, even forge their way into gaining Ghanaian citizenship in order to take part in voting for the next president. This is such a preposterous idea that only people with no hope of winning the hearts and minds of the majority of Ghanaians yet unable to concede defeat will attempt to make this a cause celebre. The idea is right out of Alice in Wonderland. I have never been so enthused by the political happenings in UK to want to vote in General Elections. The first time I voted here was in the 2005 elections, and I'm sure many of my compatriots here feel the same. Which non-Ghanaians feel that strongly enough to want to vote without having the rights? The problem with opponents of this bill is that their entire misgivings are all centred on very narrow and parochial considerations completely divorced from facts and reality. You just feel good about scaring the rest of the country off what is right by raising hell and threatening doomsday without any proper analysis of the issues and how beneficial it can be for all of us.

Mr Musah, as for your postulations on the difficulties in Ivory Coast as some kind of a mirror image unfolding in Ghana and the lame attempt at rehabilitating Jerry Rawlings and his appalling human rights record as a peacemaker, the least said about them the better. In fact nothing could be further from the truth. You have surely wilfully abandoned your responsibilities to the motherland hence your threats of wanton destruction because the governing party has decided to extend voting rights to Ghanaians abroad, a situation that is fundamentally different from what ignited the civil rage in Ivory Coast. What is there to gain from attempting to drive a wedge between Ghanaians at home and those abroad?

Mr Musa, may I ask you a question? Do you consider yourself a Ghanaian? You do, or you would not involve yourself in this discussion, would you? I think that settles it for me. I have no more than passing interest in what goes on in Nigeria or Togo or where ever, so to bother with going through the process of attempting to gain voter rights would be my last priority. And no money from whichever party in any of these countries will be enough to buy my time to go and cast one single vote. Please do not overplay the issues at stake in an attempt to score cheap political points. Ghana belongs to all of us, diasporas and 'home-living' and our collective strength will ensure the progress of the country, not trying to tear ourselves apart.

The use temperate language is the sign of political maturity, not weakness, and opposition for the fun of it retards, not advances progress. Whatever your strong feelings about this bill, it has been passed by the elected representatives of the people and signed into law by the president popularly elected by the people. Rather than waste time and energy rattling the hollow sabre, why don't you integrate yourself with reality and seek to make the new law work best for your political ends, which I would like to think, are in tune with what is good for Ghana and the people of Ghana. We after all live in a democracy, where majority carries the vote, even if they are not always right, although I firmly believe not in this case. Thank you.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Sarfo, Naasei Akoto