By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
English Department, SUNY-Nassau
Garden City, New York
October 8, 2016
There may be a new breed of officers in the Ghana Police Service (GPS) who would surely do better having their services engaged elsewhere in the country’s public service sector than in law enforcement. One such breed of Ghanaian police officer is Mr. Isaac Amekudzi, Superintendent of Police reportedly in charge of the police personnel of Agona-Odobeng, in the Asikuma-Odobeng-Brakwa District of the Central Region.
According to news reports, Superintendent Amekudzi has warned all eligible voters in the Odobeng township to exercise their franchise come December 7 or he and his men would be forced to arrest and lock them up and rigorously prosecute them for flagrantly flouting their constitutional obligation to vote (See “Police to Arrest Persons Who Refuse to Vote on December 7” Ultimatefmonline.com / Ghanaweb.com 10/8/16)
It may be interesting to have Mr. Amekudzi explain precisely from which section of Ghana’s 1992 Republican Constitution he claims to reserve the mandate or right to arrest any registered voter who decides to exercise his/her inalienable democratic right, for whatever reasons the concerned citizen deems appropriate, not to exercise his/her right to cast the ballot. Indeed, contrary to what the Agona-Odobeng police superintendent would have his countrymen and women believe, while, indeed, the exercise of the franchise or the right to vote is definitely a significant and hard-fought part of the inviolable expression of our democratic culture, it is far from the fullest essence of our democratic engagement.
In other words, one’s right to vote as a citizen of Ghana is as equally important as the expression of one’s right not to vote. For democracy is all about the conscientious decision not to be forced by any other Ghanaian citizen, be the latter the Inspector-General of the Ghana Police Service or the President of our august Republic, to vote.
This double-edged right to either exercise or flatly refuse to exercise one’s franchise is what guarantees the inviolable preservation of the integrity of the franchise. Which is precisely why at best what Superintendent Amekudzi can do is to courteously encourage or motivate the residents and indigenes of Agona-Odobeng to vote. Short of such healthy encouragement, there is absolutely nothing that the district police chief can do to enforce the franchise.
Consequently, if any individual or group of Ghanaian citizens feels that our current electoral system lacks the requisite credibility to command their respect and/or confidence, they unquestionably reserve every right to refuse to participate in such unsavory charade, especially where they have good reason to believe that their votes would not be afforded the sort of political significance mandated by the Constitution.
Mr. Amekudzi and his men, of course, have every right to arrest and detain any individual or group of individuals who decide to disturb the public peace. But it would definitely be way out of order for Superintendent Amekudzi to have his men and women prowl the streets and alleyways of Odobeng township on the lookout to arresting anybody they deem to be “loitering around and not voting as required.”
The fact of the matter is that voting is not required; and, conversely, not voting is no criminal offence punishable by any laws on the statutory books. Besides, one does not need an entire day to cast one’s ballot; as well, whatever one decides to do with one’s time on election day, short of disturbing the public’s peace is none of the business of the Odobeng police.
If any of the township’s residents are chanced upon by the police to be drinking and fighting or behaving violently, by all means, Superintendent Amekudzi and his men and women of the Odobeng Police Station have every right to arrest and detain them, and then promptly have them processed and arraigned before our legitimately constituted courts of law. Beyond that, let the people be themselves as warranted by the rule of law and order.
Needless to say, the capricious issuance of edicts such as the one under present discussion flagrantly breaches the law and lacks the requisite moral force and professionalism expected of a highly placed law-enforcement agent, or officer, with the rank of a Superintendent of Police. Not even a police constable may be expected to deport him- or herself in such an extortionate manner.
Indeed, Superintendent Amekudzi’s case reminded me of IGP John Kudalor’s public declaration, not quite long ago, to summarily and effectively shut down all social networks in the country on election day. Maybe we need to remind these two gentlemen and their ilk that the days of the cutthroat Rawlings revolution are far behind us. And any reckless attempt by anybody to return us to those benighted Darwinian state-of-nature days will be fiercely resisted.
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