2
MenuWallOpinions
Articles

Registering minors: The super highway to eary retirement

Minor Voter File photo

Tue, 4 Oct 2016 Source: Kombat, Kpamka Elijah

By Kombat, Kpamka Elijah

In 3 months, the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections 2016 will be history. There will be winners and losers. Whilst the winners will be rejoicing the losers will be whimpering and nitpicking. But the greatest losers will be the age-cheaters.

In Ghana when age cheating is mentioned people are often tempted to think of professional soccer where age-cheating has been a great issue in the last two decades.

Age cheating in football has been so gnawing that many writers, bloggers and social commentators have engaged themselves extensively in fighting it. This has resulted in a new terminology, “football age” (age reduced to enable one play as a junior in spite of the real age).

But my concern in this article does not centre on football ages. It concerns the accusations raised by many political parties of others registering minors in order to allow them to vote as adults.

Of late and especially under the Limited Voter Registration exercise NPP and NDC kept yelling at and accusing each other of knowingly registering minors. The General Secretary of the NDC, Mr. Johnson Asiedu Nketia put the blame squarely at the feet of all the political parties.

In an article on Ghana Web of 6th May 2016 he emphatically stressed that, “Most of the problems are created by political parties [because of] their desire to outwit each other.”

Politicians, opinion leaders (in my village we called them Village SKs) and even teachers and parents have all been accused of being active participants in this illegal practice. This is in fact child maltreatment, a failure by the caregiver to provide needed age-appropriate care. In certain democracies such emotional and psychological maltreatment which the children could suffer from in their old age would lead the parents and teachers straight into prison.

Commenting on this political and democratic process brouhaha Ms Elizabeth Ohene has also added another dimension to the subject of real age versus football age conundrum when she coins “voting age” and “civil service age” (GhanaWeb, 12th May 2016). While minors pad their ages to enable them to vote as adults, some civil servants slash their real ages to be able to work longer than the retirement age stipulates.

Once upon a time rumours and stories of Education Officers who travelled two or three times from the North to Accra to change their dates of birth went viral. There were also stories about one particular officer who was able to change his date of birth on two occasions but was denied at the third attempt.

Growing up in a village in the Bunkpurugu/Yunyoo District in the North in the 50s and 60s, concepts like retirement and pension were alien. Only policemen and soldiers were reputed to go on pension. Of course that was due to the fact that a good number of Northerners were in the army and police at that time. As recorded by Hutchful and others

“Before the War, the army had concentrated its efforts on recruiting illiterate tribesmen for service in the ranks of the infantry ...from the Northern Territories… Perhaps as many as 70% of the other ranks in 1956 were North¬erners ..." (Hutchful, 1987:33; Bening, 1990; Robotham, 1989).

Very few Northerners were in the civil and public service.

In our days, recruitment into school was mostly based on size whereby some eligible pupils were asked to fold the arm over the head and if the fingers touched the ear on the other side then they were adjudged old enough to be enrolled into school. Others also just enrolled available pupils to fill the numbers; age was no factor.

No one had birth certificates. The earliest time one was ever asked of a date of birth was in Middle Form 2 or 3 or even 4 (8 or 9 years after entering school) when they were filling the Common Entrance Examination forms for entry into secondary school. It was here that we fabricated ages. Today the case is different. At age six Ghanaian children are enrolled into the primary education, and almost everyone has a birth certificate.

Lessons from age-cheating

Lessons learnt from labour migration have taught us that in especially Europe, asylum-seekers, refugees, “hustlers” and “comso-students” who reduce their ages to gain admission into schools or gain some age-related advantages normally pay dearly in the end. Most of these people find themselves working well into passed-pension age but still have to work because the “comso-age” is what the system operates with.

Some professional athletes have shown the way. In professional soccer for example we have been witnesses to age-cheaters excelling at Juvenile championships but fade away when it matters. Such African age-cheaters have always retired just when they are supposed to be peaking

“Many players in their youthful days were touted as prospects to fill the shoes of world greats like Pele, Diego Maradona, Lius Nazario de Lima (Rolnaldo), Zinedine Zidane, and others. Years after they are nowhere to be found” (anonymous).

For the youngsters whose ages have been padded there is also an ultimate price to pay. By no fault of theirs technology is changing. Their voting ages will remain their civil service ages. Most of them will not be able to reverse their dates of birth to their “real ages” and retirement will come sooner than they wanted and it will be there and then that the wisdom of Martin Luther King Jr will dawn on them.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. In the same vein if you age-cheat today it is a threat to the values of your working life. With pension age in Ghana pegged at 60 years for civil servants coupled with the reality of high unemployment rates, many may start working in very advanced ages.

Conclusion

In 30 to 40 years’ time when Dr. John Dramani Mahama (Aberdeen University Scotland), Dr. Nana Akuffo Addo (University of Fort Hare, Alice, Eastern Cape, South Africa), Dr. Edward Nasigri Mahama, Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom (University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, USA), Dr. Hassan Ayariga (Great Achievers University, Spain), Dr. Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings (Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, USA) and (who knows?) Dr. Akua Donkor and a host of today’s presidential candidates are no more; the minors who are now coaxed to make them presidents will be paying for the sins of their fathers.

The registering of minors is like driving on a motorway. Motorways are built for fast traffic with relatively few exit points. So once these minors are pushed onto the motorway, they must move very fast. They will have relatively very few exit points. Age-cheating therefore, be it “football age” or “voting age”, is both an express route and a one-way ticket to early retirement.

Columnist: Kombat, Kpamka Elijah