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Charlotte Osei is a poor choice to lead the Electoral Commission

By Ebo Quansah
EC Chairperson, Madam Charlotte Osei

It is exactly one month to the crucial Presidential and Parliamentary elections, but everything is in a limbo. Instead of the count-down, we are now counting the number of court suits against the Electoral Commission.

When an Accra High Court, presided over by Mr. Justice Kyei Baffour, ruled on Friday in favour of a petition before it, and ordered the Electoral Commission to allow Dr. Papa Kwesi Nduom, founder and flagbearer of the Progressive People’s Party, to correct the details in his nomination forms and re-submit same for consideration, as part of an elaborate process to put his name on the national presidential ballot paper, it opened the floodgates for more suits against the commission.

Today, lawyers for Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings are expected to move to an Accra High Court, in a case in which the former First Lady is seeking the re-instatement of her name on the 2016 presidential ballot box. Tomorrow, another court in Accra is expected to give a directive on a similar case involving Dr. Edward Nasiri Mahama, the disqualified flagbearer of the People’s National Convention.

There is every indication that the commission would be very busy in court in the preceding days. With the presidential and presidential elections at the home stretch, the Electoral Commission should be more concerned about the election processes, and not petitions.

For me, as a social commentator, the problem should be laid squarely at the doorsteps of President John Dramani Mahama, who thrust the heavy burden of supervision over this nation’s elections on the tiny shoulders of largely, untried and less than clear nationality identity of Mrs. Charlotte Osei.

There two major reasons why I have always believed Mrs. Osei has no business leading the Electoral Commission. If you Google Charlotte Osei to Wikipedia, you would be told that Charlotte’s mother was a Nigerian. The old lady visited her ancestors about six months ago.

Charlotte herself was born in Nigeria. We have a Constitution, which states clearly in Article 44 (1) thus: “A person is not qualified to be appointed a member of the Electoral Commissioner unless he (or she) is qualified to be elected as a Member of Parliament.

Article 94 (1) on qualification and eligibility of a Member of Parliament states: “Subject to the provisions of this article, a person shall not be qualified to be a Member of Parliament, unless he (or she) is a citizen of Ghana, has attained the age of 21 years, and a registered voter.

Among many others, “a person shall not be qualified to be a Member of Parliament if he (or she) owes allegiance to a country other than Ghana.”

Constitutional experts argue that Mrs. Osei could have acquired Ghanaian citizenship through the father, listed as Kesson-Smith, or through marriage to the person known as Mr. Osei, definitely a Ghanaian name. Be it as it may, Kesson-Smith is one name that could resonate in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Nigeria.

What is never in dispute is that while a student at the University of Ghana, Charlotte refused to be identified with Ghana. She was known and called ‘Ama Alata.’  I do not believe any true Ghanaian would want to be identified as ‘Alata.’

Mrs. Charlotte Osei obtained her Masters in Law at the Queens University in Canada.  A number of her mates were Ghanaians. Charlotte decided, out of her own volition, to join the Nigerian International Students Association at the university. By then, her room-mate was Lady Julia, now wife of Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, the Asantehene. I am told that there was a vibrant Ghana International Students Association, but our current Chairperson of the Electoral Commission turned her back on the Ghanaian association.

For her, she was a Nigerian, and opted for the Nigerian student group.

I have decided to relate these events to buttress my assertion that even if Mrs. Osei has acquired Ghanaian nationality, her thinking and demeanour cannot be Ghanaian enough to be entrusted with the key role of leading the organisation that conducts elections in this country to determine who leads the Ghanaian nation.

I am of the view too that in spite of her immaculate academic credentials, Mrs. Charlotte Osei has never proven to be a capable leader of such a sensitive institution like the Electoral Commission. What was her track record as head of the National Commission on Civic Education, for instance? Nothing to write home about, I dare state.

Beyond antagonising a number of her colleagues in the top bracket, I learn Mrs. Osei achieved nothing that anybody could point to. When she left the NCCE, most workers, I learn, were happy at her exit.

The only thing standing in her name, I am told, is a new logo that cannot, in all sincerity, reflect the hopes and aspirations of an institution specifically set up to educate Ghanaians on our civic responsibilities.

In 2012, this country had one of the most controversial elections ever to be staged in this nation. As head of the NCCE, what did Mrs. Osei succeed in impacting on the ordinary Ghanaian’s knowledge of the vote? Almost none, in my humble opinion.

For me, Mrs. Charlotte Osei is the wrong choice to lead the Electoral Commission following the exit of Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, the chain-smoking, but experienced boss of this nation’s electoral outfit for a very long time.

The circumstances leading to the disqualification of 13 presidential aspirants is giving room for suggestions from many quarters that either the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission is playing games with the serious business of the Ghanaian vote, or lacks the experience to make a success out of her assignment.

At the weekend, Mr. Ayikoi Otoo, the respected former Attorney-General, intimated that the Electoral Commission boss is not benefitting from the right advice. Interviewed on TV3’s current affairs programme on Saturday, Mr. Ayikoi Otoo despaired so much over what he called, lack of advice over the errors that led to the disqualification of Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom.

“Amadu Sulley should have been able draw her attention that ‘Madam Charlotte Osei, you have only announced the opening of nominations day. You have not given the stated period of close.’ In other words, it is lack of experience that might have created all the disqualification ‘wahala,” Ayikoi Otoo insists.

Others trace a much sinister motive to the whole quagmire of disqualifications. In the words of Mr. Bernard Mornah, Chairman of the People’s National Convention, the Electoral Commission is doing the bidding of the National Democratic Congress.

“The general view is that the NDC wants these people to be disqualified. Rightly or wrongly, it seems that the NDC wants this to be done. I don’t know what the NDC plays in this. You should not take it for granted. The NDC’s silence on this is huge and loud,” Mornah said on Radio Gold.

Monah was worried that while the New Patriotic Party issued an official statement, through veteran Prof. Mike Oquaye, sympathising with the disqualified aspirants, and even called for the proper handling of the issue, the NDC has refused to know.

Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom, the disqualified presidential candidate, whose victory at the High Court has opened a complete can of worms, told the media that he bore the Chairperson of the EC no grudge, but he was unhappy with how the small matter of a few errors could lead to his disqualification, when the electoral process had room for such minor corrections.

Nduom believes the commission was not fair to the PPP (Progressive People’s Party. “Why this selective of the rules. I do not want to have a quarrel with anybody. I went to court to seek justice for our democratic dispensation,” the PPP leader affirmed.

The spate of court actions threaten to derail this nation’s electoral process. From the posture of the Commission and its Chairperson, this nation failed to invest wisely in Nigerian-born Charlotte Osei.

I have no qualms about the fact that the poor choice of the leadership of the Electoral Commission was deliberately orchestrated by the Head of State, as part of a long-term plan to ensure that he overstays his welcome at Jubilee House.

One thing is for sure, the people of Ghana are not daft.

I shall return!

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