Prime News Ghana

Peace at elections is ensuring that EC is fair

By Ebo Quansah
National Peace Council Chairman, Rev. Prof. Emmanuel Asante
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For time immemorial, this society has been promoted more on the hyperbole than what actually would make the Ghanaian able to eke out a living. In those days when ‘work and happiness’ was sang on the factory floor, ostensibly to motivate the work-force to help industrialise this nation, workers were pretending to work and virtually oversaw various state enterprises collapse by the time the motivating theme had ran full circle. Of course, the state, being the largest employer, was also pretending to pay workers. Pittances in wages on offer could take no worker home.

It is the order of the day… President John Dramani Mahama and his party apparatchiks are ‘Transforming Lives and Changing Ghana’ on a taxation regime that is choking the lives out of the ordinary people of this country. The new Mahamean Economic Theory with its Terkpernomics, in the diction of the political elite, is working wonders in the books at the Finance Ministry, in reality it has translated into huge state borrowing, with the debt noose tightening around the average Ghanaian neck.

The last I checked, the national debt profile is being recorded in centuries of the billion mark in the local currency, the cedi, which reminds me of Clive Lloyd and his charges of the West Indian cricket team at the Lords dishing out their stuff against England.

With the national debt at GH¢149 billion not out, The Finder newspaper reported yesterday that both principal and interest on our debts had jumped this nation’s commitment to creditors from US$900 million a year in 2013 to US$2.5 billion this year.

Officials may not own up, but this explains why the state is unable to meet many financial commitments at home.

When television cameras captured the President on Friday at the ultra-modern US20 million edifice at Adabraka in Accra, built by the NDC (the political party that could not even pay its utility bills at its rented office at Komlemle in Accra, while in opposition), espousing the virtues in his leadership, in the tunnel vision of officialdom, have brought phenomenon transformation,  I told myself; “hang-on old boy; where does the Head of State derive his assurance from, when, all over the country, people are crying for their inability to eke out a living.”

To thunderous applause from the party faithful, President Mahama gave a narration of how his transformational agenda would propel him to victory on November 7, hands down. The ebullient speech momentarily transported me to the palace of the proverbial king without clothes.

The presidential speech gave broad hints about the kind of thinking shaping this society, which reminds me of the event at the Accra Sports Stadium the next day. The famed Black Stars of Ghana engaged an international select side of retired stars in a friendly, specially arranged to drum home the need for peace before, during, and after the elections on November 7.

It is a nice thought, given the bitter and rancor paving the way to the vote on November 7. Stephen Appiah and his charges, who brought these fading celebrities to the home soil, have done their duty to Mother Ghana. These patriotic footballers have used their profession as a wake-up call to all the people of Ghana. It was a shame that not many Ghanaians patronised the match, which tells its own story.

It is not usual for the Black Stars to perform at an empty arena in this country.  On Saturday, the stands were empty, even when the official announcement went forth that, for once, the ordinary man needed not to pay his way to watch players of the national team in action.

When I saw Rev. Prof. Emmanuel Kwaku Asante, Chairman of the National Peace Council, dispatch the take-off into the air, I felt there was the need for the council he heads to do some soul-searching.

Using football, the passion of the nation, to make a statement is good. But I am afraid, we are all being caught in the frenzy of bringing international stars to this country, without making conscious efforts to identify the source of the sounds of the war drums in the distance.

For me, as a social commentator, drum beats in the distance, as we meander the curve that would lead to the electoral signposts in November, are cleary talking about the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission and her commission. Mrs. Charlotte Osei and the other leadership of the commission, who are obstinately arguing against the letter and spirit of the Supreme Court ruling on the use of National Health Insurance cards to register and vote in the November 7 elections, are one major source of conflict.

On two occasions, the Supreme Court has spoken. The instructions have been very simple. Delete the names of NHIS card holders from the register, and afford the same people a window of opportunity to re-register. The two rulings have been clear and unambiguous.

The word delete is defined by the 10th Edition of the Chambers Dictionary as follows: “To block out, to erase, take out (something) written or printed, cancel, to destroy…” In other words, no person using NHIS card as identity qualifies to have his name on the register of voters. It is as simple as ABC.

Somehow, Mrs. Charlotte Osei and her Electoral Commission are reneging on this simple instruction. On Thursday, May 19, 2016, the Electoral Commission issued a statement purporting to state that the Supreme Court decision did not compel the commission to remove the names of people who registered with NHIS cards.

I do not believe it takes any imagination to remove such people’s names from the register. This is an order from court, and ought not to be challenged, unless the EC heads back to the court for interpretation.

All persons registering, I learn, have their particulars and their means of identification on the Form IA used in the registration exercise.  All that the Electoral Commission has to do, I am told, is to remove all such names of people, using the Form IA as a guide.

Thank God, the Supreme Court gave all those whose names are to be deleted the opportunity to re-register. I would like to believe that the EC could delete such names and cause a publication to be made for those whose names have been so deleted to re-register. I do not think the Supreme Court has asked for the moon.

In my candid opinion, it is the obstinacy of the Electoral Commission to comply with this ruling, and help to ensure that the voters’ register could be a reliable document for the vote, is what is raising concern in political circles.

The suspicion, especially, from the largest opposition party, the New Patriotic Party, is that by failing to delete NHIS card holders from the register, the EC is doing the bidding of the ruling NDC. I am afraid that is what is raising the political barometer as we head for the polls.

It is common knowledge that under the NDC, the NHIS cards have found themselves in wrong hands.  There are allegations of party officials travelling to Togo and Benin to entice nationals of those countries dangling the NHIS cards as bait to entice them to come to Ghana and register and vote for the party in power.  In return, the foreigners could access medical facilities in this country, free of charge.

It is a very serious problem. But like ostriches, many of us, including the Chairman and members of the National Peace Council, are burying our heads in the sand while war drums are beaten to our hearing.

Last Saturday’s football international friendly was scant consolation to those seriously worried about the recalcitrant stance of the Electoral Commission. That is why I expect men, with balls, to speak on the issue, rather than the tendency of most officials in this country to dance around the problem.

Making and keeping peace in such a volatile atmosphere takes more than a football match. It takes courage to speak to the problem. I will like to believe that the immediate past Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church, Ghana owes the congregation of the church and the entire people of this country a duty to stand up and be counted.

I saw the shot he gave on television when he took the kick off. It was impressive. But I am afraid it does not address the root of the problem.  Rev. Prof. Emmanuel Kwaku Asante and his Peace Council must do the right thing.

Lest I forget, last Saturday’s match only helped to advertise the acquired wealth and influence of Edwin Nii Lante Vanderpuiye, the Honourable Minister of Youth and Sports. I do not know how many times the Member of Parliament for Odododiodioo has celebrated his birthday in public.

Cutting his birthday cake, with former national captain Stephen Appiah and stand-in skipper Andre Dede Ayew holding one half of the knife, while the Minister and his wife held the other, must be a very fulfilling experience to the former sports commentator with state-run Ghana Broadcasting Corporation. MONEY SWINE!

I shall return!