On Tuesday, May 3, 2017, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) held a press conference in Accra, and warned of a chaotic state in this country, if the security services failed to curb their tendency to favour the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) against other players in the national election psyche.
Mr. Freddie Blay, Acting National Chairman of the largest opposition party, said the NPP was apprehensive of what could play out when the people of Ghana go to the polls on November 7, 2016, “If we can witness such scale of violence and intimidation being master-minded by officials of government and being unleashed in the full glare of the police.”
Like most things in society, the warning was not taken seriously. Rather, than taking note of the NPP concern and reform the way things are being done in this society, there is a hint of ‘cry baby’ derision directed at the appeal.
At the weekend, reports from the Volta Region spoke of an orchestrated assault by a joint patrol team of police and military personnel on the Regional Chairman of the New Patriotic Party. According to Mr. John Peter Amenu, he was subjected to severe beatings at the hands of uniformed personnel from the Police Service and the army.
It was not as if he had committed any heinous crime. The Regional Chairman received reports that the police-cum military patrol team had moved the registration centre, with all its Electoral Commission officials, from its assigned centre at Mitsrikasa Electoral Area, and were heading towards a destination in the Republic of Togo.
According to the NPP Chair, upon hearing the news, he and his team of registration observers decided to chase the police vehicle which was taking the registration officials and materials. The NPP electoral team travelled for about seven kilometres before catching up with the police-cum military team with the electoral officers on board. They managed to overtake the team and succeeded in bringing it back to Mitsrikasa.
It was when the NPP Chair questioned the motive of the team that the military and police personnel on board pounced on him and beat him up mercilessly, resulting in him needing medical attention at the Ho Regional Hospital.
To add insult to injury, the Volta Regional Chairman of the Electoral Commission endorsed the action of the security officers, asserting that the NPP Chair was interfering in the activities of the security services. Since when did the law permit officers of security services to physically assault those said to be interfering in their activities.
Do the activities of the security services include moving registration centres to unknown destinations without informing stake-holders? We are heading into a blind and very dangerous alley, en-route to the November polls. One would have thought that the police and the military would have commented on the Volta Regional assault by now. The State of Ghana provides uniforms for the security services to protect the people. Unfortunately, the uniform appears to be giving the license for some soldiers and police personnel to beat up civilians and get away with it.
CREATING AN ENABLING ATMOSPHERE
Everybody knows that is not the right means of creating an enabling atmosphere for peace. In this country though, people deliberately beat the war drums, but when others seek cover from the danger ahead, they are deliberately given names and invite military-cum police brutalities on them. The sheer violence that greeted the limited registration exercise seems to suggest that there are genuine problems ahead of this nation as we inch nearer the elections.
Like ostriches, we have all buried our heads in the sand, pretending not to see the danger signals. For me, the seed for confusion during the polls is being sown. We are slowly acquiring the habit of the Chinua Achebe proverbial man “sitting by his doorsteps with the house ablaze behind, and obstinately arguing against the destructive force of fire.”
PARTY LINE SECURITY
On Tuesday, May 3, 2016, the New Patriotic Party held a news conference in Accra, at which the National Organiser, John Boadu, who is sitting in for the Suspended General Secretary, warned that the November 7 poll would be chaotic, if the police and other security officers of state continue in their business stance of providing security based on party lines.
The Acting General Secretary told the media that NPP officials were particularly worried about how the next elections would be conducted in peace, with the kind of biased stance of the security apparatus.
“If we can witness such scale of violence and intimidation being master-minded by officials of government and being unleashed in the full glare of the police,” then we have a problem.
MANIPULATION OF THE SYSTEM
The problem is that we are refusing to speak against the naked abuse of the system in favour of the ruling party, which is abusing its incumbency in its worst form. The violence aside, there is a clear case of manipulation of the system while we all look on.
The Electoral Commission is the worst offender, I am afraid. Under its Chairperson, Mrs. Charlotte Osei, the Electoral Commission is behaving as if the sole aim of the commission is to return the administration of Mr. John Dramani Mahama to power on November 7. The commission appears to be speaking the same language as NDC officials. It looks like the Electoral Commission has appointed NDC officials to speak on its behalf.
FETISH HINT ABOUT LOGO
Only the NDC and its surrogate parties are applauding the commission for throwing away our state emblem, symbolised by the Coat of Arms, in favour of a logo that clearly bears no resemblance to the functions of the commission. The new logo, I dare state, has the hint of a fetish intent about it than representing the hopes and aspirations of this country’s Electoral Commission.
Both President John Dramani Mahama and the General Secretary of the political party that props up his presidency have spoken highly of the new logo. At the other end of the political spectrum, the NPP, the Progressive People’s Party and the Convention People’s Party are not happy with the logo itself, and the timing of its out-dooring.
Whatever the EC and its backers say, the eve of the beginning of the limited voters registration exercise could never be the right time to launch a logo and a so-called five-year development plan. As it is, the launch of the logo completely overshadowed the beginning of the registration exercise. It came to pass that many potential new voters were unaware of the exercise, which explains why there was such a lukewarm attitude to the registration when it began.
It was only towards the end, when there had been much publicity about it, that the registration centres recorded heavy patronage. It is interesting to recall how the commission contrived to undermine its own exercise. As if it is on cue, the EC tried rather very hard to make things difficult for those registering in what is perceived as the opposition NPP’s strongholds, while liberalising registration in the Volta Region, for instance.
END TO VIOLENCE
It is interesting to note that up till now, not much has been heard of the outcome of the so-called macho men who raided a registration centre and made away with electoral materials. The police have failed to update society on the outcome of its investigation into the matter, which dampens the spirit of those who would like to see an end to violence in the electoral matters of this country.
One needs not over-emphasise the harm that perpetrators of electoral violence bring to this society. While it is universally acknowledged that dealing with offenders would help sensitise the electoral process, it is equally believed that failing to deal with perpetrators encourages miscreants to visit more violence on the process.
While I fault the police for failing to update society on the outcome of their investigations into the equipment snatching in the Ashanti Region, I am appalled by the cemetery-silence from the Electoral Commission and its Chairperson. One would like to believe that it inures to the benefit of the commission to press for election-related offences to be dealt with swiftly and decisively.
In the interim, it is instructive to learn that the National Peace Council, a creation of the Parliament of the Republic of Ghana to ensure that violence does not disturb the nation-state of Ghana, is struggling to exist. When the National Peace Council appeared unresponsive to the violence that reared its ugly head in the registration exercise, tongues wagged. Has the council lost its script? Many wondered.
Last week, the nation woke up to the rude shock that the National Peace Council is unable to function, because it lacked financial and other logistics. According to Rev. Prof. Seth Opuni Asiamah, Ashanti Regional boss, the council is beset by serious financial and other logistical problems, resulting in its inability to carry out its functions. The few activities undertaken by the council, according to Prof. Asiamah, are funded from members’ own pockets.
“I don’t remember the last time we received funding from the government,” complained the Ashanti Regional boss. For the attention of the uninitiated, the National Peace Council is a statutory independent body established under Act 818 of Parliament. The core function of the council is to facilitate and develop a mechanism to prevent, manage, and build sustainable peace in Ghana.
How an organisation mandated to keep peace in this country could operate without funding, tells everything about the kind of society we are building for ourselves. For me, as a social commentator, I deem it is a deliberate ploy of the government to stifle the National Peace Council of the oxygen of finance, because it suits the agenda of the party in power and its sitting President.
I will proceed to explain why in this piece. In the interim, it is pertinent to recall the fate of the National Identification System, which has been deliberately made to fail, like the fate of the National Peace Council. The National Identification System has failed, because its function is deemed inimical to the performance of the ruling party at national elections, I dare suggest.
Before we get into why the system was made to fail, let us first examine the circumstances leading to the establishment of the authority and its core functions. The idea to set up an organisation to identify and certify all Ghanaians as well as non-nationals living in the country was mooted long ago. But it was the National Economic Dialogue of 2001, which began the actual preparatory work for the establishment of the system.
In 2003, the National Identification Authority was set up under the Office of the President, with the mandate to issue National Identity Cards and manage the National Identity System. The National identification Authority ACT, 2006 (Act707) was passed to give the authority the legal backing to operate.
Two years later, in 2008, Parliament promulgated the National Identity Register Act 2008 (Act 750) giving the authorisation “for the collection of personal and biometric data, and to ensure the protection of privacy and personal information of enrollees,” according to Wikipedia, the world-wide web.
MANDATE OF THE AUTHORITY
The authority was mandated to establish a national data centre, in order to manage a national data base, to set up a system to collect, process, store, retrieve, and disseminate personal data on the population of Ghana – both resident and non-resident – as well as foreigners legally and permanently resident in Ghana, and to ensure the accuracy, integrity and security of such data, and to issue and promote the use of national identity cards in the country.
The authority’s core function included the creation of a credible voters register, social security, check the application and acquisition of passports, drivers’ licenses, and aid with increased revenue collection. In 2008, the authority began issuing the Ghana Card, which was envisaged as proof of identity, citizenship, and residence of the holder.
Unfortunately, the authority began facing serious financial and logistical problems when the NDC took power in January 2009. As you read this piece, the authority has not been able to release the cards to those who registered in 2008. I am not a conspiracy theorist. But it is very difficult to explain the demise of the authority and why it has failed to undertake its core functions, other than a deliberate attempt by this administration to stifle it of cash.
Finance has always been a national problem. But I refuse to buy into the bunkum that this nation is too broke to fund the National Identification Authority and the National Peace Council. Has anybody quantified how much public funds President Mahama has poured down the drain in fulfillment of his ‘Accounting to the People’ propaganda and party campaign tour?
For me, the situation has deliberately been created so that one particular political party could benefit from continuing to bus people from nearby countries to register and vote for that party in national elections. It is pertinent to read into the meaning of what NDC General Secretary Mr. Johnson Asiedu-Nketiah is reported to have told Joy FM, an Accra radio station, the other day.
According to the Daily Guide newspaper, the ubiquitous General Mosquito has owned up to the fact that the NDC brought in nationals of our neighbouring countries to register in the limited registration exercise. That aside, the Volta Regional Youth Organiser of the NDC dropped his pants when he said on Citi FM that the NDC has been registering people he claims were their cousins resident in Togo; openly boasting that given the chance, they would do it again.
I bet if an agent of another party had made this disclosure, he would have been whisked away to be the guest of the Director of the Bureau of National Investigations. In this country, the laws are clearly defined for the NDC, while another is used to whip others in line. For the avoidance of doubt, please take note of this quotable quote from Mr. Asiedu-Nketiah. “We are the people who create the problems, and we turn round to blame the Electoral Commission.” The NDC Chief Scribe might have generalised his assertion. But the message is loud and clear.